Count Your Blessings

Why we should give thanks for the Dallas-Fort Worth theater scene

Why we should give thanks for the Dallas-Fort Worth theater scene

David Jeremiah and Rhianna Mack in T.N.B.
David Jeremiah and Rhianna Mack in Dead White Zombies' T.N.B. Photo courtesy of Dead White Zombies
Lynley Glicker as Dana in "Daffodil Girls" at Fun House Theatre and Film
Lynley Glicker in Daffodil Girls at Fun House Theatre and Film. Photo by Chuck Marcelo
The retractable chandelier at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas.
The retractable chandelier inside the Winspear Opera House. Photo by Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon? Yeah, we got that. Photo courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center
David Jeremiah and Rhianna Mack in T.N.B.
Lynley Glicker as Dana in "Daffodil Girls" at Fun House Theatre and Film
The retractable chandelier at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas.
Book of Mormon

It's not the same as posting daily on Facebook or saying what you're thankful for around the dinner table, but it's no less important that we give thanks this year for DFW's vibrant theater scene.

Seriously, whenever November/December rolls around and it's time to start making year-end, best-of lists, it's astonishing to realize how much visceral, challenging and beautiful theater this city produces. Let us bow our heads and give thanks for these nine reasons why our theater scene rocks.

1. We have troupes that delight in taking risks.
Dead White Zombies performs original plays in former stash houses and abandoned warehouses. Ochre House produces truly unique shows — utilizing everything from flamenco to puppets — that spring from the inimitable mind of Matthew Posey. Second Thought Theatre challenges its audiences with intimate, often dark and controversial works.

You can only appreciate the lightness of Neil Simon and Rodgers and Hammerstein when you have something to balance them against, and companies like these are doing an excellent job of pushing their audiences to explore and question.

2. We believe in nourishing the next generation's love of the arts
Michelle Obama recently presented Dallas Theater Center with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award for its youth theater program, Project Discovery. Since 1986, Project Discovery has helped more than 265,000 students and teachers study and experience live theater (more than half for the first time in their lives).

Kitchen Dog Theater, as part of the New Works Festival, partners every year with the local youth organization Junior Players to produce PUP Fest, a playwriting workshop and afternoon of staged readings written and performed by DFW high-schoolers.

We've talked a lot about Fun House Theatre and Film before, and with good reason. By treating its young actors (and designers) like adult professionals, the company emerges with productions that are impressively high-quality. Adorable, of course, but also thought-provoking and resonant.

WaterTower Theatre's upcoming The Adventures of Tom Sawyer will lead a double life as the Tom Sawyer Project. DISD high-schoolers auditioned for WaterTower's production, and now they will produce their own version of the show while the professional cast and crew act as mentors.

In addition, organizations like Dallas Children's Theater, Theatre Britain and Pocket Sandwich Theatre all stage performances designed to engage and encourage kids to love live theater. And let’s be honest, throwing popcorn and hissing at the villain is just as much fun for adults as it is for the little ones.

3. We have a lot of critics.
Trust us, this is a good thing. With a profession that's shrinking by the minute, Dallas has somehow managed to maintain a healthy number of professional theater critics. This is great for so many reasons, chief among them that educated, experienced opinions are harder and harder to come by in today's Yelp culture.

We may not all be full-time in pay, but we are full-time in spirit and commitment. To have this many varied voices, all passionate about the vast amount of theater Dallas is producing, is a valuable thing.

4. We have the largest arts district in America.
Not only is it big, but it's also gorgeous. Nestled in among world-class museums, the AT&T Performing Art Center is an architectural gem. The visually interesting façade and endlessly moveable interior of the Wyly Theatre encourage artists to have some fun, while the ruby-red prow of the Winspear Opera House juts toward the highway, beckoning passersby to enter and experience something amazing.

5. We're a big tour stop.
Between Dallas Summer Musicals, Lexus Broadway Series and Performing Arts Fort Worth at Bass Hall, we get just about every big musical and play that crisscrosses the country. You can't ever say that we're left out of the conversation.

6. We are finally starting to get national cred.
Not only are we in the conversation, sometimes we are the conversation. Earlier in the year, Dallas hosted the Theatre Communications Group's national conference. This was a big deal not only to the hardcore arts community, but it was a chance to show big-name companies from across the country the awesome work our own organizations have been doing.

In addition, shows that have premiered or been workshopped in Dallas have gone on to play in New York (Broadway included!).

7. We love our festivals.
Festivals are great not only for allowing smaller, newer works to be seen, but also because they also bring with them a sense of camaraderie. From Uptown Players Pride Festival to WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop Fringe Festival to the Festival of Independent Theatres, there's plenty to choose from.

8. We have a lot of big companies. We also have a lot of small and mid-sized companies.
There seems to be room for everyone in Dallas. From established, long-running theaters like Theatre Three (founded in 1961) and Dallas Theater Center (going since 1959) to newer, more compact troupes like Dallas Actors Lab (behind the intense ensemble play Jailbait) and Upstart Productions (its production of The Aliens was pitch-perfect), everyone is allowed to flourish.

9. We have some incredible talent.
Onstage and off, Dallas is home to a wildly talented bunch of actors, directors, designers and producers. In 2014, we can't wait to see what you guys will come up with next.