Why are so many former New Yorkers flocking to the St. Louis arts scene?
Ask most individuals about the American metropolis with the most excellent artwork scene and the reply might be New York. In reality, for anybody fascinated with theatre, dance or the visible arts, the Big Apple is tough to beat.
But as the late Stephen Sondheim noticed in his tune “Another Hundred People,” New York is “a city of strangers / Some come to work, some to play / … And every day / Some go away.”
Their vacation spot is more and more St. Louis.
In latest years, artists have moved right here from New York to tackle management positions. And whereas they often look again fondly on the metropolis that by no means sleeps, they’ve additionally misplaced their hearts to the gateway to the west.
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Last yr Sharon Hunter – an actress, director and veteran of the New York theater scene – based the Moonstone Theater Company. And in 2019, Jennifer Wintzer, who has spent greater than a decade in New York as an arts administrator and educator, assumed the newly created place of Theater Artistic Director at COCA.
Williams, senior director of finance and administration at New York’s Public Theater, stated the tempo in St. Louis was “definitely different.”
“I find myself taking more time to talk to people,” he stated. “And the hire is unquestionably cheaper right here. I believe that is actually optimistic for folks.”
Seay, who has labored as a casting director, actress and choreographer, stated she knew St. Louis nicely from frequent visits earlier than taking the job at Stages.
“I was very fortunate to have an opportunity in a city that I already felt was my second home,” Seay stated.
Originally from St. Louis, Hunter, founder and inventive director of Moonstone, noticed a possibility to reconnect along with her roots.
“I was in touch with a lot of people here in St. Louis, and I realized there were a lot more theater groups developing,” she stated. And it simply made sense to begin a enterprise in her hometown as a substitute of New York, “which would have been extremely expensive for me — and harder to do.”
Wintzer stated that residing in St. Louis has its perks for artists. Her connection to the metropolis dates again to her time at Webster University’s Conservatory of Theater Arts, the place she graduated with a level in musical theater.
“I think this is an incredibly creative city,” she stated. “And people are really excited to be working together. In New York City, as an artist, you can have a much larger network, to the point where you can be more anonymous, which I actually miss. But I think you can get things done faster here in St. Louis when it comes to art.”
Enrich the metropolis’s heritage
Such relative newcomers as Williams, Seay, Hunter and Wintzer be part of different artists who as soon as referred to as New York residence however have change into established St. Louisans.
Tom Ridgely, inventive director of the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, stated the place was “everything I could ever want from a job. Truly a dream.”
“I’m initially from Indianapolis,” said Ridgely, who succeeded Rick Dildine as head of the organization in 2018. “And I’ve frolicked in Cincinnati, Louisville and Pittsburgh. So I had an thought of what a medium-sized Midwestern river city regarded like.”
He went to St. Louis just a few instances as a child: “I have family down in South County, but we just went to Arch and Busch Stadium; We didn’t really drive through town.”
Ridgely, who was inventive director of the Off-Broadway theater firm Waterwell and has directed productions at New York’s Public Theater and the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, lives in the Central West End along with his spouse Jennifer Thompson and their two daughters. One of the issues that impresses him about St. Louis is the metropolis’s wealthy heritage.
“When you think of the artists who were either born here or raised here, the collective impact of St. Louis art and culture on world art and culture is tremendous,” Ridgely stated. From singer Tina Turner to playwright Tennessee Williams to poet TS Eliot, the metropolis’s affect has been exceptional, he stated.
The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival itself, he stated, is a part of that legacy.
“I had never seen or been to the festival before I took the job,” Ridgely stated. “What attracted me was the way it was so warmly received by the people of St. Louis. People don’t realize how unique this is. To have three, four, five thousand people in the audience for a Shakespeare play – that doesn’t happen anywhere else in the country.”
Ridgely’s greatest adjustment transferring from New York to St. Louis? Driving as a substitute of taking the subway.
“I would just read like crazy (on the subway),” he stated. “But you can’t do that while driving.”
Cara Starke, government director of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, stated she “didn’t have much of an impression, positive or negative,” of St. Louis earlier than she moved from New York in 2015.
Starke was exhibitions director at the nonprofit Creative Time earlier than becoming a member of Pulitzer.
“I have a lot of relatives in New York and have lived in San Francisco,” she stated. “So those were the areas of the country I knew best.” But she has a superb motive for transferring to Gateway City.
“I fell in love with the Pulitzer,” Starke stated. “And I was interested in what this organization could mean – for your city, for its residents and for this region. Part of the transition for me was an interest in delving deeper into what it means to be part of a community.”
One of the attention-grabbing issues about St. Louis is the mixture of Midwestern and Southern cultures, she stated.
“At least from my East Coast perspective,” Starke stated. “I realize that people who are local might say, ‘No, no, this isn’t Southern at all — this is very much Midwest. But for me, the city brings together regional cultures that I’m still learning from.”
Big Apple Connections
The transition from New Yorkers to St. Louisians was a gradual course of for Antonio Douthit-Boyd, Artistic Director of Dance at COCA, and Kirven Douthit-Boyd, Artistic Director of Big Muddy Dance Company and Associate Director of Dance Production and Artistry at COCA Director of COCAdance.
A local of St. Louis, Antonio Douthit-Boyd wanted no introduction to the metropolis when he and husband Kirven relocated from New York in 2015 to change into co-artistic administrators of COCA’s dance program.
The transfer was one thing of a homecoming for Antonio, who started his dance coaching as a young person at the Community Arts Center in University City. And for Kirven, the transition from a profitable profession as a principal dancer at the famend Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to coaching younger dancers at COCA was an thrilling new starting.
Being again in St. Louis after residing the lifetime of a New Yorker is “a whole different experience that I really enjoy and love,” Antonio stated.
Although they lived out of city, the Douthit-Boyds stored in contact: for a couple of decade, throughout their hiatus from touring with the Ailey Company, the pair would spend time guesting at COCA each January — in the meantime determining the way it labored familiarize your self with the dance program.
And that finally led her to make St. Louis her residence. Kirven stated he was significantly impressed by the metropolis’s vibrant arts scene.
“I was really so impressed by the fact that you can go to museums for free and have all these cultural experiences,” he stated. “It’s something very special for me.”
Leaving New York does not essentially imply breaking away from its cultural scene solely. And these connections to the Big Apple can solely profit St. Louis.
Video: New inventive director at Stages needs to promote variety
“I keep in touch with as many people as I have time,” stated Stages’ Seay. “I will definitely come to New York several times next year.”
Ridgely of the Shakespeare Festival stated that New York “will always be the epicenter for talent.”
“There are just too many incredible artists and wonderful people living there not to stay connected in the best way possible,” he stated. “Nevertheless, there is incredible talent everywhere. So we definitely shifted our focus to collaborating with more local and regional artists. And that feels just right.”
With Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick in the marquee, Plaza Suite has each likelihood of being one other triumph for the St. Louis-based producers.
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