A magnificent seven: a look at small theaters with big ideas
Nancy Churnin | DallasNews.com | January 24, 2016
|Kasey Tackett and Miller Pyke in NIGHT OF THE TARANTUBEARS|
Small theater companies can have big ideas.
While some have theater homes and annual seasons, others pop up with individual shows in unexpected places, making it a challenge to keep up with their work. Ochre House Theater, MBS Productions and Rover Dramawerks have long histories of producing original work. Theatre Rapscallions and Proper Hijinx are new and led by ambitious young talent.
Some, like Noelle Chesney, founder and artistic director of the new Brick Road Theatre, aspire to move from non-Equity to professional musical theater productions. Others, like Brad McEntire, founder and artistic director of the established Audacity Theatre Lab, take pride in keeping a company small.
“I am an advocate for small, indie theater,” McEntire says. “I believe it can be done with high quality and at low cost. It is not necessarily a stepping stone to bigger endeavors. The goal actually is the small, flexible and independent.”
Still, being small can make it a challenge to get the word out. The lean annual operating budget of $15,000 for Brick Road Theatre, compared with the $12 million budget for 2016 at the Dallas Theater Center, doesn’t leave room to hire staff. That’s why you’re likely to be exchanging emails with founders when they have time between their day jobs. In the case of Shakespeare in a Bar, founded by Dylan Key, Katherine Bourne and Alia Tavakolian in 2014 to present barely rehearsed productions of Shakespeare in local bars and breweries, you’re asked to follow updates about new shows on its Facebook page.
These companies can’t count on anything, least of all the support of a subscription audience, yet they keep producing because they’re passionate about what they do. Here’s a look at some of those players and their current plans.
Audacity Theatre Lab. Founded as Audacity Productions in 1999, it dissolved in 2006 and re-formed as Audacity Theatre Lab in 2008. The company presents the world premiere of Night of the Tarantubears, a horror-comedy about genetic mutations written by Audacity founder Brad McEntire and Jeff Hernandez, at the Margo Jones Theatre at the Magnolia Lounge in Fair Park. Audacity is usually at the Margo Jones, but it also pops up at Bath House Cultural Center, WaterTower Theatre, Teatro Dallas, the Ochre House, Starbucks and in apartment building lobbies.
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