Mark Hadley, after 10 years as the Dallas Theater Center's managing director, steps into a different stage of his career
For the past few months at Dallas Theater Center, Mark Hadley was forgotten but not gone.
He announced last July that after 10 years as managing director of the city's largest professional theater, he would be leaving for a new job. But he stayed mum about what the new gig was and kept postponing his departure from DTC, staying through the opening of A Christmas Carol as the search continued for his replacement (they're still looking). When Hadley popped up next to artistic director Kevin Moriarty for the Christmas Carol opening night speech earlier this month, it was a surprise to some to see him still around.
Others, including many of DTC's regular patrons, probably still don't know who Hadley is or what his job entailed, though as managing director he was on equal footing (and equal pay) with the more visible Moriarty. With Moriarty handling all artistic matters involved with choosing plays, casting actors, directing productions, working with designers and overseeing educational programs, Hadley ran the business side. Fund-raising, customer service, marketing and promotion, finance, building problems (the Wyly Theatre has a few), dealing with the board and other day-to-day operations all were Hadley's responsibilities.
With an annual budget now pushing past $8 million, DTC ends this year in the black, remarkable in this challenging economy and following a lineup of tough-to-sell downers like Death of a Salesman, Henry IV and The Trinity River Plays, and two expensive musicals that didn't sell as well as expected, Give It Up! and It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman. Being careful with money and rigorously courting new donors, however, were Hadley's specialties.
"Mark's financial skills have kept us afloat," Moriarty says. "He is the reason we have a pretty significant surplus for the year. He's been a wonderful collaborator."
Hadley, 46, never seemed to mind being the behind-the-scenes guy. Though he started out as an actor on area stages including Theatre Three (seven years as actor and staff comptroller) and Theatre Arlington (where he played the lead in The Nerd), he found a more comfortable role on the administrative side, joining DTC management in 2000. He weathered some tumultuous years with artistic director Richard Hamburger before Moriarty arrived in 2007 and over the past two years has helped DTC make the transition from its original home at the Kalita Humphreys Theater to the new Wyly Theatre in the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
In a wide-ranging conversation recently, Hadley talked about the highs and lows of his career at DTC and revealed, at last, what his new job will be. It is not, as had been speculated, another executive position in the arts. He's feeling the urge to get back in front of an audience.
So what's the new job?
My title is Director of Adult Ministries at Shepherd of Life Lutheran Church in Arlington. I'll be part lay minister, part administrator, handling all the fund-raising and supervising a small staff. I'll be in charge of small-group ministries, Bible studies and outreach programs. And I want to resurrect the idea of mission work. I'll be No. 2 to the pastor, John Foster. So I will be running services and preaching on occasion.
Theater is like its own religion. What lured you to the church?
I wouldn't have predicted this three or five years ago. But I've been very involved with this church; I was president of the church council. Both my grandfathers were ministers–one Lutheran, one Methodist. Three of my uncles are ministers. It's certainly a different lifestyle, but one with much less stress. My wife [former Undermain Theatre actress Lanell Pena] and daughters [ages 9 and 11] will see me home a lot more. The [six-figure] pay level at DTC allowed my wife to stay at home and now she'll be returning to work. But after so many years of my working nights and weekends, she says she feels like she's getting her husband back.
In 10 years with Dallas Theater Center, what are you most proud of?
I think for me the best has been watching Kevin Moriarty come into this city and really change the perception of DTC. I'm telling you, it's all real. Yes, he's a showman and he's energetic, but he means all of that. He wants DTC to be a part of the broader community. I went through all those years [under previous artistic director Richard Hamburger] with DTC being the "theater on the hill" when we weren't interested in local artists. To see someone come in and change that in a couple of years is really gratifying.
In terms of stuff we produced, oddly enough I loved the process of It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman [directed by Moriarty last summer]. From the moment Kevin brought that idea to me—I didn't know there was a Superman musical in the '60s. I found myself lots of times floating down to the rehearsal hall, watching the creation going on. Watching Kevin and [choreographer] Joel Ferrell staging this big musical, being able to talk to them as it's in the process...
He put so much time and energy into that thing. We grabbed a lot of attention with that show, for the building and for the production. We brought in Broadway actors Matt Cavanaugh [who played the title role] and Patrick Cassidy [as the villain] so we could make a splash on the national scene. We got coverage in the New York Times, New York Post, Variety...we were hugely ambitious. We just didn't get in as many people [buying tickets] as we had hoped. But in all the intangible ways it was a big success. My prediction is, something more will happen with that show.
What are your predictions for DTC's future?
When we moved into the Wyly, our subscription base dropped about 10 percent. But we had enormous single-ticket sales. That's the trend nationwide—subscriptions down and single tickets up. On one hand, that's good. That's new people coming to the theater and buying tickets. What they'll now have to grapple with is getting the subscribers back.
Is the Wyly's architecture scaring people away?
The trick of that building is that a lot of people feel like they're walking into this dark cave-like thing. The whole reason it's on ground level is that you can take advantage of the windows and see side to side, but the windows started not to work during A Midsummer Night's Dream [DTC's first show in the Wyly in 2009]. There have been mechanical problems with the shades. The plan was for people to walk into shows with the shades up and then when the show starts, the shades go down. They are working feverishly on that. The architects chose to push everyone down a two-story slope outside into that lobby and make them go up for that experience of being on ground level and being able to look out. That whole piece of the building is missing right now.
But inside, the performing space is so flexible...
And because it is, DTC can do Cabaret [opening in April] in a way that the Lexus Series at the Winspear Opera House or Dallas Summer Musicals at Fair Park couldn't do it. DTC can turn the Wyly into the Kit Kat Club.
Think you'll bring some of your theater know-how into the church job?
I'm sure. Better lighting maybe, and much better sound.
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