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Pantagleize Theatre Turns to Kickstarter to Fund Revival of Sam Houston Musical

by Jerome Weeks 2 Aug 2013 1:25 PM

Ft. Worth’s Pantagleize Theatre hopes to revive a musical about Sam Houston rallying Texans in the Big Thicket, and they’ll do it in a Big Thicket-ish venue: the Ft. Worth Botanic Garden. But they’re trying to raise $10,000 to do it.


shookDon Shook, author-director of A Thorn in the Thicket

Fort Worth’s Pantagleize Theatre has begun a Kickstarter campaign for a production of A Thorn in the Thicket to run in late September.  A Thorn in the Thicket was created by writer-director Don Shook and composer Geno Galanty, and was first staged in 1969. The musical concerns Sam Houston’s rallying East Texans to the cause of Texas independence. It was given a New York workshop production in 1993.

The Pantagleize company has struggled with its venue, the aging Fort Worth Public Market building complex, which was bought last year by former XTO Energy exec Bob Simpson. But now — with Don Shook back directing the show — the company wants to revive it in a suitably Big Thicket-ish location: the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. And they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $10,000 they need to do it. So far, they’re at $3,190.

The full release:

A Thorn in the Thicket” will revive a musical comedy about the Texas War for Independence. Highly entertaining, the play honors Texas’ unique history and geography. Our production needs your funding to enable extensive script and musical revisions that will make it ideal for performances at schools, theaters, and many varied educational venues.


First produced almost fifty years ago and performed at the Convention Center in Fort Worth, Texas, “A Thorn in the Thicket” is the story of Sam Houston’s grand attempt to rally East Texas inhabitants to fight for Texas independence. Over the years, productions in both Dallas and New York resulted in its music being chosen by The American Society of Composers and Producers (ASCAP) for a new musical showcase in New York. It has received praise from Stephen Sondheim and Broadway producer Edward Padula.


Produced by The Pantagleize Theatre, the play will be performed by The “Pantageezers” — a unique troupe of actors 55 years young and better. Last fall this group successfully revived a 1959 production of a Texas interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which had previously toured England and Scotland. They are now dedicated to Texas revivals. To evoke the authenticity of the geography the Big Thicket, we will present this production at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden Theatre.

The back story:

Pantagleize has arrived at a crucial crossroads. The truth is that even if our building had not begun its disintegration, moving out of it probably would have been the best solution to the sluggish situation we were in at the time. We have not been sluggish artistically; in fact, we are much ahead in that department. We have been sluggish in two major areas: raising enough money to keep going, and recruiting workers for our vineyard.

Pantagleize is absolutely unique in the metroplex. Not only do we produce world classics that no other theatre company would touch. We also provide lots and lots of opportunity for new actors, producers, and directors.

We have the richest and most diverse and most varied seasons in Fort Worth. We have pioneered the notion of casting across race and age and gender barriers. Casting across race began in other parts of the country thirty years ago. It has taken all this time to get here, and Pantagleize has led the way, and is still the only theatre company which routinely does it. In fact, the theatre scene in general in Fort Worth is surprisingly segregated. Age and gender cross casting is still rare everywhere in the world–except at Pantagleize.

Our seasons have included local original sketch comedy in the form of The Friday Funnies, right along with intellectual gems like Decee’s To Love the Earth. We have sponsored story tellers and feminists. We have introduced Texanna to Texas. We have introduced new playwrights to DFW. We have sheltered acting workshops conducted by seasoned professionals like Lisa Dalton of the Michael Chekhov Association and Don Shook from Don Shook productions.

And speaking of that, we sponsored the premiere of a new adaptation of a Chekhov story, directed by a prominent New York director, and featuring Lisa. That production was later performed in New York and Los Angeles, and the program stated that it was created at Pantagleize Theatre Co. in Fort Worth, Texas.

But here’s the rub: It is not possible for this kind of altruistic sponsorship to continue, unless there is support for the umbrella organization.

The most immediate concern is the project now scheduled to open on September 27 at the Botanic Garden Theatre, Friday night, then Saturday and Sunday matinees. A Thorn in the Thicket, written and directed by Don Shook, is a thoroughly delightful musical about General Sam Houston’s attempt to get the backwoodsy types who inhabited the Big Thicket in East Texas to join the Battle of San Jacinto. It’s a revival of a great piece of Texana, so it will be cast primarily with our Pantageezers.

We are financing the production through kickstarter .com, which allows us to advertise all over the world and solicit funds through that website. We have set a goal of $10,000 because we want to pay everyone involved. If the goal is met, the money is sent to our bank account. And we can accept as much money as people want to contribute. But If we don’t make the goal, we lose whatever we have raised below it.