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The Wyly Theatre, looking from the reflecting pond at AT&T Performing Arts Center

Why the Elevator Project is a Game Changer

The AT&T Performing Arts Center has invited six small-budget companies to use spaces in the Wyly Theatre. How it happened, and what it means for the city's arts.



published Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Photo: Tim Hursley
The lobby of the Wyly Theatre

Dallas- In the past six or seven years, the growth in the city's performing arts scenein terms of quantity and, more importantly, quality and the sense of a collaborative communityhas been documented on this website and proven on stages throughout North Texas. But Monday's announcement of the new "Elevator Project" at the AT&T Performing Arts Center will go down as a watershed moment.

In this series, starting in three weeks, six small-budget arts companies will perform one show from their respective seasons in the Wyly Theatre's Studio Theatre on the sixth floor and another space on the ninth.

The companies are Upstart Productions, Danielle Georgiou Dance Group (DGDG), Dallas Actor's Lab, Second Thought TheatreCara Mía Theatre Co. and African American Repertory Theater, each producing a multiple-week run throughout the 2014-15 season. Subscriptions are available for a six-show sampler package for $100. (Details are at the bottom of this story.)

"I don't want to understate the significance of the Elevator Series," says David Lozano, artistic director of Cara Mía. "The AT&T Performing Arts Center has taken a major step in providing access to one of the highest profile and premier theater spaces in Dallas in the heart of the Arts District. In my opinion, this uplifts the diversity of our city's arts community unlike anyone else has done. It puts a focus on smaller groups and culturally specific groups like Cara Mía and AART. Groups like ours struggle for recognition with critics, general market arts patrons and arts funders but with a presence at the Wyly, a great many more people in the city of Dallas and in the region of North Texas will know who we are."

Photo: Justin Locklear
Danielle Georgiou

If you've been keeping up, you know there have been vocal concerns from the leaders of smaller and mid-size companies that would never be able to afford to rent the venues at ATTPAC or the newer city-run Dallas City Performance Hall. And for that matter, a venue with 750 seats is not necessary for their missions or performance styles.

Thus, the Elevator Project is a most welcome surprise.

"Under different circumstances, an opportunity to perform in the Arts District would be just a dream to myself and DGDG," says Danielle Georgiou. "But with the Elevator Project, we are able to see this dream come true because of the support of the AT&T Performing Arts Center and the Dallas Theater Center. They are opening their doors to us, providing the most amazing opportunity, and guidance into a big ticket world."

Georgiou, who runs the only dance company on this roster and is a vital part of the city's (finally!) growing dance scene, will present her company's latest performance art/multimedia show NICE in November. Upstart Productions kicks off the series on Aug. 22 with Eric Dufault's play Year of the Rooster. Second Thought will do Bull by Mark Bartlett (who also wrote Cock, which STT produced in January); Caria Mía will stage Octavio Solis' Lydia; and AART will close the series with the area premiere of August Wilson's final Century Cycle play Radio Golf. Dallas Actor's Lab hasn't announced a title yet.

The main reason this series is possible is because the Wyly's biggest resident, Dallas Theater Center, is producing half of its 2014-15 season at the Kalita Humphreys Theater. And although DTC hasn't used the Studio Theatre much for public performance—they've done three productions there in five years: the three works of Neil LaBute's Beauty Plays cycle, Tigers Be Still and this year's Oedipus el Rey; and they used the ninth floor space for Red in 2013—these spaces are often filled with educational programs like Project Discovery, rehearsals or other purposes.

So, with that in mind, there's no guarantee that the Elevator Project will return in 2015-16. It all depends on DTC's season and how much of it will be in the Wyly. It's certainly the hope, though.

"It’s not very often that we have space available in our venues; between the resident companies, the Broadway series and TITAS, space does not open up that often, which is a good problem to have," says Chris Heinbaugh, ATTPAC's Vice President of External Affairs. "But this space did open up because DTC decided to do some of their season at Kalita."

Heinbaugh says DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty has been very accommodating to free up these spaces, and he will likely continue to do that.

It's also important to note that in 2014-15, Nicole Stewart's storytelling series Oral Fixation and Shakespeare Dallas' Complete Works reading series will move to the Wyly's Studio Theatre because they've outgrown Hamon Hall in the Winspear Opera House.

The Elevator Project will give these smaller groups more and new visibility, but Heinbaugh hopes that it will also help the Dallas City Council and policy makers notice in a bigger-picture way.

Photo: Courtesy
David Lozano

When planning began for City Performance Hall, several leaders of mid-size and small arts organizations, including Jac Alder of Theatre Three, lobbied for black box spaces in the facility. That's still the plan for the much-talked-about Phase 2, which would add black boxes on the west side of CPH, between it and the Wyly.

But you'll have to wait a while for that to happen.

"Phase 2 is not on anybody’s radar at City Hall," Heinbaugh says. "For us, there was a need to demonstrate that there’s a need for black box space. Part of what we try to do is generate activity with all things going on [in the Arts District]. Part of our mission is to foster creativity through the performing arts."

Phase 2, he says, probably won't appear on a bond package until 2016 or 2017, and that's being optimistic. If it's approved, there'll be several more years of planning and building. We'll be lucky to see Phase 2 happen before 2020.

Still, this move will go a long way toward ATTPAC gaining the trust of the smaller arts organizations.

"I don’t think they see us as the big bad ogre anymore," Heinbaugh says. "I think there was a fear that the Center was going to gobble all these venues up, but we’ve been very collaborative. We’ve been proactive in getting the city’s arts funding increased, not just for us but the overall arts budget, because it's beneficial to everyone. [Smaller groups] see us as a collaborative partner now."

As for selecting the organizations for the Elevator Project, Heinbaugh says they honed in on groups that have had a consistent level of quality. "It was focused on groups that don’t necessarily have a huge name but have made a name for themselves," he says.

As one of the beneficiaries of this project, AART co-founder and Executive Managing Director Regina Washington is thrilled.

"The six companies involved in the Elevator Project are examples of the primarily undiscovered high-quality and affordable theater available in Dallas," she says. "Dallas continues to develop as a world-class city attracting visitors from all walks of life, from all regions across the globe. This wonderful collaboration with the wide-reaching AT&T Performing Arts Center will benefit the Dallas arts scene as a whole by providing additional avenues for citizens and visitors to be exposed to the performing arts. Everybody wins with the Elevator Project."

Each of these groups will still use the spaces they have been using, such as the Bath House Cultural Center or Margo Jones Theatre, for the rest of their seasons. Cara Mía, which has been a resident at the Latino Cultural Center, will continue to produce there and will also have a show in a warehouse in Trinity Groves. AART will use the K.D. Studio Theatre, where it moved last season after five years at the Corner Theater in DeSoto. Second Thought will remain in Bryant Hall on the Kalita campus.

For all involved, having the opportunity to use the Dallas Arts District will likely pay off. They've each negotiated a deal for the rent with ATTPAC, but it's obviously affordable. Tickets for these shows will be sold on the new site TicketDFW.com, which is powered by ATTPAC. The hope is to get these and other groups using that ticketing service, Heinbaugh says.

The Elevator Series follows some other groundbreaking (for Dallas) moves from ATTPAC, including the recent announcement of an off-Broadway series. But it feels like an even bigger milestone, similar to TACA's Donna Wilhelm New Works Fund grants, that will go down as an important moment in the growth of the city's arts scene. After all, all arts organizations—from the multi-million dollar ones to the half-a-million to the $10,000 onesare vital spokes on the same wheel that makes the Dallas arts scene move.

"This is uncharted territory for both parties, but it is exactly what we should be doing in Dallas," Georgiou says. "We are primed as an arts community to expand and promote original work from local companies. The Elevator Project is the perfect incubator for this experiment. I hope that it will bring awareness to the Dallas arts community at large and will bring audiences from the local scene to the Arts District, creating a cohesion among the groups. I can't wait to see what happens. We're all buzzing with excitement! This truly is the most inventive and invigorating project I've seen happen in our city in quite a while. Only good things can come from it and I'm honored to be a part of the ride."

David Denson, the Senior Rental Sales Manager at ATTPAC who helped spearhead this project, and who's also artistic director of Upstart Productions, agrees.

"As for the future of Dallas Arts, I think anything that encourages collaboration among local groups is good for Dallas," he says. "One of the best things to come out of this project so far is the opportunity we've been given to spend time with the other groups in the series and I am very optimistic that those relationships will result in more exciting work. The potential for this project to create a cross-pollination of both artists and audiences cannot be understated. The subscription package is very affordable (six shows for $100) and is a great opportunity for folks to discover something new—or at least, new to them—and for each of the participating organizations to grow and diversify their audience base."

Individual tickets for each production will be available beginning Friday, August 1 at 10 a.m.   All six productions can also be purchased as a six-show sampler package, priced at $100. Subscribers will receive a discounted ticket price and a discounted parking option. Tickets will be available online at www.TicketDFW.com, by telephone at 214-871-5000 or in person at the AT&T Performing Arts Center Information Center at 2353 Flora Street (Monday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.).

 

The Elevator Project series is:

 

Upstart Productions

Year of the Rooster by Eric Dufault (15 performances)

Gil Pepper has been stepped on by everyone around him.  Abused by his ailing mother, emasculated by his McDonald’s co-workers and taunted by his wealthy rivals…but he’s finally got an ace in the hole – Odysseus Rex – a rooster he’s been training since birth to be a fearsome killing machine. Now, for the first time in Gil’s life, he’s experiencing things he’s never had – hope, victory, and revenge. Contains strong language.

Performance Schedule:

Friday, August 22, 2014; 8 p.m.

Saturday, August 23, 2014; 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.

Sunday, August 24, 2014; 3 p.m.

Monday, August 25, 2014; 8 p.m.

Thursday, August 28, 2014; 8 p.m.

Friday, August 29, 2014; 8 p.m.

Saturday, August 30, 2014; 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.

Sunday, August 31, 2014; 3 p.m.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014; 8 p.m.

Thursday, September 4, 2014; 8 p.m.

Friday, September 5, 2014; 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, September 6, 2014; 2 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.

 

DGDG: The Danielle Georgiou Dance Group

NICE (nine performances) 

Physicalizing the boundaries and testing the consequences of social mores, NICE is the fall premiere from Dallas-based dance theatre company DGDG: the Danielle Georgiou Dance Group.  Building on a body of meta-theatrical work dealing with femininity and pop culture, DGDG launches into this new production that experiments with the social expectation of being “nice.” Through highly aggressive and emotive dance, NICE breaks down the dangerous art of hiding our true feelings and motives.  Taking liberties with the audience/performer relationship, and demonstrating the real risks of performance, DGDG will entertain the NICE out of you. 

Performance Schedule:

Thursday, November 13 – Saturday, November 22, 2014; 8 p.m.

Sunday, November 16 & Sunday, November 23, 2014; 2 p.m.

Monday, November 17, 2014; 8 p.m.

 

Dallas Actor’s Lab

Title TBA (thirteen performances)

Performance Schedule:

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; February 5 – February 21, 2015; 8 p.m.

Sundays; February 8 – February 22, 2015; 2 p.m.

Monday, February 9, 2015; 8 p.m.

 

Second Thought Theatre

Bull by Mike Bartlett (12 performances)

A savage, acid-tongued new play by Mike Bartlett, one of the UK's most exciting and inventive young writers, and the author of STT's smash hit Cock. Razor sharp and blackly comic, Bull is a savage and insightful play about office politics or playground bullying, depending which side you're on. Genuinely thrilling, daring and inventive, acclaimed playwright Bartlett probes the dark side of the modern workplace.

Performance Schedule:

Thursdays and Fridays – February 26 – March 13, 2015; 8 p.m.

Saturdays – February 28 – March 14, 2015; 8 p.m.

Monday, March 2, 2015 and Monday, March 9, 2015; 8 p.m.

 

Cara Mía Theatre Co.

Lydia by Octavio Solis (11 performances)

Set in the 1970s on the Texas border separating the United States and Mexico, Lydia is an intense, lyrical, and magical new play. The Flores family welcomes Lydia, an undocumented maid, into their El Paso home to care for their daughter Ceci, who was tragically disabled in a car accident on the eve of her quinceañera, her fifteenth birthday. Lydia's immediate and seemingly miraculous bond with the girl sets the entire family on a mysterious and shocking journey of discovery. Lydia is an unflinching and deeply emotional portrait of a Mexican immigrant family caught in a web of dark secrets. Contains strong language and nudity.

Performance Schedule:  (10 performances)

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; April 2 – April 18; 8:15 p.m.

Sundays; April 5 – April 19; 2:30 p.m.

No performance Friday, April 10, 2015

 

African American Repertory Theater

Radio Golf (15 performances)

African American Repertory Theater (AART) presents regional premiere of August Wilson's last work, Radio Golf.  Harmond Wilks, an Ivy League-educated lawyer with an educated and ambitious wife, plans to redevelop a poverty-stricken section of Pittsburgh with his business partner and friend Roosevelt Hicks, while preparing for his candidacy to become Pittsburgh’s first black mayor. Plans change when the owner of an old property in the middle of the redevelopment area refuses to give up his home, which has a more significant past than Harmond or Roosevelt could have ever imagined, prompting Harmon to confront the past.

Performance Schedule:

Thursdays and Fridays; May 21 – June 5, 2015; 7:30 p.m.

Saturdays; May 23 – June 6, 2015; 2:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.

Sundays; May 24 – June 7, 2015; 2:30 p.m.

 

ABOUT THE AT&T PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
 

The AT&T Performing Arts Center is a nonprofit foundation that operates and programs three premier performance venues and a 10-acre park for music, opera, theatre and dance in the heart of downtown Dallas. Opened in October 2009, the Center helped complete the 30-year vision of the Dallas Arts District. 

Audiences enjoy the best and most recent from Broadway; the finest in world dance and music co-presented with TITAS; top concerts, lectures and performers with Center Presents; and a five-year undertaking to present The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.  The Center also presents a wide range of free programming for audiences from every part of Dallas, including Patio Sessions concerts, Sunset Screenings, Local Motion fitness programs and an annual outdoor holiday event.  The Center makes performance art accessible to thousands of local students through its education program, Open Stages.  Through a variety of special programs and benefits, the Center’s members and volunteers are able to become involved and engaged in the arts.

The Center’s five resident companies are among the city’s finest arts institutions:  Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, The Dallas Opera, Dallas Theater Center and Texas Ballet Theater. 

The Center’s Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, Elaine D. and Charles A. Sammons Park, and Annette Strauss Square are some of the finest venues for performances in the world, designed by internationally acclaimed architectural firms.

The Center’s mission is to provide a public gathering place that strengthens community and fosters creativity through the presentation of performing arts and arts education programs.  For more information on the AT&T Performing Arts Center, to become a member, or to make a donation, visit www.attpac.org.

 

About Upstart Productions

Upstart Productions was formed to usher in the next generation of local artists by providing them with the opportunity to showcase their talents and develop their craft on and off stage. Founded in 2008, Upstart is dedicated to contributing to the local community by giving these artists an avenue for the production of exceptional contemporary, classical, and original works. Upstart believes that theater should foster growth for artist and audience alike and should be accessible to individuals from all walks of life.

 

About DGDG: The Danielle Georgiou Dance Group

DGDG: the Danielle Georgiou Dance Group was founded by Danielle Georgiou in 2011.  DGDG is a performance art dance group that works within ideas of German expressionism and Tanztheater (dance theatre). The productions work toward creating compelling images of a “new female.” Whether collaborating or defining her own work, Georgiou looks for dancers that are constantly striving to transform themselves, either in image or skill. Technique is your foundation—not your identity.

     

About Dallas Actor’s Lab

Founded in 2011, the vision of the award-winning Dallas Actor’s Lab is to produce plays that reflect the fractured and complicated nature of the contemporary American experience.  Dallas Actor’s Lab is committed to producing challenging and provocative theatre that explores the full range of human experience. The Lab seeks to create a powerful and unique audience experience by presenting intentionally intimate productions that place primacy on the actor and the text.

 

About Second Thought Theatre

Second Thought Theatre seeks to capture the moment of creation between artist and audience. Dedicated to ensemble productions that explore challenging and dramatic works from the canon of theatrical literature, STT strives to enlighten and entertain its audience by pushing the boundaries of human thought and emotion. Old works done in new ways, new works done in old ways. Everything is possible when you take a second thought.


About Cara Mía Theatre Co.

Founded in 1996, Cara Mía Theatre Co. is a non-profit theater company whose mission is to broaden appreciation and understanding of Chicano and Latino culture through theater, literature and educational programs.

In 1996, Cara Mía Theatre Co. filled a void in the Dallas arts community by becoming the first Dallas theater to focus on the Mexican-American experience. Cara Mía assured Mexican-American audiences that their bilingual and bicultural experiences were represented regularly on Dallas stages.

Cara Mía has become a cultural resource in Dallas and North Texas, producing world premieres of major Mexican-American writers such as Sandra Cisneros, Jimmy Santiago Baca, and Cherrie Morraga. Cara Mía has also produced original plays written collectively by the artistic ensemble and by local Dallas writers that have received critical acclaim from Dallas-Fort Worth media.

 

About African American Repertory Theater 

African American Repertory Theater is committed to producing engaging culturally diverse theater from an African American perspective while educating our community on African American history and the arts. Thanks For Reading





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Why the Elevator Project is a Game Changer
The AT&T Performing Arts Center has invited six small-budget companies to use spaces in the Wyly Theatre. How it happened, and what it means for the city's arts.
by Mark Lowry

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