Arts on the Big Stage

8 Dallas arts groups get a crack at the big stage in AT&T series

8 Dallas arts groups get a crack at the big stage in AT&T series

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance
Dark Circles Contemporary Dance is riding high on the Elevator Project this season. Dark Circles Contemporary Dance/Facebook

In exciting news for Dallas' emerging artists as well as the audiences that love them, the AT&T Performing Arts Center is greatly expanding a program that gives them a shot at performing on the big stage. Now in its third season, the program, called the Elevator Project, will nearly double in size, with the number of productions increasing from five to eight. The season begins in September.

First established in 2014, the Elevator Project gives small and emerging arts groups space to perform on ATTPAC's campus, with support from the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. Originally it was geared toward theater groups, but grew in the second season to encompass dance, music, and spoken word.

This third season awards slots to eight companies that are brand new to the series. Three productions will be staged in the Studio Theatre, located on the sixth floor of the Wyly Theatre; four productions in Hamon Hall at the Winspear Opera House; and one on the donor reflecting pool in Sammons Park, on the campus of the AT&T Performing Arts Center. All shows are $25 and general admission.

“This is a substantial sampling that arts audiences can really get excited about,” says Doug Curtis, president and CEO of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, in a statement. “The new season includes a wide range of genres, giving audiences a unique chance to see some of the most innovative work from the freshest talent in Dallas.”

First up is Masquerade: Opera Cabaret, presented by American Baroque Opera Company. The production will harken back to the popular eighteenth century cabaret with dazzling arias by Handel, Vivaldi, and their contemporaries, sung by popular Dallas sopranos Anna Fredericka Popova, and Jendi Tarde, mezzo soprano Laura Warriner Bray, and countertenor Nicholas Garza, and accompanied by a full baroque orchestra on period instruments. Audience members are encouraged to sport their best Venetian mask for a chance to win prizes. It runs September 14-16, 2017, in Hamon Hall.

Next is Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, celebrating the opening of its fifth anniversary season with two new creations by founder and artistic director Joshua L. Peugh. One is a modern reimagining of the classic Les Sylphides, titled Les Fairies, with music by Frédéric Chopin that's arranged and performed live by Meadows School of the Arts staff musician Richard Abrahamson. The second work is titled Big Bad Wolf, and is inspired by cautionary tales people worldwide use to frighten naughty children. Influenced by characters described in stories by Heinrich Hoffmann, the Grimm Brothers, and Charles Perrault (among others), the work will be grandly theatrical and will also draw from vaudeville. It will also have an international premiere at Seoul Performing Arts Center (South Korea’s foremost art and culture venue) in conjunction with Korea National Contemporary Dance Company. Both will be performed in the Studio Theatre October 19-21, 2017.

DFW got a taste of Young Jean Lee's We're Gonna Die earlier in 2017, when Jake Nice presented it before one of the closing performances of Lee's Straight White Men at Second Thought Theatre. He went on to mount it at other places around DFW, with local musician Sammy "Rat" Rios as the Singer. Now it's playing the Studio Theatre February 8-10, 2018.

Bandan Koro African Drum & Dance Ensemble has Guinea Fare: Her Story, Her Ipseity​, a journey of four women as they travel to their ancestral homelands through contemporary dance, spoken word, and traditional African music and dance. "Guinea fare" means “women’s dance” in the Maninka language, and the show will also be part of Bandan Koro’s inaugural theater season. It runs in Hamon Hall March 22-24, 2018.

Using Shakespeare's quote,"Does not our lives consist of the elements?" as inspiration, director Adam Adolfo is exploring the five classical elements of the world through an evening salon that features music, dance, and poetry, ranging from opera to pop, modern dance and ballroom, and Shakespeare to hip-hop. ELEMENTAL: Nature’s Rhapsody will be staged in the Reflecting Pool at Sammons Park, and run April 20-22, 2018.

The longest run belongs to Soul Rep Theatre Company and its play The Freedmans. Written by members of Soul Rep’s writing consortium, the production is created to commemorate the opening of Dallas' Freedman's Memorial 20 years ago and to pay homage to the city's black pioneers and early Freedman's community of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Comprised of "compelling and colorful true and imagined stories told through poetry, monologue, song and dance," the show is noted to be appropriate for all ages and ethnicities. It runs in the Studio Theatre May 2-13, 2018.

Therefore Art & Performance Group is presenting The Alexa Dialogues, an exploration of artificial intelligence and the complexity of our human-AI relationships. Hilly Holsonback, Abel Flores, and Hannah Weir will interact live with Amazon’s voice-driven Alexa AI agent, as well as create large-scale video artworks and improvisational performance segments in collaboration with director Dean Terry. It plays May 24-26, 2018, in Hamon Hall.

Cry Havoc Theater Company closes out the season with Babel. Following the success of Shots Fired, its acclaimed documentary theatre piece about the 2016 Dallas Police shootings, the company is creating a new documentary work that examines the second amendment right to keep and bear arms. For Babel, the company will travel locally and nationally, collecting interviews from multiple sides of the gun ownership debate. Those interviews, along with the teens' reflections on them, will offer a glimpse into the emotionally charged national conversation. It plays Hamon Hall July 5-15, 2018.

For the first time, the Elevator Project season has been curated by a five-person panel of arts professionals and advocates. From an April call-for-entries from Dallas-based artists and arts groups, 41 proposals were submitted. Some of the guiding criteria included placing an emphasis on new works; diverse genres, artists, and subject matter; unusual use of performance space; supporting groups without a home; and more.

The review panel included: Becki Howard, violinist, recording artist, head of booking and events at Brethren + Sistren, former director of programming at AT&T Performing Arts Center; Terry Martin, head of fine arts at Greenhill School, former producing artistic director at WaterTower Theatre; Vicki Meek, sculptor, writer, former director at South Dallas Cultural Center; Judy Pollock, arts patron, former chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission; and Lily Weiss, executive director at Dallas Arts District, former artistic director at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, former dancer and choreographer.

Their suggestions were approved by John Paul Batiste (chair, Cultural Affairs Commission), Mike Richman (executive vice president, AT&T Performing Arts Center), and Jennifer Scripps (director, Office of Cultural Affairs).

“It’s important that there’s a place in the Arts District where artists can take risks, premier work, and find new audiences,” says David Denson, ATTPAC's director of programming and the creator of Elevator Project. “There’s also a hunger from Dallas audiences to discover these groups and test drive their work. We think the Center can help provide that platform.”

Individual tickets for each production are currently available online at, by telephone at 214-880-0202, or in person at the AT&T Performing Arts Center Winspear Opera House Box Office at 2403 Flora St. Tickets for each show are $25, but with the purchase of five or more shows, the ticket price becomes $20 for each show. With the purchase of seven shows, for $140, the eighth show is free, representing a total savings of $60. Handling fees are additional. Purchasers of five or more shows may also purchase a discounted parking option for only $5 per show.