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A 'New World' for Gravois Park in Shakespeare in the Streets debut

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 6, 2012 - In a local take on "The Tempest," Shakespeare Festival St. Louis will present "The New World" April 27-29 in its first-ever Shakespeare in the Streets production.

Shakespeare in the Streets is a new program in which a creative team from the theater company selects a neighborhood --- Gravois Park is this year's debut choice -- and tailors a Shakespearean play to tell its story. The team spent three months immersed in the area, bordered by Grand, Cherokee, Jefferson and Chippewa streets, meeting with residents, neighborhood leaders and business owners, including many operating on Cherokee Street.

The name of the play is taken from a line by a "Tempest" character named Miranda, who declared, "O brave new world, that has such people in it," long before Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel whose title was also inspired by the dramatic utterance.

"The New World" compliments the burgeoning local business district, according to playwright Nancy Bell.

"I like this reference because it refers to the new face of Cherokee Street," Bell said, in a press release. "And also, thematically, to a vision I have of a new world of St. Louis that would use Cherokee Street as a model of diversity."

Shopkeepers, artists and Gravois Park residents will join professional actors to perform in the one-hour production. It's a partnership that provides "the city with another lens with which to look at the neighborhood," according a statement from Shakespeare Festival artistic director Rick Dildine.

"Why not open the streets in the name of culture and invite residents to be part of the conversation?" Dildine said.

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.