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  • The Current UMSL

Interview With Jason Stahr

By: Dora Bell

The Director of operations for the Touhill, Jason Stahr has worked at the Touhill

Performing Arts Center for two decades, and has been involved with theatre for nearly

twice as long. His passion for theatre and education continues to strengthen the

University of Missouri- St. Louis (UMSL) community, especially regarding the arts and

entertainment opportunities here. As the Director of Operations for the Touhill, his duties

range from the vendor's contracting process to managing the departments within the

Touhill, and even communicating between UMSL departments.

It is no surprise that Stahr has invaluable knowledge about the culture at UMSL,

especially since he has worked at the university for one-third of its life. With UMSL

turning 60 years old this year, Stahr engaged in an interview to speak about the

changes, triumphs, and tragedies of the arts and entertainment opportunities at UMSL.

Question: How has the arts and entertainment at UMSL changed throughout your

20 years of experience here?

Stahr: When the Touhill first opened, it was intended to be a hub for the arts quadrant,

which consisted of theatre, music, and a dance component. Unfortunately, the dance

component has been gone for years, and there were many changes to the theatre

aspect. Luckily, music has remained vibrant.

Question: Do you believe that UMSL offers enough arts and entertainment

opportunities to be involved with? If not, how can this be improved?

Stahr: No. The arts are a fundamental necessity to create a well-rounded human being.

There could be a guerilla-type theater for the students to express themselves through

improv. They could perform at the Nosh stage or the Whitaker Hall here at the Touhill.

There are a lot of outlets here for music, but not theatre.

Question: How has student involvement with the arts changed in your time here?

Stahr: The Touhill has more students involved with working here. The administration

office has more student workers than the year before. I think we are an attractive

employer; our hours are random and we can schedule around classes.

Question: How do you think the 2020 pandemic affected the arts at UMSL?

Stahr: Killed it. Not just at UMSL, it was everywhere. The Touhill staying afloat shows

the dedication of the university. Fortunately, we have lots of businesses wanting to rent

at the Touhill, because organizations have been building back up for about two or three

years. The arts really suffered, and some folded. It took sheer will to keep going. Even

for theaters in New York, it was an uphill battle. Another factor that is hindering growth is

virtual performance. Live performances are still a struggle for many organizations

across the country.

Question: In your opinion, what were some of the most interesting or unusual

performances at the Touhill?

Stahr: A number of them. We had the Mienger Puppet Theater within the first three

years here. They made a giant igloo which sat on the floor. Their audience was in the

igloo and they did shadow puppets on the outside of it. We had Native American dance

companies, those are always fun. One of my favorite shows here was Tania

Perez-Salas de Mexico. It was an artistic and highly specific show. We had a

house-made pool on stage and it rained sand. We have had avant-garde regional

companies, so many different things. We have had Pat Metheny from the Orchestrion

Project. We’ve had Jason Derulo, Sara Bareilles, John Waite from Bad English, and Dr.

Maya Angelou. As far as art goes, we’ve seen a lot of different things


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