Year 2012 was the year of the amphibian. OK, technically it was the year of the dragon according to the Chinese calendar, but who's to say a dragon isn't an amphibian? I know you'll probably say "A dragon is a reptile!" but I'll just respond with "how about the Loch Ness Monster then?"
Nailed you on that one.
The reason I believe 2012 was the year of the amphibian is because my theater company, Amphibian Stage Productions, was able to purchase and renovate its own theater space this year. The building is big and perfect and if you haven't driven by, I strongly recommend you go see it, or even better, purchase a ticket to a show there, or even better-better, come see a show and stick around and talk to us. Get to know us. The worst we'll do is bore you with our feelings toward David Mamet's career path. And I'm talking (typing) here not only to those Fort Worthians who don't know who we are (come on already), but also to any Dallasites who are afraid to venture out beyond their city limits. If you're reading this article you are likely someone who appreciates theater anyway, so you really have no excuse. We come see you guys aaaalllll the tiiiiiimmmmme.
Purchasing a building is huge for many reasons, some of them boring that I won't go into but some of them pretty exciting. I've created a little list here that I didn't number because when I see a list I'm always thinking "how many do I have to read here?" Well sorry but I won't give you the privilege. Here it goes:
Reason: We're able to produce a full season without the confines of a rental space's schedule, i.e. more freedom, creativity.
Reason: It's a black box theater, essentially meaning that the world of possibility in our productions is only limited by the depth of our imaginations. That'll be a litmus test to any new designers out there who want to work with us. You've been warned.
Reason: We now have a liquor license so if you're really nervous because your wife dragged you to "one of those costume things" you can at least have a beer to numb your anxiety.
Reason: It's ours and it feels like ours. Artistic Director Kathleen Culebro and architect Gregory Ibañez worked very closely together on every decision about the space, down to the smallest of details. Make sure you take note of the back-lit frog emblem on the front door, the quartz bar top and the partial wall-panels that reveal the inner-workings of the space. All of these were choices to add to the overall vibe of the place. You'd think Kathleen and Greg were living together and married by how much these two collaborated. Now what if I told you that they are married? That's commitment I'd say.
Reason: Fort Worth now has another professional theater that hires actors operating under the umbrella of the Actor's Equity Union. This means we're creating more jobs for local theater artists, often offering pension and health benefits, and paying better wages. One step closer to "Broadway West" as I like to call the theater scene in Fort Worth.
So when does this fancy space open you may ask? Well I'm sorry but you missed it. We already opened and closed our first show there. I directed it. Let me tell you this, it was one of the coolest theater openings in the world's history of theater openings. Why? We thought the theater was soooo cool, that we did our first show entirely in the dark. That's right. Sans lights. Who would do that you may ask? People who believe—that's who. Next time you go see a theater opening and they do a show with the lights on, just remember how passe that really is. You may laugh quietly to yourself about it. It'll be a special little secret between you and yourself. You can even wink to someone there─"Nice lights!"
We also moved our reading series from the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth to our new space. It had to happen. We'll still show our National Theatre Live broadcasts there. I like to think that we "outgrew" the Modern for the readings but their auditorium had something like 250 seats in it so I'll just say we "outshrank" it. In fact, last month I performed in our first reading at the new theater, The Ding-Dongs or What is the Penalty in Portugal? It's a play by a very talented, funny, and lovely actress and playwright named Brenda Withers. When we told her we'd like to do a reading of this play she was so committed to it happening that she came down here from New York to participate in it. You'd think she is dating someone from the company. And now what if I told you she is and that someone is me?
What can I say? We'll do anything for the theater.
◊ Jonathan Fielding was one of the original founders of Amphibian Stage Productions in the late 1990s, and remains a company member. This year, he also co-founded a theater company in Cape Cod, Harbor Stage Company. He lives in New York.
◊ Our end-of-year essay series is winding down. Look for two more, from director Michael Serrecchia and Bruce Wood Dance Project choreographer/dancer Joshua L. Peugh. So far, the essays in the series are from:
- Raphael Parry, artistic director of Shakespeare Dallas and Project X: Theatre
- Actress Amber Nicole Guest, who had a breakout year at Lyric Stage
- Jerry Russell, founder of Stage West
- Katie Puder of Avant Chamber Ballet
- Jonathan Pell, Artistic Director of The Dallas Opera
- Michael Federico, Shawn Magill and Seth Magill, creators of the musical On the Eve
- Playwright and dramaturg Vicki Caroline Cheatwood, whose play Ruth was produced at Kitchen Dog Theater this year
- Choreographer, dancer, director and Casa Mañana's Director of Education, Jeremy Dumont