The Dallas Theater Center is launching an experimental “participatory theater” project that will cast both professional artists and the members of several Dallas community groups in an upcoming production, softening the division between audience and performer. Working with SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, the New York City-based The Public Theater’s Public Works, and the AT&T Performing Arts Center, “Public Works Dallas” will seek to encourage Dallas residents to tap into their creative sides through the theater, according to a press release from DTC.
The project will recruit its participants from five community organizations: the Jubilee Park and Community Center, Vickery Meadows Learning Center (VMLC), Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT), Bachman Lake Together and City of Dallas Park and Recreation.
In March 2017, Public Works Dallas will perform The Tempest under the direction of Kevin Moriarty. The cast will consist of 200 members, with only five being professional artists. The other 195 cast members will be amateurs selected from the community organizations. The production will be free to the public and is scheduled to be performed at Wyly Theatre.
The press release is copied below:
DALLAS (June 2, 2016) – Dallas Theater Center (DTC), in collaboration with Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts and Ignite/Arts Dallas, and in affiliation with New York City-based The Public Theater’s Public Works and AT&T Performing Arts Center, announced details for Public Works Dallas, a groundbreaking community engagement and participatory theater project designed to deliberately blur the line between professional artists and Dallas community members.
Five Dallas community organizations are participating in Public Works Dallas, including Jubilee Park and Community Center, Vickery Meadows Learning Center (VMLC), Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT), Bachman Lake Together and City of Dallas Park and Recreation. All will participate in workshops throughout the year culminating in auditions for roles in the Public Works Dallas participatory musical theater production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in March 2017, directed by DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in the Dallas Arts District.
The Tempest will feature 200 cast members, only five of whom will be professional actors, including members of DTC’s Hal and Diane Brierley Resident Acting Company. The remaining actors will be residents of Dallas, 100 selected from the five community organizations and 95 from select community cameo groups.
Public Works Dallas is affiliated with Public Works, an ongoing initiative of The Public Theater that seeks to engage the people of New York by making them creators and not just spectators. Public Works presented The Tempest in 2013 in New York, directed by Public Works Director Lear deBessonet, who was awarded the SMU Meadows Prize in 2015 to bring the program to Dallas, and will be collaborating on the Public Works Dallas project. She notes that participants of Public Works gain not only personal satisfaction but a deeper sense of connection to the city and its people.
“It is at the core about building a radically inclusive vision of the theater,” says deBessonet. “What we found at The Public is that it has changed every aspect of what we do in the best way possible. The self-respect and sense of pride within a community that comes from being in a show that’s exquisitely put-together and well-received is unmistakable. The experience transforms both those who make the show and those who witness it.”
Moriarty says sparking dynamic conversations in the community through the art of theater is DTC’s primary goal. “Through our collaboration with the SMU Meadows Ignite/Arts Dallas initiative, which is supporting the creation of this initiative at DTC, and my longtime friend and colleague, Lear deBessonet, we now have the opportunity to more fully engage in direct dialogue with an even broader spectrum of citizens throughout this great city, culminating in the powerful and joyful act of creating theater together. Public Works Dallas will radically deepen DTC’s level of authentic engagement within our entire community, and it will change Dallas forever. By reaching out to every corner of our city, listening to the community and welcoming them as collaborators, partners and friends into our home at the Wyly Theatre, DTC will more fully live up to its ideals: to use theater to provide a center for our North Texas community to gather.”
DTC, SMU Meadows and deBessonet began to develop Public Works Dallas during her Meadows Prize residency. A key initiative of Ignite/Arts Dallas, led by Clyde Valentín, the Meadows Prize is an annual award and residency given to pioneering artists and creative professionals that allows students to interact with artists at the top of their fields and integrates the Meadows School more deeply into the community. DeBessonet will return during rehearsals and for the production of The Tempest.
DTC will work with community members at the five partner organizations to participate in workshops and join in the creation of participatory theater. Sessions will be led by DTC’s Public Works Dallas Fellow Leah Harris, at Jubilee Park and Community Center; actress and Texas Christian University adjunct instructor Lydia MacKay at VMLC; SMU Meadows Artist-in-Residence and DTC Playwright in Residence Will Power at LIFT; actor and Cara Mía Theatre Co. Resident Artistic Ensemble member Ivan Jasso at Bachman Lake Together; and DTC Brierley Resident Acting Company member and Resident Artist, Hassan El-Amin at City of Dallas Park and Recreation. El-Amin will depart in July, and Brierley Resident Acting Company member Liz Mikel will lead the workshop.
“This is an important moment in Dallas’s history,” says Valentin, director of Ignite/Arts Dallas at SMU Meadows School of the Arts. “The narrative of Public Works in New York is that of a city that champions diversity and access. So what kind of city does Dallas want to become? We believe Public Work Dallas will help to ignite and inspire that conversation across our young city and become an important vehicle for our students to learn about this kind of approach to making art.”
DTC is a resident company of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, an affiliate with Public Works Dallas. “What really excited us about this project is how every corner of our very diverse city is the talent pool, and all sorts of people at every level of talent, will create, perform and experience theater like never before,” says Doug Curtis, president and CEO of the AT&T Performing Arts Center. “In just a few short years, the Center has become known as a platform for new and groundbreaking work, including that of our resident companies. Partnering with DTC and SMU on Public Works Dallas is an outstanding fit.”
Public Works Dallas is one of two pilot sites to be affiliated with Public Works, along with Seattle Repertory Theatre. Public Works Dallas is the ultimate community engagement initiative, says DTC Director of Public Works Dallas Dayron J. Miles. “The main goal is to engage our community with a joyful artistic experience that enriches lives and creates a more connected Dallas. Public Works Dallas and Public Works Seattle are the first national Public Works partners and we are thrilled to join our friends at The Public Theater in this necessary work that we hope will spread to other regional theaters across the country.”
The 90-minute production of The Tempest will be held March 3-5, 2017 at the Wyly Theatre located at 2400 Flora St., Dallas, TX 75201. The production will be free and open to the public. Ticket and full cast information will be announced at a later date.
Public Works Dallas is the recipient of a 2015 TACA Bowdon & Embrey Family Foundations Artist Residency Fund grant and a City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs Cultural Vitality Program grant.