Shakespeare Festival St Louis - In the News

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, The Big Muddy Dance Company, Jazz St. Louis and the Nine Network of Public Media present an adaptation of Duke Ellington’s:

Such Sweet Thunder 

October 3, 4 & 5  at 8:00 PM

Live in the Public Media Commons




The collaboration between Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Nine Network of Public Media, Jazz St. Louis, and The Big Muddy Dance Company brings to life Such Sweet Thunder, a 12-part jazz suite from Duke Ellington, in a multi-disciplinary performance to portray a tempestuous love story set in the 1950s.  Bruce Longworth will adapt the script and direct the ensembles which include two actors Rayme Cornelle (Kate) and Ron Himes (Henry), 18 dancers in original choreography by Dexandro Montalvo and a 15-piece band playing Ellington’s timeless score. 

In the summer of 1956, Duke Ellington was influenced by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival while on tour in Canada to delve more deeply into Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays. The following year, Ellington and his jazz orchestra recorded the album over a three week period and titled it after a line from Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “So musical a discord, such sweet thunder” (Act 4, Scene 1). The suite which has been described by NPR as “one of the most remarkable orchestral pieces in all of American music” includes titles like “Sonnet for Caesar”, “Lady Mac” and the “The Star-Crossed Lovers.”


Rayme Cornell (Kate)* is thrilled to be making her St. Louis debut in collaboration with Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, The Big Muddy Dance Company and Jazz St. Louis! WHAT A WELCOME!! She has been a Professional Actor for over 25 years, is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Actors Equity Association. Rayme is an Associate Professor at The Conservatory at Webster University. She began her teaching career as an Assistant Professor in the Stage & Screen Acting program at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she taught Acting, Shakespeare, Modern Styles, Audition Techniques, and Voice-Overs, in the MFA and Undergraduate Acting programs. She was the host of the national award-winning PBS show Real Moms, Real Stories, Real Savvy. She worked in film, television, Off-Broadway and with some of the nations most prestigious regional theaters. Her favorite roles include; Cassandra in Trojan Women  (The Old Globe), The Greek Chorus, in the world premiere of Trevor Nunn and John Barton’s seven hour play, The Greeks, (The Alley Theatre), Louise Marie Therese in the premiere of Lynn Nottage’s new play Las Meninas (Crossroads), Elmire in Tartuffe (The New York Acting Company), Olivia in Twelfth Night (Shakespeare Santa Cruz); Aunt Cora in the world premier of the John Henry Redwood play ‘No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs’ (The Philadelphia Theatre Company and New York’s Primary Stages), Titania in Midsummer and Queen Margaret in Richard III (Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival), Odessa in Water by the Spoonful, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Diane in Little Dog Laughed, Arkadina in The Seagull and Mrs. Muller in Doubt (Nevada Conservatory Theatre).Other regional theatre credits; Arizona Theatre Company, Vinyard Playhouse, The O’Neill, Missouri Repertory Theatre and The Unicorn Theatre. Rayme is a private coach for professionals. Her speech and acting clients range from network News Anchors and Celebrity Chefs to UFC champions. Rayme is also known for her extensive voice-over work. Rayme is a Master Teacher at the Don LaFontaine Voice Over Lab at the Screen Actors Guild Foundation in Los Angeles and New York. Rayme has represented such products as L’Oreal, Ford, Dunkin Donuts, Uber, Cingular Wireless, Station Casino’s, Singulair, Lifetime, WE, Oxygen Network, USA Network, MTV, VH1, BET, ESPN, History Channel, Discovery Channel, Republican and Democratic Candidates and many more. Her greatest role to date is that of being Brick’s Mom.

Ron Himes (Henry)* appeared in The Black Rep’s production of Fences (Troy), for which he won The St. Louis Theater Circle Award in 2019 for Outstanding Achievement as an Actor in a Drama, Seven Guitars, Sunset Baby, The Whipping Man, On Golden Pond, Romeo and Juliet, Death and the King’s Horseman, Boesman and Lena and Gem of the Ocean, which was featured at the 2007 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Additional credits include King in King Hedley II, Banquo in Macbeth, Herald Loomis in Joe Turner’s Come And Gone, Robert Johnson in Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil, for which he won the Woodie Award for Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role, and Blind Jordan in Sty of the Blind Pig, Booster in Jitney, /Malcolm X in The Meeting and When The Chickens Come Home to Roost. He created the role of Joe Lee in Conversations On A Dirt Road. His acting credits in other St. Louis theatres include HotCity, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and The Muny.


Bruce Longworth (Director)* is a Resident Artist at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and previously directed The Winter’s Tale (2017), Henry V (2014), Othello (2012), and Hamlet (2010) for Shakespeare in the Park. He has been a faculty member in the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University since 1985 and is the Head of the Performance programs. Local and regional directing credits include Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Repertory Theatre St. Louis, Pulitzer Museum, Saint Louis Symphony, Lyceum Theatre, Mustard Seed Theatre, New Jewish Theatre, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Missouri Thespians, International Thespians and many shows for the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster. Bruce is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Actors Equity Association.

Dexandro Montalvo (Choreographer) ​is a San Francisco based director, choreographer, dancer, and teacher. Born in New York, Montalvo earned a BFA in dance from SUNY Purchase College and performed with a wide range of dance companies, including Robert Moses’ Kin. Montalvo has performed with and created works for many dance companies and schools, as well as for television and music videos. He has taught at San Francisco Ballet, Stanford University, SUNY Purchase, University of San Francisco, Dominican University of California (LINES BFA Program), LINES Ballet Training Program, and ODC Dance Commons. Montalvo has choreographed for Robert Moses’ Kin Dance Company, Liss Fain Dance Company, The Black Eyed Peas, and DanceWorks Chicago, among many others. From 2015 to 2018, he served as artistic director of Dance Theatre of San Francisco. Under his leadership, the company won two Isadora Duncan Awards, including “Outstanding Choreography” for Montalvo’s ballet Pent. Montalvo also received a 2014 Isadora Duncan Award for his choreography for “Art Behind Bars” at Alcatraz. ​

Peter and Margery Spack (Video and Scenic Design) recently designed scenery for Shakespeare in the Streets: Blow Winds, Romeo & Juliet in the Park, Heisenberg and Safe House andThe Play that Goes Wrong at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Intimate Apparel, Never the Sinner, Life Sucks and New Jerusalem at The New Jewish Theatre. As Studio Spack Environment Design, Margery and Peter also design corporate theater, product reveals, broadcast news, trade show environments, and private events. They both have BFAs from Webster University and reside in their hometown of St. Louis.

Claudia Brownlee (Costume Design) is a costume designer from the Washington, DC Metropolitan area. She was first introduced to costuming as a student at Duke Ellington School of Arts in Washington, DC. She holds an associate’s degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and a B.A. in Theater from the University of Maryland College Park. Claudia is currently the costume manager and designer at the Center of Creative Arts COCA, previously she free-lanced as a costume designer and worked with theaters like Anacostia Playhouse, Studio Theater, The Washington National Opera, and WolfTrap Opera.

Jonah Schnell (Lighting Design) Jonah Schnell is currently is pursuing BFA in Lighting Design at Webster University. Jonah just finished his second summer as a Lighting Apprentice at the Santa Fe Opera. After he graduates, Jonah hopes to work as a freelance Lighting Designer for Opera, Musical Theatre, and Dance. For more on Jonah see his website,

*Denotes members of Actors’ Equity Association.

Such Sweet Thunder is underwritten with generous support from:

John and Alison Ferring

Terry & Sally Schnuck