A few months ago, Teresa Coleman Wash called me on the phone and asked me about becoming the representative for the Dramatists Guild in Dallas/Ft. Worth. At first, the thought of connecting to theatre professionals and playwrights that reside across an area that spans over ninety-two hundred square miles made me a little nervous, and then I calmly said, “When do we start?”
As the new year began, two of the most talked about annual opportunities for playwrights made the call for submissions on every website, portal and social media outlet connected to Dallas/Ft. Worth. The first and the oldest is Kitchen Dog Theater’s annual New Works Festival, which produces six staged readings of amazing unproduced plays over the course of three weekends. The second is Dallas Theater Center’s Playwrights’ Workshop led by the center’s Playwright in Residence, Jonathan Norton. The workshop is comprised of two eight-week sessions, where local playwrights engage in the process of developing and completing the first draft of a full length play. The workshop was founded by Will Power in 2013 to support emerging playwrights.
In the spring, Guild members supported and celebrated Dallas/Ft. Worth’s fourth Down for #The Count play festival that presents new plays written by women. The festival is presented by The Bishop Arts Theatre Center, which produced Guild member Kathleen Culebro’s Dallas premiere of her work, La Llorona: A Love Story. Born and raised in Mexico City, Kathleen is the Founding Artistic Director of Amphibian Stage Productions, where she has produced over 100 plays in Fort Worth and New York. This year, Culebro received the Dramatists Guild Foundation Writers Alliance Grant, and she serves on the boards of Near Southside Inc., Women’s Policy Forum, and Trinity Shakespeare Festival. In addition, Dramatists Guild member Elaine Liner promoted the publication of her play Finishing School, which is published by Dramatic Publishing. Later in the spring, Liner invited fellow Guild members to the staged reading of her one-hour comedy, Dear Donald/Dear Hillary: Their Secret Correspondence at S.T.A.G.E Performing Arts in Dallas.
Just before summer, we held an event in partnership with Dallas Theater Center to attend the world premier of Jonathan Norton’s new play, Penny Candy. The story revolves around a working class family whose dream of running a candy house turns into a nightmare as gang violence and the realities of poverty confront their commitment to community and one another. After the play, Guild members attended a talkback with the playwright and members of the cast in the lobby of the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre.
Dallas-based playwright Straton Rushing opened up a discussion about character creation and dialects. In Norton’s play, local actor Ace Anderson grounds his convincing and honest portrayal of a Jamaican American through the use of Jamaican and English-based Creole accents, which allowed the participants to explore the unique collaborative process between the dramatist and the actor. Rushing says, “I generally enjoy talkbacks. Getting that behind-the-scenes perspective is a fun bonus. As dramatists, we are the “hermits” of theatre. Theatre is an inherently collaborative art form but we scarcely find a reason to converse the way actors, designers or directors do. I love when the Dramatists Guild schedules meet-ups for members. I hope we continue to do more things like this."