Agnes Wilcox, the founder of St. Louis, MO-based Prison Performing Arts, died on August 28. The actor and director-turned arts administrator was 70 years old.
Wilcox taught on the faculty of Webster University and founded The New Theatre (TNT), a major force in the development of St. Louis’s Off Broadway theatre scene. Although TNT closed its doors in 1999, one of its initiatives – theatre programming for those behind bars – became Wilcox’s great cause. The result became Prison Performing Arts, which not only presented theatre to the incarcerated, but also often engaged them as performers as well. PPA’s pioneering work was copied by many other prison theatre outreach programs that have developed across the United States.
Wilcox was an iconic figure in St. Louis theatre. She was honored by the St. Louis Theater Circle for her wide body of work in 2015. The Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis honored her with a lifetime achievement award in 2016.
Wilcox died unexpectedly while on vacation in Canada after being seen swimming in an open lake.