Feature Stories

Theater Veterans Ashley White and Joe Messina Start Imprint Theatreworks

Jennifer Kuenzer and Marianne Galloway perform in The Revolutionists.
Jennifer Kuenzer and Marianne Galloway perform in The Revolutionists. Jessie Wallace
“Alive. Thrilled. Grateful. Exhausted. Unbelieving.” These are just a few of the words Ashley White uses to describe how she is feeling halfway through Imprint Theatreworks’ inaugural season.

“There's such a myriad of emotions," she says. "It's similar to having a child — you've created this thing.”

Imprint's first season began with David Mamet’s masterpiece Glengarry Glen Ross and will end with a reimagining of the Willy Russell musical Blood Brothers, about twins separated at birth. White directed the second production, the rock musical Murder Ballad, with an extended fight scene she choreographed.

White, a native Texan, and Chicago theater veteran Joe Messina partnered and gave birth to Imprint Theatreworks. Its website describes the mission: “to focus on ensemble-driven pieces that speak to the honesty and raw emotional power of the dramatic arts.”

White grew up in a small town in North Texas and moved to New York at 17 to study and pursue a life in theater, eventually returning to Dallas with her husband, who is also an actor. In 2012, White founded SCDallas, where she provides stage combat training for performers.

Messina spent nearly 20 years in the Chicago theater scene, where he founded BrightSide Theatre and served as managing director and creative producer at the Jedlicka Performing Arts Center. Messina moved to Dallas in 2010.

The two self-described “lifelong theater humans” met while working on a show. They discovered they had similar ensemble-focused backgrounds and joked that they should someday start a theater company. In 2015, they made things official. Company manager Jessie Wallace joined the team, and the trio spent two years planning and budgeting to ensure they started on solid footing.

“Money is hard, and it takes a year of active work to qualify for most grants," White says. "So you really have to do a leap of faith for that first season.”

“Money is hard, and it takes a year of active work to qualify for most grants. So you really have to do a leap of faith for that first season.” – Ashley White

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They chose emotional and powerful ensemble-driven shows, and White says all four productions “focus on truth, need and the natural internal desire for more … how it can unravel us.”

White sums up the first season:

“Needing to be on top, to fantasizing about a past lover, to starting a revolution and to always wondering what it’s like on the other side," she says.

Each play explores aspects of the theme “Built For Longing,” which is also the title of a song in Murder Ballad.

Beginning Friday, Messina and White will co-direct a nearly all-female cast in a production of Lauren Gunderson’s brutal and irreverent feminist comedy The Revolutionists. White finds The Revolutionists to be extremely relevant to the present, calling it “almost chilling at some points.” She says the production is also 100 percent local, a central part of Imprint's mission — highlighting Dallas talent.

Imprint will also feature Dallas playwright Devin Berg’s comedy Suckers in this summer’s Festival of Independent Theatres. White calls Suckers “poignant, unique and almost cinematic in its storytelling.”

For its second season, Imprint promises to bring audiences another round of intriguing stories presented in unique ways.

“It’s killing me not to shout it from the rooftops," White says. "More exciting things are coming."
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