In 2020, we faced an unusual spring season, as we watched the American theatre evolve in ways unimaginable. Shortly after the closing of the live stage, the virtual stage emerged in Dallas with big, loud calls to jump in and create work for contests, YouTube and Zoom productions. For most of 2020, Guild members in Dallas/Fort Worth stayed connected through Zoom conferences in order to thrive as a community, engage with our mission in the theatre and to transform the annoying isolation during the pandemic into some tangible source of inspiration. It seemed surreal that the small screen had engulfed the big stage and we all had no choice, but to take it seriously and to make every effort to adapt. In both cities, Dramatists Guild members worked together to create, program and produce work on the digital stage.
TERESA COLEMAN WASH, Executive Artistic Director and Founder of the Bishop Arts Theatre Center (BATC) promoted the ‘Me & My Mask’ New American Monologue Competition and Festival, calling all local playwrights to submit their work and to join theatre lovers from all across the country to enjoy live performances via Zoom. BATC quickly recalibrated their season with virtual offerings, including the production of It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, a free radio play in partnership with Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
Starting in April, we programmed three virtual salon projects via Zoom. The first, Playwrights at Work in the Midst of Diversity, was moderated with KATHLEEN CULEBRO, DG Ambassador and Executive Artistic Director of Amphibian Stage Productions. The participants compiled quotes from American playwrights and theatre-makers in advance. During the call, we shared the various perspectives and lessons on how to engage theatre as a way to create dialogue and to inspire each other. For the second digital gathering, What is a Dramaturg?, we invited Haley Nelson who is a local dramaturg and NNPN Producer-in-Residence at Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas. During the call, she answered questions and discussed the role of the dramaturg in the industry and described the relationship dynamics that emerge between the dramaturg, playwright, and the director.
Just before summer, Guild member FRANKY D. GONZALEZ shared his expertise and his excitement for the theatre by moderating a craft talk via Zoom on Navigating the New Play Exchange. The talk explored ways to network and ways to actively drive the submissions process on the platform. Gonzalez is a Colombian American playwright and television writer (13 Reasons Why) based in Dallas. This year, Franky’s work flourished across the country on the virtual stage. He won the 2020 local slot for a digital reading of his play Paletas de Coco at Kitchen Dog Theater’s New Works Festival. In Los Angeles, The Road Theatre Company produced a reading of his work Even Flowers Bloom in Hell, Sometimes, a play exploring love, race, and familial ties, through the lives of a generation struggling to break the cycle of incarceration and a life of crime. In the wake of theatre companies and new play initiatives going digital the year, Gonzalez is currently a Sundance Institute Theatre Lab Playwright-in-Residence, one of seven artists to join the remote workshops through the Sundance Co//ab platform.
One of the most successful local projects geared toward keeping the theatre community connected and creative is the digital platform and quarantine companion, Isolation Station. Created by Guild members CAROLINE COLE and CAIN RODRIGUEZ and supported by the Dramatists Guild in Dallas/Fort Worth, the virtual variety show runs on YouTube and accepts finished video submissions between one and four minutes in length. With over nine produced seasons and new episodes available on Sunday evenings, the variety show continues to accept short works, monologues, humorous sketches and avant-garde stories from local theatre-makers and storytellers.
In the fall, Dallas/Fort Worth celebrated the most exciting news of the year. Guild member ANYIKA MCMILLAN-HEROD, who is Executive Director and Co-Founder of Soul Rep Theatre Company, announced their 25th Anniversary Season. Soul Rep is the longest running theatre company dedicated to the Black experience in Dallas. The Bishop Arts Theatre Center ended the year with The Monologue Project Workshop Series for their 2020-2021 season. The workshop offers four online monologue-writing workshops led by nationally recognized writers FRANCE-LUCE BENSON, PIA WILSON, STACEY ROSE, and Amy Evans.