For its 2017-18 season — and the start of Kevin Moriarty's 10th year as artistic director — Dallas Theater Center is all about exploration. Two world premieres commissioned by DTC join a diverse lineup of plays and musicals, all designed to reinvigorate and expand collaborations with Southern Methodist University, Houston's Alley Theatre, and Public Works Dallas.
The seven-play subscription season (with two optional add-on shows) starts with Boo Killebrew's Miller, Mississippi. The Southern Gothic tale of a white family dealing with the Civil Rights movement spans the 1960s and '70s, and is "tightly packed with lurid plot twists," according to Moriarty. He says that DTC had been tracking Killebrew's work for a number of years and has also commissioned a second play from her to be produced in a future season. This world premiere will be staged in the Wyly Theatre's Studio Theatre — which Moriarty notes is growing this year to 150 seats from its previous 99 — August 30-October 1, 2017.
There is hope to produce a big, family-friendly musical in the summer of 2018 (like this year's Hood and last year's Dreamgirls), but for now Hair is the only musical on DTC's official agenda. The classic rock musical about the hippie counterculture’s outrage with war, environmental destruction, sexual repression, and discrimination against race and gender is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and Moriarty says it couldn't be more timely.
"This will be 1968 as a mirror to 2017, and I hope it prompts the audience to start asking questions," he says.
Though Moriarty directed a production of Hair at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts in 2015, he promises that DTC's version will be "quite different" and not shy away from the musical's famous nudity and adult themes. It's will also be "fully immersive," so be prepared to maybe have some hippies in your lap. It will play the Wyly Theatre September 22-October 22, 2017.
A Christmas Carol returns to the Wyly during the holiday season as a subscription add-on, with DTC's director of new play development Lee Trull at the helm. It runs November 22-December 28, 2017.
Meanwhile, in the Studio Theatre, a play called Fade will be running under the direction of Christie Vela. Penned by Tanya Saracho, who is a writer for HBO's Girls and ABC's How to Get Away with Murder, the story draws on her own experiences as a Mexican-born woman who moves to L.A. to write for television but who finds a connection with the only other Latino around: the janitor. It plays December 6, 2017-January 7, 2018.
Dallas Theater Center's existing relationship with the SMU Meadows School of the Arts has put MFA acting students into mainstage productions before, but Frankenstein will deepen that collaboration by not only casting MFA and BFA students but also by having an SMU master's student serve as one of the show's designers. The play will be an official part of SMU's season, and Moriarty says that if this partnership is successful, then it will become a permanent feature for future DTC seasons.
"This co-production extends and deepens the SMU Theatre Division's ongoing alliance with DTC," says theatre chair Stan Wojewodski, Jr. in a release. "Unique in its conception and format, the production of Frankenstein will offer our students increased opportunities for the development of critical thinking, collaborative effort, and technique in the service of a script that is intellectually stimulating, emotionally involving, and theatrically compelling."
In case you're wondering, yes, this is the version of Frankenstein that was adapted by Nick Dear and produced at London's National Theatre in 2011, famously starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller as they alternated the roles of Victor Frankenstein and his creation. Casting has not begun yet, so Moriarty says it's way too soon to tell if DTC will also be adopting the switcheroo. This will be staged at the Kalita Humprehys Theater February 2-March 4, 2018.
Last year, DTC co-produced Robert Schenkkan's LBJ play All the Way with Houston's Alley Theatre. The two companies are partnering up again for the playwright's second installment, The Great Society. Now we're watching LBJ deal with the Vietnam War and civil rights legislation, all while his popularity is plummeting and his presidency descends into chaos. Brandon Potter returns to play LBJ both in Houston and at the Wyly, where Dallas audiences can catch it March 9-April 1, 2018.
"Miller, Mississippi, Hair, and The Great Society are all set around roughly the same time period: 1965-1968," says Moriarty. "From an establishment trying to hold the country together to young outsiders protesting their country's choices to a single family dealing with the consequences, it's all happening when our country was the closest it's been to another civil war. We didn't plan to have so many of the plays take place then, but it seems fitting right now."
The second DTC-commissioned world premiere is Aaron Loeb's The Trials of Sam Houston, which uses Inception-like flashbacks to tell the story of some of America's most famous leaders — Andrew Jackson, Francis Scott Key, John Quincy Adams, among others —amid Texas' 1861 secession. It plays the Kalita Humphreys Theater April 20-May 13, 2018.
Nassim Soleimanpour's White Rabbit Red Rabbit is so shrouded in secrecy that even the actors about to perform it will have not seen the script until right before they go on. The Iranian playwright's "theater entertainment meets social experiment" features a new actor every night, and the less the audience knows about it going in, the better. It completes DTC's subscription season and runs in the Studio Theatre May 30-July 1, 2018.
On the eve of the first Public Works Dallas show (The Tempest), DTC has already committed to keeping the community-focused productions going with The Winter's Tale. Once again it will feature 200 cast members, only five of which will be professional actors, and establish partnerships with organizations around Dallas. Tickets will be free to see it at the Wyly Theatre August 31-September 2, 2018.