The Theater Manager
Imagine a young aspiring actor from the plush green hills of Virginia being dropped off a cross-country bus in the dusty flatlands of Odessa to work the summer at the Globe Theater. That was David Minton’s introduction to Texas seven years ago, and he remembers now that he was first impressed with the sight of a seemingly endless horizon.
He and his wife, local actress Jillian Raye, migrated from Odessa to Dallas because they heard it was the place to be if you wanted to get in on the ground level of a regional theater movement. Minton says now that those descriptions of Dallas theater were slightly exaggerated, but they decided to stay anyway.
Since 1981, Minton has been general manager of the Addison Community Theater (ACT). As a manager and sometimes director, he’s less concerned with his own acting career than he is with promoting regional theater. He’s particularly encouraged that the move toward producing original works has been given more serious discussion since the arrival last year of Dallas Theater Center Artistic Director Adrian Hall.
The frustrating efforts of promoting theater, much less a regional theater movement, really hit home to those who have visited the tiny stone house that is the Addison Theater, just north of the Addison Road and Belt Line Road intersection. Local theater critics attest that ACT periodically bursts forth with exciting works performed by better-than-average actors and directors who somehow manage despite the cramped space and small audiences.
No one understands this better than Minton, who recently directed what some community theaters might call a “chancy” evening of theater-two lesser-known Tennessee Williams works. Minton hopes he brought audiences a rarely seen comedic view of Williams, who is typically considered a depressing playwright. The fact that Minton took on such an unusual production in the small theater is an indication of his belief that ACT will be a prime attraction in the Metrocrest area soon.
“We are really trying to develop a young, aggressive theater,” he says. “The thing that is unique about us is that we are small. Even in a new facility, we want to keep a sense of intimacy because I think that is our niche. We will never compete with the Plaza Theater or the Dallas Theater Center, but we want to begin shedding our amateur image.”
To date, Minton is the only ACT employee who is paid a salary by the Town of Addison. He says the job has turned from that of a “glorified clerk” to a full-time manager, who often has to work with town leaders to plan for the theater’s growth. He says Addison is acquiring land for a state-of-the-art theater facility it would like to complete by 1987.
The musical Chicago will play at the ACT July 12 through August 4; Minton says that this selection (in addition to the earlier Williams’ play) shows ACT’s desire to deliver a diverse season as well as a fun one.
“My belief about theater is that it should be exciting. If it’s not exciting, then we might as well watch TV. That’s entertainment too, but it’s hard to get excited about it. Theater is exciting. You have to have live people. They can make mistakes, or they can do the performance of their lives.”
It’s difficult to get to know Kirk Dooley in just one meeting. He’s too full of energy, ideas, philosophies, jokes, memories and dreams to take him in all at once.
If he has to pin a profession on himself, he says he’s a writer. At least that’s the talent that keeps the money coming in. He free-lances for several publications, including The Dallas Morning News,some specialty magazines and The Record,the national magazine of his college fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
He says it was his Highland Park High School journalism teacher who first encouraged him to write. Later, at Texas Tech University, his rather witty, blunt style got him into trouble a couple of limes as a sports columnist for the school paper.
“I wrote that Texas Tech played a hard schedule and that the University of Maryland played a feminine schedule. So all the English feminists wrote in demanding I be kicked out as sportswriter, and they demanded an apology. So I wrote the next day that I apologized to every female football player at Texas Tech. Heh, heh. They went crazy.”
After a few years at college, Dooley decided to move to Hollywood and become a screenwriter. He thought he could write better scripts than what he watched on TV. He stayed 10 days. He explains that in 10 days, he learned what most people don’t learn in 10 years: Screenwriters don’t write for the public; they write for ratings.
He moved back to Dallas and joined the Park Cities News as associate editor. In 1981, he helped start the Park Cities People newspaper and became its editor. He left the newspaper in May 1982. Dooley’s name made headlines when it appeared in the May issue of Texas Monthly’s “Low Talk” column for settling a stock dispute with the current publisher out of court.
But writing isn’t the only thing for which Dooley is known. He says he’s a writer trapped in a marketing mind. He has the crazy ability to come up with novel business ideas. There’s a secret list of about 18 of his ideas in a desk drawer at the house he rents in East Dallas. He won’t divulge any of them except those he’s already tried.
It was Dooley’s idea to start the Texas Taxi limousine service. No one else around was offering stretch Cadillac convertibles with longhorn horns as a hood ornament. The business was a success, and he sold out last year to move on to other things.
The venture occupying most of his time now is the “Texas Trivia” game, which went on the market last month. It’s a regionalized version of the popular “Trivial Pursuit” game. He doesn’t expect it to sell outside Texas, but at least it’s one more idea that he can scratch off that list.
In the fall of 1985, Dooley expects his book, Park Cities,to hit the stands. It’s the history of the area Dooley has always wanted to tell. Again, he realizes it will likely only sell in the Park Cities area, but that’s another idea he can scratch off.
Although Dooley says money is not his prime motivation, he’ll be glad if both of the projects earn him enough money so he can take time to work on the screenplay he wrote in California. He’s been hoarding it for the past couple of years, and he believes he’s just about ready to take the chance to finish and have it produced.
Whatever business venture he pursues, Dooley will continue writing. He says one of the things that gives him confidence is a compliment he received from the late Frank Tolbert, who was best known as a writer of Texana.
“I wrote a story about Terlingua. I go to the chili cookoffjust about every year. Frankcalled me and said that it wasthe best story ever writtenabout Terlingua. I almostfainted because, coming fromhim, it was a nice compliment.But coming from him personally. He never gave out compliments. He told my dad, too,and people at the News. Thatwas neat because that’s thegenre I want to go into-Texaswriting. To have someone likeTolbert give me that vote ofconfidence has kept me fromgoing out and selling insurance.”