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A Look Back At The North Texas Arts Scene In 2016
by Jerome Weeks 23 Dec 2016

Arnold Wayne Jones, welcome.

AWJThank you very much.

I think we can agree that it’s been a year of tremendous change. In the first weeks in January, we had Jaap van Zweden, the music director of the Dallas Symphony, hired by the New York Philharmonic, and the Fort Worth Symphony musicians voted to go on strike.  Meanwhile, just in the past few weeks, both Theatre Three and WaterTower Theatre hired new artistic directors and the Fort Worth Symphony strike ended.

AWJIt’s really ‘Bookend of the Year.’ There’s been a lot of turnover, and the way you consider it is  whether it is turmoil or revitalization. For example, Michael Jenkins was let go from the Dallas Summer Musicals, a position he held for a long time, and that has been a pretty ensconced leadership.

But then you also have changes that are very positive. Maxwell Anderson left the DMA last year, of course, but we now have this new executive director at the Dallas Museum of Art, Agustin Arteaga, who I think is going to bring a lot of energy and passion to that arts organization. So it can be good.

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Satomi Blair, Drew Wall and Grace Montie in ‘Gloria’ at the Dallas Theater Center. Photo: Karen Almond

The changes just kept happening. A new head for the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs. A new head for the Dallas Arts District. And a new home for Kitchen Dog Theatre.

AWJYeah, a lot of times, we don’t know yet whether a change is good or not. Kitchen Dog is moving to the Design District. The new home has got to be better than the temporary homes they’ve had to find the past 18 months. But it is a relocation across town to a new area not really known for theater.

And there’s also been a lot of controversy over the funding of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, and the issue with fire marshals and the art galleries in town and whether or not they were sufficiently safe. We don’t know how those will play out.

I do think those issues aren’t going away soon, especially considering the long-term concern over ‘cultural equity,’ the funding that minority groups get from the city. 

But let’s go to what we remember best from what we saw onstage.

AWJI was really impressed by Uptown Players production of ‘Angels in America.’ It’s the first time that ‘Angels in America’ has been at the Kalita Humphreys Theater since the Dallas Theater Center did it almost 20 years ago, and it was very controversial at that time. And now it’s not just a ‘gay play,’ it’s really part of American literature now. 
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Garret Storms in Uptown Players’ ‘Angels in America.’ Photo: Mike Morgan

I thought it was a very ambitious effort that paid off for them. And speaking of big dramas, the Dallas Theater Center production of the LBJ drama, ‘All the Way’ — I know you weren’t as impressed with it as I was — but for a very talky drama, it was really one of the sharper, more compelling dramas that artistic director Kevin Moriarty has done on the main stage. And they’re already making preparations for the sequel, ‘The Great Society,’ to be done, once again, as a co-production with Houston’s Alley Theatre. And I say all this as one who’s been more impressed by the edgier, smaller plays done in their upstairs space.

AWJAnd the current one there, which will play through January 22nd, called ‘Gloria,’ is one of my favoritesthat they’ve done recently. It’s a three-scene, two-act comedy —

— about the collapse of print journalism — 

AWJ— about the collapse of culture! Because it starts off with magazines and then it works its way into book publishing and then it works its way into television, and they’re ALL corrupt. They’re all terrible.
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Kidd Pivot, presented by TITAS, at City Performance Hall

The single most striking show I saw onstage was Kidd Pivot, which TITAS brought to the City Performance Hall. It was remarkable in that it embodied the psychological trauma — in dance — of a single man. And it was amazing to see things like an entire set blow up and dance away! 

I was also impressed this year by the bold changes that executive producer Dana Schultes has brought to the programming at Stage West, including ‘Bootycandy,’ a hilarious play about growing up black and gay. And now this new season, which is full of new plays —

AWJ— one whose title of which we cannot even say on the air!

— That’s true. 

AWJBut I can say it in print, and I will. 


You sound like a naughty child.

AWJI am definitely the naughty child of Dallas media.
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Dallas Voice executive editor Arnold Wayne Jones in KERA’s THINK studio. Photo: Jerome Weeks

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