Review: SPOTLIGHT ON ... BEING YOU a Festival of New Works Presented by Prism Theatre Company

Sharing the unique voices of brilliant up-and-coming artists.

By: Apr. 28, 2024
Review: SPOTLIGHT ON ... BEING YOU a Festival of New Works Presented by Prism Theatre Company
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Some bright local voices were heard at Prism Theatre Company’s SPOTLIGHT ON ... BEING YOU over this past weekend in St. Louis. The festival of new works featured 13 original compositions from both experienced artists and those honing their craft. The evening included readings of new plays, monologues, and vocal performances of new compositions.  

The best of the festival was the performance billed as a ‘Popera’ written and composed by Holly Barber and Lee Ehmke. THAT PERFECT KISS, a retelling of Cinderella and her Prince, is a short musical ditty about finding one’s genuine self. Accompanied by composer Holly Barber on guitar, Sarah Lueken, Rachel Bailey, Zach Thompson, and Matt Kauzlarich performed the light pop score with charm and pizzaz. In just a few minutes, Barber and Ehmke used familiar characters, re-told their stories, provided them arc, and created an indelible musical memory for the audience. The prince wasn't the only thing that was charming in this coming-of-age tale.  

In addition to THAT PERFECT KISS, there were two other short play readings, SORRY, NOT SORRY and PLAYGROUND that benefited from impactful narratives. Jacob Juntunen’s new work, SORRY, NOT SORRY, is an homage to mentors and educators and the lifelong gifts they bestow upon their mentees. Penned in reverse chronology, Juntunen used a symbolic metaphor to illustrate the gratitude students have for their most influential educators, while also expressing the pride those same educators derive from their student's success. It is a certainty that the audience left recalling fond memories of influential mentors and educators.  

Dustin Petrillo’s PLAYGROUND begs the question, when do we lose our spirit as adults to roll in the mud and play with reckless abandon? Petrillo’s protagonist finds adulting depressing and daunting. An unlikely anti-hero comes to his rescue to lift the protagonist from the depths and provide a glimmer of hope. Petrillo’s highly effective narrative reminds us that small joys found in improbable places can provide a renewed sense of hopefulness. 

The best of the three vocal performances was sung acapella by Bryn McLaughlin. THE RIVER is a song she composed while in a dark place to remind her that asking for help is a viable option. Her lilting voice supported the optimistic lyric possessed a sound reminiscent of Irish folk music sung in a pub. McLaughlin’s controlled delivery and angelic sound was a beautiful moment in the program and possibly a nod to Irish heritage. 

The engrossing monologue MAKING A COMMUNITY, authored by Joan Lipkin tells of a mother's strength raising children during the time of segregation. Read convincingly by the Reverend Shug Goodlow, Lipkin’s monologue credits a mother’s resolve to provide their children more than had been afforded them, while reminding the listener of the unfairness thrust upon races by segregation.  

The value of small festivals to an artist is that they provide a stage to test material in front of an audience. As with all programs sponsoring new works, opportunities for improvement present themself as well. The most unfortunate miss of the night occurred with Moises Barboza’s performance of his musical composition WITH BOTH OF US TOGETHER. Seated at the piano, Barboza played and sang his piece with virtuosic flair, but without the support of a microphone Barboza's pleasant tenor was lost behind the power of the instrument,

Kasey Kopp’s WAITING FOR KEVIN is a nod to the absurdist comedies where the titular character never materializes. The story lacked the true quirkiness or humor needed to really make the piece work. The narrative would benefit from more peculiar or eccentric characters employing the off the wall absurdity of an old Carol Burnett show sketch. This short play illustrated the artistic promise of the playwright but could benefit from a rewrite.  

The Evan Ghislin musical composition I WANDERED LONELY AS A CHILD was played skillfully by pianist Laura Parker and sung with powerful operatic overtones by the vocally talented Wendy Reynolds. Despite their strong individual flair, the piece lacked coherence. The piano composition and the vocal arrangement were fine standing on their own, however when performed together there was significant musical dissonance. Perhaps discordancy was intended by the composer since the piece was inspired by poetry, but the composition suffered from its loss of combined lyricality.  

The remainder of the program included monologues from Lize Lewy (I SPEND HOURS OF MY DAY STARING INTO MIRRORS), Bryn McLaughin (A LETTER TO WINDOW SHOPPERS), and Paul Horn (EDUCATED MEMORIES OF AN AUTISTIC CHILD), an additional reading of the short play COATS by Hannah Sochowski, and an interpretive dance performed by Hannah Dow to a reading of NOT MY RESPONSIBLITY that was choreographed by Jamie Efthimiou. Each short was successful in its presentation, hitting the intended mark.  

This was the final performance of Prism Theatre Company’s Festival of New Works. For more information on Prism Theatre Company visit their website at prismtheatrecompany.org.



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