Play chronicles legendary advice columnist

Stellie Siteman stars in COCA’s production of “The Lady with All the Answers.”


Sydnie Grosberg Ronga has some advice: “Come see ‘The Lady with All the Answers’ and you will learn what an amazing woman Ann Landers was. Plus, the show is fun, funny and moving.”

Grosberg Ronga, 57, is directing the one-woman play by David Rambo about Eppie Lederer, who wrote the nationally syndicated newspaper column called “Ask Ann Landers” from 1955 to 2002. Lederer’s daughter, Margo Howard, cooperated with Rambo as he worked on the script. Because the play is about Lederer’s public persona as Landers, for simplicity, this story will refer to her as “Landers.”

“Ann Landers was a high-powered woman who knew everybody, but she took big risks with her well-established career. For instance, she was the first person to use the word ‘homosexual’ in a newspaper,” says Grosberg Ronga, associate artistic director of Max & Louie Productions, which is presenting the play. “She had the courage to grow and change, and that’s so interesting to watch on stage.”

Stellie Siteman – an actress, director and producer who was seen last summer in “It Had to Be You” – will play Landers. “I’m having a blast – I love this woman,” says Siteman, 60, artistic director of Max & Louie Productions. “She had 60 million readers and was cranking out columns seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year. I have come to realize that Ann Landers is an icon, and I believe she helped shape the nation’s social landscape.”


Born in 1918 to Russian Jewish immigrants, Landers was brought up in Sioux City, Iowa. “The Lady with All the Answers” takes place in Chicago one night in 1975 as Landers, then 57, writes a particularly personal and difficult column.

In print, Landers was known for striding into the center of controversies. She spoke out against the Vietnam War and in favor of abortion rights, feminism and government funding for cancer research. Landers also pleaded for compassion – as well as equal rights – for gays and lesbians.

Many of Landers’ responses to readers’ letters were empathetic, but she could be sharp, even critical. “Watch it, bub,” was one of her trademark responses to people she believed had stepped out of line. In print, Landers was no fan of divorce. When her own marriage ended in 1975, she was said to receive 30,000 sympathy letters.

Before she read “The Lady with All the Answers,'”Grosberg Ronga had heard about Ann Landers, but never read any of her columns. “Stellie and I were looking for a good one-woman show, something with conflict, and we read at least 20 scripts,” she says. “This play grabbed me, and the character grabbed Stellie. It absolutely was the best of all we looked at.” Christopher M. Waller designed the sets, Glenn Dunn is the lighting designer and Rusty Wandall is the sound designer.

Native St. Louisans, Grosberg Ronga and Siteman first met as students at Ladue Horton Watkins High School. They both attended Webster University, where Siteman studied acting and Grosberg Ronga studied directing. After graduation, Siteman moved to New York City and Grosberg Ronga headed for Washington, D.C. They reconnected in St. Louis in 1979 and again when Grosberg Ronga lived in St. Louis for a time in the 1990s.

Today, Grosberg Ronga works as an acting teacher, coach and director. She lives in New York with her husband, John Ronga, who works for Oracle. Their daughter, Josephine Ronga, is studying stage management at Webster University. In addition to her affiliation with Max & Louie Productions, Grosberg Ronga is associate artistic director of the Phoenix Theatre Company and a member of the steering committee for the Project Rushmore Theatre Company. She has worked with Gotham Radio Theater, Manhattan Class Company and The Women’s Project.

Siteman has credits in theater, film, television, cabaret and print and radio commercials both regionally and nationally. Siteman lives in St. Louis with her partner for over 35 years, De Kaplan, who is the managing director of Max & Louie Productions.

Grosberg Ronga and Siteman both hailed the comedic moments in “The Lady with All the Answers.” Grosberg Ronga notes, “When we talk about who we are as artists, Stellie and I both find that laughter is a constant theme. I think as a culture, Americans sometimes consider drama is more important, and that comedy is a lower life form. I don’t buy that. Right now, we all could use a laugh.”

Ann Landers: The Stage Version

What: “The Lady with All the Answers” by David Rambo

When: May 12-22

Where: COCA’s Black Box Theater, 524 Trinity Avenue, University City

How much: $30-$35

Tickets: 314-725-6555 or