In 2018, I caught up with plenty of shows on Dallas/Fort Worth stages for TheaterJones (as both a critic and feature writer)—but failed miserably to find a clever thread holding them all together.
Yet once I stopped straining for themes, I discovered that my takeaway emotion for 2018 was simple: a big fat feeling of contentment about the state of women in theater, both onstage and in the wings. For on my critical plate this year were so many diverse and vivid roles for women (and for actors who identify as “not men”) I almost lost count.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) likes to say that “toughness doesn’t have to come in a pinstripe suit.” And some of the characters I met this year, in new works and two classic Ibsens—one I’d never seen, the other a blunt and funny sequel to his most famous play—were as tough and tenacious as they come. Among the memorable performances:
Stormi Demerson as the blanket-warm, nurturing mother in Regina Taylor’s Bread at WaterTower Theatre—embracing arms and a spine of steel. A timeless, ancient character in a story about Dallas, right this minute.
Jessica Cavanagh’s piercing honesty as the desperate but enduring mom of an autistic son in her play Self Injurious Behavior on Theatre Three’s Theatre Too stage.
The dazzling firebrands of Imprint Theatreworks’ The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson—Marianne Galloway, Sky Williams, Jennifer Kuenzer, Dani Holway—proving again that well-behaved women (they weren’t) seldom make history.
The ten cisgender female, lesbian, non-binary, transgender actors of Jaclyn Backhaus’ spirit-boosting Men on Boats at Circle Theatre. Based on a true-life 1869 expedition through the Grand Canyon, even John Wayne might have thought twice about joining these dudes on their dangerous river journey. “How does our perception of history change,” asked TJ reviewer Jill Sweeney, “when the voices telling that story change?” A suspender-snap and a pinch of tobaccy to: Camille Monae, Octavia Y. Thomas, Jordan Desmarais, Ellen Eberhardt, Gazelle Garcia, Giovanna Grimaldi, Chris Herrero, Rachel MacKnight, Nicole Neely and Dana Schultes.
Joanna Schellenberg’s fascinating Ellida in the Undermain Theatre production of Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea—an intricate, honest intelligence rising up through layers of dreaminess and drift.
Shannon McGrann, gutsy, funny—and way more action-figure than “dollhouse” dweller—as the returning Nora in Lucas Hnath’s razor-sharp and inventive sequel to Ibsen, A Doll’s House, Part 2 at Stage West. (I didn’t see her in Hand to God at WaterTower Theatre.)
2018 YEAR IN REVIEW
Friday, December 28
- The Year in Comedy by Chief Comedy Critic Kevin Beane
- Danielle Georgiou's Sixth Position: A Year of Movement
Saturday, December 29
- The Year in Dance by Chief Dance Critic Cheryl Callon
- The Year in New Dance Works by Katie Dravenstott
- The Year in Dance by Emily Sese
Sunday, December 30
- The Year in Music and Opera by Chief Music and Opera Critic Gregory Sullivan Isaacs
- The Year in Music and Opera by J. Robin Coffelt
- The Year in Music and Opera by Wayne Lee Gay
Monday, December 31
- The Year in Performing Arts Books by Cathy Ritchie
- The Year in Classical Music Recordings by Andrew Anderson
Tuesday, January 1
Wednesday, January 2
- The Year in Theater by Martha Heimberg
- The Year in Theater by Jan Farrington
- The Year in Theater by Janice L. Franklin
- The Year in Theater by Frank Garrett
- The Year in Theater by Jill Sweeney
- The Year in Latinx Theater by Teresa Marrero
Thursday, January 3
- The Year in Performing Arts News by Mark Lowry
- The Year in Theater by Mark Lowry
- A challenge for our readers
Friday, January 4
- Looking ahead to 2019