Brad McEntire is one funny man. Maybe you’ve seen him on stage as an automated, silver-tongued robot holding a press conference with a dinosaur, or swimming alongside his best friend, a pet goldfish. He’s probably put a smile on your face and a laugh in your heart, because whatever McEntire is doing, he is loving every single minute of it. The passion just flows out of him, and all he wants to do is share it with all of us.
This summer, he is planning on doing just that with the first ever Dallas Solo Fest. Running May 15-18 and 22-25 at the Margo Jones Theatre at the Magnolia Lounge in Fair Park, the Dallas Solo Fest will showcase eight distinct and dynamic one-person productions. Over the eight-day schedule, McEntire has curated a wide range of performances—from raw and hard-hitting to hilariously outrageous—from some of the best local/regional solo artists, as well as outstanding performers from around the county. The artists included are Veronica Russell (New Orleans), Alexandra Tatarsky (New York City), Deanna Fleysher (Los Angeles), David Mogolov (Massachusetts), Zeb L. West (Austin), and Dallas solo performers Elaine Liner, John Micheal, and Danny O’Connor.
He is currently hosting a Kickstarter campaign to raise much needed funding for the festival. Because putting on a festival to the magnitude that he is, takes some money. All the funds raised via this campaign will go toward: venue rental, artists’ stipends, front of house expenses, technical support, marketing costs, website maintenance, program and printing costs, and posters and postcards.
But if anyone can successfully get this production off the ground, it’s McEntire. He is just the man for the job as he is a critically acclaimed solo artist himself. Most recently, his latest work, ROBERTS’ ETERNAL GOLDFISH, was selected as Best of the Loop at the 2014 Out of the Loop Fringe Festival held this past weekend at WaterTower Theatre in Addison. He is also the Acting Artistic Director of Audacity Theatre Lab, a company whose mission is to reflect a sense of exploration and discovery. Originally called Audacity Productions, the small theatre company set up roots in the Dallas area in 1999. They were focused solely on fringe-like, experimental works. For nearly, seven years, they produced works that pushed them all as artists; yet, the group dissolved in 2006. But only for a couple of years. They came back refreshed and ready to work again, under a new name, and with a new mission. Now, the group works as a collective of several idiosyncratic theatre artists who use the Audacity banner to make their own kinds of theatre. No house aesthetic beyond being small and nimble. Each artist is responsible for their own work from idea all the way through to production.
The Dallas Solo Fest is McEntire’s latest project.
Through a series of email conversations, as McEntire and I were both performing this weekend, we discussed what the Dallas Solo Fest means to McEntire and what it could mean for Dallas, Audacity’s partnership with the Margo Jones Theatre, and the Kickstarter campaign currently running for the project (about a week remains for donations).
Danielle Georgiou: What prompted you to create the Dallas Solo Fest?
Brad McEntire: Several things kind of converged to allow the Dallas Solo Festival to happen. Over the past few years I have been personally drawn to solo performance. As I have traveled to venues and festivals around the country I’ve met a number of other great solo performers. The conversation usually turned to “What’s the theatre scene like where you’re from?” Although Dallas has a really vibrant, diverse, and ample local scene, until recently, we weren’t exporting many shows of the small, personal kind; at least, not in comparison to other cities of similar size. Dallas hasn’t had the underground of strong “fringe” performers eager to take their shows out to other audiences in other places. Fortunately, this is changing.
Also, when I would say I was from Texas people instantly asked if I was from Austin. I like Austin a lot, but I’m super proud to be from Dallas. I figured it was time for Dallas to have it’s own festival around small, idiosyncratic solo shows.
DG: Why did you decide to have the festival at the Margo Jones Theatre at Fair Park? What about this location drew you in?
BM: The Margo Jones Theatre is a great place for this sort of festival. It, of course has such wonderful history as the launching point of the professional regional theatre movment in the 1940s, but it is also great in some very practical ways. Free, lit parking. DART stop. Bars and restaurants within walking distance. Intimate performance space. BYOB policy. On top of all this, the contemporary Margo Jones Theatre is dedicated to new works and progressive theatre. In that way, I feel, it is keeping alive the spirit of Margo Jones herself. The Dallas Solo Fest fits this aim beautifully.
DG: And the company that you are the Artistic Director of, Audacity Theatre Lab, is a new partner at the Margo Jones Theatre, right?
BM: Yes, we became a partner group last summer. For years we had been urban nomads, floating from venue to venue around town (and then the country). Matt Tomlanovich invited us to put up our in-town productions there in Fair Park. He and the other partner groups have been super supportive. Having a venue for the festival, especially the Margo Jones Theatre, really made me finally think, “Why not?”
DG: What do you hope will be the outcome of the Dallas Solo Fest?
BM: The aim of the Dallas Solo Fest is to be a celebration of extraordinary solo theatre as well as increase awareness and appreciation for the form in the north Texas area. I am hoping the audiences in DFW enjoy the exposure to a diverse range of solo performance, with performers coming in from all over the country. I’m also hoping the out-of-towners who come here as artists have a really positive experience and become advocates for Dallas as they continue to take their work around the world.
DG: This event is curated, which is different from other fringe festivals. Why did you decide to curate the event and the performers?
BM: I hand-picked the performers for this first festival. I wanted a really diverse cross-section of different kinds of solo performance. So, this first time out there is puppetry, storytellers, improvisational clown routines, historical memoirists, monologists, and a few that defy any sort of easy categorization. I also wanted to insure that there was a really high level of quality all around. I am really excited about the group of performers in the festival, national, and local alike. If the festival is successful and we can make it an annual or semi-annual thing, I’ll open it up for submissions in the future.
DG: You recently performed at the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival at the WaterTower Theatre in Addison, Texas. What was that experience like?
BM: It was a blast. I debuted my new solo show ROBERTS’ ETERNAL GOLDFISH in the Stone Cottage, such a wonderfully sized venue for solo theatre. Everyone at the Out of the Loop was friendly and hospitable. It is important to me to premiere my work here in DFW before I take it out into the world and the Loop has become a great place to make that happen.
DG: From all this experience you are gaining as a solo performer, what advice do you have for the performers coming to Dallas for the Solo Fest?
BM: Come ready to party! I follow the work hard/play hard motto, so I expect, and know, the performers will be sharing awesome shows and will be awesome to work with. Fortunately, all the performers I’ve chosen this first time out are self-instigators. They are experienced performers, yes, but also used to marketing their own work, meeting deadlines, being prepared, are easy to get along with and all that.
DG: Why did you decide to use a crowdfunding source website like Kickstarter to raise monies?
BM: I am a big supporter of other Kickstarter campaigns and I had a positive experience a few years ago raising funds to take my own solo show to the New York International Fringe Festival. The budget of the Dallas Solo Fest is not astronomically expensive, but I want to do everything as awesome as possible. I figured the Kickstarter would be a way to raise more money for artists’ stipends, marketing, printing, venue costs and such. It also raises awareness in a wonderful way…It’s not an argument of why the project is worthy or should be funded, so much as it’s like an invitation to a party.
If you are interested in donating to the Dallas Solo Fest, please visit the project’s campaign here.