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Dallas Theater Center’s First Season in the Wyly

by Jerome Weeks 14 Apr 2009 11:42 AM

The Dallas Theater Center announced the lineup on Tuesday for its 51st season and the first in its new home, the Wyly Theatre.


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This fall, the Dallas Theater Center will be moving into the new Wyly Theatre. Today, artistic director Kevin Moriarty announced the eight plays that will inaugurate the company’s new home in the Arts District.

The Wyly will debut Oct. 24 with a classic, a romantic favorite, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Theater Center’s new season will also include Death of a Salesman. Perhaps the current economy inspired the Theater Center to present Arthur Miller’s working-class tragedy – for the first time in company history.

But the rest of Kevin Moriarty’s second season as artistic director is filled with new works and musicals. The Theater Center will premiere Give It Up!, a new show by Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flynn. Give It Up! takes Lysistrata, the ancient Greek battle of the sexes, and puts it in a high school gym. This time, it’s the varsity squad that decides to hold out on the basketball team, those losers.

The season will also finish with a musical, a new version of It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman. The comic book musical debuted on Broadway in 1966 — the same year that the campy Batman series started on television. The musical was created by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, the old Broadway pros behind Bye Bye Birdie and Annie. The show ran only 129 performances — making it part of director Hal Prince’s rare string of flops and near misses in the mid-’60s before he hit it big (again) with Cabaret. Nonetheless, the show and the cast recording won something of a cult following among musical lovers — one of whom was Kevin Moriarty.

You can listen to a part of the show’s overture:

When chatting with Strouse about how the musical might be revived — it would need a wholesale re-write of the book — Moriarty was happily surprised to find Strouse asking him eagerly for suggestions. Moriary says he knew immediately whom he’d approach: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, a playwright and a comic book writer who has worked on Nightcrawler, Spider-Man and Marvel Knights 4. He’s also a writer for the HBO series, Big Love.

In between, the Theater Center will offer a trio of plays by writer- filmmaker Neil LaBute, all three performed in rotation in the Wyly’s Studio Theatre. LaBute is probably best known for the film, In the Company of Men; his dramas are marked by his scathing treatment of sexual relations and our obsession with physical appearances, something Moriarty says he finds particularly relevant for Dallas. Hence, the title chosen for the three works: “The Beauty Plays.”

Moriarty could announce only two of the plays, The Shape of Things and Fat Pig. LaBute’s Reasons to Be Pretty is currently on Broadway — a first for the writer, his work has generally been produced by off-Broadway’s MCC Theater — so it may well prove to be the third play.

And there was more news about new works  — for the future:

MORIARITY: “We’ll not only produce two world premieres, we’re also going to announce three commissions of new plays from important American playwrights.”

Moriarty’s season is clearly designed to show off the Wyly’s new flexible capabilities — just consider the challenges of the flying in Superman and the transformation of the performance space into a high school gym for Give It Up! The Wyly’s new presto-change-o technology will vastly speed up move-ins, but it will not work miracles. Scheduling overlap with Give It Up! will force the Theater Center to return to the Kalita Humphreys — one more time — for next year’s A Christmas Carol.

But the season is undoubtedly ambitious in scale: Two musical comedies in a season is two musical comedies more than the Theater Center usually offered before Moriarty, plus there’s the new acting company, and the three LaBute plays in rotation. Two seasons ago, the Theater Center’s budget was $5.5 million. It will enter the Wyly with an $8 million budget, an increase of 45 percent. Subscriptions have gone up accordingly, with a new high of $390. But the Theater Center is also offering a new low price for individual tickets — $15.

The schedule is as follows:

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream — DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty will direct the opening show of the season, Oct. 24 to Nov. 22.
  • A Christmas Carol, directed by Joel Ferrell — The DTC returns to the Kalita Humpreys Theater for its traditional holiday show from Dec. 1-27. Longtime Dallas actor Sean Hennigan will play Ebenezer Scrooge — for the first time.
  • Give it Up! — The world premiere of this musical features book and lyrics by Douglas Carter Beane and music by Lewis Flynn.  Directed and choreographed by Dan Knechtges, who helmed the Broadway camp-fest, Xanadu, as well as The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Jan. 15 to Feb. 14 at the Wyly.
  • “The Beauty Plays” — a trio of Neil LaBute plays will be presented in rotating repertory in the Studio Theatre inside the Wyly. Only the first two plays have been announced: The Shape of Things and Fat Pig. The third will be announced in September. The trio will run from Feb. 23 to May 23. Each play will get its own director — Matthew Gray, Kevin Moriarty or Joel Ferrell.
  • Death of a Salesman — Arthur Miller’s classic will play in the Wyly Theatre from Apri 16 to May 16. No director listed as yet.
  • It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … It’s Superman — Although this musical ran on Broadway in 1966, it’s being dubbed a world premiere because of a heavy dose of new book writing from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Kevin Moriarty will stage it in the Wyly.
  • Subscription prices will run from $99 to $390. Individual tickets, which will cost $15 to $85, won’t go on sale until later. The DTC website is not yet set up for online subscription sales. But you can call 214-822-8499.