Another day and another drive-in has popped up in Dallas, but this isn’t just another movie theater. Tin Star, opening this weekend near Trinity Groves, is a small solution to the dilemma facing local performing arts groups during the pandemic: there’s finally a place for them to perform outside of closed-in theaters. Not to mention, it offers audiences a safe and engaging reprieve from the monotony of watching TV and ordering takeout.
“As people sit here and watch Netflix and Amazon, there’s only so much of that that I can do before I get really bored. What is missing here? It’s arts engagement,” says Tin Star founder and professional dancer Nolan McGahan. “I’m not engaging in the arts anymore, I’m not going and socializing and seeing things that are stimulating me creatively. If that’s not happening to me, it’s not happening to a lot of people here.”
McGahan had been talking to developers about opening a performing arts venue in the Oak Cliff neighborhood for a year and a half. Originally, he wanted to convert an old warehouse in the area, but when COVID hit, he had to adapt his plan to suit audiences and artists.
As an artist himself, McGahan saw how his peers were struggling to find work and opportunities to perform. His friends at the Metropolitan Opera have lost an entire year professionally. He worried that smaller arts groups wouldn’t be able to survive months of stagnation.
“It made me think about the different performing arts groups here in Dallas and how they’re going to survive this whole year with 25 to 50 percent sold houses in the Arts District–if they’re even able to perform,” he says. The first step to support these groups was getting them back on stage.
“How can we get audiences back seeing some of these groups that the city has come to love and support, and how can we continue the development of these groups and the support of these groups in this time when support is needed most? You’ve got to develop and you’ve got to adapt in this situation in order to make it through this storm.”
Tin Star Theater is opening strictly as a drive-in theater, and audience members are required to stay in their cars during shows. The lot fits about 70 to 80 cars with 6 to 7 feet between each party. McGahan hopes that the venue can evolve and accommodate a larger audience as social distancing guidelines loosen.
The theater’s inaugural event is Twilight presented by Bruce Wood Dance. The company will perform new, site-specific choreography by Gregory Dolbashian to music by Danny Goldman and Austin Allen. A structural light art installation by Colin Hendee will set the stage.
For the dancers, performing in the new, unorthodox space is a chance to experiment. For the audience, it’s an opportunity to see how artists are making lemonade with lemons–and it’s certainly something fresh in our arts scene.
Bruce Wood Dance is opening its 11th season with Twilight at the Tin Star on August 28 at 7:30 p.m. Gates open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 per vehicle.