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Neil LaBute pens 'St. Louis' for theater festival that bears his name

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Neil LaBute

Screenwriter and playwright Neil LaBute discusses his play "In a Forest, Dark and Deep" at the Vaudeville Theatre in London in 2010.

Named for playwright Neil LaBute, the LaBute New Theater Festival presented by St. Louis Actors’ Studio has become something of a tradition. The eighth annual event will feature nine one-act plays, including a new work by LaBute with an intriguing title: “St. Louis.”

Presented at the Gaslight Theater, the festival is divided into two programs, running July 8-17 and July 22-31. Both will include “St. Louis.”

The acclaimed writer and director has an ongoing collaborative relationship with the St. Louis Actors’ Studio, providing a new one-act play each year for the festival, which the company has also produced off-Broadway in New York City.

In 2021, LaBute’s full-length play “Comfort” made its world premiere with the company.

William Roth, co-founder and artistic director of the St. Louis Actors’ Studio, discussed the LaBute New Theater Festival and its works. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q • What can you tell us about “St. Louis,” the LaBute one-act playing in this year’s festival?

A • I’m not sure how he got the idea. His plays aren’t necessarily location-specific, and this one isn’t, either. Other than taking place in St. Louis, that doesn’t have a lot to do with the plot. It’s a relationship play, about two women and a man who live in the same apartment building.

Q • What’s the idea behind presenting two groups of plays?

A • I am such a fan of the one-act form and of playwrights. And I am so overwhelmed by the skill and bios of the people sending plays in that I want to produce as many of the plays as I possibly can.

Q • Are there any guidelines for the one-acts?

A • Not really. We try to have as few restrictions as possible: 45 minutes or less. Generally, they take place on a park bench, or in an apartment or living room. One thing that we’re very proud of is how the plays move from play to play during the evening. There’s almost a ballet happening as one play moves into the next.

Q • So these are full productions of the plays?

A • I don’t think they lack for anything. They’re fully staged, all of the actors are fully off-book and we rehearse for three weeks. It’s just like any of our other productions.

Q • Do the plays tend to have anything in common?

A • No. I’d say that they run the gamut.

Q • “Comfort” was very well received. Are there any further plans to produce it?

A • Yes. Nothing solid, but we are working on trying to get it moving in New York. It’s a play that could easily be on Broadway.

What LaBute New Theater Festival • When July 8-17, July 22-31; performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays • Where Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle Avenue • How much $30-$35 • More info


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