Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chris Jackson's Sequel Is Also a Reunion

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chris Jackson's Sequel Is Also a Reunion

Article excerpt

`IN a Darkened Theatre," the new musical drama by St. Louis composer and writer Chris Jackson, is a sequel to "Stay With Me," which had a successful run here in 1992 and a good reception in Phoenix, Ariz. It is scheduled for a New York engagement next month.

But "Theatre," which picks up the same gay characters a year later in another city, is more than just a sequel for Jackson. It's also a reunion for Earl Weaver and Michael Deak, who reprise the roles they created two years ago, and it brings Weaver happily back to St. Louis from Pittsburgh.

"I only spent two years in St. Louis," Weaver said as he munched a grilled chicken sandwich the other day, "but I miss it more than I miss Los Angeles, where I grew up. I really liked it here. I felt comfortable, and the city felt good to me."

Weaver, fresh from a stint on a cruise ship, came here for a role in "Sentimental Journey," with Hope Wurdack's Theater Factory St. Louis. He knew Wade Russo, the director, and Russo offered Weaver a chance when Michael Jokerst took another acting job.

Weaver stayed here after "Sentimental Journey" and became business manager of Theater Factory, but like all actors, he continued to work on stage from time to time. Coincidentally, he again replaced Jokerst in "Stay With Me," again because Jokerst was offered another, and longer-running, opportunity. When Wurdack closed down and moved to Hollywood to pursue her own ambitions as a movie director, Weaver traveled to Point Park College in Pittsburgh to be head of the school's musical theater program.

"We're a small, private, liberal arts college in downtown Pittsburgh," Weaver explained, "and our musical theater program is a lot like that at Webster, with music and dance working with the theater department instead of being separate, as they are at some places. We have 70 freshmen coming in this fall, with about half of them signed up as musical theater majors, and for us, that's a lot."

Speaking of downtown Pittsburgh, Weaver also talked about the city's plans to expand the already ambitious entertainment area that is within strolling distance of the Golden Triangle, where the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers merge and form the Ohio. Making their home in the area are Heinz Hall, home of the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Benedum Center and the Fulton Theatre, both used for theater and concerts.

Demolition is under way a block from the Benedum Center, with some old buildings vanishing to make way for a major performing arts center that will house all sorts of entertainment. City funds are being used and, according to Weaver, the basic financing already is in place. Wouldn't it be nice if St. Louis had something like that to complement its four sports facilities?

I asked Weaver to compare Pittsburgh and St. Louis - similar cities in size and makeup - in terms of alternative theater or, more specifically, theater with a homosexual theme, like "In a Darkened Theatre. …

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