Throughout the season in Dallas/Fort Worth, we created online salons, silent writing meetups, and virtual readings geared toward creating professional connections and community in an effort to transform our temporary isolation into dynamic inspiration.
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 ran on YouTube and accepted 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 accepted short works, monologues, humorous sketches, and avant-garde stories from local theatre-makers and storytellers.
In Fort Worth, Amphibian Stage Productions produced THIS IS MY STORY as part of season’s virtual offerings. The video project was conceived by writer Dev’n Goodman. The project asked Black men living and working in Fort Worth to share deeply personal stories about their feelings of being silenced in their family, in their community and in society. The project explores family relationships, race, and personal growth in a unique way, while revealing the consequences of silence.
In late spring of 2020, we invited Guild members to the online salon, 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.
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. This past season, Gonzalez lit up the virtual stage by turning his play Before You Get Married into an audio drama. The play was co-produced by Teresa Coleman Wash at the Bishop Arts Theatre Center. Gonzalez also won the 2020 local slot at Kitchen Dog Theatre’s (KDT) annual competition for national and local playwrights. In his new solo work, Paletas de Coco, he performed a digital reading for their annual New Works Festival. Local playwright Dan Caffrey was the winner of the 2020 University of Texas MFA slot, and won a staged digital reading of his new play The Amphibians. The current season at KDT is dedicated to new plays written by BIPOC writers, which includes a staged reading series called In the Works that features four new plays by emerging playwrights of color. Two of the four writers for the season, Ruben Carrazana and Erin Malone Tuner, are local playwrights.
During the summer of 2020, young playwrights created new work and engaged in contests throughout Dallas/Fort Worth. In June, KDT collaborated with #ENOUGH with a call for submissions for ten-minute plays from local students in the sixth through twelfth grade in an effort to confront and create conversations about gun violence. In the midst of the pandemic, the 19th Annual PUP (Playwrights Under Progress) Fest featured six staged readings of jury-selected plays written by high school students. The PUP fest was the perfect way to break up mandatory quarantines. Each year, the winning plays are staged and featured in a professionally printed anthology.
As the youngest Guild member in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metro area as far as we know, Lila Katz finished her new play Mind of My Own. The teenage playwright won the New Play Festival in 2019 at the Tyler Civic Theatre in Tyler, Texas. In this second production, the seventeen-year-old adapted it for performances on Zoom last summer.
Founded in 1996, Cara Mia Theatre in Dallas produces a full season of plays and performances that give voice to the Latinx community in North Texas. Award-winning playwright Virginia Grise joins the theatre as the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and HowlRound Theatre Commons Playwright-In-Residence. Over the next three years, she will develop Da Grove: Un Taller for Dreaming, a performance lab with residence from the crime ridden and underserved neighborhoods of Pleasant Grove in Dallas County. The project is designed to create multi-generational connections and to re-imagine community through theatre.
In the fall, 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.
At the beginning of 2021, Anyika McMillan-Herod’s new play DO NO HARM premiered at Soul Rep Theatre Company in Dallas. The project was commissioned by Dr. Evelyn Parker, a theologian and professor at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. The play is based on the real-world struggle of three enslaved women, who served as guinea pigs for Dr. J. Marion Sims, who is known as the father of Modern Gynecology. Anyika is co-founder and executive director for the theatre company. Due to the pandemic, the play emerged as a filmed play with Anyika as playwright and co-director in celebration of Soul Rep’s 25th Anniversary Season. In the spring of 2021, Soul Rep produced two innovative works with high school students and emerging playwrights. The first is LIBERATION LABORATORY, Volume 1: A NEW OPPRESSION. Inspired by the “Theatre of the Oppressed,” the original work is a filmed play and collaboration with BIPOC students from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. The second, the Soul-O-Shorts Series, features six ten-minute solo works about everyday people and some historical and notable figures.
At the end of the season, we revived the DG Footlight™ series for the first time in several months. Guild members Quintin Humphrey and Jonathan Kilcullen shared new works in progress on the virtual stage, kicking off our first two readings of the series. Quintin’s play, No.1 White James McGahey, explores themes about race, family, and gay interracial relationships, while Jonathan’s reading of The Ghosts of Hellbend Corner dealt with jet-setters, tortured artists, and burnt out race car drivers in the extreme world of auto racing. Both playwrights allowed audiences to journey into two divergent worlds, populated with memorable and exciting characters, which culminated into great word of mouth and anticipation for the upcoming reading this summer.
And last, but not least, Ben Schroth’S outrageous 90-minute play, Sherlock Holmes vs. Godzilla, is featured in the month of April on the New Play Exchange and was also published in the spring by Next Stage Press. The farcical comedy and hyper-spoof of Sherlock Holmes and Watson fighting evil and facing the gooey Godzilla and the forces of evil is the perfect reading companion, and the great way to end the season and hopefully the pandemic with a sigh of relief, and a smile.
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