Art&Seek. You’ll be collaborating next season with students at SMU and Booker T. Washington High School as well as other local arts organizations, such as Dallas Black Dance Theatre. What do you get out of that collaboration?
Kevin Moriarty: We are strong when we come together in collaborations. One of the things that is vital for us if we are to be a communal meeting place for people to come together is that we actually are constantly refreshed by new ideas, new experiences, new collaborators. It’s easy as an artist to get stuck in your ways; to be the smartest person you know. And it’s humbling and energizing and inspiring to constantly meet and work with artists who are new to the family. … In our collaboration with Dallas Black Dance, for instance, there will be the entire dance company in the rehearsal room working alongside experienced, professional theater actors. Neither one of those two groups of artists will have much, if any, experience with the other art form’s way of working, way of approaching story or theme or sharing an experience. So that alone will cause both of us – the actors and the dancers – to look in new ways at how we make art and why and how we communicate something. It’s going to be energizing and exciting in a lot of ways.
A&S: And what do you get from working with the students?
K.M.: Working with the students at Booker T. Washington High School and SMU is one of the most rewarding things that we do. For me, personally, I’m teaching all year at the high school. That experience, in the middle of a day where you’re focused on organizational issues, budgets, planning, rehearsals, the challenges of professional actors and designers and directors – to be able to enter into a room with the next generation of theater artists, who are eager and hungry and ready to explore theater literature and acting and who are open to exploring all sorts of new ideas about how and why we make theater – it’s inspiring. It’s actually kind of the thing you draw energy from. … When we do a play like Midsummer Night’s Dream, which had five students from the high school, five students from the university as well as 10 professional actors, that piece had a youthful joy and muscularity and energy and a connection to the audience different that what we would have done five years ago because of the presence of the young people in the audience and on the stage.
A&S: You’re about to add a 10th member to the resident acting company. Do you have a timetable on when you will make that hire?
K.M.: Yes – we will be announcing a new company member in the next six weeks.
A&S: Is there something in particular you were looking for in the new actor?
K.M.: Yes, and it’ll be easier to talk about that when we are ready to reveal who that company member is, because I think it will then become apparent how that actor will fill out and serve the institution’s artistic needs.
A&S: What is the thinking behind staging Arsenic and Old Lace at the Kalita Humphreys?
K.M.: The Kalita Humphreys Theater is intimate, it is an incredibly dynamic, lively place to see certain kinds of plays. In the case of Arsenic and Old Lace, the production concept that the Broadway designer, Anna Louizos – who designed In the Heights and Avenue Q, among other shows – she is going to design the set to include a turntable, so that the house that the family lives in will be able to revolve and you’ll be able to see different rooms of the house and the characters will be able to move. When the designer approached us about the idea of using a turntable, we said, “A turntable. Where would we find a built-in turntable? Frank Lloyd Wright gave us one 52 years ago! It seems like the perfect place to be.” Long-term, we are expanding our season. We are adding a play to our 2010-11 season, with long-term plans to add one more play in the next five years. So it will eventually get to a seven-play season. To accommodate that seven-play season, we’re going to need to do a few plays every year at the Kalita Humpreys Theater, because there just aren’t enough weeks in the calendar year where we can fit everything in.
A&S: That leads me to my next question – what was the thinking behind adding a sixth show to the next season?
K.M.: We are deeply committed to producing musicals, new plays, dramas that speak to social conditions in our contemporary lives, comedies that allow us to laugh and celebrate together, opportunities to bring in outstanding national actors. It’s literally too many things we’re committed to to fit into five plays. There is no choice to expand the number of plays in order to serve the audiences and the mission that we’ve taken on.
A&S: That commitment to new plays can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you’re creating something new. But on the other, you’re asking the audience to make a leap of faith.
K.M.: We have an obligation as a major professional theater to not just bring to life the great classics of the past, but also to replenish the cannon. To contribute new works that will become a part of the broader theatrical literature. That includes a certain amount of risk. When we did Give it Up! this season, we started the first rehearsal without a completed script. There were things in that script on the first day of rehearsal that we knew were going to change radically. … That is at times thrilling and at times nerve-wracking. But I think it also provides a certain amount of immediacy and excitement for an audience, which can feel that sense of something new happening in the room. And it allows us to work with writers, directors, designers and actors on these projects who are drawn to or specialize in creating new, immediate responses to the world they live in.
A&S: This year’s new work by Dallasite Regina Taylor has strong local ties.
K.M.: Regina was born and raised in Dallas, went to school at SMU and then moved on to have a major professional career as a playwright, as well as as an actor. This play, Rain, is set in Oak Cliff, and is part of a trilogy of plays that she is in the midst of writing right now, all set here in Dallas. One of our goals is to continue to reach out to Texas-based artists in general and artists with Dallas ties in particular who have now moved on to work around the country and to find opportunities to bring them home. Whether that is long-time company member Randy Moore (who will play Falstaff in Henry IV), who is now in Denver at the Denver Theater Center or playwright Regina Taylor – and more to be announced later this season. That opportunity to welcome our extended family back home to create work with us is one of the great joys of being artistic director of the theater.