Right before it opens its first in-person show since before the pandemic (Working), Dallas Theater Center announced its 2021-22 season.
The nine-event season begins in September and includes two world premiere comedies, the regional premiere of an adaptation of a bestselling book, a refreshing take on an American classic, and a bold interpretation of one of the most beloved musicals.
Productions will take place in the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre at the AT&T Performing Arts Center and at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, DTC’s historic home theater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
In addition, DTC will launch a new Community Touring initiative to community centers throughout the city.
"We are thrilled to welcome audiences back to the Wyly Theatre and the Kalita Humphreys Theater with a season of comedies, music, and stories of inspiration," says artistic director Kevin Moriarty in a release. "We are creating productions that will produce laughter, strengthen community, and inspire healing. After more than a year of producing work primarily virtually, we can’t wait to once again celebrate the special experience of actors and audiences having a shared experience in person."
Also of note is the announcement that DTC will expand its commitment "to providing full-time, year-round employment to professional theater artists" in addition to utilizing its Diane and Hal Brierley Resident Acting Company. This support will include appointing a full-time playwright-in-residence, associate artistic director, resident music director, and resident designer.
"During the pandemic it became clear how vulnerable artists are in our society," says Moriarty. "So we are expanding our support of artists by hiring a diverse company of full-time, professional resident actors, writers, directors and designers to create unique productions that you can only see at DTC.
"In addition to creating thrilling productions onstage, our resident artists will engage with our community throughout Dallas, bringing theater to the people and welcoming everyone to experience the joy of theater, both as audience members and as participants."
For the first three shows of the season, DTC will offer a social distancing section. The company will continue to monitor CDC, Dallas County, and its own medical advisors on safety protocols throughout the season.
It all begins with Cake Ladies and Tiny Beautiful Things running in repertory starting in September in the Potter Rose Performance Hall.
Cake Ladies is the world premiere comedy from playwright-in-residence Jonathan Norton (penny candy), written specifically to welcome audiences back to the theater, and features company members originating roles created specifically for them.
In Cake Ladies, the Scott County Community Playhouse is the pride of Cedar Oak, Texas, a small town recovering from a drug-fueled HIV outbreak. With the launch of their first ever “AIDSFest!” it seems the town is finally turning a corner for the better. When the COVID-19 pandemic shuts down the playhouse's production of Angels in America, best friends LeAnne (Sally Nystuen Vahle) and Tweedy-Bird (Liz Mikel) — affectionately known as “the cake ladies” — leap into action to make Angels soar again in their hometown.
Based on the New York Times bestselling book by Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild), Tiny Beautiful Things follows Sugar, an online advice columnist who uses her personal experiences to help the real-life readers who pour their hearts out to her. Rich with humor, insight, compassion, and absolute honesty, Tiny Beautiful Things is about reaching when you’re stuck, healing when you’re broken, and finding the courage to take on the questions that have no answers.
Next, The Supreme Leader makes its world premiere at the Kalita. While in boarding school in Switzerland, Kim Jong-Un learns he’s next in line as The Supreme Leader after his older brother’s career-ending trip to Tokyo Disneyland. But he must prove himself. Under the watchful eye of his minder, he sets his paintbrush aside to spy on his pretty American friend Sophie. Will “Oony” get the girl? Will he make his father proud? Set in the snow globe world of stinky cheese and mountain climbing, this coming-of-age comedy imagines Kim Jong-Un’s final throes of youth before his fateful return to North Korea. The Supreme Leader was written by Don X. Nguyen and will be directed by Moriarty.
Next in the Kalita is one of the most beloved American plays ever written: Our Town by Thornton Wilder. It follows the Webb and Gibbs families as their children fall in love, marry, and eventually — in one of the most famous scenes in American theater — die. Narrated by a stage manager and performed with minimal props and sets, Our Town depicts the fictional small town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, through three acts: “Daily Life,” “Love and Marriage,” and “Death and Eternity.” In the next step for a play that Wilder conceived to be a play about everywhere, this version is in three languages: English, Spanish and Creole. Filled with live music and infused with layers of culture and community, this special production "celebrates Grover’s Corners as an international address and finds the shared humanity in all its inhabitants."
For its first touring production, DTC presents Native Gardens by Karen Zacarias. It will wrap up with performances in the Wyly Theatre Studio. In the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Pablo, a high-powered lawyer, and Tania, his very pregnant doctoral candidate wife, have just purchased their dream home. It’s a bit of a fixer-upper, but luckily Tania is a brilliant gardener and plans to transform their outdoor space into a beautiful native garden. Their new next-door neighbor, Frank, is a gardener himself and spends most of his time nurturing his non-native garden to win the annual gardening competition in the neighborhood. When Tania and Pablo set to work on building a fence they discover that their property line is two feet into Frank’s beloved garden. Friction between the neighbors erupts into an all-out war, and it becomes increasingly unclear who will win in this hilarious, hot-button comedy.
A country under attack. A family paralyzed by loss. And a woman who is afraid to love. DTC boldly reexamines one of the most exhilarating musical theater classics ever written. The winner of five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, The Sound of Music was the final collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. From its opening in 1959, it immediately became the world’s most beloved musical on both stage and film. The inspirational story follows a young postulate who is dispatched to serve as governess for the seven children of an imperious naval captain, bringing joy and music to the household. But as the forces of Nazism take hold of Austria, Maria and the entire von Trapp family must make a moral decision. The production will be presented in the Potter Rose Performance Hall and will be directed by Moriarty.
Finally, in the Kalita, is the groundbreaking American comedy/drama Trouble in Mind. Both written and set in the mid-1950s, it tells the story of Wiletta Mayer, an African American actress cast in a supposedly “progressive” play about racism written by a white male author. Trouble in Mind opened off-Broadway in 1955 and became the first play by a Black female playwright to be optioned for Broadway. But when Alice Childress, the real-life playwright, refused to change the ending at the request of the white producers, the production was called off. Seven decades later, this nearly-lost classic is making a comeback at theaters across the country — including Broadway this fall — proving that this funny and moving play is a piece for our times.
Dallas Theater Center’s nationally recognized Public Works Dallas community engagement program will return with its annual pageant production in July 2022. The large-scale musical production, whose title will be announced in the fall, will feature 200 community members performing alongside DTC’s professional artists. It will be offered for free to the community for two weekends of performances, demonstrating DTC’s deep commitment to the idea that theater is the birthright of everyone.
To learn more about DTC’s upcoming season or buy a subscription, go to www.dallastheatercenter.org.