St. Louis is having to learn all over again about diversity. It's not just us, of course - hello, Indiana? - but it's here, and we're here, and society has to get over its need to feel superior to a world of people who may very well not resemble us. This weekend at the Centene Center, just a few blocks from what was, briefly, the center of St. Louis diversity, Laclede Town, was a reminder of what we need to be doing to diversify. Being around diverse people, talking to them, learning about them, laughing with them - it's all part of the process.
A few fast reminiscences on Laclede Town, where I mostly raised my kids, during the good years and the last, not-good years. Federally funded middle-income housing, it was a glorious polyglot of people and cultures. My children had babysitters from Turkey and Ghana. The man who ran the place, The Other Jerry Berger, was, in effect, the Benevolent Ruler. What he did was probably illegal - it certainly would be now - but he balanced the population. He made sure there was a good mix of races and ethnicity. He looked for families that would use the public schools. We had artists and newspaper folks and midwives and students. Movies were shown on the side of a building in the summer and live music drifted out of windows.
We had same-sex couples and folks who were trannies,too. The LGBT community was celebrated these past few days with Briefs, the annual festival of LGBT short plays. One of the executive producers (who would probably shy from the title Benevolent Ruler, but still...) is Joan Lipkin, who's been focusing on diversity in her theater career seemingly ever since she first put pen to paper, whether it's gender or preference or abilities.
Two hundred plays were submitted; eight were performed, including one from Joan herself about Ferguson and its relevance. Some were lighthearted, like the mer-man (no, his name was not Ethel) trying to pick someone up in a bar. Others, like the Ferguson piece, were more serious. Paul Rudnick's "My Husband" closed things off, averaging, literally, a laugh a minute. The actors were both amateurs and professionals. The directors who came on board were familiar names to local theater-goers, like Phillip Boehm and Marty Stanberry. It all worked well, far more adept than one might think, given that things were set up in a ballroom with a bar at one end and merely a raised platform at the other. Good and very rapid work from the crew, too. Be aware this is definitely an adults-only evening because of some language.
Over and celebrated this year, but keep it in mind for 2016.