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Longtime actor Joneal Joplin 'never looked back' after making shift from New York to St. Louis

The Webster Groves Arts Commission is honoring longtime actor Joneal Joplin with an award for lifetime achievement.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Joneal “Jop” Joplin has lost count of exactly how many roles he’s performed on St. Louis-area stages during his long acting career based in the region.

“I know that I’ve done something like 215, 220 shows in St. Louis – 101 at the Rep, 66 at the Muny,” he estimated Friday while talking with host Don Marsh on St. Louis on the Air.

Joplin, who will be honored Friday evening with the Webster Groves Arts Commission’s 2018 Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award, got his start as an actor in New York. But after traveling to St. Louis with his young family in 1972 to participate in just one show – a production of “Mice and Men” – he was asked to stay in town for another show.

“I did [stay], and after three of them, I said, ‘Are you interested in having me here as part of the company?’” Joplin recalled. “And they said, ‘Oh, if you would be interested, yes we would.’ So in February of ’73, I went back to New York and packed everything up in a Bekins moving van and moved here and never looked back.”

Along with his extensive work with the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and the Muny, Joplin has performed with Insight Theatre Company, the Black Rep and Opera Theatre of St. Louis, among other local organizations – plus theaters across the country.

He’s seen St. Louis’ theater world change and grow over the past five decades – and said he’s excited about where the local acting scene is headed.

“When I first came to St. Louis there were only like four theaters, and now there are – what – 13 or something like that,” the Oklahoma native said. “So there’s a lot more work, and I think that a lot more interesting work being done. People are taking a lot more chances now.”

Related Event
What: 2018 Award Reception honoring Joneal Joplin
When: 5:30 p.m. Friday, October 5, 2018
Where: Webster Groves City Hall (4 E. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves, MO 63119)

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex HeuerEvie HemphillLara Hamdan and Xandra Ellin give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Evie was a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.