Is Dallas Home To the Most Important Theater In Texas?

In the wake of the Giant opening at New York’s Public Theater, Texas Monthly‘s Christopher Kelly shines the stage lights on the theater company that collaborated on the production, the Dallas Theater Center, and wonders if it has now eclipsed Houston’s Alley Theater as the most important theater in Texas.

More than impressing the New York tastemakers with new work, though, the company also continues to do solid work for local audiences: The 2011-2012 season finished on an especially high note, with a moving and intimate mounting of Geoffrey Nauffts Next Fall and a glittery revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technical Dreamcoat.

And here’s the highlight of the piece: when Kelly needed some expert critical opinion on the DTC’s success, he turned to our resident theater maven Liz Johnstone:

“A collaboration with a large, entrenched New York theater like the Public on a show about Texas—that makes total sense,” said Liz Johnstone, a theater critic for D Magazine who panned Giant in its Dallas run. “Taking these risks could pay off for them.”

In truth, Liz didn’t exactly “pan” Giant. Her review was more “meh” than “ugh.”

 Update: Edited to clarify that the DTC did not originally premiere the musical Giant; the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, did.


  • Jerome Weeks

    i heartily believe the Dallas Theater Center is the equal of, if not the superior to, Houston’s Alley Theatre, but let’s consider Kelly’s examples: ‘Giant’ did not ‘originate’ here (it premiered in Arlington, VA), had no significant input from North Texas artists in its composition, writing or directing and went on to New York with no Dallas talent in it, ‘Next Fall’ was moving and fine but nothing truly outstanding, the kind of thing that should fill any major resident company’s season, and ‘Joseph’ was a big, popular piece of sparkly, campy shlock, lightweight summer fare at best. And these are the ‘high notes’?

  • Liz Johnstone

    Jerome, when I spoke with Kelly, I mentioned my reservations about Giant, which includes some of your same quibbles. As for originating in Dallas, Peter mistyped—Kelly notes in his post that the original production was at the Signature Theatre. Regardless of how much I actually enjoyed the musical, such a large-scale collaboration with the Public, even if it was perhaps more about sharing money than artistic and creative input, means something. What, precisely, I can’t tell you. But it feels like building blocks. And perhaps putting the DTC stamp on it and running it here first lent the outsiders a sense of authenticity that contributed in some part to its Broadway run.

    Giant aside, let’s not forget about Lysistrata Jones, which did premiere at the DTC and was eventually moved to Broadway with Dallas talent last year. As for last season, I believe ‘Joseph’ was a high note commercially. And if flashier productions like that A) meet a certain local demand and B) keep the lights on and allow for commissions and local premieres of more adventurous new work (which we’ll see some of in this upcoming season, but also includes the well-reviewed but perhaps not as profitable production of ‘The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety’), I’m all right with that. All this to say, I’m quite looking forward to 2013.