Nancy Fowler

Nancy Fowler is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, with a particular delight in the stories of people working in that intersection.

She received a regional Emmy Award for news writing at WXYZ-TV in Detroit, and the Pride St. Louis' Felton T. Day Award for service to St. Louis' LGBT community. Her numerous fellowships include USC Annenberg’s NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater, and the Wake Forest University Addiction Studies Program for Journalists.

Email her: NFowler@STLPublicRadio.org

Follow her on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

When Stephanie Regagnon of Kirkwood was in her 20s, a jury found her mother guilty of a federal crime and sent her to prison for four years. The family maintains that she is innocent.

The first time Regagnon visited her mom, she noticed small children stocking up on vending-machine snacks for their parents to enjoy when they came out to see them.

“It seemed like they were trying so hard to create a nice environment,” Regagnon said. “It was pretty soul crushing.”

Regagnon imagined the children waiting to see their parents would likely have a hard time getting to college. In 2010, she started a scholarship fund called Ava’s Grace to help young people whose fate brushed so closely against her own.

A few weeks ago, St. Louis provided a flashpoint in a national conversation about theater casting and cultural heritage.

A group of visiting theater artists booed a Muny performance with a white actor playing an Asian role, before walking out. They also objected to Caucasian actors playing Puerto Ricans in a segment from “West Side Story.”

This weekend, COCA is performing “West Side Story” at the Edison Theatre at Washington University. Half the characters in the story are Puerto Rican. But with a few exceptions, they’ve historically been played on stage and in film by white actors.  That bothers some of the young people in the COCA production.

The incoming artistic director of Repertory Theatre of St. Louis believes that growing audiences involves much more than simply issuing one-time invitations.

Director, playwright and producer Hana Sharif will spend a year getting to know the area and The Rep before stepping into the post after longtime artistic director Steven Woolf retires in 2019. She comes to St. Louis from Baltimore Center Stage, where she worked as associate artistic director.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Nancy Fowler talked with Sharif about the work ahead and the experience she’ll bring to The Rep.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has named Hana Sharif  as artistic director to replace Steven Woolf.

Sharif, who is associate artistic director at Baltimore Center Stage, will take The Rep post at the end of the 2018-2019 season. 

Sharif’s career includes working as a director, playwright and producer. She is the first African-American woman to head a large professional theater organization in St. Louis.

Lois Conley of St. Louis grew up in Mill Creek Valley, where everything was in walking distance, and neighbors kept a close eye on each others’ children.

“You felt safe; You felt protected. Everybody knew everybody,” Conley said.

But in the late 1950s, the area between Union Station and Saint Louis University was condemned in the name of urban renewal. Families moved away and lost touch.

Now St. Louis is a finalist in a national contest that would help fund a public art project documenting the destruction of Mill Creek.

St. Louis is known for its elaborate Fourth of July events, with fireworks bursting in dozens of municipalities and most famously, over the Arch.

But many St. Louisans want that kind of attention also focused on a significant day for African-Americans and the nation: Juneteenth. It commemorates a June 19, 1865, Texas order that freed all enslaved Americans, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Several local events mark the occasion. Many take place this weekend, including one organized by Tracy Johnson of south St. Louis, who said he can’t overemphasize the day’s importance.

“Besides an African-American’s birthday, that should be the next day they celebrate,” Johnson said.

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis is one of the most prominent theater companies in town, yet it doesn’t own a stage.

The organization shares its various stages — Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park, local schools and even city streets — with the public. With programs like Shakespeare in the Streets, which tells a community’s story, that sharing comes with great responsibility.

Just a few years ago, Ngone Seck arrived in Florissant from Italy and began the seventh grade.

From the start, she was behind her peers. She struggled to adapt to her new country, had trouble learning English, and, at first, did poorly in school.

Today, the Italian immigrant of West African heritage began her first day of college, on a full scholarship. Her journey is paved with the sacrifices of her working-class family, the comfort of her music and the support of good teachers.

Many St. Louis artists struggle to make a living and pay the rent.

The Kranzberg Arts Foundation wants to help by buying 25 properties and developing affordable artists’ homes and studios. Most are in the Gravois Park area, bound by Jefferson Avenue, Chippewa Street, Grand Boulevard and Cherokee Street.

The city’s Land Reutilization Authority will let the foundation buy the properties for $30,000. Many of the 12 existing buildings and 13 vacant lots have been neglected for decades. The Kranzberg Foundation plans to renovate the dilapidated buildings and construct new homes on the vacant lots before offering them for sale to artists. The work will begin this fall.

For most of her life, St. Louis artist Sarah Paulsen was oblivious to what it means to be white, and the privilege it confers.

Then in 2008, Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton shot and killed six people at Kirkwood City Hall.  Thornton was a black man; his victims were white. The tragedy threw a spotlight on the racial, class and wealth divide that had long existed in the St. Louis suburb. It also prompted Paulsen to begin exploring the social construct of race in America and how being white means never having to think about it.

The new head of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis is promising to put more women and minorities in leadership roles within the organization.

Incoming executive producer Tom Ridgely comes to St. Louis from New York, where he founded and directed Waterwell Theater, a company focused on presenting new works — and was committed to diversity — Ridgely said.

Shortly after Anna Guzon of St. Louis graduated from medical school, she realized she wanted to practice a different kind of medicine: helping young people heal by writing about their lives.

That’s the aim of YourWords STL, the organization she cofounded to help marginalized youth.

This weekend, St. Louisans will say goodbye to a maestro known for honoring the magnificence of classical music while also making it approachable for the everyday person.

After 13 years as music director, David Robertson will conduct his final concert with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra on Sunday afternoon.

Actors will tell the real-life stories of young men aging out of a children’s home in a staged reading on Saturday in Ferguson.

The free event at the Ferguson Youth Initiative, 106 Church St., draws on writing by young men who participated in a program of YourWords STL. The organization helps St. Louis youth express themselves, and work through trauma using the written word.

The presentation, “Unheard Voices: You Don’t Know My Story,” is comprised of poetry, lyrics and narratives by residents of the Marygrove Children’s Home in Florissant.  It highlights the human need to be heard, according to YourWords’ cofounder Anna Guzon, a former physician.

Over the past five years, the Metro Trans Umbrella Group art show has more than doubled in size. This year’s event at Koken Art Factory in south St. Louis on Saturday boasts 35 visual artists and 25 stage performers.

The exhibition has expanded as more transgender artists feel safe to show their creations, according to curator Alex Johnmeyer and artist Eric Schoolcraft. But, they noted, growing visibility also highlights the dangers of being seen. To address that, organizers put a safety team in place to escort attendees to and from their cars.

The emphasis is on the “new” for incoming New Jewish Theatre artistic director Edward Coffield.

In July, Coffield will take the reins from founder Kathleen Sitzer who launched the company 22 years ago.

Coffield plans to shake things up by including a family show every year, collaborating with other companies and working with themes that encompass issues well beyond the realm of Judaism.

After serving as Sitzer’s assistant for 16 years, Coffield acknowledges he’s building on the work of a St. Louis theater icon.

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has named Tom Ridgely of New York to fill the post of  executive producer, which includes both artistic and leadership roles.

Ridgley comes to St. Louis from New York City’s Waterwell theater company, which he founded in 2002. He replaces Rick Dildine, who headed Shakespeare Festival St. Louis for eight years.

Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ departing general director and his replacement may very well pass each other on the way to their new jobs.

In Emeara Burns’ north St. Louis neighborhood, gun violence is a way of life.

Eighty-year-old Wisper Lowe, a transgender woman from Belleville, grew up during World War II, a period that demanded patriotism and strict gender roles.

Lowe was assigned male gender at birth. When she was 5, her mother caught her putting on lipstick.

“And her response was to smear the lipstick all over my mouth and then push me onto the front porch where all the neighborhood kids were playing in the street — and lock the door,” Lowe said.

St. Louisans who missed out on “Hamilton” tickets now have a chance to see the sold-out musical — for the cost of a box of popcorn.

On Monday, the Fox Theater announced a lottery in which 40 orchestra-level tickets for every performance will go for $10 each. The lottery begins April 1 for the April 3 opening night.

St. Louis artist Sarah Bernhardt had no idea she’d be teaching children when she first moved into her Gravois Park studio. But that changed after a rock sailed through her window and she invited a teenager with a good throwing arm to come inside for an art project.

That was five years ago, in the early days of her Intersect Arts Center, 3636 Texas Ave.

A $3 million renovation recently transformed the center, but the commitment to free art classes for local kids remains a cornerstone.

An exhibit at the Sheldon Art Gallery will display videos and photos of young St. Louisans working through their experiences with gun violence.

“Pick the City UP” is a presentation of the Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective. The exhibit, which opens Friday, documents work from the past several years.

Susan Colangelo and several other artists founded the nonprofit in 2013 with the idea to tell stories through embroidery. Now, the work encompasses written and spoken word, including hip-hop and poetry.

St. Louis multimedia artist Kahlil Irving is only 25, but he’s enjoying a level of success many artists never see.

Much of his work, which challenges Western constructs of identity and culture, is now being shown from coast to coast. Irving embraces the rush of recognition and is enjoying being “on top.” But his work, and even his successes, conjure up issues from the past.

An international conference in Atlanta will spotlight St. Louis artists who took part in a festival designed to highlight local racial and socioeconomic divisions.

The exhibition at the Hope Global Forums conference in March stems from the inaugural St.ART street art festival  this past October in Forest Park and Fairground Park.

The Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis has reached a major milestone in a program supporting local artists.

In 2013, RAC began awarding $20,000 to 10 Artist Fellows. Today, the group announced its fifth round of grants, bringing the total to $1 million.

When George Edick Jr. was in elementary school, he received a present he’ll never forget: a guitar from Ike Turner.

Edick grew up in the 1950s around musicians like Turner who played at his father’s Club Imperial, 6306-28 West Florissant Ave., in the Walnut Park West neighborhood in northwest St. Louis.

Black History Month is a time to spotlight African-Americans who made a difference. But many people don’t know that prominent African-Americans were part of the LGBTQ community.

Among them was Bayard Rustin, an openly gay black man who worked side-by-side with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The civil rights strategist who died in 1987 is honored every day at a little storefront in St. Louis’ Vandeventer neighborhood, called Rustin’s Place. It’s a drop-in center that largely serves LGBTQ people, particularly gay African-American men.

The St. Louis Symphony has announced its 2018-2019 schedule, which includes a mixture of classics and new works.

The method of selecting the lineup was also new. For its 139th season, the orchestra asked its musicians to weigh in.

It just made sense to include them, according to Marie-Hélène Bernard, symphony president and CEO .

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