Larry Hagman, who was best known as J.R. Ewing in the original and sequel to the TV show Dallas, died on Friday, at age 81, from complications of cancer. You've no doubt read many stories in the obituaries appearing in papers around the world today.
But here's one you may not have heard. Weatherford native Hagman, who was imbued with a love of the theater—how could he not be, considering his mother was Broadway legend Mary Martin?—had a new foundation that recently awarded Dallas Children's Theater a $25,000 grant. Hagman also appeared in several Broadway shows in the '50s and early '60s.
Hagman visited the cast of DCT's October production of Pinkalicious the Musical when the announcement was made. He toured the facilities, including Kathy Burks' amazing puppet shop. Here's a photo of him with the cast (and there are more photos here). And here's the news release from Dallas Children's Theater:
DALLAS CHILDREN'S THEATER RECEIVES $25,000 FROM THE NEWLY-FORMED LARRY HAGMAN FOUNDATION
The Larry Hagman Foundation contacted Dallas Children's Theater (DCT) staff in early October to request a site visit. The genteel spirit of I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas fame, Larry Hagman, wanted to confirm his assumptions about DCT's work before making his final decision. In the throes of one of the most successful shows in its history, Pinkalicious The Musical, DCT was more than happy to accommodate.
That Sunday, Executive Artistic Director Robyn Flatt and Board President Sharron Hunt provided Larry and his guests with a tour of the theater complete with entry into the rooms where all of the costumes are made, the props are stored and the sets are built. They even stepped into the room that houses all of Kathy Burks' treasured puppets, including the ones that have performed for Eisenhower and others in the White House. agman loved the idea that youngsters who train with DCT get to appreciate a production from conception to audience appreciation and cast autographs. Flatt said, "I was thrilled to get to show Larry the work that is involved in creating live theater from scratch. I often joke about the people who ask what catalog we order the costume or set out of. It was great to show someone who is interested in helping preserve what we do, just how authentic the experience is here at DCT."
In making the announcement about the grant, Hagman talked about the play he saw at DCT. "Being a reluctant vegan some years ago, I could really relate to Pinkalicious and her aversion to green foods. Knowing that it was the best thing for me after some life-changing health challenges, though, I too had to muster up the courage to include more green foods in my diet. It's a good lesson for kids."
Hagman went on to share why organizations such as DCT should be supported, "We spend so much money in this community on sports compared to the arts and that's a real shame when you think about the fact that the arts experience provides life lessons for everyone. Whether you decide to go into it professionally or not, you learn things that help you deal with others and think creatively for example. That's why my foundation is focused on supporting organizations that provide children with dramatic workshops that give them a chance to release their own imagination and to work with professionals in the field and with kids their own age. I, like DCT, would like to see every child have some of these experiences and I want to do what I can to help ensure money is not a barrier to these amazing experiences if at all possible."
Fifteen-year-old Kendyl Mull, who has attended DCT's Academy since she was in third grade and in the last year has performed in several main stage plays, echoed Hagman's sentiment. She said, "I was so happy to have the opportunity to meet Mr. Hagman and share with him what DCT means to me. Their scholarships and support of me have been life-changing. I think everyone should be fortunate enough to take a turn through Dallas Children's Theater regardless of what career path they take. I'm so glad that Mr. Hagman is choosing to invest in DCT so that more children have the opportunity I have had."
The funds from the Larry Hagman Foundation Fund of the Dallas Foundation will enable DCT to continue providing out-of-school dramatic workshop experiences at a severely discounted rate and to expand its teen outreach programs. This year, DCT will present the world premiere of an all-teen production called "Teen Brain: The Musical" by award-winning resident playwright Linda Daugherty.