Filming for The Impact of the Gadget on Civilization, with Evan Michael Woods as Oppenheimer and T.A. Taylor as EinsteinUndermain Theatre’s 2014 production of We Are Proud to Present… Photo: Evan Michael Woods

SHOUT IT LOUD!

2020, THEATER

Here are the Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critic Forum awards for 2019-2020. Even with half of the season missing, we found plenty to love.

by Mark Lowry

published Thursday, September 10, 2020

 

When the local theater critics set our annual meeting to dole out praises for theatrical accomplishments in the previous season, the chatter in our email exchanges was that because COVID-19 killed half a year of shows, our awards list would probably be smaller.

But that wasn’t the case.

Albert Einstein with Oristano's grandfather, Herber Maass, Sr. Photo Courtesy Mark Oristano

Lizzie at Imprint Theatreworks – Photo By Jason Pendleton

At this year’s meeting — hosted via Zoom rather than at our usual convening around Martha Heimberg’s welcoming dining room table in her Lakewood home — the Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum found plenty to love among shows that opened between Sept. 1, 2019 and Aug. 31, 2020, and that includes the digital and drive-in performances since that mid-March weekend when Everything Changed.

As usual, we don’t single out an award in each category, but rather decide on a handful or two performances, production aspects, new works and touring shows that struck our fancy. Just imagine how much bigger the list would have been if we had had a full slate of shows.

The groups scoring the most citations were Theatre Three seven; Imprint Theatreworks and Stage West with six each; while Amphibian Stage, Kitchen Dog Theater, and Prism Movement Theater each had five. As for individual shows, Imprint’s Lizzie came out on top with six, while T3’s Noises Off, Amphibian’s Hans & Sophie, and Prism’s Everything Will be Fine each had five. Streaming shows mentioned include Stage West’s The Children (which had an official opening night with a live audience before it was shut down; but had been filmed and was later streamed), and WaterTower Theatre’s I Am My Own Wife. Prism’s drive-in experience Everything Will Be Fine — the first live show we experienced after the pandemic shutdowns — had us elated.

As usual, there were debates about some of the picks that didn’t make the cut for a number of reasons (only one critic saw it, or only a few did but there was dissent among those few). I love that of the nine shows singled out for outstanding direction (our version of best production), seven of them were directed by women — and indeed many of the other shows discussed were as well. We also gave more special citations this year than we have in the past.

As for the roster of critics, this year we welcomed Cristee Cook of Dallas Art Beat, joining the ranks of critics representing Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Voice, CultureMap, the Dallas Weekly, Arts and Culture Texas, and TheaterJones.

Congrats to all of this year’s winners. Even though we won’t be back to seeing theater in your spaces until 2021, we take comfort in knowing that artists will find ways to create.

 

CORRECTION (10:40 a.m. Sept. 10): Kara-Lynn Vaeni directed Noises Off for Theatre Three; the story originally had the director wrongly attributed.

Outstanding Director

Four of the women directors receiving accolades this year, clockwise from top left:  Kara-Lynn Vaeni, Sorany Gutiérrez, Ashley H. White and Illana Stein

Photo: Stage West | Bryant Shaw | Evan Michael Woods | Evan Michael Woods

 Jeffrey Colangelo and Kwame David Lilly | Everything Will Be Fine | Prism Movement Theater

Marianne Galloway | The Lifespan of a Fact | Stage West

Sorany Gutiérrez | Villa | Teatro Dallas

Tina Parker | a love offering | Kitchen Dog Theater

Susan Sargeant | Two by Beckett: Footfalls and Not I | WingSpan Theatre Company

Illana Stein | Hans & Sophie | Amphibian Stage

Kara-Lynn Vaeni 

  • The Children | Stage West
  • Noises Off | Theatre Three

James Vasquez | In the Heights | Dallas Theater Center

Ashley H. White | Lizzie | Imprint Theatreworks

 

Outstanding Performance by an actor

McClendon “Mickey” Giles in the title role in Mlima’s Tale at Second Thought Theatre – Photo: Evan Michael Woods

Bill Bolender | Mrs. Haggardly | Ochre House Theatre

Michael Federico

  • Noises Off | Theatre Three
  • Romeo and Juliet | Fair Assembly

McClendon “Mickey” Giles | Mlima’s Tale | Second Thought Theatre

Bob Hess

  • The Children | Stage West
  • I Am My Own Wife | WaterTower Theatre

Sean Hudock | Hans & Sophie | Amphibian Stage

Nick Leos | The Bippy Bobby Boo Show | Danielle Georgiou Dance Group in partnership with Theatre Three

Justin Locklear | The Bippy Bobby Boo Show | Danielle Georgiou Dance Group in partnership with Theatre Three

Tadeo Martinez | Noises Off | Theatre Three

Zander Pryor | Andi Boi | Dallas Children’s Theater

Christopher Llewellyn Ramirez | In the Heights | Dallas Theater Center

Outstanding Performance by an ACTRESS

Catherine Whiteman with Satchel Victory in Dot at Soul Rep Theatre Company

Devin Berg | Lizzie | Imprint Theatreworks

Rhonda Boutté | a love offering | Kitchen Dog Theater

Rebekah Brockman | Hans & Sophie | Amphibian Stage

Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso

  • Queen of Basel | Kitchen Dog Theater
  • Madame Bovary | Undermain Theatre

Jennifer Kuenzer | Footfalls | WingSpan Theatre Company

Kelsey Milbourn

  • Ada and the Engine | Stage West
  • Everything Will Be Fine | Prism Movement Company
  • The Thanksgiving Play | Undermain Theatre

Susan Sargeant | Not I | WingSpan Theatre Company

Jaquai Wade Pearson | Romeo and Juliet | Fair Assembly

Catherine Whiteman | Dot | Soul Rep Theatre Company

Outstanding Performance by an ensemble cast

The cast of Villa at Teatro Dallas – Photo: Richard Bailey

Everything Will Be Fine | Prism Movement Theater

In the Heights | Dallas Theater Center

Lizzie | Imprint Theatreworks

Mrs. Haggardly | Ochre House Theatre

Noises Off | Theatre Three

Playwrights in the Newsroom | AT&T Performing Arts Center Elevator Project

The Children | Stage West

Villa | Teatro Dallas

OUTSTANDING DESIGN OR CREATIVE CONTRIBUTION

Hans & Sophie at Amphibian Stage – Photo: Evan Michael Woods

Sara Bollinger, Devan Bell, Rachel Francis, Gilbert Glenn, Bree Hill, and Rebecca Lowrey (the onstage band) | Music Performance | Lizzie | Imprint Theatreworks

Nick Brethauer

  • Set Design | Villa | Teatro Dallas
  • Set Design | Two by Beckett | WingSpan Theatre Company

Design Team | Hans & Sophie | Amphibian Stage

Design Team | Red Chariot | Undermain Theatre

Tara Houston | Set Design | Swimming While Drowning | Cara Mia Theatre Company

Rebecca Lowrey | Music Direction | Lizzie | Imprint Theatreworks

Jeffrey Schmidt | Set Design | Noises Off | Theatre Three

Will Turbyne | Set Design | The Children | Stage West

Jessie Wallace | Costume Design | Lizzie | Imprint Theatreworks

Nigel Newton | Original Music and Music Performance | Mlima’s Tale | Second Thought Theatre

Mason York | Sound Design | Mlima’s Tale | Second Thought Theatre

OUTSTANDING NEW PLAY OR MUSICAL

Bruce R. Coleman’s Andi Boi at Dallas Children’s Theater, with Zander Pryor in the title role – Photo: Karen Almond

Alabaster | Audrey Cefaly | Kitchen Dog Theater (National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere)

Andi Boi | Bruce R. Coleman | Dallas Children’s Theater (co-produced with Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and in partnership with First Unitarian Church of Dallas)

Everything Will Be Fine | Zoe Kerr | Prism Movement Theater

Hans & Sophie | Deborah Yarchun, Sean Hudock, and Illana Stein | Amphibian Stage

a love offering | Jonathan Norton | Kitchen Dog Theater

Mrs. Haggardly | Matthew Posey | Ochre House Theater

OUTSTANDING TOURING PRODUCTION

The Band’s Visit visited the Winspear Opera House, presented by both Dallas Summer Musicals and AT&T Performing Arts Center – Photo: Matther Murphy

The Band’s Visit | AT&T Performing Arts Center and Dallas Summer Musicals

Come from Away | Dallas Summer Musicals

Once on This Island | AT&T Performing Arts Center

To Isa Zhanbolot, Brandon Coleman and the teams from Grob Technologies, Inc., and Dev-Team, Inc. that created the 3D Animation and Augmented Reality App used at the end of Bruce R. Coleman’s play Andi Boi at Dallas Children’s Theater, allowing the audience to play along with a fictional game played by the teenagers in the story.

 

To Amphibian Stage Productions and artistic director Kathleen Culebro, for their years-long commitment to the well-being of North Texas veterans and their families through the nationally recognized DE-CRUIT program founded by actor-veteran Stephan Wolfert. Using acting, stage work and other tools from the theater arts, DE-CRUIT group classes (and now online sessions) “treat trauma through Shakespeare and science” — and give veterans the life skills and self-awareness they need to begin the work of recovery, and to reconnect with the community around them.

 

To Jeffrey Schmidt, artistic director of Theatre Three, for filming the play The Immigrant with a technique no other theater company has used during the pandemic: The actors were filmed separately in front of a green screen at the theater, using social distancing and masks when other cast and crew members were in the space, and for creating the scenic illustrations and fusing it together for a seamless digital performance.

 

For many theatergoers, Prism Movement Theater’s drive-in show Everything Will Be Fine was our first live performance after the pandemic began. With a deeply present nonverbal narrative and beautiful choreography, the out-of-the-box play (performed at two venues in Dallas, and currently in Fort Worth) filled our hearts with the hope and magic that only live performance can bring.

 

The primitive paintings of animals in Kitchen Dog Theater’s Alabaster — a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere — lining the set helped create an authentic atmosphere for this play about a reclusive amateur folk artist whose work is made on shards of wood caused by a tornado that devastated her family. The paintings were a group project of the cast, crew and friends.

Participating critics

Participating critics this year, from left. Top row: Janice L. Franklin, Cristee Cook, Mark Lowry; middle row: Manny Mendoza, Jan Farrington, Lindsey Wilson
Bottom row: Arnold Wayne Jones and Martha Heimberg

• Lindsey Wilson | CultureMap and Arts & Culture Texas

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