The Drama Club is not going to tell you what The Incident is. You’re going to have to find out for yourselves, when the show opens at Bryant Hall on Oct. 10. Their teaser about the true story/one-man-show by Dallas native Terry Vandivort reads like the back of a true-crime mystery novel:
“Deep in those memories lives the reality of a life-changing incident that would keep him always
looking over his shoulder for years. A hot drug-fueled one-night stand became a collision course
with a deadly stranger. After 37 years, one of Dallas’ most beloved talents, Mr. Vandivort, boldly reveals his true story of secrecy and terror, stemming from an unidentified man and the explosion of violence he brought.
"The chilling memories have haunted Terry year after year, decade after decade. A mystery. An unsettling, yet cathartic journey for the storyteller and the audience. A raw, unflinching, darkly poetic one-man detective story.”
Vandivort is a Dallas native and a staple of Theater Three. The Incident is the first play he's written, after years of working as an actor in New York and Dallas. The show will be directed by another Dallas theater veteran, Cameron Cobb, who played the title role in Drama Club's Faust.
Drama Club executive artistic director Jeffrey Schmidt first saw Vandivort tell the story at the heart of The Incident as part of Kitchen Dog Theater’s New Works Festival. He then approached his wife, Drama Club producing director Lydia Mackay, with the idea of producing the show at their theater. Mackay was skeptical it was a good fit for the company, but after Schmidt got his hands on a copy of the performance and shared it with her, Mackay was convinced.
The Incident revolves around a night in 1970s Dallas and a horrific encounter with a stranger. It's a scavenger hunt amidst a haunted, dark Dallas of the past.
"It is pre-AIDS, pre-Oak Lawn," says managing director Whitney Holotik. "We are partnering with Survivors Offering Support for moderated talk-backs. What happened to Terry is still happening. We don’t want this story to stay in the '70s, or the theater. We need to bring it into our lives."
With the popularity of true-crime documentaries like Making a Murderer and podcasts like Serial, a real mystery trumps fiction any day. Schmidt hesitates to even call The Incident a “solo show.”
“Terry is so naturally charming and dynamic," he says. "This is a beautiful piece of writing that doesn’t hide from the truth of what he was or went through, and it doesn’t apologize for it.”
The Drama Club formed in 2008. Each of the founding members were working all over town and found themselves wanting to collaborate more frequently. Their focus has been new work with attention to design.
“We’re a tight-knit collective,” says Mackay, “we just want to do the work we’re interested in.”
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Mackay likens it to a high school drama club. It's a place where the misfits have a home and everyone is included; a place where friends and artists can come and go and always know they are a part of something.
The Drama Club made a splash last year with the imaginative and darkly funny Faust. The Incident will run in tandem with a festival of fairy -tales written by Dallas playwrights called Wyld, Wicked, Weird: Fairytale Time. It reimagines familiar stories from all over the world and provides needed contrast to the dark and terrifying true story relayed in The Incident.
True-crime mysteries on TV or radio can take on a life of their own. The sensationalism becomes a barrier between the storyteller and the viewer, whose focus is on solving the mystery. But to sit in the presence of someone who is telling their own mystery makes it much more real. It drives home the power of live theater and human-to-human interaction.
Just in time for Halloween, The Incident opens at Bryant Hall (3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.) on Monday, Oct. 10, and runs through Saturday, Oct. 29. Tickets are $22.90 at thedramaclub.org.