Regional Arts Commission St. Louis

Lamar Harris, Shakespeare in the Streets

Shakespeare in the Streets is priceless because there are so many talented people in St. Louis with so many wonderful stories and histories that are forgotten.

The first time I got involved was in Old North. They interviewed different people in the neighborhood and incorporated their stories inside this Shakespearean tale. When we performed King Lear on the steps of the public library, we had a 60-piece choir from Central Baptist Church, a big band called the Genesis Jazz Project with 25 people and a 20-person step group called the Gentleman of Visions out of Riverview Gardens. With the other 12 or 15 actors, this was the biggest and most diverse Shakespeare in the Streets we ever had.

I like that they introduce people to theatre that have never acted before. Its like, “I’ve always wanted to be an actor.” “Well, hey. We’re in your community. Come and join in.” Or, if your kid wants to act — you never know how that experience could shape his or her life. When you see your neighbor up on stage, it’s like, man, they’re going to be talking about that for years.

There’s not a lot of diversity in more traditional theater settings. You don’t see African Americans in the orchestra pits or playing roles other than the slave woman or midwife. People need to see people who look like them being creative. Anytime I get an opportunity, I’m trying to bring people on to help open up some doors for others.

— Lamar Harris, Shakespeare in the Streets

April Parviz, Intersect STL

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