Dallas — Derek Whitener, the artistic director of the Firehouse Theatre in Farmer's Branch, was attacked Saturday night in a parking lot in the Cityplace area on Haskell Avenue near downtown Dallas, said David Moore, Executive Director of Firehouse.
Whitener is playing Leaf Coneybear in the Firehouse production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, running through Jan. 22. He lives in East Dallas, the area of the attack, and was shopping at a retailer at about 11 p.m. when two men wearing masks hit him with a pipe in the parking lot, said Moore, who talked to Whitener on the phone after the incident.
Whitener had surgery today, Sunday, Jan. 15, to have a hematoma removed. He is in ICU at Baylor Medical Center, where he will remain for a few more days before being moved out of ICU into a regular room.
Whitener is a local director, actor and designer. He's currently designing costumes for Aaron Posner's Stupid Fucking Bird at Stage West in Fort Worth, which begins preview performances on Thursday, Jan. 19.
Today's matinee of Spelling Bee was canceled, and a message posted on the theater's Facebook page noted that tickets can be exchanged for performances next week. Spencer Baker, who played Leaf at Texas Wesleyan University in 2016, is taking over the role for the remaining four performances, Jan. 19-22.
We have no information on the motive for the attack or if there were other incidents in the area Saturday night. A police report was filed. We will update this story as we find out more information.
A GoFundMe campaign has been created to assist Whitener with medical bills. Click this link.
FUNDING UPDATE: The campaign reached its goal of $20,000 is less than 24 hours. The goal has now been raised to $40,000, and as of 12:45 p.m. Monday, had just gone over $27,000. A note from Brina Wingo, who created the campaign:
"On behalf of all of Derek’s friends and family, I’d like to say thank you. It is no surprise to me that so many have reached out with their support for this incredible human being. Derek is a strong person with an even stronger support system. Please continue rallying behind him and showing the world that love is stronger than hate."
HEALTH UPDATE: From Whitener's partner, Victor, via Facebook around 10:45 a.m. Monday, June 16:
"Update from the neurosurgeon this morning. He said the hematoma from Derek's brain is basically gone but a large contusion causing brain swelling is affecting his speech and motor functions. They are hopeful and very optimistic this will subside and that his speech will improve. He will continue to be monitored in ICU and I will update as more information is given. We ask for privacy and your respect as he needs time to recover. I will let everyone know when the doctors feel visitation is appropriate. As previously mentioned, we greatly appreciate all of your love and support."