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DTC’s New Season Is Unlike Any Other It’s Done


by Jerome Weeks 31 Oct 2020 5:57 PM

An immersive adaptation of H. G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” a filmed version of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ plus the premiere of a new drama from Dallas playwright Jonathan Norton. And yes, COVID safety precautions and streaming shows.

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The coronavirus shutdown has seriously delayed the Dallas Theater Center‘s season announcement (releasing it in the fall is pretty behind the typical timing). But not only did the Theater Center have to find ways to comply with state and local health instructions about public gatherings, it had the added challenge of following guidelines set down by Equity, the actors’ union — otherwise it would not be granted a union contract.

The difficulty is that not only do Equity’s guidelines include safety protocols involving staff, actors and audience members, they stipulate that the county’s case rate has to drop below 5 per 100,000 people. Dallas County is nowhere near that; the rate has actually been climbing. Sad to say, not much the DTC can do to improve that.

But in the past few months, several local theaters have attempted to return to live performances via safe, drive-in performances. But when Firehouse Theatre in Farmers Branch went ahead with Back to the ’80s, a live, in-person musical revue, they shut it down after cast members fell ill. Consequently, Actors’ Equity announced the company was no longer an Equity producer. The theater cancelled its next two shows.

So better late than sorry. With its new slate of shows, the DTC has cleverly (and cautiously) put off its return to live, in-person, on-stage performances by presenting its season opener as a filmed, streamed production. No live audience in the seats. Yes, the show will be the holiday regular, A Christmas Carol, but written and directed by DTC artistic director Kevin Moriarty. This Carol — titled In the Bleak Midwinter: A Christmas Carol for Our Time — has been re-imagined as a contemporary adaptation, filmed entirely in Dallas.

And then the DTC follows that with two, special “immersive” events that more or less include theatergoers inside the socially-distanced action The first event will adapt classic fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, staging them both indoors and out as a kind of performance piece with its own soundscape. The location for Something Grim(m) has yet to be announced. The second event is more of a hybrid — with audience immersion combined with previously taped actor performances. H.G. Wells’ sci-fi classic War of the Worlds will be adapted by Moriarty and director Christie Vela into a digital-age haunted house. Theatergoers will be warned to hide from the invading Martians via phone calls and texts.

Tiny Beautiful Things, a widely lauded stage comedy based on a popular newspaper advice column, will then alternate with the premiere of Cake Ladies, a new drama by Dallasite Jonathan Norton.  Both will be staged live and streamed. There are single-evening concerts along the way and the whole shebang finishes up with the Broadway musical revue, Working, adapted from Studs Terkel’s bestseller.

Here’s the full release:

Following Months of Planning and COVID Setbacks, Dallas Theater Center Implements an Innovative and Adaptive Approach to Theater

The season includes a new film adaptation of A Christmas Carol , two live immersive experiences based on War of the Worlds and Grimms’ Fairy Tales , a world premiere from local playwright Jonathan Norton, a musical that celebrates workers, and new safety protocols.

DALLAS (October 27, 2020)- Dallas Theater Center announces its innovative 2020-2021 season comprised of six unique theatrical productions and films. The theater returns to producing with a blended season that includes virtual productions, and two live immersive theater experiences and a return to the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre with three traditional theater productions for live audiences in the spring.

The six-event season includes a world premiere comedy written by Jonathan Norton specifically for this season; the regional premiere of an adaptation of a best selling book; a musical revue celebrating working people; unique, immersive explorations of Grimm fairy tales and a science fiction classic; and a new film inspired by A Christmas Carol .

The entire season will highlight the artistry of Dallas Theater Center’s Diane and Hal Brierley Resident Acting Company, who will comprise the casts, and the theater’s full-time production staff, who will design and build all the productions.

“Despite the immense challenges of COVID-19, we are overjoyed that we are returning to produce a full season of unique productions, along with an array of education and community engagement virtual programs, even while we wait for the day when we can once again welcome large audiences back into our theater spaces,” said Kevin Moriarty, Dallas Theater Center’s Enloe/Rose Artistic Director. “To serve our community, we will innovate throughout the season with a mixture of programming that will be filmed and distributed digitally, as well as interactive theatrical experiences that can be experienced in person by audiences who are socially distanced. We hope to welcome small, live audiences back to the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in the spring for intimate productions, which will also be distributed digitally for those who are unable to return to public spaces at that time.”

Despite the pandemic creating many unforeseen challenges, the theater put together a compelling season that reflects the current climate.

“One of the challenges we have faced in returning has been the requirement by Actors’ Equity, our national union partner, that actors cannot return for live performances until the case count reaches 5 per 100,000 people in the county,” said Jeff Woodward, Dallas Theater Center’s Managing Director. “Unfortunately, in Dallas County and for most regions of the country, we are well above his number, so very few professional theater companies in this country have been able to have live performances. But, we can safely film the actors and use their work in the two immersive experiences.”

DALLAS THEATER CENTER 20/21 SEASON

The season begins on December 4 with the release of In the Bleak Midwinter: A Christmas Carol for Our Time. Written and directed by Moriarty, this film is a bold reimagining of the Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story. The on-demand video will be distributed digitally to subscribers and ticket buyers throughout the holiday season starting on December 4th.

In the winter, the theater will welcome live audiences to experience two unique theatrical events produced outdoors and indoors and allow for social distancing. From January 22 – 31, location yet to be determined, Tiffany Nicole Greene (resident director of Hamilton ) will direct Something Grim(m) , an immersive theatrical exploration of the fairy tale form. This innovative work, which Greene created and devised with the Brierley Resident Acting Company, will encompass visual art, scenescapes, and a captivating audio soundtrack that will be experienced as a site-specific work of performance art.

The second event, War of the Worlds: An Immersive Theatrical Experience , is written by Moriarty and directed by Christie Vela. From February 22 – February 28 (only 8 performances), this unique in-person theatrical experience immerses audience members into the classic science fiction story by H.G. Wells. As news spreads that Martians are coming to earth and the world prepares for a violent clash, the audience receives phone calls and texts warning them of pending danger. They are ushered into a hiding place to take shelter from the battle, but the war outside gets perilously close. Soon the audience is on the move again, attempting to escape the assault of the extraterrestrials. Combining cell phones, audio drama, video technology, and elements of a haunted house, War of the Worlds explores various storytelling techniques to engage the audience in a thrilling sci-fi adventure brought to life.

In the spring, the theater will welcome small, socially-distanced audiences to the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre for three plays that will be offered for in-person audiences and on video for safe home viewing.

Cake Ladies (April 3 – May 15, 2021) is a world premiere comedy from Dallas Theater Center’s playwright-in-residence Jonathan Norton ( penny candy ), written specifically for this special season. The Scott County Community Playhouse is the pride of Cedar Oak, Texas, a city ravaged by the second-largest drug-fueled H.I.V. outbreak ever to hit small-town America. When the COVID-19 pandemic shuts down the playhouse production of Angels in America , the loss is a devastating blow to a city desperate to mend. As the virus spreads, Cedar Oak’s dark past comes to the surface, and best friends LeAnne (Sally Nystuen Vahle) and Tweedy-Bird (Liz Mikel) – affectionately known as “the cake ladies” – must confront their buried secrets to make Angels soar again!

Tiny Beautiful Things, based on New York Times bestseller by Cheryl Strayed, adapted by Nia Vardalos ( My Big Fat Greek Wedding ), and directed by Joel Ferrell, runs in rep with Cake Ladies from April 10 – May 15, 2021. T his regional premiere follows Sugar, an online advice columnist who uses her personal experiences to help the real-life readers who pour their hearts out. Tiny Beautiful Things is rich with humor, insight, compassion, and absolute honesty – a play about reaching out when you want to sink in, healing when you’re broken, and having the courage to ask questions with no easy answers.

The season ends with Working: A Musical , directed by Tiana Kaye Blair, with performances from June 1 – June 27, 2021. The lyrics of the first song say it all: “I hear America singing.” Based on Studs Terkel’s bestselling book, this unique musical features average working Americans’ real-life words, set to music by a diverse collection of extraordinary storytelling songwriters. Through original songs by Stephen Schwartz ( Wicked ), Lin-Manuel Miranda ( Hamilton, In the Heights ), James Taylor and others, Working lifts the voices of teachers, waiters, truck drivers, and the essential workers who often go unnoticed but whose work uplifts our lives day in and day out.

“This season would not be possible without the extraordinary, generous support of our subscribers, donors, and the philanthropic community,” said Woodward. “All of us at the Dallas Theater Center are extremely grateful as these gifts have enabled us to keep the full-time staff intact and thus produce a season of plays, films, and theatrical experiences along with continuing education and community engagement programs for our community.”

SPECIAL ONE-NIGHT-ONLY PERFORMANCES
On December 12, in Strauss Square at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas Theater Center will present A Christmas Carol in Concert , a one-night-only holiday concert featuring community members and actors from their Brierley Resident Acting Company reading excerpts from Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas novel, interspersed with performances of traditional holiday songs. The outdoor performance will feature social distancing for all audience members, and masks will be required as people of all ages come together to celebrate the holidays, join in a Christmas sing-along, and enjoy a few special surprises!

In July, Dallas Theater Center’s Public Works Dallas program celebrates a year of creative classes and workshops held online and at community partner sites across Dallas with a week of
live, socially-distanced performances. Each day, join us at a new location throughout the city to enjoy scenes, songs, and artistry created and performed by members of our diverse community in collaboration with Dallas Theater Center’s professional artists, culminating in a one-night showcase presentation at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre on July 24, 2021.

COMMUNITY AND EDUCATION
Since ceasing public performances in March, Dallas Theater Center has maintained an active series of classes, workshops, and community engagement for children and participants of all ages. The award-winning Project Discovery program offers virtual productions for middle and high schools, including virtual professional development workshops for teachers, preshow virtual webinar workshops for students, and post-show engagement opportunities with cast members from the show. The new Production Classroom video series provides a fun and informative videos covering all production areas, from costumes to props, scenic to sound. The Virtual Classroom series offers classes online for ages 8 and up, guided by a diverse collection of creative professionals.

Dallas Theater Center’s Public Works Dallas program is continuing its partnerships with Aspire, Bachman Lake Together Family Center, City of Dallas Beckley Saner Rec Center and JC Turner Rec Center, and Jubilee Park and Community Center to provide participatory theater workshops for people of all ages throughout the city. All of the current offerings are available online and are free for all participants.

SAFETY PROTOCOL
Safety is a priority for Dallas Theater Center. The Company follows the latest city, county, and state health guidelines to ensure the safety of the audience, staff and artists. A detailed health and safety plan has been developed with the consultation of medical professionals, union guidelines, and the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

Safety protocols this season will include:
● Audience members and house staff will be required to wear masks.
● Seating will be limited to allow for a minimum of 6 feet of separation between audience members.
● Social distancing will occur at the two immersive theatrical events.
● Hand sanitizing stations will be provided in the lobby and restrooms.
● Contactless ticketing will be in place for all performances.

A full press release will be released on October 28, 2020, with complete details on all of Dallas Theater Center’s safety protocols for the upcoming season.

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