Best of 2011: On Stage in North Texas

Reflecting on North Texas’ stage performance in 2011, I take pride in recognizing the region’s senior directors. They bring immense creative vision and studied, practiced, pragmatic understanding of their craft to the arts community. They inspire performers, critics, advocates and patrons, alike, to “keep after it”, even as we have less than a 9% share of national audience engagement. Here’s to increasing that audience share a percentage or two in 2012.

My selections for Best Regional Theatre of 2011, with comments graciously provided by some of our distinguished arts leaders:

1) Spring Awakening, WaterTower Theatre, directed by Terry Martin:

Spring Awakening at WaterTower Theatre, Mark Oristano photo

“As a director you always hope that the illusive “theatre magic” will shine on every play you direct, but it is sadly not always the case.  Every so often though, it all comes together in such an extraordinary way that you never want it to end.  Spring Awakening was one of those cases. I think it was the coming together of an incredible play, and my being blessed with a truly remarkable cast, design staff, and crew, each and everyone as passionate about telling the story as I was.   We were all inspired not only by the relevance of the story, but also the message of The Trevor Project’s “It’s get Better” anti-bullying videos which we found very much related to the play’s message.  We all set out to speak to the misunderstood and frightened adolescent in us all, through this play.   I also think that this play really fit the unique nature of the Addison Theatre Centre’s performance facility and was enhanced by the space.  The show completely surpassed what I had hoped for. The ”theatre magic” showed up this time for sure and I feel very proud to have been a part of it. “Terry Martin

2) Cabaret, Dallas Theater Center, directed and choreographed by Joel Ferrell:

“When it was decided I would direct Cabaret, I had no idea there were so many Holocaust survivors in Dallas.  Partnering with the Dallas Holocaust Museum made working on the piece “alive” for the entire team in a unique way.  The voices of people who had lived through it rang in our heads as we shaped the show.  I’ll always be grateful to Kevin for creating the partnership, our incredible friends at the museum, and all the collaborators for giving me a rare and really wonderful opportunity.” Joel Ferrell

3) As You Like It, Trinity Shakespeare Festival, directed by TJ Walsh:

“When I think of Trinity’s production of As You Like It, I think of Trisha Miller, Tristan Decker, David Coffee, Clare DeVries, Jonathan Brooks, Aaron Turner and a long list of incredibly talented folks.  It is a simply beautiful play, funny and moving, and one of the joys of being an artistic director is that you are able to put together a group of talented people you’ve wanted to work with to help find and shape one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces.  It was fun.” TJ Walsh

4) Next to Normal, Uptown Players, directed by Michael Serrechia-Robinson:

Next To Normal, Uptown Players

“It was an amazing experience. One of those moments in the art of theatre when all the pieces fall into place. Mostly a cast and a set of producers that gave me their unconditional trust. It was a very emotional piece and could have had a very different outcome. I am still very grateful for that trust.” Michael Serrechia-Robinson

In October 2011, The Dance Council of North Texas awarded Serrechia–Robinson  the Natalie Skelton Award for Artistic Excellencewww.thedancecouncil.org

5) Ages of the Moon, Undermain Theatre, directed by Katherine Owens

6) Last Summer at Bluefish Cove (staged reading) by Jane Chambers, Uptown Players’ Pride Festival, directed by Cheryl Denson:

“It started out as just a reading, a simple staged reading in a Gay Play Festival…the only offering of lesbian writing being presented.  And it was written in the 1980’s, a period piece.  There were to be two performances…(the) women went to work as if they would run months!  Souls were laid bare and hearts were open.  Eight women working as an ensemble, each supporting the others and finding joy in another person’s success.  It was a rarified experience for me and I believe for them…we never got to polished, but we got to Magic!  At least moments of magic.  Exquisite moments of pure, honest, breathtaking acting.” Cheryl Denson

7) Three Foote: An Evening of Three One-Act Plays – Kitchen Dog Theater, directed by Karen Parrish, Jonathan Taylor and Christina Vela

8) Memphos! The Ochre House, directed by Matthew Posey

9) The Trip to Bountiful, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, directed by Rene Moreno

10) Boeing Boeing, Circle Theatre, directed by Robin Armstrong

Best Acting Performances: in alphabetical order

Women:

  • Emily Scott Banks (Boeing Boeing – Circle Theatre, A Most Dangerous Woman – Echo Theatre, Arms and the Man – Stage West)
  •  Patty Breckinridge (Next to Normal – Uptown Players)
  • Erica Harte (Next To Normal – Uptown Players, Spring Awakening – WaterTower Theatre)
  • Elly Lindsay (The Trip to Bountiful – Contemporary Theatre of Dallas)
  • Trisha Miller (As You Like It, Macbeth – Trinity Shakespeare Festival)
  • Dana Schultes (Talking Pictures – Stage West)
  • Krista Scott (Boeing Boeing – Circle Theatre)
  • Nancy Sherrard (The Importance of Being Earnest – WingSpan Theatre)
  • Sally Vahle  (Cabaret – Dallas Theater Center)
  • Sherry Jo Ward (November – Stage West)

Men:

  • Andy Baldwin (Boeing Boeing – Circle Theatre)
  • Jakie Cabe (As You Like It, Macbeth – Trinity Shakespeare Festival)
  • Mark Fickert (Ages of the Moon – Undermain Theatre)
  • Gary Lynn Floyd (Next To Normal – Uptown Players, Rockin’ Christmas Party – WaterTower Theatre
  • Adam Garst (Spring Awakening – WaterTower Theatre)
  • James Healy, Jr. (How I Learned to Drive –Theatre Arlington)
  • David Jeremiah (The Shipment – Undermain Theatre, Topdog/Underdog – Jubilee Theatre)
  • Alex Organ (As You Like It, Macbeth – Trinity Shakespeare Festival)
  • Kurt Rhoads (Dividing The Estate, A Christmas Carol – Dallas Theater Center)
  • Jeff Swearingen (The Hand – Broken Gears Project Theatre, Corpse! – Theatre Arlington)

David Coffee’s Standing Ovation Performances, 2011: Dallas Theater Center’s Cabaret (Herr Schultz), Trinity Shakespeare Festival’s As You Like It (Touchstone), Circle Theatre’s The Fantasticks (Henry the Actor)

Outstanding Performer of 2011: Jonathan Brooks – (Trinity Shakespeare Festival’s Macbeth and As You Like It, Dallas Theater Center’s A Christmas Carol)

Jonathan Brooks, Kurt Rhoads in DTC's A Christmas Carol, Karen Almond photo

Outstanding Design, Technical Accomplishment: (random order)

  • Next to Normal, Uptown Players – Design Team: Andy Redmon, Scott Eckert, Jason Foster, Virgil Justice, Susie Cranford (set/music/lights/sound/costumes)
  • The Trip To Bountiful, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas – Rodney Dobbs, set design, Russell Dyer, lighting
  • Hydrogen Jukebox, Fort Worth Opera – Design Team: Production, Anya Klepikov; Projections, C. Andrew Bauer; Lighting, Lisa Miller; Audio Designer, Ra Byn Taylor
  • Arsenic and Old Lace, Dallas Theater Center – Anna Louizos, scenic design; costumes by William Ivey Long
  • Corpse! Theatre Arlington, Design Team; Max Marquez, Meredith Hinton, Andrea Allmond (set/costume/ sound)
  • Macbeth, Trinity Shakespeare Festival, Design Team: Brian Clinnin, Michael Skinner, Toby Jaguar Algya (Scenic, Lighting, Composition/Sound design)
  • Spring Awakening, WaterTower Theatre, scenic design by Christopher Pickart, choreography by John De Los Santos

Top Touring Shows:

  • Billy Elliot, AT&T Performing Arts Center, national tour
  • The Birthday Boys (written and directed by Aaron Kozak), Texas Theatre

Unique Innovation & Transformation:

  • Hydrogen Jukebox, Fort Worth Opera. Music by Philip Glass and poetry by Allen Ginsberg. Conductor: Steven R. Osgood; Director: Lawrence Edelson
  • Thom Pain (based on nothing) Second Thought Theatre: by Will Eno, Matthew Gray director; Steven Walters, solo performance

The most entertaining show of 2011:

FunHouse Theatre and Film’s The Ultimate Holiday Experience, written and directed by Jeff Swearingen, an all youth production made possible by Plano Children’s Theatre

As run with media content partner TheaterJones.com

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