NY Times Binges on Fort Worth Theatre Scene

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New York Times 
Dec. 2, 2020

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK

What’s Playing in Dallas? 

With Streaming, I Could Find Out
Open-air shows. Joint productions. Filmed dress rehearsals. Here’s a faraway close-up on how one theater community has stayed reasonably robust in adversity.

By Elisabeth Vincentelli

"Over the past few weeks, I’ve gone on a Dallas theater binge.

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Mind you, in real life I have never stepped outside the Dallas-Fort Worth airports. As with much else this pandemic year, my Texas theatergoing has been virtual.

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Still, I was happy to check it out — and to find out how Texans have held their breath and dived into the new world of Covid-era theater.

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Of course, Covid-19 has exacted a heavy financial toll: A survey by local arts-advocacy organizations revealed that the cultural sector had suffered nearly $68 million in financial losses between March 13 and July 31.

Yet months into the pandemic, the North Texas theater community has been displaying resourcefulness and a spirit of collaboration. Other cultural hubs around the country have stepped up, of course, but Dallas has shown particular moxie — perhaps because theaters there struggle for recognition even at the best of times.

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But this particular ecosystem and its local funders have provided an encouraging case study in how to confront an existential threat to art and business.

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Back in March, for example, Stage West was about to open Lucy Kirkwood’s “The Children” (which had played on Broadway in 2017) when it had to close its doors; the professional company quickly pivoted, streaming in April a live capture of the show.

Over the next months, Stage West introduced interactive digital parties; presented “Everything Will Be Fine,” from the smaller Prism Movement Theater, at a local university; and sold tickets to the Adirondack Theater Festival’s “cruise in a box” event. Next up is an original holiday show, “The Naughty List,” presented both as an outdoor distanced production (through Dec. 22) and as a stream (Dec. 4-31).

“We’ve been taking this opportunity to experiment and try as many new things as we can to keep our audience connected,” said Dana Schultes, the Stage West executive producer. “We’ve invested in excellent cameras and equipment, we have learned how to broadcast live all of these experiences. Those are just new tools in our go-to tool chest and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t lean into them in the future.”

“We’ve also had, quite frankly, surprise large donations from sponsors and big donors,” she added. “They said, ‘We see what you’re doing, we appreciate that you have stayed intact and are working with our community.’ ”

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