New kid on the arts block

Grand opening: Dallas City Performance Hall enriches the Dallas Arts District

Grand opening: Dallas City Performance Hall enriches the Dallas Arts District

Moody Performance Hall
Dallas City Performance Hall give small and mid-size local arts groups a place to call home. Photo by Stevan Koye, courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center
City Performance Hall
David Denson, media and marketing coordinator for the Dallas City Performance Hall, led CultureMap Dallas on a behind-the-scenes tour of the new venue. Photo by Conner Howell
City Performance Hall
The lobby, unobstructed by a box office, provides a backdrop for cocktail parties and small performances. Photo by Conner Howell
Sarah Jaffe
Sarah Jaffe is the first artist to grace the stage at the new performance hall on Friday, September 14. Photo by Chris Phelps
Moody Performance Hall
City Performance Hall
City Performance Hall
Sarah Jaffe

If there’s one word that epitomizes Dallas City Performance Hall, which celebrates its grand opening this weekend, it’s “flexible.”

That phrase was thrown around a lot by David Denson, media and marketing coordinator for the new venue, during a preview tour given to CultureMap Dallas. It doesn’t take long to understand why flexibility is the performance hall’s most valuable trait.

It starts with a wide-open lobby that not only allows for easy access to the hall’s 750-seat theater, but also provides a backdrop for cocktail parties and small performances. In fact, the lobby has a variety of design elements that enable arts organizations to stage small-scale productions easily. It has its own lighting and sound area, and the back wall and ceilings ensure sound acoustics. Amphitheater-style seating in the center gives audience members a place to sit and take in the sights.

 Despite its newness, the publicly funded theater is hardly flashy – and that’s also by design. Its modesty keeps the attention on the performances, where it belongs.

Despite its newness, the publicly funded theater is hardly flashy – and that’s also by design. Its modesty keeps the attention on the performances, where it belongs. The utilitarian color scheme comprises tones of gray and tan. At first glance the lobby floor appears to be terrazzo; actually it’s polished concrete. Gray wool curtains, which can be configured myriad ways for multiple acoustic effects, hang unobtrusively on the sidewalls of the theater.

But don’t mistake an understated appearance for a lack of frills. The front curtain on the stage features a multitude of LED diodes, which local artists use to create  “moving paintings.” The front part of the stage can be moved up and down to accommodate an orchestra pit. And the backstage area accommodates a surprising number of configurations, including an orchestra shell that unfolds from the sides.

The hall was built specifically to give small and mid-size local arts groups a place to call home, and a system has been put into place to give those groups first dibs on bookings. But that doesn’t mean you won’t see bigger arts groups or entertainers within the building’s cozy confines. We predict it will become a hot spot for anyone seeking a venue that’s classier than a bar but more intimate than a large theater.

The grand opening of Dallas City Performance Hall promises to have a carnival-like atmosphere. Festivities start Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by free tours and a discussion about the facility’s design. On Friday, the first artist graces the stage, singer-songwriter Sarah Jaffe; the second show features a triple bill of The Relatives, Pleasant Grove and Seryn.

Saturday is chock-full of performances, including a snippet of Dallas Children’s Theater’s The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, an improv set and a showcase of local dance troupes. Saturday’s finale is a concert from the Dallas Jazz Collective, whose members range in age from 17 to 71. Sunday promises to be just as busy, with everything from marionettes to orchestras to performances by the Women’s Chorus of Dallas. Food trucks stationed along Flora Street on Saturday and Sunday keep hunger and thirst quenched.

The Dallas Arts District already was a hotbed for music and the performing arts, thanks to the Meyerson Symphony Center, Winspear Opera House and Wyly Theatre. With the addition of Dallas City Performance Hall, the district just got hotter – and more accessible.

Or, shall we say, more flexible.

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