Written By: Jennifer Wintzer, Artistic Director of Theatre at COCA
This season at COCA we are focused on re-emergence. After months of planning and discussion among COCA’s artistic directors and artists, this theme came to the forefront because of its meaning to our students, professionals, and community. Re-emergence is about the chance to start again; it is renewal, with more wisdom and a stronger sense of joy in the art we create.
We are here, and we have grown. Perhaps you are coming to COCA to be overjoyed for live performance again, and we have never been more looking forward to sharing just that with you. As artists and learners, we are excited for a year of home-spun classics and groundbreaking new work.
Take a look at what our upcoming COCApresents season has to offer:
This year, we begin by sharing with you the works from COCA alumnus and emerging choreographer Mason Cummings in our first-ever Choreographic Lab Showcase. Through COCA’s Choreographic Lab, a six-week journey at COCA, Cummings will work with world-renowned mentors in dance, who can help him bring his vision to the stage with the talents and artistry of our Pre-Professional Division dancers in Ballet Eclectica and COCAdance. The Choreographic Lab Showcase is an exciting chance to see how mentorship can have a multi-level impact on the innovative craft of an emerging professional and our students.
Next, we’ll share another venture into new work. The COCAwrites program, a new play development program for artists and audiences of multiple generations, presents Kaleidoscope Crown by Ashleigh Akilah Rucker, a Los Angeles-based playwright and artist. The play explores the power of youth to transform their communities through joy and expression. The team, led by Director Alicia Revé Like and Choreographer C. Anthony Cole, will take inspiration from the culture and art of the African diaspora in this magical play filled with movement and dance. The development of Kaleidoscope Crown is supported by ReImagine: New Plays in TYA, a joint effort of Childrens Theatre Foundation of America, The Kennedy Center, TYA/USA and Write Now. COCA is thrilled to welcome this new playwright to our home this season.
A production we are particularly excited about is wUNDERland, choreographed and directed by Anthony “Redd” Williams. This hip-hop retelling of Alice in Wonderland is a testament to the talent and tenacity of hip-hop at COCA. Williams leads a team of COCA Hip-Hop Crew dancers, as well as featured talent from the St. Louis community and beyond, including The Voice’s Kennedy Holmes as the Mad Hatter. wUNDERland will showcase ambitious and imaginative scenic design from Sung Ho Kim and Heather Woofter of Axi:Ome, the architectural designers of COCA’s newly expanded campus, as well as costume design by award-winning fashion designer, Brandin Vaughn. wUNDERland was originally produced by COCA in 2015. This production rounds out our Fall of 2021 with new and reimagined work.
In April, the COCAwrites program culminates with the COCAwrites Festival for the production of composer Colin Healy’s musical The Butterfly Room. The Butterfly Room, based on true events in the General Motors Factory in Bayway, New Jersey, in 1924, follows a group of young organizers fighting corruption in their workplace. The festival will also include COCAwrites Student Musical, a workshop of a student-written musical with writing support from Syrhea Conaway, also known as the artist Syna So Pro, and COCA’s Associate Producer and Playwright, Delaney Piggins.
TRIumphant returns to the Catherine B. Berges stage, showcasing the best of the Pre-Professional Division dance program. This show continues the long celebratory tradition of COCA’s student dancers working with world-renowned choreographers. This year, that includes: Lauren Anderson of The Houston Ballet, Amy Hall Garner of American Ballet Theatre, Elizabeth Corbett who has danced with Joffrey Ballet and Milwaukee Ballet, and Madison Hicks of LA Dance Project and Steps on Broadway. TRIumphant consistently wows audiences with the some of the best dance St. Louis has to offer.
In addition to these stunning performances, audiences can also see COCA’s Vocal Company and Improv Troupe performances in the Fall and Spring that will showcase the work of COCA Pre-Professional Division theatre artist students, with direction by Colin Healy, Alicia Revé Like, and Ed Reggi.
COCA starts a new tradition with the Summer Rep, which will consist of two theatre productions. In the Catherine B. Berges Theatre, COCA will present Matilda, a story about a girl and her classmates who get into trouble for all the right reasons. In the Staenberg Performance Lab comes a raw coming of age story, The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe. This Pulitzer-Prize finalist is about a girls’ soccer team facing each other and the world in many different wild, confident, bizarre, and heartbreaking ways that come with being a teenager.
Both of these productions value process and follow COCA’s professional workshop model process which allows for students to train with professional actors in rehearsal, guided by a professional creative team. This connects COCA’s training programs to wider professional and audience communities in an authentic way and provides brand new opportunities for both artists and audience to come together, create, and enjoy.
We are also proud to host two exceptional local partners in our theatre this season: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and The Black Rep will both find a home in the Catherine B. Berges Theatre, bringing more of the best performance that St. Louis can offer closer to COCA audiences. This begins in October with The Gradient, a world premiere by playwright Steph Del Rosso.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis also partners with COCA on A Christmas Carol, presented in Webster Groves at the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts, featuring COCA students in the youth company directed by COCA Artistic Director of Theatre Jennifer Wintzer. The production is directed by Hana S. Sharif, Artistic Director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.
Whether you have been to COCA before or just want to experience thought-provoking theatre programming, COCA has opportunities for audiences of all ages as we re-emerge this season. We hope you will join us to experience the community of live performance once again, and witness the incredible performances that exist when we bring artists of all generations together.