Quality work and engaged, loyal audiences are important factors to making a city's theater scene great, but without active playwrights whose work is being produced—making an impact both in and outside of their geographic location—national recognization as a "theater town" can be hard to come by.
Regionally, think of what the writers of Chicago, Minneapolis and Philadelphia have done for their cities' reps. August Wilson certainly had an impact on Pittsburgh and, later, when he lived there, Seattle. And even established playwrights from other parts of the country have had made a difference for cities (and universities in those cities) that embraced them, such as Edward Albee in Houston or Steven Dietz in Austin.
Dallas has been home to several writers who have gone on to regional and national respect, such as Octavio Solis and Regina Taylor. And there has long been a tradition of original work here, even if much of it is fairly insular to one organization. Examples: Kurt Kleinmann's black-and-white mysteries at Pegasus Theatre (a revival of one opens tonight), the original spoofs and melodramas at Dallas' Pocket Sandwich Theatre, and the new creations at Addison's MBS Productions, Fort Worth's Hip Pocket Theatre, Denton's Sundown Collaborative Theatre and the increasingly exciting Ochre House.
To boot, Dallas Theater Center has been commissioning work from national artists such as Will Power, Kristoffer Diaz and Kim Rosenstock; not to mention premiering new plays by Tracey Scott Wilson (2008's The Good Negro) and Regina Taylor (2010's The Trinity River Plays), and musicals like Give It Up! (which went to Broadway as Lysistrata Jones) and the upcoming Giant.
Other major theaters have established playwright relationships as well, such as Undermain Theatre with New York writer Len Jenkin (the upcoming world premiere of Time in Kafka). Also in that category is Kitchen Dog Theater and Minneapolis-based Allison Moore (a Southern Methodist University grad). Next in that collaboration is the "rolling" world premiere of Collapse. Kitchen Dog, as our only National New Play Network theater, has played a vital role in the development of new works and emerging writers.
But who could be the next big playwriting name from the DF-Dub? It would be hard to predict if our theaters weren't taking chances on local playwrights. Most crucial to this game are the established, professional theaters with sizeable budgets and some kind of regional reputation.
That's why 2012 could be a game-changer.
In the coming year, you can almost certainly expect to see new works by local scribes at both Pockets and the small groups dedicated to original work. And there's no doubt that there'll be interesting, new work emerging at our various festivals: TeCo Theatrical Production's New Play Competition, WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop Fringe Festival, the Festival of Independent Theatres and the staged reading events like Kitchen Dog Theater's New Works Festival, Nouveau 47 Theatre's New Works/New Voices and Stage West's Texas Playwriting Competition.
But there's an important trend already emerging for 2012: Full productions of new works by local writers at professional, established stages like Kitchen Dog, Stage West, Echo Theatre and Dallas Children's Theater. It's also happening at theaters that have gained a high level of local respect in less than a decade, such as Second Thought Theatre and Upstart Productions; as well as at relative newcomers like Triple J Productions, DVA Productions and Nouveau 47 Theatre. The universities and community theaters are in the game, too.
The writers include some names we know (Matt Lyle, Vicki Caroline Cheatwood, Isabella Russell-Ides, Matthew Posey), as well as some that we hope to hear more about in the coming years. The subjects range from a modern telling of the biblical character of Ruth and a musical comedy about Charles Manson, to a look back at changing sports journalism and coverage of the 1966 Dallas Cowboys.
Here's a look at the writers and the productions, listed in the order in which they'll open, and in some cases, what the playwright has to say about what we hope is more than a trend. Putting money and resources into locally birthed projects could and should be a sound investment.
Not all of these writers are based in North Texas, but they at least have a connection to here, or Texas. Not all of the plays are brand new, but still warrant mention. Click the link on the title of each play to go to our listing, which has ticket and other information. Also, this is not meant to be a comprehensive list of original work this year. And it only covers the first half of the year. Who knows what the latter half will bring us, as the 2012-'13 seasons are announced this spring?
Who: Jon Christie
Play: Superhero (world premiere)
Details: Produced by Triple J Productions, a newish outfit of which Christie is a co-founder. Jan. 5-21 at the Bath House Cultural Center, Dallas
What it's about: An "ordinary schmuck Paul and his extraordinary ability have to bring the town to order. ...A super farce that will be sure to leave villains and patrons rolling in the aisles, Superhero aims to bring a little laughter in your life and to remind us all not to always take life so seriously."
Previous work includes: Angels Inc., Dream, The Zookeeper's Journal, One Phone Call and Seven's a Crowd, mostly under the Triple J banner at various locations.
What's at stake: Christie is young and has said in interviews that he's looking forward to continually growing, which should be a goal of any artist at any age or level. Superhero, which has an intriguing premise, could at least get him more local recognition.
Christie, on the possibility of staying and creating in Dallas: "I hope to continue putting on quality original works to the Dallas community and beyond. But wherever my works might travel to, I would love for Dallas to be where it all started."
Who: Jonathan Norton
Play: My Tidy List of Terrors (world premiere)
Details: Jan. 19-29 at the South Dallas Cultural Center
What it's about: Atlanta, Georgia 1980. Someone is murdering African-American children, and the city is overcome with fear and suspicion. All your sins fall on you when you turn twelve and you can't automatically go to heaven when you die. That is what Ishmael has learned in church. And when his cousin is murdered, Ishmael fears that he might be next. But the only thing standing between Ishmael and the baptismal water is his mother, Vara. Determined to save her son's life, Vara fights to win Ishmael a different kind of salvation as she and her son battle to navigate the troubled waters from boy to man. My Tidy List of Terrors is a coming-of-age tale where American history and African rituals are intertwined and a mother and son's perspectives on salvation clash.
Previous work includes: The Virgin Shenequa, Our Lady of South Oak Cliff and '84, produced at theaters such TeCo Theatrical Productions and the now-defunct Soul Rep Theatre Company.
What's at stake: His previous works were one-acts produced at festivals. This is his first full-length production and has the involvement of local arts heavy-hitters Vicki Meek (producer) and Teatro Dallas' Cora Cardona, who's directing. This production was made possible through the South Dallas Cultural Center's Diaspora Performing Arts Commissioning Program. The play was also a semi-finalist for the New Play Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in 2011. This production could introduce Norton to new audiences and build excitement for his next full-length play, Mississippi Goddamn, which is in development.
Norton, on this opportunity: "This last time the South Dallas Cultural Center did a full play production was in the '90s," Norton says. "I'm proud that there's an investment being made in the show. I'm really humbled and grateful."
Who: Kevin Kautzman
Play: Coyote (world premiere)
Details: Jan. 26-Feb. 11, presented by Noveau 47 Theatre at the Magnolia Lounge in Fair Park
What it's about: Night. Arizona, on the border between Mexico and the United States of America. When a young man joins a lone minuteman on weekly patrol, words fly and a game of questions begins over who represents the "real America" and who decides where the line in the sand is drawn. Coyote is an award-winning play by Kevin Kautzman that casts light on one of the darkest corners of recent history: the uncertain line between the United States and its neighbor to the south.
Previous work includes: Kautzman is a native of North Dakota and attended University of Minnesota and spent a year studying playwriting in London. He was a Jerome Fellow at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis. He's now pursuing an MFA in playwriting and screenwriting at the University of Texas' Michener Center. So his Texas connection is new. But he has this to say: "I've come to really enjoy Austin, and while I don't know where I'll land after I graduate next year, I could see myself in Austin or elsewhere in Texas in the future. It's been good to me, and I'm happy to have found ambitious collaborators in Nouveau 47."
What's at stake: Coyote was written with the support of a Jerome Fellowship from the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis. It has hat readings in Scarborough, United Kingdom, and in Nouveau 47's inaugural New Works/New Voices Festival. This will be its first full scale production. It's important because not only are we hearing a new voice, but N47's second season is all about new works, mostly discovered at its first New Works festival in 2011. The season also includes a premiere production of a play by New York writer Jonathan Kravetz, called Prayer; as well as a company-created docu-drama-style work about the education system in Texas, called Education 20/20. The New Works/New Voices Festival will return, too, so we'll look forward to seeing which writers they might be producing in 2013. It's also important to note that N47 performs in the Magnolia Lounge, the former home of Margo Jones' groundbreaking Theatre 47. Considering that regional theater pioneer Jones (who inspired this site's name) was a huge proponent of new work, she'd be proud of this group.
Kautzman on new work: "We need and need to support new work. I gravitate to new plays over more established ones as a matter of taste and professional politics. I'm inclined to think theatre artists and audiences shouldn't look for work that moves them to come from the past or from someplace outside of where they are now. One shouldn't feel as if one has to travel to encounter engaging theatre. I'm a believer in a big theatrical tent, and new work should hold a pretty significant place in it."
Who: Matthew Posey
Play: Mean (world premiere, as are all the shows at the Ochre House)
Details: Feb. 4-25 at the Ochre House in Exposition Park
What it's about: Mean is a metaphysical musical comedy about the first meeting of Charles Manson, Charles "Tex" Watson and Squeaky Fromme. It's love at first sight as Charles Manson (pre-Bianca/Tate murders) walks into a roadside bar in 29 Palms, California and meets Tex and Squeaky Fromme for the first time. Featuring original music by Justin Locklear.
Previous work includes: Posey has written almost every new play at the Ochre House since it opened in 2008. Among his best were 2010's Umlauf's Bicycle and 2011's The Butcher and Morphing. After Mean, Posey says 2012 will include a fifth installment of the Coppertone series and a new work inspired by the work of Henry Miller.
What's at stake: Posey established himself in Dallas theater scene back in the '80s, working with Undermain Theatre and his own Deep Ellum group in the '90s. His return, with the Ochre House, has been one of the most exciting developments on the scene in years. At this point, it's fun to watch him and his "Suavant Garde Pioneers" challenge themselves artistically. Even when the shows don Posey says his next step will be to tour his shows to spaces in other cities. We can't wait for others to get a taste.
Playwright: Allison Moore
Play: Collapse (rolling world premiere)
Details: Feb. 3-March 3 at Kitchen Dog Theater
What it's about: Hannah is trying desperately to hold the facade of her perfect life together, even as her husband mysteriously calls in sick to work day after day. The couple struggles with infertility, and Hannah herself is on the verge of being laid off. When her sister appears on their doorstep, she brings with her a feisty, renegade attitude and an illicit package that sends the family on an odyssey into some of the quirkier corners of Minneapolis and into the heart of their deepest fears. This comedy about surviving and transcending was inspired by the 2007 collapse of the Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis.
Previous work includes: Kitchen Dog has been a major player in Moore's career, having produced her plays Eighteen, Hazard County, End Times and Slasher.
What's at stake: Moore is arguably the most successful playwright on this list, having had her works produced at the Humana Festival of New American Plays, off-Broadway as well as at theaters across the country. Collapse is also being done at the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley, Calif. and the Curious Theatre in Denver, as part of this "rolling world premiere." She's based in Minnesota now but did her undergraduate work at Southern Methodist University, so we claim her. She's a member of the Kitchen Dog's Artistic Company. Every time she gets more attention and acclaim, so does Kitchen Dog—and Dallas.
Who: Steven Walters
Play: Pluck the Day
Details: Feb. 3-26, opening the new season for Second Thought Theatre at its new home in Bryant Hall at the Kalita Humphreys Theater
What it's about: Duck's drunk, Fred's been eating peyote again and Bill's not as gay as they originally thought he was. On a sun-drenched, emotionally challenged parcel of the West, Texas landscape, three friends are held captive by addiction, fear and apathy as they wait for salvation.
Previous work includes: 6000 Feet to Salvation, Snake Eyes at the Mardi Gras Hotel, Little Light and an adaptation of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi, all produced under the Second Thought banner.
What's at stake: Second Thought did an early version of this play when they first started and were producing in Frank's Place at the Kalita. It was also done in 2011 in New York at the Araca Group off-off-Broadway. This revamped version of Pluck the Day will feature live music by local Dallas musician Greg Schroeder. Walters has been one of our most promising playwrights for years, and he's already in the top echelon of local actors. After Second Thought's outstanding 2011 season, which was the comeback of the year, there will be a lot riding on this production. Can Walters' writing and the group's new standard for acting and direction all come together and live up to the hype?
Who: Isabella Russell-Ides
Play: The Early Education of Conrad Eppler (world premiere)
Details: Presented by Echo Theatre, Feb. 10-25 at the Bath House Cultural Center, Dallas
What it's about: A divine comedy about a heavenly revolution and coming Avatar. One of the 12 wheels that turn the universe has decided to "reset the dance." Her special concern is the founder's myth: the unworkable idea of initiating a creation with a failed garden and concluding with an apocalypse. The action is tripped when three adolescent angels cruising earth skies drop down and make an unlicensed appearance to Conrad Eppler. Luce, the erstwhile angel of light, who has been working his way back up the angel hierarchy investigates the appearance. It turns out Conrad Eppler is a foundling, who was left on the convent steps in a cardboard box with a stuffed monkey. This is Conrad Eppler's story as recounted by Kilowatt, Luce's spiritual sidekick. Expect spiritual high jinks, romance, mysterious advents and epic adventure. Plus a new theogony.
Previous work includes: Russell-Ides' work includes Leonard's Car (performed in Dallas and in New York), Fortune Cookie Smash (Austin's Frontera Fest) and the Coco & Gigi, which won a DFW Theater Critics Forum Award back when Echo performed it at the Festival of Independent Theatres.
What's at stake: This is the third and final production of the winning works in Echo Theatre's Big Shout-Out Contest, looking for new plays by women, as Echo's mission is to only produce works by women. The other two plays, The Executioner's Sons and A Most Dangerous Woman, were staged in 2011. Not only will Conrad prove that Echo can find worthy new plays from women writers, but it will give us more insight into the work of a local writer whose work we haven't seen enough of.
What Russell-Ides says about this production of Conrad: "It's a 17-character play. An audacious undertaking on the part of the Echo women. I am in playwright nirvana, still stunned that The Early Education of Conrad Eppler got the green light. Pam Myers-Morgan, who made ineffable magic with my Coco & Gigi, is at the helm of this big dream baby. She is my Prospero. And the play—my valentine to the planet. And it's actually going to be delivered this February. If I weren't a playwright, I'd be speechless."
Who: Larry Herold
Play: The Sports Page (world premiere)
Details: Feb. 11-March 18 at Stage West, Fort Worth
What it's about: Dallas playwright and former sports writer Larry Herold takes a comic look back at a Dallas Cowboys training camp in 1966, when the whole media world is about to change. Television has landed in the form of the first woman reporter in a man's world. Look what has happened to the newspapers since!
Previous work includes: His first play was Preacherosity, performed in London in 2006. The Sports Page has had readings in Bangor, Maine; Jackson, Tennessee; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Santa Ana, California.
What's at stake: Not only is this a new play by a Dallas writer, its subject is geographically North Texas: The Dallas Cowboys, It's also about changing media. Both of those things have and are still going through all kinds of flux. Stage West has been running its Texas Playwriting Contest for several years, and has given staged readings to the winners, but to do a full production for five weeks takes commitment. It's a great addition to what looks like Stage West's strongest season, in terms of play selection, in years.
Herold on the number of new locally written plays this season: "I think it's fabulous that theaters are doing new plays. I mean I love Jane Austen but I don't sit around reading her over and over and over. How many revivals and classics do we actually need? Try something fresh. And I'm not just talking about in-your-face stuff, either. Check out Theresa Rebeck, Amy Herzog, Lynn Nottage—their stuff is fun, smart and moving. And you're seeing the cake as it comes out of the oven, not the 1000th production."
What he's looking forward to with The Sports Page: "Sitting in a dark room with 145 strangers who've never seen the play. Waiting to see if they laugh."
Also of note: Herold and Kautzman are teaching a playwriting workshop at Stage West this weekend, Jan. 7. It's $25 and you get the three-hour workshop (using David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross as a starting place), a ticket to Stage West's production of New Jerusalem at 8 p.m. and $10 off a ticket to The Sports Page. Details are at www.stagewest.org/classes.
Who: Eric Steele
Play: The Midwest Trilogy (world premiere)
Details: Presented by Second Thought Theatre, March 15-April 8 in Bryant Hall at the Kalita Humphreys Theater
What it's about: The Midwest Trilogy centers around three separate but indirectly linked stories that take place in the heartland of Corporate America. One of the three works in the trilogy is Bob Birdnow's Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self, which STT presented to much acclaim at the 2011 Festival of Independent Theatres. The other two works are Topeka and Cork's Cattlebaron.
Previous work includes: Steele is a writer, filmmaker, and producer from Dallas, and one of the managing partners of the Historic Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff. His film writing/directing credits include Uncertain TX, Cork's Cattlebaron and Topeka. Bob Birdnow is a one-man show that was originally included in Steele's play Midwest Trilogy which was work-shopped at Kitchen Dog Theater's New Works festival.
What's at stake: As someone with a big stake in the local independent film scene, with the Texas Theatre, Steele is obviously investing his time and talent in Dallas. Although we've seen (and loved) one-third of the Trilogy, will the whole add up to something great? We hope so.
On having a theater like Second Thought premiere Midwest: "Second Thought has a reputation for doing consistently great work and pushing boundaries, so it's an honor that they've deemed Bob Birdnow as worthy of their time and talent. Also, I respect Steve [Walters], Lee [Trull, who will director], [actor] Drew [Wall], and [co-artistic director] Chris [LaBove] very much and know that we will likely share a vision for the show...it's important, I think, to have confidence in that aspect of it."
Who: Bretton B. Holmes
Play: Fortune (world premiere)
Details: MBS Productions presents it March 22-April 14 at the Stone Cottage at the Addison Theatre Centre
What it's about: Roger is the estranged father to Winston. Due to the requirements in a will left by Roger's ex-wife who was Winston's mother they are required to spend 7 days locked up in a house in order to inherit the fortune left by her. If either one of them step a foot outside the house that person forfeits their part of the inheritance to the other. As cabin fever sets in and greed augments, family skeletons come tumbling out. Will either man be able to put up with the other before the 7 days are up? Will they survive? This world premiere black comedy explores the underside of familial bonds. Charles Ballinger directs.
Previous work includes: A former local writer who's now based in Austin, Holmes' comedies Sex & War and Homeland Insecurity, or how I learned to love the Patriot Act were well-received by MBS audiences.
What's at stake: MBS flies under the radar with its low-budget productions, but as one of the only for-profit theaters in the Metroplex, they're obviously doing good business. The small Stone Cottage space seats 40 to 50 people, and the shows consistently sell well. Adding Holmes among its stable of playwrights (which include founder and namesake Mark-Brian Sonna and "Alejandro de la Costa," which is presumedly a pen name) is a good move for subscribers and patrons who like familiar names.
Who: Matt Lyle
Play: The Better Doctor (Southwest premiere)
Details: Upstart Productions will close its two-show season with the work, April 25-May 19 at the Green Zone, Dallas
What it's about: Following the silent-film-on-stage format of Lyle's hit play The Boxer, The Better Doctor playfully satirizes the obstacles presented by the American healthcare industry. It's a live-music spectacle equipped with subtitles and slapstick gags for the whole family to enjoy.
Previous work includes: The Boxer, which was originally produced to great acclaim by Bootstraps Comedy Theatre (and later at Collin Theatre Centrer and Plano Children's Theatre); and well-received comedy Hello Human Female, done by Audacity Theatre Lab (at the Ochre House). The Better Doctor premiered in 2010 in Chicago.
What's at stake: Co-founders of Bootstraps Comedy Theatre, Lyle and his wife Kim moved their company to Chicago in 2008. Consistently getting his work produced in Dallas can only be good for his future as an artist in Chicago. Lyle was a popular writer when here, and remains devoted to North Texas. He'll have another new work this year, a children's play called The Chicken Who Wasn't Chicken, performed March 1-4 by Funhouse Theatre & Film at Plano Children's Theatre.
After that? "I have a couple of plays in the works right now," he says. "One is a small musical called Camp Girls and the Ghost Monk and the other is a full-length play called Barbecue 1 and 2. I'm pretty excited about both. I would bet that both may premiere in Texas over the next couple of years, but who knows."
On Texas theaters still doing his work: "It means the world to me for theaters in Texas to be doing my plays. It's an honor that so many great artists that know my work still want to see it and do it."
How Dallas compares to Chicago for getting new work produced: "It's still easier for me to get my shows done in Texas. A major factor in theater, like most businesses, is about who you know. I was in Dallas for six years, acting, directing and writing. I made lots of friends and connections in that time. Also, I think my work is a little...odd...so it takes a special type of theater to go out on a limb with me. I guess people in Dallas trust that what I'm doing is going to work and I appreciate that. Dallas is a pretty daring community."
"I've been doing those same things in Chicago for three years now, building relationships and writing, and I'm just now feeling like I'm surrounded by the right mix of people and things are moving for me. I have lots of exciting things starting to happen here, kind of all at once. If our radio show The City Life Supplement isn't a hit, I'll eat my hat."
Who: Matthew J. Edwards
Play: Written in Time (world premiere)
Details: May 17-June 9, presented by Rover Dramawerks at the Cox Building Playhouse, Plano
What it's about: Just before World War II, Angelica and Richard, a Navy sailor, meet and fall deeply in love. Years later, her granddaughter Angie, who longs for a good man herself, discovers the passionate letters Angelica received from Richard. Infused with humor and tragedy, the play deftly interweaves the wartime events with Angie's response to their growing love through these letters. Then, as Richard says, "This war changes things," and a strange twist of fate unexpectedly ripples through the lives of the wartime couple and the generations after them.
Previous work includes: Grand Prairie resident Matthew J. Edwards has three full-length plays, nearly a dozen one-act plays (two of them, No Pain, No Drain, and Writer's Block, published in One Day Only! anthologies by Next Stage Press), three completed novels, four short stories, two published epic poems, published song lyrics for several bands
He says of the aptly named Written in Time, it "marks a milestone for me that's [been] 10 years coming. I wrote an incomplete draft in 2001, completed it in 2003, and then revised that thing for several years."
What's at stake: Rover is another theater that flies under the radar, but has been doing full seasons for more than 10 years to loyal audiences. Founder and artistic director Carol M. Rice has had some of her work produced there, and the group's twice-a-season One Day Only! events are reportedly great fun for everyone involved in the artistic process. Getting a full-length play produced by a theater with some funding behind it has to be significant for a writer like Edwards.
Edwards on working with Rover: "I owe a great deal of my professional theatrical career to Rover. I've acted for them since their second show, directed, costumed, done dance choreography, written, painted sets...in short I've honed many of my skills through that company (as well as the Pocket [Sandwich], Garland Civic, Plano Rep, RCT, etc., to give proper credit), and watched them grow into a major artistic resource for the DFW metroplex and North Texas professional theater. I feel I've grown along with them, a true privilege. To me, having Rover Dramawerks put on this show that itself was a decade-long labor of love for me means that I've come a long way, as a North Texas entertainer, as a writer, as an artist. And I'm truly blessed and thankful for the chance to see Carol bring her ideas, and my vision, to the stage this May."
Who: Jennifer Porter Kennard
Details: May 18-27, presented by DVA Productions at Pantagleize Theatre in Fort Worth
What it's about: Sloane Davis is a big beautiful fish in a little pond. A well-educated, independent woman, successful by all standards...except in her love life. Navigating the dating scene is hard enough without dealing with "well-intentioned" friends, family, and even strangers...and battling her inner child. Will Sloane find the love that truly deserves her? This play is a step-by-step guide for women of all sizes on balancing family, career and love.
Previous work includes: We found a short story called Lovely Stranger online, which has been published and won an award.
What's at stake: The play was originally written for Sheran Goodspeed Keyton, a popular local entertainer and founder of DVA. But Keyton says she will now direct this production, which will star Michele Rene. The idea came from her real experiences of trying to find love as a plus-size woman.
What Kennard says about the play: "I have written short stories, poetry and one-act plays for many years. A Big Girl's Guide to Love is my first full-length show, and I am thrilled that it is being produced by DVA. As a playwright, you create certain pieces because you have a story within you that needs to be told. Since there are probably many people who would learn, identify with or simply be entertained by your story, you need for it to be seen. When a theater agrees to produce your work, there is a great sense of validation that your story is worth being told."
Who: Vicki Caroline Cheatwood
Play: Ruth (world premiere)
Details: Kitchen Dog Theater is staging it as the centerpiece of its 14th annual New Works Festival, May 25-June 23 at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Dallas
What it's about: A retelling of the Hebrew/Old Testament story of Ruth and Naomi, setting it in contemporary American history, focusing on the issue of immigration.
Previous work includes: In 2002 her screenplay Air (Escopa Films) won the Special Jury Gold Award at Worldfest Film Festival, and in 2005, the dark comedy feature 10:10 was a finalist in the Austin Film Festival. The play version of 10:10 was done by Ground Zero Theater Company. Echo Theatre's show at the 2010 Festival of Independent Theeatres, Bible Women, featured a libretto by her. She's been a finalist for several national playwriting honors, including the Heideman Award (The Risen Chris, Actors Theater of Louisville), The Julie Harris Playwright Award (An Hour South), and the Eileen Heckart Drama Award (Manicures & Monuments). A film she wrote called break screened at the Cannes Independent Film Festival in 2010, and made the festival rounds in the States.
What's at stake: Ruth is a play that has received several readings over the years and to get a main production at Kitchen Dog is huge for a local playwright, especially considering KDT's influence within the National New Play Network, of which more than 20 national theaters are members.
Cheatwood on getting a full production of Ruth at KDT: "I'm excited to be working with talented folks from the DFW theater tribe, and my Kitchen Dog family. I love our cast, and I'm jazzed about spending quality creative time with Tim Johnson, my director and my soul-friend. He gets me, the good and the bad, and I really love that."
Who: Thomas Riccio
Play: Flesh World (world premiere)
Details: Presented by Dead White Zombies, Riccio's new company, in the late spring. Dates and venue to be announced.
What it's about: Flesh World follows K-Low, a sexy, violent and deeply troubled undercover spy on a mission with her anthropomorphic team, Mister Joe and Jimmy Mac. They are not of this world and things are not as they seem. K-Low's mission increasingly gives way to voices and questions, entering a fantastical world wavering between the material and ephemeral, the living and the dead, the present and the eternal.
Previous work includes: Locally seen works include Some People, produced by Project X at the 2009 Out of the Loop Fringe Festival, and 2011's blahblah, the debut production by Dead White Zombies. Riccio's work is extensive, including creating original work with indigenous peoples around the world, including, in 2009, Ethiopia. He wrote about that experience for us, and also does an ongoing series of audio interviews for TheaterJones. Check out his website for more info.
This will be a big year for Riccio, a University of Texas at Dallas professor. His one-act comedy Tricks (about a man who creates then has a difficult time with his object of desire) will be done at Out of the Loop in March; and in the fall, DWZ will produce his play Hole, described as "a site-specific ritual performance preparing for the moment when reality flips and everything becomes its opposite."
What's at stake: Matthew Posey and Matt Lyle made do "odd" plays, but Riccio is probably the writer on this list who is most worthy of the term "experimental," which, admittedly, is a hard sell. What's great about this and the list above is that not only do we have a lot of working playwrights, the styles are quite diverse. That's significant.
Other playwrights and shows to watch this year:
Linda Daugherty is a successful writer who has penned several shows for Dallas Children's Theater, and several of them have been performed at other professional youth theaters throughout the country. Her 2008 play The Secret Life of Girls, which deals with the "mean girls" syndrome among tweens, returns to DCT's Studio Theater Feb. 10-26. This is part of DCT's Baker Idea Institute (named for Paul Baker, father of DCT founder Robyn Flatt). The event also features the play The Transition of Doodle Pequeño by award-winning, emerging playwright Gabriel Jason Dean, a third year fellow at the Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin.
The new comedy No Late Fees, by local writers Aaron Schultz and Benjamin Keegan Arnold, will be done at Lakeside Community Theater in The Colony, Feb. 17-March 3.
Arlington writer Natalie Gaupp will have two plays presented at colleges this year. First up is Bridezilla, co-written with Steven Alan McGaw, at Texas Woman's University, Feb. 23-March 4 (it's part of a New Works Festival, that will also include a play called Mark 1 by Fort Worth writer Rene Sarradet-Fuller). And then Gaupp's play Paparazza will be done at the University of Texas at Arlington, where Gaupp and her husband Andrew teach, April 12-15.
Steven Young, a Texas Woman's University professor who adapted Oedipus the King for Broken Gears Project Theatre in 2011, has a play The King's Face that was done to acclaim in London in 2011. The play, which deals with the relationship between Henry IV and his son Prince Hal (the future Henry V), will receive a staged reading by Amphibian Stage Productions on March 5 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
The 2012 season for Fort Worth's Hip Pocket Theatre hasn't been announced yet, but as per usual, expect new work from founder/artistic director Johnny Simons, perhaps from his daughter Lake Simons, who's creating new puppet works in New York, and who knows who else. The season starts in June.
In August, Mesquite Community Theatre does Arlington playwright Kevin Paris' The Topa, TX Chili Cook-off, which debuted a few seasons ago at Duncanville Community Theatre.
A new musical called On the Eve received two readings at Nouveau 47 Theatre in November, and word of mouth was positive. The creators, Seth Magill and Shawn Magill (of the band Home by Hovercraft) and Michael Federico, are making changes based on those readings and there are plans for a bigger workshop production this fall at a venue to be announced. Keep an eye out for that.
I'm sure there are others. Feel free to let me know in the comments below.