In the News

Saint Louis Post Dispatch: June 22, 2008

Stage Fight

Stray Dog started as a tenant in the handsome Tower Grove Abbey. The building, which used to be St. Luke’s Church, had long fascinated Gary Bell. He lives next door with Rob Ogden, Stray Dog’s executive director, in what was once the parsonage.

Bell suspected that the old church had dramatic possibilities. When representatives of the church that owned the building dropped by to suggest a shared arrangement, Stray Dog bit.

Now, Stray Dog is buying the building. The congregations that worship there will continue to do so, an arrangement that suits Bell’s overall vision. He sees Tower Grove Abbey as a theater plus community center.

Ballet classes and yoga classes already meet at the Abbey. So does the Tower Grove East neighborhood association.

Bell says Stray Dog, which has performed at several locations around town, most recently at Clayton High School, is thriving in its new home, drawing big audiences that include many people who live nearby. Few of them had sought out — or perhaps had heard of — the troupe until it came to their neighborhood.

In 2008-09, Stray Dog will offer season subscriptions for the first time and will engage in more fundraising. Its workshop program, designed to help theater artists pursue special projects, also will continue.

Last season, actresses Kim Furlow and Donna Weinsting came in to perform “‘Night, Mother,” a drama with juicy roles for both of them. Bell directed.

Next season, Lana Pepper, who played an inestimably large role in establishing Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, will get back in touch with her first theater love when she directs a comedy, “Sylvia,” through the Stray Dog workshop.

Bell said, “The best part is that we are in charge of our own domain. It’s been a wonderful challenge. We are doing our own renovation — new lights, new sound equipment, changing the stage — and we can deal with things at our own pace.

“It’s difficult to turn a 100-year-old lady into a modern building. But everything we dreamed of is happening.”

[Read the Complete Article]

Suburban Journal: September 4, 2007

Plays and Prayers

Tower Grove East residents find new theater home in former church

Many churches are built in a shotgun style, complete with columns that restrict views.

But, when Rob Ogden and Gary Bell first set foot in the church at 2336 Tennessee Ave., they saw a gem.

They realized they could transform the square-shaped sanctuary into a theater that would feature a stage, lighting and sound system. It already had the main component, and original proscenium, a large archway near the stage through which spectators view a production.

[Read the Complete Article]

Press Release: August 7, 2007

Stray Dog Theatre Unleashes Tower Grove Abbey

Stray Dog Theatre (SDT) will unleash Tower Grove Abbey—its new arts, education, and community venue—with a grand opening gala from 6:00-pm to 10:00-pm on Wednesday, September 05, 2007. The grand opening is cost-free and open to the public, and will feature entertainment, refreshments, and tours of the new venue. SDT will inaugurate the Tower Grove Abbey main-stage the following evening with its opening production of Suddenly Last Summer by Saint Louis native Tennessee Williams.

[ Download the complete press release ]