Dallas — On Friday, Aug. 28, North Texas’ latest drive-in performance venue goes on a test run as the Tin Star Theater has a “soft opening” just off Broadway — Avenue, that is. The space is a gravel parking lot in Trinity Groves, behind the new apartments that are across Sylvan Avenue from the row of restaurants, with the main access being Broadway Avenue (although the address is officially listed as 2712 Beeville St.).
The man behind the venture, Nolan McGahan, has been working with Trinity Groves developer Butch McGregor and received a special events permit from the city of Dallas.
The first event features a 30’ x 30’ stage in the middle of the lot, with room for 76 cars parked in a circle around the stage (two vehicles deep) for a theater-in-the-round feel. At the center of the stage is an original sculptural element, called the Tetra. The lineup features chamber trio MAKE (Mikhail Berestnev, piano; Grace Kang Wollett, violin; Danny Goldsman, clarinet); Bruce Wood Dance, which will perform an original, socially distanced work by choreographer Gregory Dolbashian; and the percussion trio Austin Allen & Artists, led by Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts alum Allen.
On a brief site visit in the 95-degree heat on Thursday afternoon, as a crew was building the lighted Tetra structure, McGahan chatted about the idea, which has been working on for three months.
“I’ve already had many artists asking me about the venue,” he says. “One group has asked about performing The Nutcracker for one night.”
Visitors on Aug. 28 will experience an early version of the Tin Star, a few blocks to the west of the old cement factory Southern Star, which has a lighted Tin Star sign on top. McGahan says he noticed that after naming the venue in homage to the southern portion of Trinity Groves that is still littered with metal warehouses. (Remember in the early/mid-2010s when those warehouses had frequent performances by groups such as Dead White Zombies, Prism Movement Theater, and House Party Theater, before the fire marshal closures?)
Gayle Halperin, Executive Director of Bruce Wood Dance, says that the company’s dancers have been back in the studio for about a week — working with CDC precautions in place, including temperature checks, masks and social distancing. In the 15-minute work we’ll see tomorrow, the dancers will wear masks as part of their costumes, with no partnering or touching. She says that the dancers, who will only perform at some outdoor events in the coming months and will also have a virtual performance in November, are thrilled to be back at work. Because the Tin Star stage doesn’t have a Marley dance floor, the dancers will wear sneakers and won’t engage in the jumps or the athleticism typically seen from this company.
As for the future of Tin Star, McGahan’s plan is to use a series of shipping containers at the south end of the lot (one is there now; more are on the way) for the theater’s back wall and backstage/dressing rooms, with cars pointed toward it. Sound will come into the cars via an FM radio frequency. He wants to showcase music, dance, theater and film.
The next event, in September, will be a film (details to be announced), with other performances throughout the fall, including a collaboration with Dallas VideoFest.
» In the video above, MaGahan and Dolbashian talk with Bruce Wood Dance Artistic Director Joy Atkins Bollinger about the project and the company's performance.