By Lynn Venhaus

The adage, “Bloom where you are planted,” is the theme of “Bandera, Texas,” an amiable new play about marriage, motherhood, and enduring family ties by Lisa Dellagiarino Feriend that the fledgling Prism Theatre Company fell in love with last year at their reading of new works by women.

Now it has the honor of being their first produced full-length play, and it’s a good one to lead the way for this emerging company. Their goal is to focus on females, an applaud-worthy stance that I hope has a bright future ahead.

I enjoyed Feriend’s original voice on the timeless issues women face as girls, wives, mothers, and aging seniors. Those pesky aggravations like cheating husbands, making a home with wee ones underfoot in faraway places, spouses dying, workplace discrimination and overall sexism.

She speaks in a natural way that resonates. For a familiar fish-out-of-water trope, it’s a dandy script full of heart, humor, and engaging characters (including the men!).

They always say write what you know, and while I am not certain if any of it is taken from her life, the Virginia-born playwright is based in Chicago, having moved there in 2008, and is married with two children. She earned a BFA in film and TV from New York University.

The five-member cast has a command of the show’s intentions and are mostly cohesive as a group, with a few wobbly interactions. If everyone’s accent can’t be consistent, I’d just ditch them all, instead of an uneven hodge-podge.

Hopefully, this modest production is considered a workshop and will be further fine-tuned and polished, for the comedy-drama-fantasy has much potential.

Ghost grandmas and pregnant Liz (Maggie Lehman). Photo by Dan Steadman

Like the transplanted heroine in the play, this inaugural production has had a bumpy road from plans to execution, and that’s one of those pandemic-related situations that can’t be pinned on any one thing.

As we learn to navigate the ever-changing COVID-19 virus and its variants, we must adapt – and that’s something the characters, and I suppose the playwright, has had to deal with as well, with a smile and a tear.

Originally slated for a June opening, the show was pushed back because of COVID-19 complications, and therefore, some roles had to be re-cast for this current staging – and one part twice. Some actors had contracts for other gigs, which is a good thing for work, but not necessarily for continuity and chemistry. You know, kismet. But the good intentions are apparent.

So, that leads to this end-of-summer run, Aug. 26-Sept. 4, in the Kranzberg Black Box Theatre, simply staged and presented with much good will and sweat equity.

At least the author, cast and audience are on the same page – life happens, and it’s all about forging ahead, no matter what obstacles are in your path. That’s why I would consider it a work-in-progress.

Last summer, I was charmed by its rudimentary reading in an elementary school at the “Spotlight On…Women Writing Festival of New Works,” and was pleased to hear of its development as an actual theatrical production. It was one of four selected for reading out of 21 submissions.

This world premiere benefits from the wit and relatable situations – at least for any woman who has been blessed with being raised by strong women, and the men who’ve been fortunate to be in their orbit.

With equal parts grit and gumption, Feriend unfolds the predicament of Liz (Maggie Lehman), a pregnant young woman who agreed to move to the Texas Hill Country because her husband Dave (Mike DePope) has landed his dream job – high school drama teacher and baseball coach. As one character says, that is quite specific, but hey, good for him.

Only she is a native New Yorker and moving into a trailer on her husband’s family’s property turns out to be a far rougher experience than she imagined. Good grief, rattlesnakes are outside! And there may be scorpions – egads!

While fretting, her dead and still gutsy grandmothers, maternal Genevieve (Jenni Ryan) and paternal Mary (Leslie Wobbe), magically appear to offer advice as good ghosts. Ryan joined the cast as a replacement to a replacement and isn’t as fluid with the dialogue as the rest, and it’s a conversational-heavy play. As a brash New Yorker who lived a hardscrabble life, she employed a thick accent that comes and goes, and gets more emphatic as she is confronted with adversity.

Ryan Burns in multiple roles, including Robert F. Kennedy. Photo by Dan Steadman.

Wobbe embodies a sweet woman who learned to stand up for herself and her family when times were tough. She projects a calm, reassuring manner to impart life lessons.

Through flashbacks, they will provide examples of crossroads and tough choices in their lives. These shared incidents help Liz adapt to her new surroundings and make her realize who she is by carrying the people she has loved in her heart. After all, home is where we start from – it’s universal.

Liz, an accountant, plays into the stereotypes we associate with New Yorkers who believe the rest of the U.S. is flyover country. She seems resistant to fitting into Bandera, current population 857, although she says she will and is trying to be a good sport. Only she whines about not being in NYC. A lot. We get it. Crossroads of the world, center of the universe, and yadda, yadda. (They do have the best water, all the better for the bagels.)

For the record, Bandera is a small town less than an hour away from San Antonio, and on its website, they call themselves the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” Alrighty, then.

A lively spirit, Lehman portrays Liz confidently and sympathetically, conveying her concerns – many of them valid – and is agile on stage, mindful of her growing tummy and taking that into consideration for her movements. You feel for her – I’d be pouting and overthinking too. Baby makes three.

The men fit the Texas mold that’s used countless times – macho gun-toting, beer-swilling, loud, boastful, close-minded rednecks, and set in their ways. Dave, though, doesn’t seem to be the cookie-cutter image, more cosmopolitan and somewhat thoughtful, but after day drinking with his brother and dad, settles into those typical guy things. Mike DePope straddles the dilemma of supportive husband and male bonding with his bro.

That family lineage is kept off-stage, and it’s the New Yorkers whose lives adapting are in vignettes – off the boat, in the orphanage, living in Iowa, being widowed at a young age, entering the workforce as a mother, dealing with setbacks, patriarchy rules in the workplace, and just getting by.

Portraying different characters to flesh out key turning points in the grandmothers’ lives, the versatile Ryan Burns is remarkable – the true MVP of the show. He’s so authentic in these snapshots of husbands, sons, bosses, neighbors and even Robert F. Kennedy. It’s an interesting twist. That’s quite a load to carry, and he impressively stands out.

Liz and Dave are a couple you root for, and would like to know more about – did they name the baby Charity or did the new mom win that round?

Audiences will have the opportunity to talk to Feriend, as she will be here Saturday and Sunday. Prism’s Trish Brown, who directed the show in a straightforward, realistic way, and her longtime collaborator Joy Addler arranged this visit. They worked with Feriend to develop the play after last summer’s reading.

On Saturday, Sept. 3, the performance will be followed by a Meet the Playwright reception, included in your ticket. On Sunday, Sept. 4, the performance will be followed by an audience talk back with the playwright and the cast, which is included in the ticket.

Next up for Prism is the “Spotlight On…Emerging Artists Festival of New Works” Sept. 22 – Oct. 1 at The High Low. This year’s festival will feature staged readings of plays by six local playwrights, all of whom have never had their works published or produced.

Prism Theatre Company presents “Bandera, Texas” I Aug. 26 – Sept. 4, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For more information, visit

For tickets, online:; Phone: (314) 534-1111 or in person at the Fabulous Fox box office.

Prism Theatre Company announces the playwrights, directors, and cast of Prism’s first annual Spotlight On festival of new works, sharing the stories of women playwrights throughout the bi-state area. Each night of staged readings will be followed by a talkback with the actors, playwrights, and Prism creative team. 

ACADEME.compassion by Dr. Laura Perkins

Friday, August 13th, 2021

Directed by Wendy Greenwood

A whimsical romp inside the final test of graduate school:  an oral defense of the written exams.  The premise of this academic tradition seems simple enough. Yet, three faculty with wildly different motivations complicate what should be a pro-forma ritual.  In comps, an epic battle ensues; passions flare, emotions erupt, and manipulative moves threaten the student’s chances for success.  


Kelly Howe as Dr. Stepoloni

Eleanor Humphrey as Student

Phil Leveling as Dr. Trout

Kay Love as Dr. Fenmore

See the Dove by Laurie McConnell

Friday, August 13th, 2021

Directed by Rayme Cornell

When a friendless white woman encounters a homeless Black man in a city park, their contentious first meeting morphs into mutually satisfying verbal skirmishes as they battle prejudice, loneliness, Sarin, and Spanx to find friendship and love among pigeons and doves.

Eleanor Humphrey as Ava/Pidge

Don McClendon as Jay

Kelly Schnider as Evelyn

Stay Awhile by Dana Hall

Saturday, August 14th, 2021

Directed by Wendy Greenwood

Samantha has been concerned about her mother, Janice, since her father’s passing. This play deals with complex grief and how it impacts the entire family.  It illustrates the changing landscape of mother/daughter relationships.  It’s a window into the world most families do not talk about.


Carmen Garcia as Janice

Kelly Howe as Samantha 

Bandera, Texas by Lisa Dellagiarino Feriend

Saturday, August 14th, 2021

Directed by Trish Brown

A dramedy about marriage, motherhood, and the women who came before us and paved our way, “Bandera, Texas” follows Liz, a native New Yorker forced to relocate to the Texas Hill Country for her husband’s job. She is visited by her long-dead grandmothers, who help her adapt to her new life and remind her that an uprooted woman can grow wherever she is replanted when she knows who she is and carries the people and places she loves inside her. 


Carmen Garcia as Genevieve

Sam Hayes as Liz

Kay Love as Mary

Jeffrey David Thomas as Dave & 11 others

Tickets are $10 minimum donation and can be pre-purchased through the Prism website.  

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.

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 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.      

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 Prism invites actors to like us on Facebook for access to audition details for future productions. 


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.