By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Rest assured that not a whit of such pontificating burdens Dallas Children's Theater's frolicsome The Emperor's New Clothes. But I'd like to think that the few kids who are captivated by live theater at such an early age will have witnessed a performance of this profound fable so fast-paced and ornately produced, they'll carry a tiny insurrectionist kernel with them into adulthood.
The Emperor's New Clothes runs through June 25. Call (214) 978-0110.
These days, victims' rights groups, poll-slavish politicians, and throw-the-book-at-'em elected judges want us to believe that criminals and "law-abiding citizens" are utterly different species. Dallas actress and writer Dixie Lee Sedgwick is using testimonial theater to take an unpopular stand. Little Blue-Eyed Girl, a one-woman show she co-wrote and co-produced with former D/FW Regional Film Commission assistant director Joe Black, tells the story of Bonnie Parker, Texas' infamous female bank-robber of The Depression. Sedgwick doesn't know if the show is sympathetic, but, she says, "It's human.
"Every one of us is capable of a wide variety of behaviors," insists Sedgwick, a graduate of American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena. "And if I was in Bonnie's shoes at the time she was living, I can't say I wouldn't do the same thing."
Arthur Penn's wildly popular, ultra-glamorous '60s film about Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker made only passing reference to the strange metamorphosis that overtook Parker in her teens. She went from high school honor-roll student who excelled in poetry and public speaking to 16-year-old bride of an alcoholic abuser (Roy Thornton, whom she never divorced) to sprightly, gun-toting member of the Barrow gang, headed by her charismatic ex-con lover Clyde Barrow. She hung with killers, but she never killed anyone herself; the police killed Parker at the age of 23.
"Think about the crash of 1929," Sedgwick says. "The government was taking land away, people didn't have food, scandal and corruption were everywhere. And here you have people who gave away most of the money they stole."
Sedgwick spent 18 months researching the life of Parker, with invaluable help from the downtown library's seventh-floor archives and living relatives. She and Joe Black even went backstage and got Faye Dunaway's blessing when the Bonnie and Clyde star came to Dallas as part of the tour for Terrence McNally's Master Class. Far more crucial were the legendary felon's real diaries, which form a significant part of Little Blue-Eyed Girl. Sedgwick insists her performance doesn't give Bonnie Parker a free ride. It simply follows the arc of her short life, with copious information about the young Texan before she picked up a gun. Sedgwick sees the story of Bonnie's relationship with Clyde as an extreme but instructive example of too many romances.
"Bonnie's diary said one thing over and over: 'Clyde says he's going to change.' How many times have we heard that line? Bonnie hoped that each crime was going to be the last. She followed Clyde believing him when he told her that, and it killed her."
Attendees at last week's special preview performance of Little Blue-Eyed Girl included Carrie Parker and Marie Barrow, relatives who remember the felonious lovers, and Boots Hinton, the son of one of the cops who killed them. Sedgwick claims all gave a thumbs up.
"Carrie Parker told me that every once in a while, she still gets a death threat when people hear she's related to Bonnie," Sedgwick says. "And Marie Barrow said, 'Clyde went into prison a schoolboy [he was first jailed for petty thievery] and came out a rattlesnake.' Conditions in Texas prisons in the '20s and '30s were wretched. The experiences Clyde had there--one in particular was terribly brutal--filled him with hate toward guards and policemen. They were the ones he killed when he got out and became a bank-robber."
Little Blue-Eyed Girl occasionally veers into some harrowing material. It's being performed as the first theatrical offering of The Door, the former Deep Ellum Opera Theatre Space now operated by legendary Ellum entrepreneur and born-again Christian Russell Hobbs. Hobbs has been quoted saying he wants all theater, music, and visual art there to have, if not a Christian inspiration, at least a spiritual one. This is news to Sedgwick. "He hasn't seen the play or even read it," she says. "But he wanted it there. From what I know, Russell wants that to be a place for everyone."
Little Blue-Eyed Girl runs June 17, 23, and 24 at The Door, 3202 Elm. Call (972) 572-5278.