Dallas — Here's some exciting news: Dallas Theater Center has commissioned three playwrights to each write a full-length play over the next year, and while world premieres aren't new to DTC of late (check out this season's Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical and Samuel D. Hunter's Clarkston), the headline here is that the three scribes are all North Texas writers: Matt Lyle, Jonathan Norton and Steven Walters. Add that with this season's world premiere of Deferred Action by David Lozano and Lee Trull, both North Texans, and it's even bigger news.
Lyle, Norton and Walters have all been critical favorites over the years. Norton's Mississippi Goddamn, his best work to date, just received several Dallas Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum awards, and his The 67th Book of the Bible, seen earlier this year at the MLK Symposium, deserves to have a longer run. Lyle's work includes The Boxer and Barbecue Apocalypse, which was seen at Kitchen Dog Theater in 2014 (directed by Trull), and Walters crafted the ambitious Booth, seen at Second Thought Theatre in 2014. Norton and Walters have each received grants from TACA's Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund in the past.
If this is the replacement for the dropped idea of a series of playwrights-in-residence that were supposed to overlap with and follow Will Power, then yay! It's an important step that the area's largest LORT theater is putting resources behind local writing talent.
However, while there is some diversity in the five local writers mentioned above—Lozano is Latino and Norton is black and gay—they are all men. Here's hoping DTC continues this idea with some woman power represented.
Below is the complete please release about the new initiative:
Dallas Theater Center announced commissions of three North Texas playwrights. Matt Lyle, Jonathan Norton and DTC Brierley Resident Acting Company member Steven Walters will each write an original full-length play for DTC in the next 12 months.
"Since arriving in Dallas eight years ago, I have been a fan of Matt, Steven and Jonathan’s writing,” said Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty. “I’ve been fortunate to see their work on local stages and watch them grow as artists. Their bold, funny and challenging work has already enriched and improved the North Texas theatrical landscape. I’m looking forward to collaborating with them on these new projects, which will make a significant impact on DTC, the Dallas/Ft Worth arts scene and the national stage."
These commissions of North Texas playwrights represent a new initiative at DTC, as part of its larger commitment to developing and producing new work. Lyle, Norton and Walters reside in Dallas and will each produce a first draft of their individual plays by May 1, 2016 and will culminate in readings of both first and second drafts by September 2016. After the commission year, DTC may continue to develop the plays with a goal of future production.
In addition, DTC will follow the footsteps of Playwrights Horizons in New York City, by providing compensation for each playwright’s healthcare, as well as give them preproduction earnings comparable to what actors receive during rehearsals. The preproduction compensation will recognize time spent in rehearsals, casting sessions, director and design meetings, and readings.
"As a North Texas artist myself, it gives me deep satisfaction to see DTC making a strong commitment to these playwrights - both artistically and financially,” said Lee Trull, Director of New Play Development. “Picking up the baton passed to us by Playwrights Horizons by giving writers fair compensation and health care is especially exciting.”
DTC’s ongoing commitment to New Play Development includes supporting a full-time Playwright in Residence on its artistic staff, currently held by Will Power; mainstage productions of new plays and musicals, including this season’s Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical, Clarkston and Deferred Action; commissions of new plays and musicals; opportunities for North Texas writers to participate in DTC’s Dallas Playwrights Workshop and an ongoing playwrights group; and playwriting classes offered for adults and young people.
Lyle is the co-founder of Bootstraps Comedy Theater in Dallas, for which he currently serves as Artistic Director. In 2007, the Dallas Observer named Bootstraps as Best Small Theater Company and Lyle as Best New Playwright. Lyle’s plays have been produced in Dallas, Chicago, New York, Orlando and the University of Michigan. His plays, The Boxer, Hello Human Female and Barbecue Apocalypse all garnered DFW Theater Critics Forum Awards for Best New Play and Barbecue Apocalypse was nominated for an American Theatre Critics Association/Steinberg New Play Award. Lyle is a member of the Dramatist Guild and the Playwright’s Center. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre and is a recipient of the Outstanding Theatre Graduate Award.
Norton’s work has been produced or developed at PlayPenn, Black and Latino Playwrights Conference, TeCo Theatrical Productions, Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, Castillo Theatre, Soul Rep Theater Company, Nouveau 47, CrossOver Arts Theater, African American Repertory Theater, and the South Dallas Cultural Center. He is a recipient of a 2015 Artistic Innovations Grant from the Mid-America Arts Alliance. Norton is also a proud two-time recipient of the Diaspora Performing Arts Commission given by the South Dallas Cultural Center, an inaugural recipient of the TACA Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund, and was a Finalist for the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. He was an inaugural member of Dallas Theater Center’s Dallas Playwrights Workshop led by Will Power. He also serves as a HowlRound Commons Producer documenting Power’s residency at DTC. Norton is a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Marymount Manhattan College, and the Master of Liberal Studies program at SMU.
Walters is a Texas-born filmmaker, actor, writer, director and producer. He is a member of the Brierley Resident Acting Company at Dallas Theater Center, in addition to being the resident playwright of Second Thought Theatre, a company he co-founded in 2003. As an actor, Walters is best known for his role on NBC's Friday Night Lights as guidance counselor Glenn Reed. As a screenwriter and producer, his films have played at SXSW, DIFF, Cucalorus, New Port Beach, Water Front, BFI London, Damah, SAIC, Attic, and Park City Film Music Festival among others. Walters is a co-writer and producer on the hit comedy The Bouncback, directed by Bryan Poyser, which premiered at SXSW in 2013 and was recently distributed by Tribeca Films under the title Love and Air Sex (New York Times Critics’ Pick.) He also associate produced and appeared in director Eric Steele's award-winning film Bob Birdnow (Top Ten Undistributed Films of 2013, Indiewire.) His plays have been produced at Casa Mañana, Second Thought Theatre, Baylor University, the American Heart Association, Gardner-Webb University, The Festival of Independent Theaters, The Out of the Loop Festival, Firebone Theater, The EBE Ensemble and the Araca Group’s Araca Project among others. Walter’s newest play BOOTH was a recipient of TACA’s Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund Grant in 2013 and was nominated for the 2014 American Theater Critics’ Association Steinberg New Play Award.