The 52nd season for Theatre Three has been announced, and the exciting news here is that it is dominated by new(ish) work, most notably the Dallas-born musical On the Eve, which premiered in late 2012.
On the Eve, by Shawn and Seth Magill and Michael Federico, had several readings in 2011 and 2012, and then debuted in November at Nouveau 47 Theatre's space at the Magnolia Lounge, in Margo Jones Theatre, where this website's namesake helped pioneer regional theater in the 1940s and '50s.
On the Eve, which features original music by the band Home by Hovercraft (the Magill's band), deals with a time-traveling Marie Antoinette and the first hot air balloon. It was a critical hit last year, and was my number two show of 2012. (Here's our review.) The show will open 2014 at Theatre Three. (The only other musical on T3's season is a revival of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Assassins, timed for the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination in Dallas)
The mainstage season includes several new plays that have been either on or off-Broadway in recent seasons, including Jon Robin Baitz's Othe Desert Cities, Theresa Rebeck's Seminar and Lynn Nottage's By the Way, Meet Vera Stark. And interestingly, the other two "new" plays are of older works being rediscovered: So Help Me God!, a work by Maurine Dallas Watkins, whose play Roxie Hart was adapted by Kander and Ebb into the musical Chicago; and the American premiere of Less Than Kind by Terrence Rattigan, who died in 1977. This play was rediscovered and staged during the writer's centennial year in 2011.
As for Theatre Three's basement space, Theatre Too!, the current hit production of Avenue Q will continue on an extended run, and the perennial favorite I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change! returns in January and February.
Here's more about Theatre Three's 2013-'14 mainstage season.
So Help Me God!
A rediscovered 1929 comedy by Maurine Dallas Watkins
August 8 – September 1, 2013
This deliciously sour farce provides the same startled pleasure that comes from discovering a juicy, pre-code Hollywood film when immoralities used to go unpunished in the final reel. The playwright is now best remembered for Roxy Hart, her play adapted into the musical, Chicago. So Help Me God! gets its astonishing energy from that same white-hot cynicism that’s as angry as it is amused. A backstage story of a back-stabbing diva, this strychnine-laced bonbon makes other theater satires of the era look like fluffy marshmallows. Derailed from the road to Broadway by the stock market crash of 1929, the re-discovered farce portrays a Broadway where commercialism always trumps art, producers pander to an audience’s lowest intelligence, and stars get away with absolutely everything—because they’re famous, damn it!
The masterpiece musical by Stephen Sondheim, book by John Weidman
September 26 – October 27, 2013
Theatre Three, the Southwest’s leading producer of the Sondheim canon, premiered this work in 1991 as one of its first post-Broadway productions and will restage the masterpiece as part of Dallas’ meditation on the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. Considered one of the most important of Sondheim’s works, the astonishingly inventive score combined with the provocative book by John Weidman produces a gallery of U.S. history’s most notorious players – the men and women who determined to kill American presidents. This striking work, both serious and satirical, asks what hunger drove these murderous malcontents to their actions dissecting the lives, loves and lunacy of nine, including John Wilkes Booth, John Hinckley, Lee Harvey Oswald and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme. Is their drive for celebrity what makes them quintessentially American?
Other Desert Cities
A Southwest premiere drama by Jon Robin Baitz
November 21 – December 15, 2013
With biting wit and razor-sharp insight, Jon Robin Baitz skillfully dissects the conflicting sense of justice between generations that can rupture family bonds. When Brook Wyeth comes home (along with her brother and aunt) to her parents’ glamorous Palm Springs home on Christmas Eve, she has a manuscript with her. How wonderful! Brook has recovered from a long depression that has kept her from following up on her young success. Her former screenwriter mother and her retired movie-leading-man father are so relieved. But this is a family of politicians, artists, and wise-cracking alcoholics, so imagine everyone’s reaction on learning the new book is Brook’s tell-all memoir that will expose an explosive family secret. As entertaining as it is insightful, this is—as all critics agreed—an exceptional piece of writing from one of the best playwrights of this generation.
On the Eve
A new rock musical by Seth Magill and Shawn Magill, book by Michael Federico
January 16 – February 9, 2014
Last December, Theatre Three’s Associate Artist Jeffrey Schmidt directed and designed a workshop production of this super-inventive new work by Home by Hovercraft band members Seth Magill and Shawn Magill with book by actor-educator-author Michael Federico. He staged it, most appropriately, in the theater space where Margo Jones premiered works by Tennessee Williams, William Inge, Lawrence and Lee and other mid-century American masters. The production, featuring time-traveling characters, wound up on every Dallas and Fort Worth critic’s best-2012 show list. The highly original Home by Hovercraft composers use innovative rock orchestrations (no guitars!) with percussion from Irish step dancers. And at Theatre Three, you see the world professional premiere.
Less Than Kind
The American premiere of a brilliant comedy by Terence Rattigan
March 6 – 30, 2014
Nobody expected a Rattigan world premiere 34 years after the playwright died. This scintillating play had languished in manuscript form since Rattigan abandoned it to rewrite the play (later called O Mistress Mine!) for Lunt and Fontanne. But the “dusted off” original became the big hit of Rattigan’s centennial season (in 2011), and now, Theatre Three has obtained the right to stage the comedy’s American premiere. It’s London in 1944: The war is reaching its climax, but a senior minister has problems not just in supplying the front line with tanks, but also on the home front. He has been enjoying a passionate but illicit affair with a war widow, and now her son, evacuated for the duration, returns. Learning of the affair, the youth explodes, railing against the minister’s ‘immorality’, and his industrial powers. This play brilliantly captures the flavor of WWII in England with a masterful mix of sparkling comedy and deep feelings.
A Southwest premiere of a new Broadway comedy by Theresa Rebeck
April 24 – May 18, 2014
As Seminar opens, four young writers are gathered in an Upper West Side apartment waiting for Leonard, a fiction guru, for whose counsel they have each paid $5,000. They are a fractious lot even before Leonard arrives, swapping barbs about one another’s pretensions. But that’s nothing compared to the verbal flatulence that fills the air once Leonard arrives, trailing weary contempt and sexual charisma. Once a celebrated novelist, he’s best known now as a teacher and grandstanding chronicler of life in danger zones in third-world countries. The verbal and sexual sparring yield what The New York Times called “Big laughs…an authentic rush of pleasure”. It’s tight, witty and consistently entertaining, acquiring more muscle as the layers are peeled back to reveal both the scarred humanity beneath Leonard’s soured exterior.
By the Way, Meet Vera Stark
A comedy by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage
June 19 – July 13, 2014
African American Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage (Ruined) pulls the curtain back on old Hollywood in her latest play, a sly satire hailed as “not to be missed” by critics in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Here’s a play that offers a glimpse into the life of Vera Stark, a headstrong African American actress, who begins a career in the 1930s, at a time when her only shot at success lay in stealing small scenes in big Hollywood blockbusters. Seventy years later, film buffs are left to reflect on the life and legacy of this controversial star, whose eventual fame and fortune came at the price of perpetuating dangerous stereotypes. Hilarious and poignant, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark paints a vivid picture of the cultural climate that shaped this screen queen—and wonders who, in another time, she might have been.
◊ Subscriptions for the mainstage season are $85-$245; single tickets are $10-$50. Subscriptions and tickets can be purchased by calling Theatre Three’s box office at 214-871-3300; or at www.theatre3dallas.com.