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The best in St. Louis regional theater earn Lotties

The textures, types and tenacity of regional professional theater continue to enrich my life, and I hope yours as well.

Looking back at what transpired on local stages in 2015, I am inspired by the devoted artists who fearlessly dig deep and lay themselves bare for our entertainment.

Someone once said that books are about how people think, theater is about how people feel, and movies are about how people act. Good theater must move us — make us think and feel.

Theater artists say something, and their efforts are a labor of love. Our local arts scene pulsates with energy and overflows with talent—an encouraging abundance of quality.

Productions run the gamut of little-known works presented here for the first time, classics given fresh looks and heralded award winners whose rights are now available.

In 2014, I created “The Lotties” — Lynn’s Love of Theater Annual Awards. For this year’s awards, I have added a category – Dramatic Comedies, in order to differentiate works of comedies (funny ha-ha) from the darker efforts that lean towards drama, but aren’t classified as such.

As one of the founders of the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, we will honor excellence in plays and musicals on Monday, March 21. For the fourth year, we will present awards in 36 categories at the Skip Viragh Center for the Performing Arts at Chaminade High School in St. Louis. Nominations will be announced the last week in January. Stay tuned.

What distinguishes works? In my opinion, it is through a company’s vision and viewpoint – how they interpret a story and what is the end result of a fortuitous collaboration.

Thank you, The Muny, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Stages St. Louis, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, West End Players Guild, New Line Theatre, Dramatic License Productions (closed in ’15), Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, New Jewish Theatre, Stray Dog Theater, Insight Theatre, R-S Theatrics, St. Louis Actors’ Studio, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble, Equally Represented Arts, The Midnight Company, St. Louis Shakespeare, Mustard Seed Theatre, Upstream Theatre, Theatre Lab and Max and Louie Productions.

The regional professional theater scene -- once more, with feeling. My choices for excellence in the second annual Lynn’s Love of Theater Awards (The LOTTIES) are:

PRODUCTION OF THE YEAR: “Emmeline,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

The local premiere of J.D. McClatchy and Tobias Picker’s shattering, powerful American saga about a 19th century woman’s secrets, which hadn’t been presented since its 1996 debut at the Sante Fe Opera, was a searing, unforgettable work. We were moved by the visual artistry and Joyce El-Khoury’s devastating performance – starting hopeful at age 14 and ending some 20 years later as a broken woman in her 30s. The shouts afterwards from the audience was deafening, and hard-earned.

BEST TOURING SHOW: Smart, strong females always a worthy choice -- “Wicked” at the Fox Theatre (old); “Matilda” (new)

SPECIAL RECOGNITION

Shakespeare in the Street’s “The World Begun” – For the fourth year, free theater outdoors in a local neighborhood shimmered on a summer night. Nancy Bell, resident playwright for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, created an original modern spin on “Twelfth Night,” using both the north city surroundings and residents as part of the event. Pure bliss.

The artwork and illustrations by Aaron Allen and Michelle Sauer in Theatre Lab’s “The Pillowman” and the original paintings by Marjorie Williamson in “Sublime Intimacy added an emotional depth.

The third annual LaBute New Play Festival at St. Louis Actors’ Studio – interesting, thought-provoking new works two weekends every summer, growing each year and now Broadway bound!

St. Louis Fringe Festival – Innovation by free-range artists in Grand Center for two weeks every summer. What a concept! What fun!

The Grand Center Theatre Crawl – A free event to sample the efforts of local professional groups. This refreshing taste of theater was savored on a midsummer’s eve, and I’ll be back next year for a second helping.

MVPS

Belleville native Rob Lippert designed the Marcelle Theatre for New Line Theatre to meet their needs – and his as resident set designer. A perfect match.

Adam Flores filled in to admirably play Orsino in St. Louis Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” with only a few days to learn the part.

John Contini’s and Peter Mayer’s professionalism in subbing for other actors in New Jewish Theatre’s “The Sunshine Boys.” The show must go on, and those two didn’t miss a beat!

BEST MUSICAL

“Into the Woods,” The Muny

“Anything Goes,” Stages St. Louis

“Heathers,” New Line Theatre

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Stray Dog Theatre

“The Fantasticks,” Insight Theatre Company

“Oklahoma,” The Muny

“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” The Muny

“Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” The Muny

“Dogfight,” Stray Dog Theatre

“The Full Monty,” Stages St. Louis

BEST DRAMA

“All the Way,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

“The Pillowman,” Theatre Lab

“Safe House,” The Repertory Studio Theatre

“I and You,” The Repertory Studio Theatre

“The Cockfighter,” West End Players Guild

(tie) “Animals Out of Paper,” R-S Theatrics

BEST DRAMATIC COMEDY

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

“The Gin Game,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

“Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” R-S Theatrics

“Bad Jews,” New Jewish Theatre

“The Killing of Sister George,” Max and Louie Productions

BEST COMEDY

“The World Begun,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

“Buyer and Cellar,” The Rep Studio Theatre

“The 39 Steps,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

“Wild Oats,” St. Louis Shakespeare

“Moon Over Buffalo,” Insight Theatre Company

BEST ACTOR – MUSICAL

Andy Christopher - “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” The Muny

Evan Fornachon – “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Ben Davis – “Oklahoma,” The Muny

Martin Fox - “The Fantasticks,” Insight Theatre

Zachary Allen Farmer – “The Threepenny Opera,” New Line Theatre

Gerry Love – “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Stray Dog Theatre

Ben Nordstrom – “My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding,” New Jewish Theatre

BEST ACTOR – DRAMA

J. Samuel Davis - “Bashir Lazhar,” Upstream Theatre

Bryan Dykstra - “All the Way,” The Repertory Theatre

Jerry Vogel - “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Upstream Theatre

Daniel Morgan Shelley - “Safe House,” The Rep Studio Theatre

Michael Hogan - “Kandahar,” LaBute New Play Festival, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Jay Stratton – “The Winslow Boy,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Joe Hanrahan - “One Flea Spare,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

BEST ACTOR – DRAMATIC COMEDY

Jeffrey C. Hawkins – “Peter and the Starcatcher,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

William Roth - “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Peter Mayer - “The Gin Game,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Antonio Rodriguez - “Bad Jews,” New Jewish Theatre

Jared Sanz-Agero - “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” R-S Theatrics

John Pierson - “Seminar,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

BEST ACTOR – COMEDY

Jeremy Webb – “Buyer and Cellar,” The Rep Studio

Alan Knoll - “Moon Over Buffalo,” Insight Theatre

Pete Winfrey - “The 39 Steps,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

John Felcht - “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Joe Hanrahan – ‘House,” The Midnight Company, St. Louis Fringe Festival

BEST ACTRESS – MUSICAL

Joyce El-Khoury – “Emmeline,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Heather Headley - “Into the Woods,” The Muny

Julie Cardia - “Anything Goes,” Stages St. Louis

Shannon Cothran - “Dogfight,” Stray Dog Theatre

Anna Skidis - “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Taylor Pietz - “Jerry Springer the Opera,” New Line Theatre

BEST ACTRESS – DRAMA

Ami Loui - “The Amish Project,” Mustard Seed Theatre

Jenni Ryan - “Spinning into Butter,” Insight Theatre Company

Emily Baker - “Sight Unseen,” New Jewish Theatre

Shirine Babb - “Antony and Cleopatra,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Janie Brookshire – “Angel Street,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

BEST ACTRESS – DRAMATIC COMEDY

Kari Ely - “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

LaVonne Byers - “The Killing of Sister George,” Max and Louie Productions

Linda Kennedy – “The Gin Game,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Paula Stoff Dean - “Venus in Fur,” West End Players Guild

Em Piro – “Bad Jews,” New Jewish Theatre

(tie) Michelle Hand and Sarajane Alverson – “God of Carnage,” Stray Dog Theatre

BEST ACTRESS – COMEDY

Suzanne Grodner - “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,” the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Nicole Angeli - “Wild Oats,” St. Louis Shakespeare

Marlene Rene Coveyou - “The World Begun,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Rachel Tibbetts – “The 39 Steps,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Shannon Marie Sullivan – “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Colleen Backer – “The Odd Couple (Female Version),” Dramatic License Productions

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – MUSICAL

Joneal Joplin - “The Fantasticks,” Insight Theatre

Milton Craig Nealy – “The Full Monty,” Stages St. Louis

Sam Weber – “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” The Muny

Rob McClure – “Into the Woods,” The Muny

Paxton Whitehead - “My Fair Lady,” The Muny

Matthew Scott - “My Fair Lady,” The Muny

Jeoncheol Cha – “The Barber of Seville,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Andrew Samonsky – “Into the Woods,” The Muny

Dan Fenaughty – “Anything Goes,” Stages St. Louis

Bob Amaral – “Anything Goes,” Stages St. Louis

(tie) Richard Crandle – “Smokey Joe’s Café,” Stages St. Louis

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – DRAMA

Nick Kelly – “The Pillowman,” Theatre Lab

Chris Tipp - “Dog Sees God,” Stray Dog Theatre

John Reidy - “The Cockfighter,” West End Players Guild

John Flack – “Sublime Intimacy,” Max and Louie Productions

John O’ Hagan – “Spinning Into Butter,” Insight Theater

Will Cobbs – “Safe House,” The Rep Studio

Geoffrey Wade – “Angel Street,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – DRAMATIC COMEDY

Spencer Davis Milford – “Peter and the Starcatcher,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Will Bonfiglio – “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” R-S Theatrics

Jason Contini – “Seminar,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Larry Dell – “Art,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – COMEDY

Peter Mayer - “The Sunshine Boys,” New Jewish Theatre

Michael Baird – “Devil Boys from Beyond,” Stray Dog Theatre

John Bratkowski – “The World Begun,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Will Bonfiglio – “Moon Over Buffalo,” Insight Theatre

Jaime Zayas – “Twelfth Night,” St. Louis Shakespeare

Jefferson McDonald – “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – MUSICAL

Zoe Vonder Haar – “The Full Monty,” Stages St. Louis

Grace Seidel – “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Liz Mikel – “Hairspray,” The Muny

Larissa White – “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Sicily Mathenia – “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Kimmie Kidd - “Spellbound: A Musical Fable,” Stray Dog Theatre

Elena Shaddow – “Into the Woods,” The Muny

Teressa Kindle – “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” The Muny

Emily Afton – “Smokey Joe’s Café,” Stages St. Louis

Zoe Vonder Haar – “My Fair Lady,” The Muny

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – DRAMA

Kelly Taffe – “Safe House,” The Rep Studio

Myxolydia Tyler – “All the Way,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Donna Weinstein – “Homebody,” LaBute New Play Festival, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Carol Schultz – “The Winslow Boy,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Erin Kelley – “Spinning Into Butter,” Insight Theatre Company

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – DRAMATIC COMEDY

Elizabeth Van Pelt – “Rapture, Blister, Burn,” West End Players Guild

Betsy Hogg – “Peter and the Starcatcher,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Betsy Bowman – “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Shannon Nara – “The Killing of Sister George,” Max and Louie Productions

Taylor Steward – “Bad Jews,” New Jewish Theatre

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – COMEDY

Tommy Nolan – “Moon Over Buffalo,” Insight Theatre Company

Jeanetta Perkins – “The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler,” St. Louis Shakespeare

Fannie Belle-Libby – “The Sunshine Boys,” New Jewish Theatre

Erin Rene Roberts – “The World Begun,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Elizabeth Knocke – “Twelfth Night,” St.Louis Shakespeare

BEST YOUTH PERFORMANCES

Cole Hoefferle - “The Full Monty,” Stages St. Louis

Benjimin Tracey - “The Cockfighter,” West End Players Guild

Kevin Connelly – “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Stray Dog Theatre

Spencer Jones - “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” The Muny

Rynier Gaffney - “Cold in Hand,” LaBute New Play Festival, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

BEST DUOS - PLAYS

Peter Mayer and Linda Kennedy - “The Gin Game,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Jerry Vogel and Bobby Miller – “Imagining Madoff,” New Jewish Theatre

Ellie Schwetye and Carl Overly Jr. – “The 39 Steps,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Reynaldo Piniella and Danielle Carlacci - “I and You,” Repertory Studio Theatre

John Contini and Peter Mayer – “The Sunshine Boys,” New Jewish Theatre

Aaron and Emily Baker – “Sight Unseen,” New Jewish Theatre

Eric Dean White and Lisa Tejero – “The Kiss,” Upstream Theatre

Paul James and Phil Leveling – “The Odd Couple (Female version),” Dramatic License Productions

Carl Overly Jr. and Matthew Knocke – “The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler,” St. Louis Shakespeare

Patrick Blindauer and Shanara Gabrielle – “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Upstream Theatre

BEST DUOS/GROUPS – MUSICALS

Rob McClure and Steve Rosen - “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” The Muny

Sicily Matheny, Larissa White and Cameisha Cotton in “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Anthony Kalil and Corinne Winters – “La Rondine,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Chris Kernan and Joel Hackbarth – “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Christina Ramirez and Adam Hunn – “The Fantasticks,” Insight Theatre Company

Patti Murin and Colin Donnell – “Holiday Inn,” The Muny

Nicholas Rodriguez and Kate Rockwell – “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” The Muny

Bryan Batt and Lara Teeter – “Hairspray,” The Muny

Corey Fraine and Mike Wells – “Spellbound! A Musical Fable,” Stray Dog Theatre

Omega Jones and Clayton Humburg – “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

BEST DIRECTOR – MUSICALS

James Robinson - “Emmeline,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Gary Griffin - “Into the Woods,” The Muny

Rob Ruggiero - “Oklahoma,” The Muny

Justin Been – “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Stray Dog Theatre

Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy - “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Maggie Ryan – “The Fantasticks,” Insight Theatre Company

Marcia Milgrim Dodge – “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” The Muny

BEST DIRECTOR – DRAMA

Steve Woolf – “All the Way,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Ryan Foizey – “The Pillowman,” Theatre Lab

Patrick Siler – “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Upstream Theatre

Melissa Maxwell – “Safe House,” The Repertory Studio Theatre

Bobby Miller – “Sight Unseen,” New Jewish Theatre

BEST DIRECTOR – DRAMATIC COMEDY

John Contini – “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Christina Rios – “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” R-S Theatrics

Steve Peirick – “Rapture, Blister, Burn,” West End Players Guild

Sydnie Grosberg Ronga – “Bad Jews,” New Jewish Theatre

Gary F. Bell – “God of Carnage,” Stray Dog Theatre

BEST DIRECTOR – COMEDY

Jacqueline Thompson – “The World Begun,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Kirsten Wylder – “The 39 Steps,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Shaun Sheley – “Wild Oats,” St. Louis Shakespeare

Edward Coffield – “Moon Over Buffalo,” Insight Theatre Company

Donna Northcott – “Twelfth Night,” St. Louis Shakespeare

Michael Evan Haney – “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

BEST MUSICAL DIRECTOR

Brad Haak - “Into the Woods,” The Muny

Michael Horsley – “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” The Muny

James Moore – “Holiday Inn,” The Muny

Kevin Stites – “Oklahoma,” The Muny

Grant Llewellyn - “Richard the Lionheart,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Chris Petersen – “Dogfight,” Stray Dog Theatre

Jeffrey Richard Carter and Sue Goldford – “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Catherine Edwards Kopff – “The Fantasticks,” Insight Theatre Company

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY

Denis Jones - “Holiday Inn,” The Muny

Stephen Bourneuf - “Anything Goes,” Stages St. Louis

Dan Knechtges and Jessica Hartman - “Hairspray,” The Muny

Robin Michelle Berger – “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Zach Stefaniak - “Spellbound: A Musical Fable,” Stray Dog Theatre

Vince Pesce – “Beauty and the Beast,” The Muny

Stephen Bourneuf - “The Full Monty,” Stages St. Louis

BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC

Sleepy Kitty – Paige Brubeck and Evan Sult, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Upstream Theatre

Scott O’Brien -- “Safe House,” The Repertory Studio Theatre

Luke Viertel – “The Pillowman,” Theatre Lab

Henry Palkes – “Sublime Intimacy,” Max and Louie Productions

Farshid Soltanshahi – “Bashir Lazhar,” Upstream Theatre

BEST SCENIC DESIGN – MUSICALS

Robert Mark Morgan – “Beauty and the Beast,” The Muny

Robert Mark Morgan – “Hairspray,” The Muny

Shoko Kamara - “The Barber of Seville,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Rob Lippert – “Spellbound: A Musical Fable,” Stray Dog Theatre

Rob Lippert – “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Allen Moyer – “Emmeline,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Luke Shyrock – “The Fantasticks,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

BEST SCENIC DESIGN – PLAYS

Wilson Chin - “Angel Street,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Peter and Margery Spack – “Moon Over Buffalo,” Insight Theatre

Peter and Margery Spack – “Safe House,” The Repertory Studio Theatre

Scott C. Neale – “Antony and Cleopatra,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Mark Wilson – “An Invitation Out,” Mustard Seed Theatre

Paul Shortt - Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

James Kronzer – “All the Way,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Ryan Ethridge - “Twelfth Night,” St. Louis Shakespeare

Eric Barker - “I and You,” The Rep Studio Theatre

Mark Wilson – “The World Begun,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

(tie) Kyra Bishop – “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Upstream Theatre

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN – MUSICALS

Christopher Ackerlind – “Emmeline,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Matthew McCarthy – “The Full Monty,” Stages St. Louis

Tyler Duenow – “Dogfight,” Stray Dog Theatre

Kenneth Zinkl – “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Paige Seber – “The Fantasticks,” Insight Theatre Company

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN - PLAYS

Peter E. Sargent - “Angel Street,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Nathan Schroeder – “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” R-S Theatrics

Bess Moynihan - “One Flea Spare,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Tyler Duenow - “Devil Boys from Beyond,” Stray Dog Theatre

Patrick Huber - “Sublime Intimacy,” Max and Louie Productions

John Wylie - “Antony and Cleopatra,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Dalton Robison – “Art,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Michael Sullivan – “An Invitation Out,” Mustard Seed Theatre

Nathan Schroeder – “Venus in Fur,” West End Players Guild

Kenton Yeager – “Peter and the Starcatcher,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

BEST SOUND DESIGN – PLAYS

Rusty Wandall - “Angel Street,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Robin Weatherall - “Sublime Intimacy,” Max and Louie Productions

Rusty Wandall - “I and You,” The Repertory Studio Theatre

Mary Beth Winslow – “The Cockfighter,” West End Players Guild

Chuck Lavazzi – “Venus in Fur,” West End Players Guild

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – MUSICALS

Gary F. Bell and Eileen Engel - “Spellbound: A Musical Fable,” Stray Dog Theatre

Robin McGee - “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” The Muny

Alejo Vietti - “Holiday Inn,” The Muny

Leon Dobkowski - “Hairspray,” The Muny

Sarah Porter - “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Brad Musgrove - Anything Goes,” Stages St. Louis

Eileen Engel - “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Stray Dog Theatre

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – PLAYS

Beth Ashby – “An Invitation Out,” Mustard Seed Theatre

Eileen Engel – “Devil Boys from Beyond,” Stray Dog Theatre

JC Krajicek - “The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler,” St. Louis Shakespeare

Cyndi Lohrmann - “The Killing of Sister George,” Max and Louie Productions

Elizabeth Henning - “The 39 Steps,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Myrna Coffey-Lee – “Safe House,” The Repertory Studio Theatre

David Kay Mickelsen – “Peter and the Starcatcher,” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Best Hairstyles and Wig Work: Priscilla Case - “Devil Boys from Beyond,” Stray Dog Theatre

Best New Play: “The World Begun,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Best One-Act: “Kandahar,” Neil LaBute, LaBute New Play Festival, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Best Dialect Coach: Pamela Reckamp – “The 39 Steps,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

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