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Hawthorne Players celebrate 20 years of giving

Florissant native Dr. Christopher Kelts, the Music Director of the Kansas City Civic Orchestra, will be guest conductor at the Hawthorne Players’ June 30 concert.

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Founded in Ferguson in 1945, Hawthorne Players is one of the oldest theatre companies in St. Louis. They perform several plays every year at the Florissant Civic Center, and over the past two decades, they’ve donated nearly $50,000 in scholarship funds to local high school students. Larry Marsh has the scoop on their latest endeavor….

“Giving back” is the theme of Hawthorne Players’ special concert on June 30 at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre. The acclaimed theatre company is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of its Duckie DeMere Scholarship program. Many of the former recipients are returning to Florissant to lend their talents once again in a gala program of light classical music.

The benefit concert will include sixteen Hawthorne audience favorites singing with a 50-piece orchestra conducted by Dr. Christopher Kelts,  a 1997 scholarship recipient who is now the Music Director of the Kansas City Civic Orchestra. Katie Collins, a 1999 recipient, will be the concertmaster, a role she filled in many Hawthorne pit orchestras while still a student and continues to do as a professional with regional opera companies.

Named after the late Hawthorne director and actress, Duckie DeMere Scholarships totaling $48,000 have been presented to ninety-five North County graduating seniors active in the performing arts since the first awards were given at the Best of Hawthorne show in 1992.

The June 30 concert, entitled “Hawthorne Goes Classical (Lightly)” will be directed by Paul Morris, veteran Hawthorne actor and singer (and the father of Emily Morris, a 1996 scholarship recipient). His son Jeremy, now a film producer and director in New York, will design the lights for this production.

The program will include works by Verdi, Mozart, Puccini, Tchaikovsky, and Gilbert and Sullivan. The finale will be Ralph Vaughan Williams’s moving “Serenade to Music,” conducted by Morris and featuring all sixteen singers.

Hawthorne Players staged their first show at Ferguson’s Central School in 1945.

Maestro Kelts notes, “It brings me great pleasure to have been asked to join fellow scholarship recipients in this wonderful milestone for the Hawthorne Players. This concert will be a wonderful reunion and a great culmination of years of generosity and art. How does one say ‘thank you’ to an organization like the Hawthorne Players?  You live your art – in any way you can.  I do…they do.”

Other returning scholarship recipients include Dr. Alexander Ludwig, who teaches music at Brandeis and Holy Cross in Massachusetts. He played cello as a high school student in many Hawthorne pit orchestras, and while still in college won Hawthorne’s  2002 “Best Director” award for the group’s production of “1776.”

Ludwig says that the Duckie DeMere scholarship was a springboard to his creative career. “It propelled me toward a wide range of productions with the Hawthorne Players, a wealth of experience that I have since parlayed into professional theater jobs in both St. Louis and Boston.  Playing this concert gives me a chance to revisit my roots. I relish the opportunity to give back, not only to the next generation of Duckie DeMere scholarship winners, but also to the Hawthorne Players in general whose productions served as a creative and artistic bridge between my high school and college careers.”

Beth (Scheiding) Smith is thrilled to be in another Hawthorne production. The 2003 scholarship recipient notes, “You never really quit being a Hawthorne Player; you can’t quit your family.  You move away, you do another show, you take a break…but you are still a Hawthorne Player.   I am so excited to be coming home to Hawthorne this summer.  I am looking forward to seeing my family.”

Leah (McGougan) Poe is now an orchestra director in the Webster Groves School District. She says that receiving the Duckie DeMere scholarship in 2002 helped her pursue her dream of studying music at the University of Missouri Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music. “With the aid of the scholarship, I was able to purchase my first semester textbooks, several of which I have kept to this day for reference and teaching aids.”

During the 2011 season, Hawthorne Players staged five plays, including the Broadway hits “Annie” and “I’m Not Rappaport.”

Mary (Schroeder) Honour, now a Production Stage Manager at the Missouri Repertory Theatre in Kansas City says, “I’m so glad to participate in this concert because I feel that it is connecting me back to my artistic roots. My high school years in Florissant did a great job of fueling my curiosity and ambition, which served me well as I pursued my training in college and beyond. My early artistic mentors (Ike and Mary Eichenberger, Doug Lane, Larry Marsh, among others) were great educators who encouraged me to pursue my creativity to wherever it would lead me. Working with the Hawthorne Players was one way I expanded those horizons. As a professional artist, I value the groundwork that was laid for me in those early years, especially the examples I was given in terms of dedication to quality and joy in the work.”

The very first Duckie DeMere Scholarship winners are still active in the performing arts. Michael Blackmon is a dancer and choreographer in New York, and violinist Kim Scruggs performs regularly in Los Angeles.  Kim writes that she is honored to be invited to the 20th anniversary.  “Wow–twenty years! I have very fond memories of being involved with Hawthorne Players, and I am grateful for those fun and challenging musical experiences.”

This extraordinary gathering of talent will perform at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre at 8:00 p.m. on June 30. Tickets are $15 and the proceeds will benefit the next generation of scholarship candidates. To reserve tickets, call (314) 921-5678.  More information can be found at

Flo Valley presents “An Evening of One Acts”


“An Evening of One Acts” takes the stage at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley’s Terry M. Fischer Theatre at 8pm June 6-9 and at 2pm June 10. The campus is located at 3400 Pershall Road in Ferguson.

The featured plays are as follows:

“Water and Wine” by Stuart Spencer is directed by Chris Stephens. In the year 1506, a wine maker and his son discover an ancient statue buried on their property.  Conflict develops over the value and meaning of art.  Through the struggle the son finds his calling in life. This play is produced by special arrangement with Bruce Ostler, Rosenstone Adams, LLC.

“Alien Hand Syndrome” by Michael Erickson is directed by Taylor Gruenloh. Mark is diagnosed with the very rare but real illness of alien hand. His right hand has literally begun to lead a life of its own, separate from Mark. The hand learns sign language, gets Mark fired from his job, acquires a girlfriend, and becomes the person that Mark could never be. No matter what Mark does, he cannot stop his hand from dominating and tormenting him. Finally, Mark makes a bloody decision: only one of them will survive. This play is produced by special arrangement with Michael Erickson.

“Konvergence” by P.J. Gibson is directed by Renee Thomas-Woods. “Konvergence” depicts the turbulent reunion of a married couple after a year’s separation. This upwardly mobile couple struggles with whether or not to assimilate into middle-class society and “become another chocolate-covered android of the system,” yet another statistic of the vacuous, materialistic American dream. This play is produced by special arrangement with P.J. Gibson.

“The Boor” by Anton Chekhov is directed by Daniel Betzler. Popova is still in deep mourning seven months after her husband’s death. Suddenly, Smirnov arrives and rudely insists on seeing her. Popova’s late husband owed him 1200 rubles and he demands the debt be paid at once because his creditors are after him. Smirnov challenges her to a duel for insulting him and Popova brings out her husband’s pistols. At this point Smirnov realizes that he has fallen in love with this tough, spunky woman. Popova vacillates for a moment, but they end up in each other’s arms. Scripts were purchased from Samuel French © 1915.

Admission is free and all performances are open to the public. For more information, call 314-513-4488. Special accommodations are available for persons with disabilities by calling 314-513-4477. The show on June 8 will be sign interpreted. Children 10 and older are welcome.

North County students shine on Fine Arts Night

A big crowd gathered last year for the Northeast Deanery's first Fine Arts Night. This year, NoCo's Catholic school students will once again show off their talents.

Everyone knows that public schools offer music and art training, but many assume that Catholic schools do not. As Cara Koen from the Northeast Deanery explains, North County’s Catholic grade schools are not only embracing art & music education. They’re putting on a show!

Third and fourth grade students from the eight Catholic elementary schools located in the Northeast Deanery of the Archdiocese of St. Louis will perform together at the 2nd Annual Fine Arts Night on Thursday, March 1, 7:00p.m. at Trinity Catholic High School (1720 Redman Road, St. Louis, MO 63138).  The evening will feature song and band performances, speech team demonstrations and a display of student artwork from all grade levels.

Music and Art teachers have been working together to coordinate the evening, helping students learn the songs, practicing with them and collecting art projects for the display. An addition to the program this year is the speech team demonstration. “The students are very excited about performing and showing you their talents.  This is such a wonderful opportunity to showcase what our students are capable of doing,” said Sue Heredia, speech coach.  “We can tell you that when they enter high school, these students have poise, presence of speaking in front of people, and many continue to develop their talent by participating in their school plays.”

“Fine Arts Night is an excellent opportunity to showcase student talents and work, and for teachers to highlight curriculum in music and art,” said Cara Koen, Director of Advancement for the Northeast Deanery Federation of Catholic Schools. “Bringing students and families from our eight schools together in this way has the added benefit of supporting our identity as one Catholic community.”

Photos from the 2011 Fine Arts Night are available online at

The Federation of Catholic Schools is a formal agreement between the pastors of the eleven parishes in the Northeast Deanery of the Archdiocese of St. Louis to work more closely together in support of the mission of Catholic education in the North County community.  To learn more about the programs and goals of the Federation, please visit