It's been 10 years since Tanner VanHorn first came to Belle Plains.
God had sent the young man of prayer into a spiritual life-and-death struggle in the small Texas town, which was still haunted by an unspeakable evil a young boy committed 50 years prior. In Ron Boutwell's follow-up to the play "The Praying Man," "Return to Belle Plains" sees evil once again lurking in the shadows and ready to emerge.
"T.J. Bonham, the character in and saved by 'The Praying Man' is in his death bed at the beginning of this play," said Debbie Becker, co-director with her sister Denise Thoenen of the upcoming Stained Glass Theatre of Mid-Missouri presentation of "Return to Belle Plains" that opens April 11. "He shares a long kept secret with Tanner, the praying man, and wants him to do something. It is about the sons of T.G. Bonham returning after his passing. They stir up a lot of trouble."
Mike Landrum, who played T.J. Bonham in the theater company's production of "The Praying Man" last May and June, will portray him once again in "Return to Belle Plains," as well as Winston Bonham. Robin Reilly will return as the Belle Plains Hotel owner Maggie Stone, helping narrate the story at the inn where much of the play takes place.
"Those who have not seen 'The Praying Man' can follow along with the way the play is written," she said about its sequel. "The main female character (Maggie) and her daughter stand and talk to the audience. It does tell what happens during 'The Praying Man' and help explain what is going on now."
As many seasoned actors will return to the stage for "Return to Belle Plains," many new actors will also take part in this production, including one of the principles. New Stained Glass Theatre actor Casey Beauchamp will play Tanner VanHorn, which was last played by Emmett Spradlin in "The Praying Man."
"We actually have three new actors," Becker added. "Tanner is new, the girl that is playing one of the other characters that shows up later in the play is new and the sheriff is new."
With Becker primarily directing set, artwork and technical aspects of "Return to Belle Plains," her sister Thoenen works more hands-on with the actors. Becker also enjoys working with her sister, having co-directed "John, His Story" at Stained Glass Theatre in the past.
"We know what the other is thinking and have the same ideals and how the play should go and set should look," she added.
The sisters see how their 11-member cast brings these fascinating, diverse group of characters to life.
"They have built the characters and they are believable. I may be biased being the director, you fall in love with the characters," Becker said. "They are personable. With the play set in little Texas in 1956, they are good down home people you enjoy watching and getting involved with."
Mystery, intrigue and action make for an "all-around good story," Becker added.
"It is a story about redemption and grace. It is a very Christian show. I like doing the ones bringing the Lord to the forefront. I appreciate they give my sister and I actual stories with that Christian theme," she said.
Being bit by the theater bug after watching her grandson in a Stained Glass Theatre production, Becker has been involved 10-plus plays and co-directed in the last four years. After her husband passed away, she credits her Stained Glass Theatre family for helping her through a really rough part of her life, she said.
"There is such a Christian brotherhood and everyone is like family," she said. "I feel that Stained Glass Theatre is a wonderful addition to Jefferson City theater district. It is a hidden treasure that we hope more people will find. It is a family environment and encourage people to come and get involved. We are all volunteer and it's a wonderful place to do a ministry through theater."
"Return to Belle Plains" is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 2 p.m. Saturdays on April 11-20 at Stained Glass Theatre of Mid-Missouri, 830 E. High St. Tickets are $9 for all shows except opening night, which is $7. Family passes for households of four or more are available for $36. For more information, call 573-634-5313 or visit www.sgtmidmo.org.