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Artist Sarah Luthans paints a mural in the lobby of Stomping Ground Comedy Theater's new location on Manufacturing Street.EXPAND
Artist Sarah Luthans paints a mural in the lobby of Stomping Ground Comedy Theater's new location on Manufacturing Street.
Danny Gallagher

Stomping Ground Comedy Theater Preps for Opening After a Year of Anticipation

The crew behind the Stomping Ground Comedy Theater, a new nonprofit comedy community space that's been in the works for the last year, has a week to go before its grand opening, and there's still a long to-do list.

Managing director Lindsay Goldapp's vision of a nonprofit space dedicated to serving the community through the comedic arts has been doing shows and classes for the past month after a soft opening at the nonprofit's Manufacturing Street location. But she and her team are far from finished with their work.

"For all intents and purposes, we're done with the build-out," Goldapp says. "So it's just the little things."

Those little things can add up. During our conversation in the theater's massive green room, she notices some spots on a wall that need touching up and seems to be adding them to a long mental to-do list. She and her team still have to get the sound system ready, hang ceiling tiles on the walls of the 75-seat theater to help with acoustics, make sure all the painting is done on all the walls of the 4,200 square-foot space and probably a billion other things.

The result will give the Stomping Ground team a massive space where it can finally do everything it's set out to do since a successful Kickstarter campaign less than six months ago gave the group the head start it needed to get here.

"Now we can do everything all in the same space," Goldapp says. "We couldn't do something like that with a rented space."

Stomping Ground has been in operation since before the Kickstarter campaign raised more than $33,000 in donations, but the instructors and performers have been conducting their classes and shows in spaces around town, such as Arts Mission Oak Cliff for troupe shows and the Moody Family YMCA for an Improv for Alzheimer's Caregivers course that's part of the theater's Improv For Life educational program.

The two-day grand opening that starts Friday gives Stomping Ground the chance to kick its operation into its highest gear. The theater community will still offer classes and programs in spaces around the area, but the Manufacturing Street theater will provide a central operation to run everything.

Goldapp says it has been a year since the central team first came together in May 2017 to start planning how to get the concept off the ground. The Kickstarter campaign funds, some additional grants and a smattering of donations allowed the team members to sign the lease for the Manufacturing Street space on the first day of the year so they could start painting the walls, fixing the plumbing and completing the long list of things every new theater has to do before opening its doors.

The goal was to have the official opening in April, but they ran into some trouble with city regulations. Goldapp says they didn't have enough parking spaces to meet the city's planning and zoning requirements.

"It's a big, long process of crunching the numbers and business hours and getting the property company involved," Goldapp says. "It's just more boxes to check. Me, I just found out a little later than I hoped and had to figure it out. We check those boxes for a reason."

The process delayed the grand opening for another month.

"We couldn't do anything for a month," she says. "We sat here in this sad building, and it was frustrating but as my husband kept reminding me, it was only a month, and now we have this beautiful space."

The comedy theater's opening kicks off with a monologue-inspired, musical improv show (also known as an "Armando" among improvisers) called Tall Texas Tales; a live stand-up showcase featuring performances by Grant Redmond, Monna, Paulos Ferrow and Aaron Aryanpur, who provides the main instructions for the theater's stand-up classes; and a live re-creation of the classic comedy game show Match Game with two celebrity guests, actress Tina Parker from AMC's Better Call Saul and voice actor Josh Martin from Dragonball Z.

The Saturday showcase includes an afternoon performance starring a cast of performers who are all on the autism spectrum. The theater's Improv 4 Life team helped form the group, called by Irregular Nonsense, during its Improv for Autism class earlier in the year.

"We were dying laughing," Goldapp says about the group that enrolled and performed in the Improv 4 Life course, "so we wanted to invite them to come do a show."

The Saturday celebration will include an episode of the improvised crime drama Crisis Emergency, a short-form improv show called Game Night for adults only, a lip-sync contest during the after-party and "one more surprise up my sleeve," Goldapp says.

The Stomping Ground Comedy Theater will host its grand opening Friday and Saturday.EXPAND
The Stomping Ground Comedy Theater will host its grand opening Friday and Saturday.
Danny Gallagher

The plans for the theater moving forward are even more ambitious. Goldapp says that in addition to the usual shows and classes, the organization is planning a 12-hour improv comedy marathon to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association of Dallas, a free summer camp that will allow children to engage in "creative play" at the theater, and last-minute shows for traveling troupes to perform as they go to and through Dallas.

"We're continuously adding," Goldapp says. "For the first six months, it was all about growing and adding to the community, like the multicultural jams and the pay-what-you-can events. Really our goal is to just grow the community and make things accessible."

Goldapp says the people who join and their efforts make the theater unique.

'It isn't about size, shows or revenue," she says. "We want this to be a bustling place with students coming in and out and audiences. We want the whole space to be about you and making your own art, whether it's being goofy onstage or drawing goofy stuff on the chalkboard walls in the bathrooms." 

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