100 Dallas Creatives: No. 47 Progressive Playmakers Christopher Carlos & Tina Parker

This is a pic of Chris & Tina at Halloween a few years ago... they don't always look like this...
This is a pic of Chris & Tina at Halloween a few years ago... they don't always look like this...
Courtesy Tina Parker

Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order.

Christopher Carlos and Tina Parker often soak in the spotlight. No strangers to the stages of local theaters and frequently illuminating the televisions, these two keep busy with acting and directing gigs. And that's when they're not co-running a theater company.

The cunning minds behind Kitchen Dog Theater, a company that consistently tops must-see and best of lists, they're not just theater makers, they're innovators. Kitchen Dog Theater hosts one of the more robust new works festivals in the city; the company is a founding member of the National New Play Network, an alliance of nonprofit companies committed to developing and producing new plays; and they take risks on new work, delivering to Dallas the regional, or sometimes world, premiere of edgy, new plays. They keep the local theater scene on its toes and they seem to have a lot of fun doing it.

KDT has a pretty intense mission statement: "to provide a place where questions of justice, morality and human freedom can be explored." Is that still something you strive for? If so, how do you reflect that in your seasons?

100 Dallas Creatives: No. 47 Progressive Playmakers Christopher Carlos & Tina Parker

CHRIS: Absolutely! Our mission statement is as vital to our decision-making as it was when the company was founded in 1990. We look for theatrical, actor-driven stories that will showcase the talents of our almost 40 member company of artists and will "provoke, challenge, and amaze" our audiences. We also aim to have equal representation between male and female playwrights and strive to tell stories reflecting the rich, diverse landscape of our community. TINA: Just by our personal makeup alone- I'm a woman and Chris is Cuban - you know having certain stories and playwrights represented on Kitchen Dog's stage is paramount to us. And we are huge champions of bringing new work to Dallas. As a proud Founding Member of National New Play Network, we have produced a pretty massive New Works Festival for the last 16 years - lots of new voices being heard in a 5 week period. Hell - if it's a good story that needs to be told today--be it Shakespeare to Octavio Solis, Sam Shepard to Meridith Friedman - Kitchen Dog will find a way to tell it.

What are your favorite plays you've ever produced?

CHRIS: Some of my favorite plays that Kitchen Dog Theater has produced are Waiting for Godot, Sick, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Charm, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train, Cloud Tectonics, The Pillowman, The Chairs, Buried Child, Mr. Marmalade, etc... I'm so proud of so many of our productions that it's difficult to narrow the list down. TINA: I'm with Chris. We've both been here so long - it's hard not to look back and make a very long list. If I had to narrow it down - loved acting in Fool For Love, Romeo and Juliet, Mr. Marmalade and Charm, loved directing The Glass Menagerie, Road, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and End Times, and just loved Pitchfork Disney, The Pillow Man, Cloud Tectonics and The Chairs. And I look at this list and think, "oh crap! I left out XX!" I guess if we weren't proud of what we were doing, we should just hang it up! ha

100 Dallas Creatives: No. 47 Progressive Playmakers Christopher Carlos & Tina Parker

Tina, I know you're all over the map participating in directing workshops or acting on Breaking Bad, is it a priority for you to see what's happening outside of Dallas?

TINA: It is. It's a good thing to get a taste of the ecology happening in other theater communities- successes and struggles that other organizations are having. It has provided invaluable tools for us as we navigate our scene back home. I've also connected with a number of playwrights and theater makers who have become like-minded, life-long allies as we all forge our way in the often daunting, often rewarding arena of nonprofit theater. It's also important to me personally to keep spreading the good word about our pretty amazing arts scene here in Dallas- lots of folks still have a misinformed, outdated notion that it's all big hair and sports down here. So it's my personal mission as a native Texan to tell them - "That dog don't hunt."

Chris, when you're not working like a dog, where would we find you?

CHRIS: Besides being Co-Artistic Director of KDT, I'm also head of the theater department at The Winston School where I teach, direct and design the Upper School Productions. I have worked with many other theater companies including Dallas Theater Center, Theatre Three, Teatro Dallas, The Alley Theatre, etc. I am also active in the broadcast industry with several TV, Film, and Commercial credits. I take pride in working hard at being a great husband to my wife Susan and father to our only daughter Jensan who will be graduating from The University of Texas, Austin in May 2015.

You're stranded on a desert island with your fellow KDT company members with only one play in hand to produce for the rest of eternity, what play would you want it to be?

CHRIS: Wow! That's a hard question to answer. We have almost 40 KDT Company Members - directors, actors, playwrights, designers, technicians, and stage managers. I can't think of one single play that could make use of everyone's talents. I guess our best bet would be to produce our own original company generated theatrical work. TINA: Agreed. We have some mad-skilled multi-talented folks in our KDT family, so an original, constantly evolving company created piece would be the way to go. Kitchen Dog island would be a crazy mix of Gilligan's Island, Swiss Family Robinson and Lord of the Flies - maybe with a little less cannibalism.

What makes a good audience member?

CHRIS: Anyone with an imagination who appreciates and supports theater, who attends the production with an open mind and heart and who is looking to learn and grow as a human being.

TINA: Exactly. Being open to the work is paramount. Our plays aren't always the easiest to digest - often characters and storylines- much like real life - are often ugly, messy, complicated. You have to give it a chance instead of laying any preconceived notions on it. Give the play a chance to breathe.

Ideally, we want our patrons to leave the theater thinking about what they've seen, talking about what the ideas/themes the playwright/production are putting forth and reexamining the world around them. I think even a negative reaction is 100% better than no reaction - at least you were present to the work and something ignited inside of you. That's all I ask.

One artistic trend you've seen in another city you'd like to see pop up in Dallas?

CHRIS: "Radical Hospitality" at our NNPN sister theater Mixed Blood in Minneapolis. They offer free tickets to all mainstages for everyone. An incredible program.

TINA: Accessibility to the art is so important. Kitchen Dog has a long history of being one of the only theaters to offer multiple pay-what-you-cans during the actual run of a play - 8 of the 21 performances of Thinner than Water offered pay-what-you-can seats. But the idea of radical hospitality really intrigues us. We are currently exploring some options/grants to support something like this in the very near future at KDT.

CHRIS: I also marvel at the support (grants/development organizations) for new plays by local and other contemporary playwrights in other cities. Dallas is starting to grow in this area - take the amazing Donna Wilhelm grants for new work from TACA--but still has a ways to go to reach what cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, San Francisco have. New work/new ideas (like Radical Hospitality) are the way to keep theater fresh, relevant, and evolving. They deserve more support.

TINA: And, I think even more importantly, we need the support to keep the talent here in Dallas.

100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault 67. Community Architect Monica Diodati 66. Intrepid Publisher Will Evans 65. Writerly Wit Noa Gavin 64. Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia 63. Fresh Perspective Kelsey Leigh Ervi 62. Virtuosic Violinist Nathan Olson 61. Open Classical's Dynamic Duo Mark Landson & Patricia Yakesch 60. Rising Talent Michelle Rawlings 59. Adventurous Filmmaker Toby Halbrooks 58. Man of Mystery Edward Ruiz 57. Inquisitive Sculptor Val Curry 56. Offbeat Intellect Thomas Riccio 55. Doers and Makers Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick 54. Performance Pioneer Katherine Owens 53. Experimental Filmmaker and Video Artist Mike Morris 52. Flowering Fashioner Lucy Dang 51. Insightful Artist Stephen Lapthisophon 50. Dallas Arts District 49. Farmer's Market Localvore Sarah Perry 48. Technological Painter John Pomara

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