Prism seeks submissions from women playwrights for “Spotlight on… Women Writing: Prism’s Festival of New Works”

The mission of St. Louis’ newest professional performing arts organization, Prism Theatre Company, is to promote the work of women and emerging artists, on stage and off, through the lens of theatre for the new world.  We produce both new and classic works in an atmosphere of inclusivity, where artists from all walks of life can come together to explore our common humanity. Prism is creative collaboration, without the cliques. 

To that end, Prism is currently seeking submissions for new plays by women playwrights based in Missouri or Illinois for “Spotlight on… Women Writing: Prism’s Festival of New Works.” Prism is accepting non-musical plays of any length that feature 2 – 15 characters. All submissions must be received by 11:59 p.m. CST on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. Visit prismtheatrecompany.org for full submission guidelines.

Prism’s search for the most talented playwrights in our region will culminate with the inaugural season of a series of staged readings this summer (dates TBA), featuring some of St. Louis’ favorite actors and exciting, emerging artists. COVID safety guidelines will be strictly followed for in-person readings, and a virtual option will also be offered. Details on the festival are available on Prism’s website, Instagram, and Facebook page.

Prism Theatre Company is the brainchild of Trish Brown and Joy Addler, St. Louis-based theatre-makers and longtime collaborators.   

Trish Brown, a professional director, actress, and theatre educator, has directed regionally, as well as in Canada.  She is a proud associate member of SDC, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. 

She holds an MFA in Directing from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and worked professionally in Chicago for a number of years before returning to the St. Louis area.  

A process-based, ensemble director, Trish is trained in and utilizes a number of acting methods in her work while specializing in the Michael Chekhov technique. 

She is a founding member of The Moving Dock Theatre Company, a Chicago-based company dedicated to the actor’s creative process through the use of the Chekhov technique.  Theatre education is also a passion of Trish’s and she has taught in regional arts programs such as COCA in St. Louis and Hinsdale Center for the Arts in Chicago.  She is now a Professor of Theatre at Principia College.  Her educational productions have won numerous recognitions, including two Best Production for the  State of Illinois awards from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.  Trish also loves directing film and coaching actors for stage and screen.  

Joy Addler

Joy Addler is a St. Louis area stage manager, company manager, and nonprofit professional. A proud graduate of The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University, Joy has a BFA in Stage Management and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management. She is also a member of the Actor’s Equity Association. Currently, Joy works as the Performing Arts Manager for Variety the Children’s Charity, overseeing their inclusive chorus and dance programs throughout the year, as well as serving as the Company Manager and Production Stage Manager for their annual Variety Theatre production. In addition to her work at Variety, Joy works as a freelance AEA stage manager throughout the St. Louis area.  

Addler and Brown began work on Prism Theatre Company over 18 months ago in a pre-pandemic world.  The company was a long-time dream of these partners who wanted to provide a home for artists from all walks of life to shine, especially women.  “As members of the St. Louis theatre community, and in talking to our friends in the community, we noticed a gap in the opportunities for women to really be at the forefront,” says Joy Addler, Prism’s Managing Director. “We want to provide a safe space for the voices of women to really shine and take center stage.” Though the company’s mission puts women at the forefront, men are also an important part of Prism’s work.  “We love all artists and welcome men into Prism, as actors, technicians, directors, designers, and Board members.  Nothing at Prism is exclusionary,” says Trish Brown, Prism’s Artistic Director.      

Trish Brown

Prism is also designed as a home for new and emerging artists.  “Because I’m passionate about theatre education, fostering new and emerging artists was an important aspect of Prism,” says Brown.  “I remember graduating from college with my BA in Theatre and wondering, ‘OK, what now’?  It was difficult to break into the theatre scene in a meaningful way.  Few companies were open to mentoring young artists at that time.  We want Prism Theatre Company to be a place where emerging artists can work with kind, collaborative, seasoned professionals so they can learn, grow, build their resumes, and make connections.”    

Theatre artists who are interested in joining Prism’s Board of Directors or Company may contact Prism at [email protected]. Prism invites actors to like us on Facebook for access to audition details for the festival and for future productions.  Women playwrights interested in submitting their unproduced scripts for consideration to “Spotlight on… Women Writing: Prism’s Festival of New Works” can find full details on Prism’s website.  

ABOUT PRISM THEATRE COMPANY

Prism Theatre Company seeks to champion the voices and stories of women from all walks of life, giving emerging artists a platform to showcase their work with seasoned professionals. We produce both new and classic works in an atmosphere of inclusivity, where artists from all walks of life can come together to explore our common humanity. Prism is creative collaboration, without the cliques.
Learn more about Prism on our website, Instagram, and Facebook.

By Joe GfallerContributing WriterWho lives, who dies, who tells your story. It’s the refrain that ends Hamilton. Even though the revolution is different, the sentiment carries beautifully into Paris in 1793 in Lauren Gunderson’s sparkling tragi-comedy The Revolutionists.

The play, presented by Insight Theatre Company, is at the Marcelle Theater through July 14.

Four bold, gutsy women of the French revolution meet in an imagined sequence of events in The Revolutionists. Three are real figures: Charlotte Corday (the assassin of Jean-Paul Marat), Olympe de Gouges (a feminist playwright), and Marie Antoinette (the deposed queen of France). One, Marianne Anglle, is a constructed amalgam of several free women of color who fought to end slavery in the French Caribbean.

That all four could ever have met – let alone built the relationships of trust, sympathy, and friendship constructed in the play – is impossible. The play acknowledges this directly before it ends. However, once you willingly suspend that disbelief and accept you are watching “a revolutionary dream fugue, as the play calls itself, you are quickly in for a treat.

Lauren Gunderson’s play is filled with a modern wit that captures the spirit of these women without ever trying to recreate the language of the period. “Chutzpah,” “high five,” and “work life balance” were probably never spoken in 18th century France – let alone some of the saltier 21st century language that these characters invoke. However, by pulling these women out of stilted period turns of phrase, the play makes them feel as vital and contemporary to audiences today as they would have felt to the people of France in their own day.

Where the play is at its best, The Revolutionists threads the playful and the profound. That is no better personified than in Laurie McConnell’s portrayal of Marie Antionette, who becomes at turns endearing and loveable, batty and self-absorbed. She can bring the house down by announcing “Gasp!” and then commenting “Sometimes I say it instead of doing it.” But, despite all the caricature, in the end, she finds her nobility in her humanity – knowing that, like most of our heroines, she is to face the guillotine and her own death. Her promise to deliver a message to the husband of another woman in the afterlife becomes one of the play’s most touching moments.

As Charlotte Corday, Samantha Auch gives the most
emotionally compelling performance in the production. She first bursts into de
Gouges’ parlor in search of a writer who can help her write her inevitable last
words at the guillotine. Full of self-righteous conviction, she can both
channel the innocence to believably call her plan to murder Marat “stabby stab
stab” and the icy certainty to comment on the sexual assault she eventually
receives in prison to confirm if she “is a virgin.” The beautiful clarion voice
with which she delivers the first of a few unexpected lines of music upon her
death filled the theater with hope in the play’s first great moment of despair.

Kimmie Kidd gives a solid portrayal of Marianne Angelle as a
dignified voice of reason, attempting to motivate her friend de Gouges to
harness her talents for the cause of abolition and women’s equality. In the one
scene of substantial dramatic stakes for these two, she and de Gouges abandon
their early witty banter and intellectual arguments for a fight that is grounded
in what feels to be true betrayal. As one who has lived the fight, Angelle’s
wounds are deep. “You can’t write it if you’re not in it,” Angelle bristles at
de Gouges, ultimately leaving the playwright on the floor, clutching the very
pages she was prepared to burn in order to save her own skin.

It is Olympe de Gouges’ journey that theoretically serves as
the arc of the play. Sadly, there are times in which the construct – of her as
writer that the other three women come to – feels like the engine of a plot
that is less about her and more about the others. In the spirit of Caryl
Churchill’s Top Girls, it’s as if we find ourselves at a prolonged
dinner party full of entertaining incident and careful, thoughtful character
studies. But the host herself feels hollow. We never learn how she and Angelle
have come to be as close as we’re told they are, so when their relationship
frays, it’s not one that we have found a way to invest in deeply. Their
struggle matters to them more than it matters to us.

In Jenni Ryan’s portrayal of de Gouges, some of the character’s artifice – constantly hiding behind arguments about the aesthetic value of theater and art – seem to bury the heart of this woman, who often can come across as a less-than-capable dilletante. (The real de Gouges seems to have been anything but.) Her struggle seems to be an intellectual one for three-quarters of the play – and when it finally becomes a real one, it seems to surprise the character as much as it does the audience.

Ultimately, in de Gouges’ final moments, Ryan transforms her into someone who is deeply sympathetic. One only wishes that transformation could have happened earlier in the evening.

Staging The Revolutionists in the round, Trish Brown does an elegant job of consistently using the space well and maintaining a level of energy and momentum that can make a somewhat heady play that relies more on great dialogue than plot continue to feel fresh, fun, and visceral. The simple impact of red flower petals as blood in the moment when Corday kills Marat was one of many beautiful grace notes she successfully incorporated into the staging.

The limited set design — a few pieces of furniture — by Leah McFall was complemented quite effectively by the periodic soundscapes of sound designers Trish Brown and Bob Schmit, and the strong lighting from designer Morgan Brennan. Julian King’s costume design also gave each of the four women signature looks for the entire evening. With a larger budget, one imagines that an occasional costume change would have given us a chance to see more of variety.

I could have lived without the periodic meta-theatrical comparisons to Les Miserables that peppered the script — particularly since the student revolution in that musical was an entirely different revolution than the one playing out in Paris in the 1790s.

But, that aside, the wit and humor of the piece was frequently deeply satisfying and consistently surprising. Bringing back to life these four women in such a novel and engaging setting makes the production well worth a visit.

It’s no wonder that playwright Lauren Gunderson was recently among the most-produced playwrights in America and that her plays have so frequently graced St. Louis stages. She is a rare talent that, in this play, marries heart, humor, and history in a way that will make any audience member clamor to cry “Vive la revolution!”

Insight Theatre Company presents “The Revolutionists’ June 27 – July 14 at the Marcelle Theatre in the Grand Arts District, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.insighttheatrecompany.com or call 314-556-1293.