When the local theater critics set our annual meeting to dole out praises for theatrical accomplishments in the previous season, the chatter in our email exchanges was that because COVID-19 killed half a year of shows, our awards list would probably be smaller.
But that wasn’t the case.
At this year’s meeting — hosted via Zoom rather than at our usual convening around Martha Heimberg’s welcoming dining room table in her Lakewood home — the Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum found plenty to love among shows that opened between Sept. 1, 2019 and Aug. 31, 2020, and that includes the digital and drive-in performances since that mid-March weekend when Everything Changed.
As usual, we don’t single out an award in each category, but rather decide on a handful or two performances, production aspects, new works and touring shows that struck our fancy. Just imagine how much bigger the list would have been if we had had a full slate of shows.
The groups scoring the most citations were Theatre Three seven; Imprint Theatreworks and Stage West with six each; while Amphibian Stage, Kitchen Dog Theater, and Prism Movement Theater each had five. As for individual shows, Imprint’s Lizzie came out on top with six, while T3’s Noises Off, Amphibian’s Hans & Sophie, and Prism's Everything Will be Fine each had five. Streaming shows mentioned include Stage West’s The Children (which had an official opening night with a live audience before it was shut down; but had been filmed and was later streamed), and WaterTower Theatre’s I Am My Own Wife. Prism’s drive-in experience Everything Will Be Fine — the first live show we experienced after the pandemic shutdowns — had us elated.
As usual, there were debates about some of the picks that didn’t make the cut for a number of reasons (only one critic saw it, or only a few did but there was dissent among those few). I love that of the nine shows singled out for outstanding direction (our version of best production), seven of them were directed by women — and indeed many of the other shows discussed were as well. We also gave more special citations this year than we have in the past.
As for the roster of critics, this year we welcomed Cristee Cook of Dallas Art Beat, joining the ranks of critics representing Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Voice, CultureMap, the Dallas Weekly, Arts and Culture Texas, and TheaterJones.
Congrats to all of this year’s winners. Even though we won’t be back to seeing theater in your spaces until 2021, we take comfort in knowing that artists will find ways to create.
CORRECTION (10:40 a.m. Sept. 10): Kara-Lynn Vaeni directed Noises Off for Theatre Three; the story originally had the director wrongly attributed.
Jeffrey Colangelo and Kwame David Lilly | Everything Will Be Fine | Prism Movement Theater
Marianne Galloway | The Lifespan of a Fact | Stage West
Sorany Gutiérrez | Villa | Teatro Dallas
Tina Parker | a love offering | Kitchen Dog Theater
Susan Sargeant | Two by Beckett: Footfalls and Not I | WingSpan Theatre Company
Illana Stein | Hans & Sophie | Amphibian Stage
- The Children | Stage West
- Noises Off | Theatre Three
James Vasquez | In the Heights | Dallas Theater Center
Ashley H. White | Lizzie | Imprint Theatreworks
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR
Bill Bolender | Mrs. Haggardly | Ochre House Theatre
- Noises Off | Theatre Three
- Romeo and Juliet | Fair Assembly
McClendon “Mickey” Giles | Mlima’s Tale | Second Thought Theatre
- The Children | Stage West
- I Am My Own Wife | WaterTower Theatre
Sean Hudock | Hans & Sophie | Amphibian Stage
Nick Leos | The Bippy Bobby Boo Show | Danielle Georgiou Dance Group in partnership with Theatre Three
Justin Locklear | The Bippy Bobby Boo Show | Danielle Georgiou Dance Group in partnership with Theatre Three
Tadeo Martinez | Noises Off | Theatre Three
Zander Pryor | Andi Boi | Dallas Children’s Theater
Christopher Llewellyn Ramirez | In the Heights | Dallas Theater Center
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS
Devin Berg | Lizzie | Imprint Theatreworks
Rhonda Boutté | a love offering | Kitchen Dog Theater
Rebekah Brockman | Hans & Sophie | Amphibian Stage
Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso
- Queen of Basel | Kitchen Dog Theater
- Madame Bovary | Undermain Theatre
Jennifer Kuenzer | Footfalls | WingSpan Theatre Company
- Ada and the Engine | Stage West
- Everything Will Be Fine | Prism Movement Company
- The Thanksgiving Play | Undermain Theatre
Susan Sargeant | Not I | WingSpan Theatre Company
Jaquai Wade Pearson | Romeo and Juliet | Fair Assembly
Catherine Whiteman | Dot | Soul Rep Theatre Company
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ENSEMBLE CAST
Everything Will Be Fine | Prism Movement Theater
In the Heights | Dallas Theater Center
Lizzie | Imprint Theatreworks
Mrs. Haggardly | Ochre House Theatre
Noises Off | Theatre Three
Playwrights in the Newsroom | AT&T Performing Arts Center Elevator Project
The Children | Stage West
Villa | Teatro Dallas
OUTSTANDING DESIGN OR CREATIVE CONTRIBUTION
Sara Bollinger, Devan Bell, Rachel Francis, Gilbert Glenn, Bree Hill, and Rebecca Lowrey (the onstage band) | Music Performance | Lizzie | Imprint Theatreworks
- Set Design | Villa | Teatro Dallas
- Set Design | Two by Beckett | WingSpan Theatre Company
Design Team | Hans & Sophie | Amphibian Stage
Design Team | Red Chariot | Undermain Theatre
Tara Houston | Set Design | Swimming While Drowning | Cara Mia Theatre Company
Rebecca Lowrey | Music Direction | Lizzie | Imprint Theatreworks
Jeffrey Schmidt | Set Design | Noises Off | Theatre Three
Will Turbyne | Set Design | The Children | Stage West
Jessie Wallace | Costume Design | Lizzie | Imprint Theatreworks
Nigel Newton | Original Music and Music Performance | Mlima’s Tale | Second Thought Theatre
Mason York | Sound Design | Mlima’s Tale | Second Thought Theatre
OUTSTANDING NEW PLAY OR MUSICAL
Alabaster | Audrey Cefaly | Kitchen Dog Theater (National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere)
Andi Boi | Bruce R. Coleman | Dallas Children’s Theater (co-produced with Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and in partnership with First Unitarian Church of Dallas)
Everything Will Be Fine | Zoe Kerr | Prism Movement Theater
Hans & Sophie | Deborah Yarchun, Sean Hudock, and Illana Stein | Amphibian Stage
a love offering | Jonathan Norton | Kitchen Dog Theater
Mrs. Haggardly | Matthew Posey | Ochre House Theater
OUTSTANDING TOURING PRODUCTIONS
The Band’s Visit | AT&T Performing Arts Center and Dallas Summer Musicals
Come from Away | Dallas Summer Musicals
Once on This Island | AT&T Performing Arts Center
To Amy Stevenson for founding and hosting Mama’s Party, a live music staple in DFW since 2006. The cabaret has regularly showcased up-and-coming talent, established professionals, tour casts, and local favorites, occasionally with a fundraising component, and even transitioned to online during the pandemic.
To Isa Zhanbolot, Brandon Coleman and the teams from Grob Technologies, Inc., and Dev-Team, Inc. that created the 3D Animation and Augmented Reality App used at the end of Bruce R. Coleman’s play Andi Boi at Dallas Children’s Theater, allowing the audience to play along with a fictional game played by the teenagers in the story.
To Amphibian Stage Productions and artistic director Kathleen Culebro, for their years-long commitment to the well-being of North Texas veterans and their families through the nationally recognized DE-CRUIT program founded by actor-veteran Stephan Wolfert. Using acting, stage work and other tools from the theater arts, DE-CRUIT group classes (and now online sessions) "treat trauma through Shakespeare and science" — and give veterans the life skills and self-awareness they need to begin the work of recovery, and to reconnect with the community around them.
To Jeffrey Schmidt, artistic director of Theatre Three, for filming the play The Immigrant with a technique no other theater company has used during the pandemic: The actors were filmed separately in front of a green screen at the theater, using social distancing and masks when other cast and crew members were in the space, and for creating the scenic illustrations and fusing it together for a seamless digital performance.
For many theatergoers, Prism Movement Theater’s drive-in show Everything Will Be Fine was our first live performance after the pandemic began. With a deeply present nonverbal narrative and beautiful choreography, the out-of-the-box play (performed at two venues in Dallas, and currently in Fort Worth) filled our hearts with the hope and magic that only live performance can bring.
The primitive paintings of animals in Kitchen Dog Theater’s Alabaster — a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere — lining the set helped create an authentic atmosphere for this play about a reclusive amateur folk artist whose work is made on shards of wood caused by a tornado that devastated her family. The paintings were a group project of the cast, crew and friends.
• Cristee Cook | Dallas Art Beat
• Janice L. Franklin | TheaterJones
• Jan Farrington | TheaterJones
• Martha Heimberg | Dallas Weekly and TheaterJones
• Arnold Wayne Jones | Dallas Voice
• Mark Lowry | TheaterJones
• Manny Mendoza | Dallas Morning News
• Jill Sweeney | TheaterJones