8 Dallas arts groups get a crack at the big stage in AT&T series

8 Dallas arts groups get a crack at the big stage in AT&T series

In exciting news for Dallas' emerging artists as well as the audiences that love them, the AT&T Performing Arts Center is greatly expanding a program that gives them a shot at performing on the big stage. Now in its third season, the program, called the Elevator Project, will nearly double in size, with the number of productions increasing from five to eight. The season begins in September.

First established in 2014, the Elevator Project gives small and emerging arts groups space to perform on ATTPAC's campus, with support from the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. Originally it was geared toward theater groups, but grew in the second season to encompass dance, music, and spoken word.

This third season awards slots to eight companies that are brand new to the series. Three productions will be staged in the Studio Theatre, located on the sixth floor of the Wyly Theatre; four productions in Hamon Hall at the Winspear Opera House; and one on the donor reflecting pool in Sammons Park, on the campus of the AT&T Performing Arts Center. All shows are $25 and general admission.

Hashtag Winning

Hashtag Winning

Cry Havoc Theater Company pulls no punches with its latest devised work, the anti-Trump The Great American Sideshow.

Since Nov. 9, 2016, it has been easy to predict that arts-makers would comment on the political moment through louder art. Among the classic plays that theater artists have revived nationally are Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros and Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, absurdist works that are remarkably evocative of the new president. An adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 is on Broadway. Then there’s Julius Caesar, with which New York’s Shakespeare in the Park stirred so much controversy for a Trump-looking title character that outdoor Shakespeare organizations across the country, including Shakespeare Dallas, received death threats.

This year in our area, three original works have been the most pointed in criticism of the current administration and his diehard supporters. Two were at the Festival of Independent Theatres—Audacity Theatre Lab’s adaptation of the Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator, and Jeff Swearingen’s The Caveman Play, performed by young adult outfit The Basement. The latter was a sly, clever commentary on pack mentality and some humans’ refusal to believe in discovery, progress and logic.

Cry Havoc Theater Company’s The Great American Sideshow, directed by Mara Richards Bim, doesn’t even try to veil its indictment of 45. A co-production with Kitchen Dog Theater and using KDT’s current home at the Trinity River Arts Center, the devised work was created by teenagers from high schools across the Metroplex.

The setting: a circus sideshow where the freaks include Fortune Teller (Eboni Bolton), Bird Girl (Zephira Zithri Guimbatan), Bearded Lady (Keyshawn Lefall), Strong Man (Frankie Mars), Noodle Man (Luis Matos), Pop Eye (Tilah McGrway), Pin Cushion (Jordan Mercado), Narcoleptic Chameleon (Sheldrick Pearl), Sword Swallower (Zion Reynolds) and conjoined twins Ruth (Regina Juarez) and Ruth Ann (Michelle Ann Marie). Mother (Trinity Gordon) watches out for young acrobat Lily (fourth grader Maren Bennett). Fabian Rodriguez is a Barker.

The floundering freak show is purchased by a man named Otto Baron (the obvious Trump stand-in who is never seen), who sends Narcissa (Valeria Marin) to help whip things into shape. Most hilariously, Baron has a golden bird named Birdie (De’Aveyon Murphy) who has short, hashtag-ready outbursts that begin with a “tweet, tweet” (see our short video above). Journalist (Mary Bandy) tries to get the story and keeps being stifled by Baron and his supporters.

Teens Produce Remarkably Nuanced, Agenda-Free Play About Last July's Shootings

Teens Produce Remarkably Nuanced, Agenda-Free Play About Last July's Shootings

Be warned: Cry Havoc’s production of Shots Fired opens with gunfire. It’s a jarring beginning to 90 extraordinary minutes of documentary-style theater covering the July 7, 2016, Dallas police shootings by Cry Havoc Theater Company.

Cry Havoc’s teen actors convey as much depth, empathy and emotion as any adult actors onstage in Dallas and likely anywhere. These are kids to watch.

This is a talented, sharp group of actors. They worked around a WFAA-TV (Channel 8) camera operator Saturday night and treated the audience to their maturity during the talkback. Brown, the DPD officer, congratulated the actors during the talkback, telling them they nailed the feelings of many officers and that he'd recommend the show to his colleagues.

Choreography by Emily Bernet that adds physical elements of the show is quite well done. Sound and lighting design by John M. Flores and Aaron Johansen, respectively, are crucial components that add credibility to this documentary.

Never have I seen an audience that wasn’t predominantly white at a theater. Cry Havoc has tapped into something that appeals to different kinds of theatergoers. It is a conversation to be had. There is no agenda to this play, just real voices from the Dallas community.

A handful of the actors graduated high school this year. It will be exciting to see what they do next.

Anyone who cares about the national conversation around race relations and police brutality will find something to take away from this, regardless political leanings. This production is a true catalyst for a difficult conversation in a time when we can all use a little understanding.

‘Shots Fired’ Hits Close to Home for Dallas Teens

‘Shots Fired’ Hits Close to Home for Dallas Teens

The way the kids of Cry Havoc processed the aftermath of the July shooting was to work throughout the fall of 2016 on a documentary-style devised-theatre piece titled Shots Fired, which premiered in January 2017. To create the piece, Richards Bim, codirector Ruben Carrazana, and the actors tracked down as many people as they could find to interview about the night of the shooting: police officers, community members, therapists, Black Lives Matter supporters, and Blue Lives Matter folks as well. The company is currently remounting the show, in a coproduction with Dallas’s Kitchen Dog Theater, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the shooting.

Among the interviewees were three key players: Dr. Brian Williams, the lead trauma surgeon on call that night at Parkland Memorial Hospital; Shetamia Taylor, a civilian who was shot; Mark Hughes, a man participating as an “open-carry” member of the protest who was for a time wrongly identified as the lead suspect. All three will return for the remount and participate in a panel discussion on July 13.

How teenage actors are bringing the Dallas police ambush to the stage

How teenage actors are bringing the Dallas police ambush to the stage

Last July, Cry Havoc Theater Company’s group of about a dozen teenage actors was preparing for its upcoming summer play Good Kids.

But the July 7 police ambush, which followed a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas, interrupted the young actors' practice. Founder Mara Richards Bim felt it was important to talk to the students about their emotions.

“I felt like, as the head of the company, there was a need to go in and check in with the kids. It turned into a several-hours-long conversation,” Richards Bim said.

Months later, that conversation and many more afterward turned into the documentary-style play Shots Fired, which returns for a weeklong run on Friday’s anniversary.

The Dallas events followed social justice marches across the country, prompted by the deaths of two black men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. The shootings by police were both captured on video and just days apart.

Shots Fired tackles issues of race relations and how police handled the Dallas ambush and the search for the shooter.