Denton — On a recent weekday night, six people associated with Denton's Sundown Collaborative Theatre sat at a restaurant with me, talking about the group's new strategies. Through seven seasons, the nomadic outfit—known for original devised work, interesting takes on Shakespeare and plays by adventurous playwrights—its leaders have discussed various ways to grow and find new audiences beyond the college crowd that makes up a large part of its audience.
Should they move to Dallas? (They have produced shows in the Bigger D before.) Should they find a permanent space (always a challenge)? Should they shift missions?
Ultimately, they've decided, there's no need to stray from the kind of theater they love, even as they've gone through a changing roster of leaders: Co-founder Cody Lucas through season four (Joey Folsom was the other founder), George Ferrie and Travis Stuebing in season five, and Tashina Richardson in seasons six and seven.
"I want to make sure we stay focused on the mission," says Mandy Rausch, who is the newly appointed co-artistic director beginning with season eight, which starts in August. "We love devised theater, and you always go back to your mission. We have to make sure that no matter what happens, we stick to our mission.
"And we're a Denton-based company and proud of it," she adds.
Rausch shares the AD duties with Chloe (pronounced clō) McDowell, who has been a stage manager and technical director with the group. The change in leadership was necessary when Richardson decided to move back to Chicago, where she lived for a few years.
When talking about leaving the company she helped build and cares so deeply about, she unsuccessfully fought back tears.
"For me as an artist, the biggest thing that I love is being able to work off of other people, and as a director, to see the light go on in someone’s eyes, I love that," Richardson says. "It’s amazing to know that people feel like they’ve been been inspired by me, when I’ve been inspired by them.
"The word 'collaborative' is in the company name," she adds. "To know there’s a company out there that strives for that at all times, and there’s not just one person [making decisions], I feel OK with leaving. To know that we can grow and change and evolve is what makes me hope that this company will last forever."
As for the eighth season, it begins in August with the fourth Short Works Festival. In November, there will be a collaboration with Dallas' Audacity Theatre Lab with the premiere of Brad McEntire's Prodoville. Then in April 2016, they'll have the area premiere of Jacob Monroe Hates Clowns by NYC playwright Corey Vogel, who Rausch discovered through the popular website Humans of New York. Dates and venues for Prodoville and Jacob Monroe will be announced later.
Although there isn't a devised piece on the season, which is one of the group's calling cards, McDowell says they'll likely come back to that. She's thrilled that the two plays on the season are different from what Sundown has typically taken on.
"I feel like from reading the works, they’re a larger scope, bigger casts and bigger scale in general," she says. "We try to keep an eclectic mix of genres, but tend to edge toward darker, sadder fare."
Here is the official news release, which has dates and show descriptions, and more about the changes in leadership, and at the bottom is a video with the season announcement:
Sundown Collaborative Theatre presents SEASON 8, offering lighter fare than previous seasons in both quantity and subject matter. We’re excited to offer the return of our Short Works Festival, plus two brand new comedies that will be produced in collaboration with the playwrights themselves.
The season will begin with our traditional short works festival, exploring how the flaws in our life can inspire our best art with We All Make Mistakes: A Drunken Mixtape. This fall, we will collaborate with Brad McEntire and Audacity Theatre Lab on Prodoville, a script that is being written specifically for Sundown’s 8th season. This marks the second time McEntire has written a show for the company (the first was Season 5’s Carter Stubbs Takes Flight). In the spring, we will present Jacob Monroe Hates Clowns, written by NYC-based playwright Corey Vogel. Vogel discussed his play when he was featured on the website “Humans of New York” and, after speaking with members of the company, submitted the script to be considered for production by Sundown.
Sundown is excited to announce new leadership this season. Chloe McDowell and Mandy Rausch will take over as co-artistic directors of the company. Both are transitioning from other positions within Sundown: McDowell has been Sundown’s technical director, and Rausch an artistic associate, and both have worked on many Sundown productions in various roles. Having collaborated on other productions, Rausch and McDowell are excited to bring new vision and inspiration to continue Sundown’s mission as part of the broader theatre community.
In addition, Christopher Taylor is moving from an artistic associate position to the company’s new marketing director. A senior theatre student at UNT, Taylor is looking forward to bringing a fresh approach to Sundown’s marketing goals.
With a funny season and outstanding new leadership, Sundown Collaborative Theatre is looking forward to new artistic challenges as we endeavor to create more thought-provoking theatre.
We All Make Mistakes: A Drunken Mixtape
Sundown's 4th Annual(ish) Short Works Festival
August 21-23 and 28-30, 2015
Sundown continues its goal of cultivating local artists by presenting a showcase of performative art in its annual(ish) short works festival. These works, ranging from one-person shows to movement pieces and more, explore the idea that our flaws can make for some of the best art. Performances will be at Green Space Arts Collective in Denton, Texas.
Written and directed by Brad McEntire
Produced in collaboration with Audacity Theatre Lab
Something strange is happening in the town of Prodoville. It's not that the town only has a handful of residents because it was abandoned years ago. It is not that a mysterious man with a gun has been prowling around or that the local scientist keeps winning games of Battleship against the Wild West show sharpshooter. It is not that small one-eyed creatures have begun to appear from below ground. No, it is something else. Something strange.
Jacob Monroe Hates Clowns
Written by Corey Vogel
Directed by Mandy Rausch
Love can make clowns of us all. This happens quite literally to the titular character of Jacob Monroe Hates Clowns. When Rosetta, a girl Jacob has been unnervingly obsessed with since childhood, leaves for college, Jacob is forced to face a lifelong fear of clowns when the only school near hers to accept him is a clown college. What follows is an absurdist unraveling of romantic comedy archetypes, exploring themes of longing and obsession in a fourth wall breaking coming-of-age story.