New St. Louis Theater Company Planning All-Women Playwright Festival


Joy Addler (left) and Trish Brown, founders of Prism Theatre Company, plan to highlight the work of women this summer. - JOY ADDLER AND TRISH BROWN
  • Joy Addler and Trish Brown
  • Joy Addler (left) and Trish Brown, founders of Prism Theatre Company, plan to highlight the work of women this summer.

A start-up theater organization started by a St. Louis duo is planning a festival that will feature a lineup of plays written by women.

Prism Theatre Company is taking scripts until June 1 for Spotlight On: Women Writing, Prism Festival of New Works, with hopes of starting productions in late July to August.

Founders Joy Addler and Trish Brown met in 2016 when they worked on a production together. Each came with years of experience, a passion for theater, dreams of owning their own organization and first-hand knowledge of the biases prevalent in their field.

Today, they head a company with the intent of giving everyone a fair shot in the theater world.

“The idea is to provide substantial opportunities for women and emerging artists in a safe, collaborative, open and kind environment," Browns says. "All of these things are really important to us.”

Addler, the managing director, and Brown, the artistic director, initially hoped to debut a full season in 2020 as Prism’s introduction to the St. Louis theater crowd.

That plan was soon interrupted. Just a few months after the company was established, the pandemic hit. Instead of opening nights and curtain calls, the arts organization was forced to spend its first year attempting to survive as a company.

“It’s really given us a little bit of grit, because we have had to continually make the decision, ‘Is this mission something that we’re willing to push through for?’” Addler says.

Over and over, the answer has been "yes."

“I think 'perseverance' has been the key word. That’s been the key word for every arts organization that has survived this pandemic,” Brown adds. “We’re very grateful to be able to be here and to be doing this. It’s a real gift, and we don’t take it lightly.”

While the world still has not reached the level of normalcy that they had hoped for, Addler says they “didn’t want to sit on this mission and opportunity.”

The duo determined that Prism Theatre Company’s first public event should reflect their values as an organization, thus the theme of the all-women playwright festival expected to be underway this summer.

The Prism team will decide on three to five plays, all written by women, by the end of June. They will consider any type of format, from ten-minute shorts to full-length plays. The shows will be presented at a to-be-determined location, both in-person and with a livestream online.

Addler and Brown are hopeful that this first project will set them up for success as a theater company in St. Louis. If it works, they plan to establish the festival as an annual event, with the spotlight on a different theme each year.

To start, the two theater veterans believe that the work of women in the field has a well-deserved place at the forefront of the St. Louis theater scene.

“It always feels like such an accomplishment when a woman is promoted to a place of power in the theater world. That always feels like such a big deal,” Addler says. “It shouldn’t. Women have played such a big role in the theater industry since it started.”

“One of the big goals is to champion women’s voices from all walks of life, to shine a light on their stories and also to bring artists together to collaborate,” Brown adds.

The Prism Theatre Company may have had an untimely launch amidst a pandemic, but it stands firm in the belief that its mission is too important to give up. Addler and Brown hope that their future audiences feel the same way.

“We are so passionate about making sure that these voices are heard, respected and noticed,” Addler says.

“We’re at a point in history where we have the first vice president, who’s not just a woman, but a woman of color — and that is just amazing,” Brown says. “So we’re hoping to continue fostering all of the inclusivity going on and taking hold in our world.”
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