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Indoor Theater Production To Be A Pandemic First In St. Louis

Joseph Hanrahan's star turn in Eric Bogosian's one-man show "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll" marks a return to indoor stages for St. Louis theater during this pandemic.
Provided by Midnight Theater Company
Joseph Hanrahan's star turn in Eric Bogosian's one-man show "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll" marks a return to indoor stages for St. Louis theater during this pandemic.

Theater is back on a St. Louis stage this month — and for the first time since the region shut down in March, it’ll be indoors and with an in-person audience.

The production is a remounting of Eric Bogosian’s “Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll” by the Midnight Company. Artistic director and co-founder Joe Hanrahan last starred in the show in 2014, earning critical raves. The Riverfront Times called it “brilliant, savagely funny, discomfiting and wildly different from most offerings you'll see on St. Louis stages these days.

Now that St. Louis stages have largely gone virtual, if not silent, this production (directed by John Wolbers) should also be wildly different than the work of Midnight’s peers.

But Hanrahan is convinced that its indoor presentation is far from irresponsible. The production has been certified by Missouri ArtSafe, a program led by the Missouri Arts Council and designed to assure arts lovers that attendance won’t needlessly expose them to illness. It’s also the first indoor theater production to receive the city’s seal of approval.

Michael Donovan, executive director of the Missouri Arts Council, said ArtSafe certification entails eight areas, including mask-wearing, distancing and contact tracing. He credited a consortium of 20 arts organizations, which came together as the Missouri Arts Safety Alliance, for developing the program.

“They recognized there was a need to prepare for learning about the best practices to prepare art for the public during the pandemic,” he said. With the certification, they hoped to give the general public a sense of confidence in the work of participating organizations.

Even despite that work, Donovan said Hanrahan’s show is the only ArtSafe theater production he’s aware of going forward in person throughout the state.

“Theater has been particularly cautious,” Donovan said. “I’m not aware of any that are scheduled before the end of the year.”

The fact that only one actor is involved is critical to the show’s feasibility, Hanrahan said.

“One of the reasons theater isn’t happening is that a lot of theater — most theater, and the theater most people like to go to, musicals, for example — involve dozens of people backstage, on stage, orchestras,” Hanrahan explained. “Actors Equity has really been a force in terms of making sure that anybody thinking about doing this will follow all the rules.

“That’s why our show — with one actor, and during the production, one stage manager, that’s all we will need in terms of producing this — is possible.”

“The larger the production, the more difficult it is to take care of all these details,” Donovan added.

He said more companies could decide to mount one-man shows, depending on the success of “Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll.”

“A lot of people will be looking at this, seeing how this works and seeing what comes out of that.”

Related Event

What: Eric Bogosian’s “Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll”

When: October 29 through November 14, 2020

Where: Black Box Theater of the Kranzberg Arts Center (501 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63103)

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.