Three or four years ago, as the recession was getting underway and at its darkest, small theater groups were popping up all over the place in Dallas. A few of them are no longer around, but one that's still here is the one that has been the most prolific but has gone somewhat under the radar. We're talking about Level Ground Arts, led by artistic director Billy Fountain.
The group has made its rep mostly on musicals and adaptations of so-bad-they're-good cult films, although there have been smatterings of Shakespeare and classic drama in the mix, as well as original works. The group moved into its new home at K.D. Studio Theatre in 2011 after two seasons in the weather-challenged and now-defunct Dallas Hub Theater.
It must have worked out, because LGA's newly announced 2012 season, its fourth, is mostly at K.D. Studio again, as well as other venues. Most notable is that it will produce at least two shows at Arlington's Creative Arts Theatre & School (CATS), with other venues still to be announced.
The 2012 season is big, with 10 shows, broken up into three different series: "Main Stage," "Classic" and "Edge" (there could be some crossover with those latter two). Most impressive about this lineup, which has Shakespeare, classic and newer musicals and adaptations of classic literature, is that Fountain is bringing in some respected directors from around town.
John de los Santos, who has made a name for himself in the national opera world, directing at Fort Worth Opera and around the country, will direct one of the masterpieces of American musical theater, Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Andy Baldwin will direct an adaptation of William Golding's The Lord of the Flies. And Scott Osbourne, who was co-founder and the creative genius behind the much-missed Our Endeavors Theatre Collective will do a new version of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi, here called Ubu Royale. (You might remember that Second Thought Theatre did a terrific version of that title at the Festival of Independent Theatres years ago.)
Last year, LGA proved some of its power by snagging rights to the area premiere of the musical Xanadu, which fell into the tradition of shows based on bad movies. This year they have another coup, with the regional premiere of Legally Blonde.
Here's a breakdown of the season. The shows are listed chronologically, with the series noted at the end of the description (which was provided by LGA). Dates and locations for the last three shows on the list have not been announced yet.
The New York Goofs in Hellzapoppin Feb. 24-26
Directed by Dick and Tiffany Monday
A circus atmosphere sets the mood in this comedy hodgepodge full of sight gags and slapstick. It's like Rowan and Martin's Laugh In, only more dated. There will be trained animals and dancing girls with a smorgasbord of explode-the-fourth-wall-nuttiness. A contemporary physical comedy romp for the whole family. It's like Cirque du Soleil for the 99 percent. World premiere. Classic Series at Creative Arts Theatre & School in Arlington.
Lord of the Flies March 2-18, 2012
Directed by Andy Baldwin
A plane crashes on a deserted island. The only survivors are a group of students. They live in a land of bright exotic animals and deep blue seas, but at night their dreams are inhabited by a terrifying beast. Soon this well behaved group of young women turns into a bloodthirsty and murderous tribe. Main Stage Series at the KD Studio Theatre.
Legally Blonde June 1-23, 2012
Directed by Bill Fountain with choreography by Kelly McCain.
College sweetheart and homecoming queen Elle Woods doesn't take no for an answer. So when her boyfriend, Warner, dumps her for someone serious, Elle puts down the credit card, hits the books and heads for Harvard Law! Main Stage Series at the KD Studio Theatre.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Aug. 10-Sept. 1
Directed by John de los Santos with music direction by Adam C. Wright.
The ultimate tale of vengeance and murder tells the story of a barber driven to crime when his wife and child are taken from him by an evil judge. Main Stage Series at the KD Studio Theatre.
The Sound of Music September 7-23, 2011
Directed by John Tillman
Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic story of a woman that leaves an Austrian convent to become a governess of the children of a naval officer widower as Austria comes under the control of the Nazis. Classic Series at Creative Arts Theatre & School in Arlington.
Ubu Royale Oct. 5-27
Directed by Scott Osborne
The cautionary tale of Ubu Royale comes fresh on the heels of a prolonged cycle of deposed dictators and exposes the disappointment of a society who had foolishly expected the coming of a new age of hope and reason with the selection of a charismatic leader. LGA will perform this classic political satire as a slap-stick dumb show, employing stylized movement, original music, puppetry and dance to tell the prescient and preposterous story of a narcissistic tyrant in a world gone mad. The foreboding and hilarious Ubu Royale is destined to be a must-see event of the Dallas theater season. Main Stage Series at the KD Studio Theatre.
Santa claus vs. the Martians Dec. 7-29, 2012
Directed by Andi Allen
LGA is proud to bring back this original play by Andi Allen. It's Santa. It's Martians. It's based on a really bad movie. Lots of fun! The Martians kidnap Santa to bring Christmas to their children and two Earth children stow away on the Martian spaceship and help save Santa. Main Stage Series at the KD Studio Theatre.
The Little Mermaid Jr.
In a magical kingdom deep in the sea, a beautiful young mermaid longs to leave her ocean home to live on the land. But first she will have defy her father, make a deal with an evil sea witch and convince the Prince that she's the one. Classic series. Date and location to be announced.
Directed by Robert G. Shores
Shakespeare's Macbeth is a play of contradiction and ambition. Driven to become King, Macbeth will kill all and any that get in his way. Edge series. Date and location to be announced.
The Raft of the Medusa
Directed by Alex Wade
In an AIDS support group, members of the group discover that the disease they share can divide as effectively as is conquers. But it also brings them together, reaching for their own comfort while they search for unattainable answers. Edge series. Date and location to be announced.
For more information, contact Level Ground Arts at 972-302-1801 or visit www.levelgroundarts.com.