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'I Will Miss It Terribly': A Curtain Closing For The Rep’s Artistic Leader, Steven Woolf

(Fab. 14, 2019) The Rep's artistic director Steve Woolf finishes off his 30-year-long career this month.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

For more than 30 years, Steven Woolf has been at the heart of the Repertory Theater of St. Louis. Since taking the helm as artistic director in 1986, Woolf oversaw three decades of productions and directed 47 shows.

That 47th show, however, will be his last as artistic director. Woolf is to retire at the end of The Rep’s 2018-2019 season, after directing the theater’s production of “Oslo” – which won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2017.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Woolf joined host Don Marsh to reflect on his career, and to discuss the now-running production of “Oslo.”

“I fell in love with the show when I saw it in New York,” Woolf said of the play, which details the behind-the-scenes negotiations to broker peace between Israel and Palestine in the 1990s. “I think the story is incredible. It's a true story, and I think it comes off like an international spy story in a way, with secret meetings and things going on that lead to the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords.”

As for exactly what will happen after the final performance of “Oslo” and the rest of The Rep’s season, Woolf said he hasn’t given it much thought.

“I haven't planned the next chapter. I'm trying to figure it out,” he said. “I have to get through getting 'Oslo' up and finish producing the rest of this season, and we'll see where [life] leads.”

Despite being involved in so many shows over the years, Woolf said that specific moments still stick in his mind. His memory from The Rep’s production of “Sunday Afternoon in the Park with George,” exemplifies what he loves about live theater.

“At the very beginning of the show we had a white set … and this cloth came down and became the park and rolled down over the white,” he recalled. “I still think that's magical. Those kinds of transformational moments that are actually really simple, and have great art and great promise; the music underneath it – it’s unforgettable.”

To commemorate Woolf’s time at the theater, The Rep has set up the Steve Woolf Endowment, with the goal of raising funds for the smaller studio space and for other operating costs.

Woolf will officially leave his post June 1, with Hana Shariftaking over. Despite working the past 30 years, he hopes to not spend too much time away from the theater.

“I will miss it terribly,” he added. “I hope someone says, 'Why don't you come do some work for me?' It's what I've dreamed of doing since I was in high school and all through undergraduate and graduate school: to be able to work in a major theater in a major city.”

Listen to the full discussion:

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 Heuer, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan, and Jon Lewis give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
Jon Lewis was the production intern at St. Louis Public Radio from January to May 2019. Originally from Pelham, New York, Jon came to St. Louis to attend Washington University in 2015. Previously, Jon has interned for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Eight by Eight, a soccer magazine based in Brooklyn.