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Critic’s Choice: 2014 Brought New Works And Offbeat Performance Spaces For TheaterJones.com’s Mark Lowry

by Anne Bothwell 23 Dec 2014 8:00 AM

Art&Seek’s series “Critic’s Choice” kicks off today with a look at the year on North Texas stages.


shakespeare bar

Watching Shakespeare at Wild Detectives. Photo: Shakespeare in the Bar via Facebook.


  • TheaterJones’ Forward Thinkers series
  • Mark Lowry’s Top 10 will post on TheaterJones next week. We’ll link to it when it goes up.
  • Tomorrow: Manny Mendoza on the year in dance.
  • Listen to the report that aired on KERA FM:


You’ve been to some unusual places to watch theater this year. You’ve even been playing drinking games in a bar?


Mark Lowry, of TheaterJones.com

You can probably find me in a bar outside the theater too. But yes,  one of the exciting things that happened this year was a new event called Shakespeare in the Bar, they’ve done two of them so far at Wild Detectives in Oak Cliff.  The one I went to recently was Loves Labor Lost. And they truly were barely rehearsed. And they even made a drinking game out of it. If an actor calls, “line!” everybody drinks.

But what was exciting about it is I’m guessing there were over 200 people there watching. It was overpacked. There were people in the alley.  It was very, very well received.

Is that part of a bigger trend?

These younger kids want a different way of experiencing theater. They don’t necessarily want to sit in a seat for two hours and not be able to   have a beer and watch a traditional show.

Another group that fits in this vein is  called Prism Company. They do movement theater. So they did a real exciting piece called Galatea, which was based on the Pygmalion myth.   And it used ariel silks and clowning techniques and mime techniques to tell the story. It was in a big warehouse in Trinity Groves.

Dead White Zombies is another group that performs in warehouses in West Dallas.  It’s immersive theater where you sort of walk through the experience. You see one scene in one room, and you move into another room for the next scene.

These shows can be very strange but they’re always interesting, and  I’m seeing people that I do not see at the other theaters, so they’re tapping into this whole new crowd.

TheaterJones is looking at folks who’ve had an impact in the performing arts.

One person we  picked is Brad McEntire.  He is a local performing artist who has had Audacity Theatre Lab for a long time, but he’s really decided to focus on solo performance. So he started the first Dallas Solo Fest this year.  There were eight performances, some local, some from around the country. It was so successful, he’s doing it again in June.

You also chose David Denson.

Yes, David works at the AT&T performing Arts Center. Two things he did this year were starting the Off Broadway On Flora series. These are tours of smaller productions, coming to various spaces in the Arts District. We’ve had two of them so far: we had Buyer and Cellar by Michael Urie, and we had Second City. And we’ll have Mike Daisy, and we’ll have Austin’s Rude Mechanicals in the Spring.

And he’s behind The Elevator Project, which is a very exciting program that allows local small companies to use the Wyly Theater sixth floor studio space.   So there are six companies that normally would not get the benefit of performing in the arts district. Two of them have already happened. We’ll have four more next year.


Michael Urie in “Buyer and Cellar” at City Performance Hall.

There seems to be a lot of new work on stage this year.

I agree. And a lot of the new work these new plays are being produced by the professional theaters. You often see that in the smaller theaters. But for a professional theater with a large budget to really put their money and their effort behind some of these plays is exciting.

So we saw this at Kitchen Dog Theater with Matt Lyle’s Barbecue Apocalypse. That was part of their New Works Festival.

We saw it at Second Thought Theater with a play called  Booth, which was a recipient of a Donna Wilhelm New Works Fund from TACA.

And I could go on, there were probably 10 other really well done new plays happening across the metroplex this year.

And there’s more to come, Dallas Theater Center is doing an original musical in January.

Exactly with Stagger Lee.  And they’re part of the rolling world premiere with Colossal later on in the season. They’ve been doing this for a few years now, and that’s all too Kevin Moriarty’s credit. So expect more of that.



You’ve seen more than 150 plays this year.What tops your list?

It’s The Brothers Size, at Jubilee Theater in Fort Worth.It’s a really fantastic play by one of the most talked about playwrights of the last five years, Tarrell Alvin McCraney . It’s the middle piece of a trilogy and Jubilee is actually going to do the other two pieces. It was directed by Trey Garrett, Jubilee’s artistic director. This play is a beautiful lyrical work. It’s a great piece about brotherhood. And it speaks to what’s happening with young black males, the protests that are happening around the country with the Garner case.   It really, really speaks to you in a way I didn’t expect.

One sad note this year.  Actor, director and professor Matthew Tomlanovich passed away.

He sort of came in and took charge of The Margo Jones theater in Fair Park, which was the theater she started in 1947. Her dedication was to new work and to professional performers and artists. Matt saw there was a need for a space like that  for groups to perform So he started building a collective of nomadic groups in town that could come and use this historic space. It’s been met with gusto by these groups who’ve been coming in doing exciting work and it’s a good range of styles of performance. His death was a big sadness but what’s exciting is the foundation he laid.  These groups have realized they’re going to keep working together, so they’ve built this collective, and they’re keeping things going, so there are things programmed there throughout next year.

Noveau 47 Theater, the first theater into that space a few years ago, is doing one of my favorite holiday shows of the year there, a collection of 10-minute holiday plays written by local writers.  It’s kind of fun especially if you’re over all the Scrooges and Rudolphs.