Two years ago, I left this comment on a post by Will Power in regards to his article on HowlRound. He had recently moved to Dallas with his family so he could be the Artist-in-residence at the Dallas Theater Center. I have tweaked it a bit and reposted it here. It sums up what I set out to do and why I chose Dallas to do it in...
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Will, great post! You know, I'm operating on the fringe-size/indie side of things and I discovered the same thing about Dallas (which was a surprising revelation because I grew up around here).
I lived and worked in NYC. And I have visited Chicago for long stints at a time. When I finally committed to a career as a theatre-maker and turned my attention to specializing in my own idiosyncratic stage creations, I considered moving a bunch of different places: Minneapolis, Seattle or joining the bulk of my playwriting colleagues who have nestled in Brooklyn.
Then I started thinking about what I actually wanted to do.
I had some concrete aims:
I wanted to create theatre where it didn't cost an arm and leg. Simple things like getting rehearsal space or building sets didn't have to be logistical nightmares. I'll admit, 24 hour places like Walmart, Kinko's and CVS are handy when you are producing theatre. So is having mega hardware stores like Lowe's nearby. After trying to move a couch across several boroughs in NYC one time for a play I realized I liked having space and easy transportation (heck yeah to harnessing the power of a pick-up truck for theatre!). These are all practical considerations of the actual "making" process that I took for granted until I went to other big cities around the country. I have lived in New York, but also in London and Hong Kong. Making theatre in these cities was difficult.
I didn't want to spend a fortune just to maintain a sustenance-level lifestyle. Dallas is comparatively inexpensive and the standard of living is super high. I have rented those four bedroom houses you talked about, complete with huge backyards and plenty of space, central air and heat, etc. for less than the amount I used to spend to sublet a *room* back in NYC. With space comes a surprising level of freedom (for rehearsals, meetings, thinking, building, etc.)
I wanted to travel. My wife casually pointed out on a map one time that Dallas is centered literally in the middle of the entire country. With a giant international airport here and no aversion to driving places (hell, it takes more than 12 hours to drive across the state... so pretty much anywhere in the midwest or south seems pretty close by Texas standards) Dallas makes a great "homebase." I consider the whole country my "field of operation" and keep coming back to Dallas as my welcoming HQ. From here I've taken pieces to festivals and venues all over North America.
Lastly, I didn't realize southern hospitality was an actual thing until I went other places. Dallas is a welcoming place. The arts patrons here are curious, sophisticated and actually pretty open-minded. Dallas, like Austin, is a little dash of blue in a mostly red state, politically. I like that. It is a good mix. I'm not saying there is more audience than other places, just that most of the time, the audiences here in Dallas are pretty engaged and smart.
I'm producing my first large arts festival - the Dallas Solo Fest - at the historic Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park later this month and I have solo performers coming in from all over the country. As the lead up to the fest is underway, it has been a pleasure to begin to show off Dallas to them. I'm hoping they leave with a good impression of the place and community here.
Anyway, great write-up, Will. Glad you and your fam are here. Glad you have experienced the positive side of Dallas for a working theatre artist.
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I am about to move into a new chapter in my theatre career, with a new focus. But I am still gonna be here around Dallas. It is still my home and my artistic HQ.