Although this year-end column is about the North Texas theater scene, I’m going to start by making it about me. 2013 will be known as the first year in which I successfully kept a New Year’s resolution. Sadly, it wasn’t the ones to exercise more or try yoga. (But in 2014, it’s on!)
It was to see at least 200 theater and arts performances in the calendar year. As of Dec. 16, when I caught Cara Mía Theatre Company’s production of Romeo and Julieta, I hit that goal. I saw four after that, so hello 204! In the previous few years, I had only made it to about 175 each year. But in 2013, I would no longer slack.
That averages out to almost four a week, although mind you, it wasn’t that simple. Some weeks it was gangbusters, with six or seven events a week—we are a major Metropolitan area, after all, and I do run a website that covers performing arts, plus I still write for the Star-Telegram—and other weeks/weekends were all about doing nada, except catching up on DVR’d TV, reading and sleep. About 85 percent of it was theater, with the rest mixed between dance, opera and other happenings. Then there was that one Saturday, February 9, in which I seized on an opportunity to catch four performances in one day—across three disciplines (opera, theater and dance) and two cities, Dallas and Fort Worth. That schedule:
- 11 a.m. Bon Appétit, a comic one-act opera about Julia Child, presented by Dallas Opera at the Dallas Farmer’s Market Demonstration Kitchen (40 minutes)
- 3 p.m. God of Carnage at Circle Theatre, Fort Worth (80 minutes)
- 5 p.m. Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale at Casa Mañana Children’s Theatre in Fort Worth (90 minutes)
- 8 p.m. Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, presented by TITAS at the Winspear Opera House, Dallas
Nailed it—and without any speeding tickets (not that day, at least).
The point of this resolution was to prove to myself, and to others by writing about it at some point, that Dallas/Fort Worth’s performance scene is not only huge—something you’d expect from an area with such a large population—but it’s constantly growing and strenghtening. Only a few times did it ever seem like "work." As Theatre Three’s Jac Alder wrote in his first “Bit by Bit” column for TheaterJones a few months ago, “Dallas and Fort Worth are in a golden dramatic arts period arts right now with astonishing people who are trained, experienced, and dying to do it right.”
More importantly, they’re working together to make everyone stronger. That idea of collaboration, which has been the dominant theme of the performing arts community in the past few years, continued in 2013. A few examples:
- Eight local Latino theater companies—several of them that produce only in Spanish—formed an alliance called TANTO, meeting monthly to share ideas and resources.
- Uptown Players and Turtle Creek Chorale began a relationship of a concert staging of a musical, with Ragtime. That continues in 2014 with Sweeney Todd.
- WaterTower Theatre successfully imported Stage West’s 2012 production of Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins (same director, actors), to its Studio Theatre in 2013; and likewise, Stage West is getting Theatre Three’s production of Avenue Q in January (same puppets and everything).
- TITAS, Dallas Theater Center, Dallas Opera, Dallas Symphony, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, SMU and Bruce Wood Dance Project were a few groups that came together for the second A Gathering, a benefit for local HIV/AIDS organizations in October.
- Late in the year, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings announced DPASS, a new way to get a subscription to events presented by seven arts organizations: Dallas Theater Center, Dallas Opera, Dallas Symphony, TITAS, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Dallas Summer Musicals and AT&T Performing Arts Center.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Theater Center, under the leadership of Kevin Moriarty, continued opening its doors to local artists, balancing that with talent from the national pool. It kicked off a Playwrights Workshop, led by its Playwright-in-Residence Will Power (in 2014, we’ll find out who the next Playwright-in-Residence will be, overlapping with Power in a three-year appointment). Also at DTC, Lee Trull was named the theater’s first Director of New Play Development. And it continues to collaborate with nationally known organizations, notably with the musical Fly by Night, which will next move to Playwrights Horizons; in 2014, it has another co-production with the Public Theatre, The Fortress of Solitude.
Dallas Theater Center also spearheaded the most significant event in the theater scene this year, one that continues the path toward greater national recognition: The Theatre Communications Group Conference, which brought more than 700 theater professionals from all over the country to Dallas. I missed it because it coincided with the Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, where I was part of a four-person team covering that event for two solid weeks—I’m so proud of our coverage of that (go here for links to all of the reviews, which also link to profiles and other stories).
TCG wasn’t the only national arts conference in our city. The American Society for Theatre Research met here in November. And speaking of research, Southern Methodist University launched its website for the newly formed National Center for Arts Research, which provides data across a variety of metrics, with the goal of transforming arts and culture. We’re keeping an eye on that progress.
On a smaller scale, several performers and writers helped grow our city’s reputation by taking their work elsewhere. Eric Steele and Second Thought Theatre debuted their Midwest Trilogy at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, including the film version of Bob Birdnow’s Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self, which was seen as a stage show here the year before. Local solo performer Brad McEntire of Audacity Theatre Lab did the national festival circuit (nothing new for him); Justin Locklear and Danielle Georgiou took their Pizzicato Porno to the Rogue Fringe Festival in Fresno, Calif.; and John Michael brought his John Michael and the Order of the Penix to the New Orleans Fringe Festival. To top if off, Elaine Liner—a theater critic, for chrissakes—wrote and starred in a one-woman show, Sweater Curse: A Yarn About Love, and took it to the biggest theater event in the world: Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In a ballsy move for a critic, she later performed it locally. It was gutsy, heartfelt and funny.
Some mid-size organizations had a standout year artistically, notably Kitchen Dog Theater, Theatre Three and Circle Theatre, which had their best years in awhile. A number of new groups popped up, too, such as Theatre New West, Davis Street Collective, 3 Cords Theatre, PlaySite Theatre, The End Theatre Productions and Tarrant Actors Regional Theater—here’s hoping they stick around.
In a sign that groups like these can have a chance at growing when space and money is often a prohibiting factor, the historic Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park’s Magnolia Lounge kicked back up under new leadership from Matt Tomlanovich. Just like regional theater pioneer Margo Jones would have wanted, it has become an incubator for development and risk-taking. Just in the past two months, when it really got going after the State Fair closed, I’ve seen work from six different companies, including the comeback production for Soul Rep Theatre Company.
I’d be remiss in not mentioning the biggest loss to the theater community this year: Jerry Russell, founder of Stage West and longtime director, actor and advocate. He died in early September after a few weeks in the hospital, stemming from abdominal surgery. He had several projects on his plate when he was admitted; for one, it was the third week of rehearsals for Thank You, Jeeves, which he directed. He left us with a final, brilliant performance in April as Clarence Darrow—a role he had played twice before—in Stage West’s new Studio Theatre.
To paraphrase from one of his signature roles, the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, I imagine he’s now part of those stars above us, “doing their old, old crisscross journeys in the sky.”
And now, to my favorite productions of the year. I always debate how big a list to do, because I could easily make a top 40. But you have to draw the line somewhere. How about a Top 15, with some honorable mentions and other designations?
1. The Chairs
Kitchen Dog Theater | Written by Eugène Ionesco | Directed by Tim Johnson | February
Notice that my Top 5 this year has four classics, which not only recalls the adage “they don’t make ’em like the used to,” but reminds that they can be enlivened by directors with the guts to put their own stamp on it while staying faithful to the work. Nothing exhibited that better than Johnson’s staging of this absurdist masterpiece, featuring a brilliant set by Scott Osbourne and unforgettable performances from Raphael Parry and Rhonda Boutté as a couple—here conceived as tragicomic clowns—waiting for something. By play’s end, with a pile of unclaimed chairs gathered, they take the ultimate plunge. In a year when apocalypse was a big theme in film and TV, nothing felt as simultaneously scary and hopeful about an uncertain future.
2. The Taming of the Shrew
Trinity Shakespeare Festival | Written by William Shakespeare | Directed by T.J. Walsh | June
Here’s the first entry on this list for this popular but problematic Shakespeare comedy. Trinity Shakespeare Festival has been tops for the Bard in this area since it debuted in 2009, as Artistic Director Walsh demonstrated in a beautifully acted production and a genius addition that turned the final scene—often derided as misogynistic—on its head. The text wasn’t changed, but with having Petrucchio perform an extremely romantic and wordless gesture for Kate as other performers sang, it provided the flip that this play has been clamoring for.
3. A Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park
Dallas Theater Center | Written by Lorraine Hansberry and Bruce Norris | Directed by Tre Garrett and Joel Ferrell | September
I hate to include two productions in one slot, but in this case, it’s mandatory. It was a terrific idea to program Hansberry’s masterpiece with Norris’ contemporary response to it as repertory productions. DTC wasn’t the first theater to do this, and won’t be the last, but it’s hard to imagine it being done as successfully as the capabilities of the Wyly Theatre allow. For me, the single lasting theatrical image of the year is the end of Raisin (directed by Garrett). Usually, Lena (Liz Mikel) heads out the door of the Youngers’ Chicago apartment with her potted plant, giving one last look back. But this time, she looks forward, holding onto that plant while in the background, the magic of theater exposes the new house in Clybourne Park (directed by Ferrell), where her dreams will discontinue being deferred.
4. Fly by Night
Dallas Theater Center | By Will Connolly, Michael Mitnick and Kim Rosenstock | Directed by Bill Fennelly | April
The first of DTC’s two new “Fly” musicals this year, and the most successful. (I do hope the other, Fly, which had many terrific moments, has a future life.) In Fly by Night, we got a not-so-simple boy-meets-girl story told in a simple, unconventional format, relayed by the narrator that we all kind of imagine is in the soundtrack of our lives. Luck, fate and destiny play out against the backdrop of an infamous New York City blackout. Can’t wait to hear how it goes in its next venture, at Playwrights Horizons in New York this spring.
5. The Taming of the Shrew
Stage West | Written by William Shakespeare | Directed by Jim Covault | February
Another genius way to handle Shakespeare’s problematic ending, this time by including the prologue and setting it up as a play-within-a-play, with five actors playing all the parts as if they’re a bunch of theater-loving friends who decide to act out some of the greatest words in the English language. Even when a single role was played by multiple actors (no spreadsheet-casting here), it was always clear. Kudos to the cast for going all in with this gambit.
6. The Dreamers: A Bloodline
Cara Mía Theatre Company | Created by the Company | Directed by David Lozano | June
The first full production we’ve seen from the first round of grants from the TACA Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund, given out in 2012. The Cara Mía Theatre Company created the work based on years of interviews with immigrants from Latin America, and the end product, about Salvadorans trying to make it to America and encountering many dangers, was harrowing and breathtakingly told. It wasn’t conventional by any means, nor was it easy to watch, but it proved what can happen when writers and theater-makers are given some money and time to create. That includes the luxury to be daring, even if that means failing—which didn’t happen in this case. In the next few years, we’ll hear more about the second part of this trilogy, which will be produced in collaboration with the Dallas Theater Center.
Dead White Zombies | Written and Directed by Thomas Riccio | June
The Zombies started making themselves known in 2012, with immersive theater productions in alternative spaces. Nothing they’ve done was as successful as this summer’s T.N.B., about a young black man living with his single mother in a downtrodden neighborhood. It was performed in an actual former “drug stash” (crack) house in the fast-gentrifying Trinity Groves area of West Dallas, with the audience following the actors through the different rooms, and eventually in the front yard and down the street, like a funeral processional. Ghosts of the man’s past—his own and of his African and American heritage—haunted at every turn. It was gritty, messy and authentically spooky. Not perfect, but brash and brave. With this show and its follow up, November's bull game (winner loses action heroes), DWZ gained a following of theatergoers I haven't seen at any other theater in town. They're young and they want something new and different. T.N.B. was definitely that.
Undermain Theatre | Written by Enda Walsh | Directed by Stan Wojewodski, Jr. | January
Enda Walsh’s modern day look at the suitors of Odysseus’ wife was the perfect vehicle to inspire Undermain Theatre to poke around outside of its column-filled basement space. This one happened completely on the stage of Dallas City Performance Hall (audience included). Grilling at the bottom of an empty swimming pool, four louts engaged in oneupmanship in a pointless endeavor, asking big questions about the meaning of it all. Great ensemble, and one of the year’s best monologues as performed by R Bruce Elliot.
9. Gruesome Playground Injuries
Second Thought Theatre | Written by Rajiv Joseph | Directed by Joel Ferrell | June
It was the second local production of this early Rajiv Joseph play in 2013, and the concept in Ferrell’s production of this play about childhood friends who go through years of physical and emotional scars together was so good that it impressed the playwright himself, who was in town working on his musical Fly at Dallas Theater Center.
10. Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Theatre Three | Written by Rajiv Joseph | Directed by Jeffrey Schmidt | January
Another harrowing work from Joseph, about the ghosts of war that never go away, set during the recent Iraq war. Given a haunting production by Theatre Three, with Cliff Stephens in the title role, bringing humanity and grace to the character of a trapped beast who gives into his nature and spends the play philosophizing about it.
11. The Sound of Music
Lyric Stage | Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse | Directed by Cheryl Denson | September
People are still arguing about the Carrie Underwood live TV production of this popular title, but if you saw this Lyric staging, you know why some of us don’t much care that Carrie brought millions of viewers to musical theater—it doesn’t much matter when the star doesn’t have anything close to the acting chops for a role like this. Why champion mediocrity? In Lyric’s full-orchestra staging, Bri Sudia gave Maria one of the quirkiest spins I’ve seen for this role, and it worked. More gawky and tomboyish than other portrayals, she also had a heavenly voice. The rest of the cast was terrific, not to mention Lyric’s full orchestra and music director Jay Dias’ gift for rediscovering original orchestrations. These are a few of my favorite things.
12. Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Circle Theatre | Written by Lauren Gunderson | Directed by Krista Scott | August
Inspired by Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction, Lauren Gunderson took cues from The Winter’s Tale for her modern comedy about an abusive man whose girlfriend takes revenge and invites some friends over for the party. Filled with belly-laughs, twists and stage directions displayed on the stage, it was the year’s funniest show.
13. Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat
Dallas Children’s Theater | Created by Royal National Theatre from the book by Dr. Seuss | Directed by Nancy Schaeffer | September
I generally prefer some creative license when adapting a work from books or film for the stage, but this adaptation is exactly what you wanted from one of the world’s most famous children’s books. Perfect replication in costumes, set and the text, without losing a bit of the joy. Dr. Seuss’ rhymes leapt directly from the page to the stage.
14. Romeo and Julieta
Cara Mía Theatre Company | Written by William Shakespeare | Directed by David Lozano | December
Another score for Cara Mía. It was condensed, but the important plot points and the Bard’s poetry were in tact, with a contemporary twist accented by the company’s love for physical theater and non-traditional storytelling.
15. Daffodil Girls, Based on David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross
Fun House Theatre and Film | Written and Directed by Jeff Swearingen | May
How the hell did Jeff Swearingen take Mamet’s testosterone-fueled masterwork about competitive men in commercial real estate and transplant it to the world of back-biting girls in a scouting organization, all vying for the best spot to sell the most cookies? He cast age-appropriate girls in one of the sharpest commentaries of the year. Still need proof? It will be remounted this year at the Margo Jones Theatre.
The next ten best, in alphabetical order:
- A Bright New Boise, Circle Theatre
- Death Tax, Amphibian Stage Productions
- Detroit, Kitchen Dog Theater
- Happy Days, WingSpan Theatre Company
- Jailbait, Dallas Actor’s Lab
- The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Uptown Players
- Other Desert Cities, Theatre Three
- Slavs!: Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness, Southern Methodist University
- Songs for a New World, Uptown Players
- The Woman in Black, Tarrant Actors Regional Theater
Best national tours
The AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Lexus Broadway Series blew the other touring presenters out of the water this year, with nothing particularly memorable from Dallas Summer Musicals. Although I didn’t see much at Bass Performance Hall, it was mostly shows that had been in Dallas the year before. So the list for national tours is all ATTPAC this year.
- Peter and the Starcatcher (September)
- Traces (June)
- The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (December)
- Anything Goes (February)
- The Book of Mormon (August)
Best small tours in other locations
- Underneath the Lintel, Patrick O’Brien at WaterTower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival
- Boats, Australia's Terrapin Puppet Theatre at Dallas Children’s Theater
- Life in a Marital Institution, James Braly, presented by Performing Arts Fort Worth at McDavid Studio
- Blame It On Valentine, TX, Jaston Williams at the Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts
- Suburban Tribe, Kate Mura of Portland, Oregon’s Fuse Ensemble, presented by Audacity Theatre Lab at the Margo Jones Theatre
WRITING AND DIRECTING
Best new works by local writers:
- The Dreamers: A Bloodline by the Cara Mía company, performed by Cara Mía Theatre Company
- Daffodil Girls Based on David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross by Jeff Swearingen at Fun House Theatre and Film
- One.Man: Show by Tim Johnson at Kitchen Dog Theater
- Dreams of Slaughtered Sheep by Matthew Posey at Ochre House
- Division Avenue by Miki Bone at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas
Best adaptation by a local writer: A Christmas Carol, adapted by Kevin Moriarty at Dallas Theater Center
Director of the Year: Tim Johnson, The Chairs and Detroit, both at Kitchen Dog Theater
- Runner-up: Tre Garrett: A Raisin in the Sun, Dallas Theater Center; Knock Me a Kiss, Jubilee Theatre; The Seven, Southern Methodist University
Actress of the year: Tina Parker, RX and Detroit, Kitchen Dog Theater
- Runner-up: Lydia Mackay, Fiction, Amphibian Stage Productions and Other Desert Cities, Theatre Three
Actor of the Year: Jerry Russell, Clarence Darrow, Stage West
- Runner-up: Jason Leyva, Playing with Fire (After Frankenstein), 3 Cords Theatre
Best actor/musician: Sonny Franks, who enlivened The Grapes of Wrath and Hank Williams: Lost Highway, both at WaterTower Theatre, and A Christmas Carol at Dallas Theater Center, with his banjo, mandolin and guitar skills. If you need a great character actor and some onstage bluegrass, folk or traditional music for your production, hire this guy.
More Great Performances:
- Rhonda Boutté: The Chairs, Kitchen Dog Theater
- Christopher Carl: The Sound of Music, Lyric Stage
- David Coffee: Fly by Night, Dallas Theater Center
- Bradley Dean: Fly, Dallas Theater Center
- Stormi Demerson: Death Tax, Amphibian Stage Productions
- Stephanie Dunnam: Happy Days, WingSpan Theatre Company
- R Bruce Elliot: Penelope, Undermain Theatre
- Joey Folsom: Hank Williams: Lost Highway, WaterTower Theatre and The Aliens, Upstart Productions
- Marianne Galloway: Children of a Lesser God and Division Avenue, both at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas
- Chuck Huber: The Taming of the Shrew, Trinity Shakespeare Festival
- David Jeremiah: T.N.B., Dead White Zombies
- Linda Leonard: Nine, Lyric Stage
- Cindee Mayfield: The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, Theatre Arlington and Other Desert Cities, Theatre Three
- Liz Mikel: A Raisin in the Sun, Dallas Theater Center and Black Pearl Sings!, Jubilee Theatre
- Raphael Parry: The Chairs, Kitchen Dog Theater
- Jessica Renee Russell: Gruesome Playground Injuries, Second Thought Theatre
- Mark Shum: Thank You, Jeeves, Stage West
- Cliff Stephens: Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, Theatre Three
- Bri Sudia: The Sound of Music, Lyric Stage
- Montgomery Sutton: A Bright New Boise, Circle Theatre; and Gruesome Playground Injuries, Second Thought Theatre
- Steven Young: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, Amphibian Stage Productions
Ensemble of the Year: The Taming of the Shrew, Stage West
- Runner-up: Songs for a New World, Uptown Players
More Great Ensembles:
- Edges, PFamily Arts
- God of Carnage, Circle Theatre
- Other Desert Cities, Theatre Three
- Penelope, Undermain Theatre
- A Raisin in the Sun/Clybourne Park, Dallas Theater Center
- The Sound of Music, Lyric Stage
- The Taming of the Shrew, Trinity Shakespeare Festival
Best Debut Production: The Woman in Black, Tarrant Actors Regional Theater
- Runner-up: Playing with Fire (After Frankenstein), 3 Cords Theatre, in association with L.I.P. Service
Best scenic concept: Bob Lavallee, Red, Dallas Theater Center, for turning a ninth-floor workshop in the Wyly Theatre into Mark Rothko’s studio, with the audience playing voyeur in a private artistic haven.
- Runner up: Dane Laffrey, Fly by Night, Dallas Theater Center at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, for creating a slightly surreal world for a show that happens in the uncertain time-space of memory, including its own recording studio-like window for the band.
Best directorial concept for a musical we’ve seen many times before: Len Pfluger, Nine, Lyric Stage, with the idea to hire all women for the 34-member, onstage orchestra to accent the show’s concept of Guido Contini surrounded by women. Sounded great in Dallas City Performance Hall, too.
- Runner-up: Coy Covington’s use of eight performers (instead of the usual four), video projections and twists on well-known theater songs in Songs for a New World at Uptown Players
Best puppets: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Musical, Wishing Star Productions
- Runners-up: Alice in Wonderland, Hip Pocket Theatre; Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, Dallas Children’s Theater; Enron, Theatre Three
Best Holiday Show: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Musical, Wishing Star Productions
- Runner-up: A Christmas Carol, Dallas Theater Center
Best sound design: Allen West, The Woman in Black, Tarrant Actors Regional Theater
- Runner-up: John Flores, The Chairs, Kitchen Dog Theater
Best choreography: Ann Neiman, The Music Man, Lyric Stage
- Runner-up: James Chandler, Megan Kelly Bates and Katelyn Harris, The Sound of Fannie, Fun House Theatre and Film
Best props: Cosmo Jones, The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), Amphibian Stage Productions
- Runner-up: H. Bart McGeehon, Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat, Dallas Children's Theater
Best costumes: Ryan Matthieu Smith, The Lucky Chance; or, an Alderman’s Bargain, Echo Theatre
- Runner-up: Lyle Huchton, Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, Dallas Children’s Theater
Best new development on the theater scene: Matt Tomlanovich takes over management of the Margo Jones Theatre
- Runner-up: Lee Trull promoted to Director of New Play Development at Dallas Theater Center
Best albums with local theater connections
- Diana Sheehan, Nobody’s Hart: Diana Sheehan Sings the Lyrics of Lorenz Hart (buy it here)
- Home by Hovercraft, Are We Chameleons? It’s a rock album, but many of these songs were in the 2012 premiere of the musical On the Eve, (no. 2 on my 2012 year-end list). It also happens to be getting a bigger production and longer run at Theatre Three in January (buy it here)
- Giant, original cast recording from the Public Theatre, a co-production with Dallas Theater Center (buy it here)
- Denise Lee, Divas of American Music, Volume 1 (buy it here)
- DFW Actors Give Back, Holidazzle: Encore! (buy it here)
Best non-theater performing arts events in DFW
- Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, the event that gives DFW the most international arts attention, every four years. This year's event happend months after the death of Van Cliburn, but that didn't make it a somber occasion. It was accented by terrific hosting from Jade Simmons. And of course, the most talented young pianists in the world.
- The Dallas Opera's opening night simulcast of Carmen at Klyde Warren Park. It was free, had more than 3,000 spectators on the lawn. Exactly the kind of initiative that big-budget arts groups should do more of.
- A Gathering, a collaboration between many local arts organizations, at Winspear Opera House in October
Favorite shows I saw that weren’t in Texas (I saw a handful in Oklahoma, and five during the American Theatre Critics Association conference in West Virginia—I have to get out more)
- Passing Strange, Pollard Theatre Company in Guthrie, Oklahoma
- H2O by Jane Martin, Contemporary American Theater Festival, Shepherdstown, West Virginia
- King John, a collaboration between Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park and Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma City
Young theater artists to watch in 2014 and beyond:
- Alia Tavakolian, who helped produce the most unique piece of theater I saw this year, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, a one-weekend show from SMU-affiliated artists at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary (here’s my review) that was purposefully not rehearsed, with a different lead actor at each performance. She also started Davis Street Collective, which debuted with a well-received production of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis.
- Fort Worth playwright Jordan Cooper, who wrote a one-man show for Major Attaway, called Masked, that shows promise for future development. He also helped put together the Christmas musical Jubilation at Jubilee Theatre (I didn’t see that one).
- Jeff Colangelo, an SMU grad, actor and fight director who created the 30-minute wordless performance piece playtime, seen at the Margo Jones Theatre in November. He was also in Cara Mía’s Romeo and Julieta.
Wish-list for in 2014:
- More regional collaboration and festival-sharing. WaterTower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival continues doing its part, but it would be nice to see more collaboration between artists in cities in this region of the country: DFW, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, New Orleans, Little Rock, etc. Yes, I realize there’s a distance and travel/cost issues—it’s not like the cities in the Northeast, where train travel is easy-peasy—but if someone could get financially behind a larger, regional performing arts festival, happening here, that’d be swell.
- In that same vein, there is one solo festival planned this year: The Dallas Solo Performance Festival, produced by Brad McEntire’s Audacity Theatre Lab at the Margo Jones Theatre. Hoping for success. Solo shows are easier to travel.
- That the folks at the Margo Jones Theatre figure out how to get more butts in seats. What’s happening there is important, we just need more people to understand that.
- Will Power has made his presence known in Dallas for the past few years, with his connections at SMU and Dallas Theater Center. Will we finally see his Stagger Lee, for which he and DTC won a TACA Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund grant in 2012, and has been workshopped at DTC? It’s time. Not to mention, the works given the second round of grants will be seen before Power’s will.
- That I’ll have the strength to make even more performances—let’s set the bar at 225—in 2014, with the plan to write about them with more frequency (anyone have extra money lying around for full-time salaries for TheaterJones staff?). Even with making it over the 200 mark this year, there were too many shows I regrettably missed, such as Fences at African American Repertory Theater, Se Llama Cristina at Kitchen Dog Theater, Wit at Theatre Arlington and In a Forest, Dark and Deep at Second Thought Theatre. Just to name a few.
- That you will follow my lead and set a goal for yourself of seeing more arts happenings this year. Granted, I have a major advantage in that I’m comped, but there are ways to find discounts and last-minute deals, and plenty of pay-what-you-can performances. Buy a season ticket to some of the mid-size or small organizations. Those are great investments, and they’re affordable. I also challenge you to see something from an organization you haven’t patronized before, and to venture across city and county borders for more discoveries. Think of this when making your New Year’s resolutions. Like exercise and eating better, partaking of the arts is great for the mind and soul. I’m not aware of any scientific studies on excessive theater-going, but it’s bound to contribute to a longer, more fulfilling life.
» You can also view the Top 15 as a slideshow by clicking on the slideshow icon at the bottom left of your screen
The 2013 Year in Review series: