Roth helps revive Gaslight Square


For those who remember, the era of Gaslight Square placed St. Louis on the map as a lively hub for night life and entertainment in the 1950s and 1960s. The Square, which occupied the area surrounding Olive and Boyle Streets in the Central West End, included a renowned assortment of art galleries, theaters, antique stores, and night clubs. Obscure performers and off-beat comedians like Barbra Streisand, Lenny Bruce, Jackie Mason and Woody Allen packed the house at the Crystal Palace restaurant and nightclub.

Now, as the re-development of the area continues to pick up steam with new condominiums and a smattering of single family homes, St. Louis theater veteran and advertising executive, William Roth, has added his own dream into the mix: an intimate 100-seat theater called The Gaslight Theatre, located at 358 North Boyle, one block from the famed Gaslight Square.


The theater sits next door to The Eleven, a marketing and advertising firm that Roth also owns. “I bought both buildings — two two-story storefronts — which are over 100 years old and were falling apart,” said Roth. “It was in the back of my mind to start a theater company. As the landlord I wanted to control the art that went on inside, so I founded the St. Louis Actor’s Studio.”

Roth is no stranger to the stage, having spent the last 25 years acting in theaters around town including the Orthwein Theatre Company, St. Louis Shakespeare Classic Theater Company, HotHouse Theatre, River City Players, and the Goldenrod Showboat, to name a few.

Roth contacted two friends with whom he worked for most of his professional theatre career and asked them to join him in his new endeavor. Together, Milton Zoth, acting as artistic director, David Wasslak as associate artistic director, and Roth founded The St. Louis Actor’s Studio.

The three worked meticulously for one year rehabbing the building and constructing the theater’s vision.

“We worked at it slowly and methodically to make sure we put a good board together and established ourselves far enough in the future that people in the neighborhood knew what was coming and when,” explained Roth.

“The idea was to try to sell the idea of the theater and the subscriptions before we opened our first show,” Roth said. “We wanted an established ticket base and patronage. That’s worked out pretty darn well — especially with the new high rises in the Central West End and a lot more people living here. Plus, shutting down Highway 40 isolates people even more. So it’s worked great. People are walking to the theatre and embracing it quite nicely,” said Roth.

Location aside, the Actor’s Studio’s popularity may be due to the fact the theater they do is fresh and distinctive. As a themed theater company, each season reflects a different theme. This, their inaugural season, the theme is family dynamic.

“The idea is that we do five shows a year,” said Roth. “The first four shows are seldom produced, but well-known shows that maybe people haven’t seen here. We then produce an original piece that shows at the end of the season. We have an ensemble of actors that rehearse in the space on Mondays, examining the theme of family dynamic. We do scene work, improvisation; we work with actors, writers. What falls out of that is an original work produced as our last show,” said Roth.

With their successful first season underway, the Actor’s Studios’ future looks even brighter. Next November, which begins both their second season and the election year, the theme will be power and politics. They plan to keep their five-show structure, plus add juried art shows, a film series, and hire comedians and satirists to perform, all based on this theme. “We would love to get Bill Mahr here to do a round table. Now that would be fantastic,” said Roth.

Roth hopes to revive something that was so special to the area decades ago. “I see myself carrying the torch of what was once a very edgy, cool art scene.”

Roth attends Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis. He has a wife, Elisa and two children, Josephine, 11, and Jack, 9.

For more information on the St. Louis Actor’s Studio and their season, visit