The call came at 8:30 last Saturday morning. It was Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League phoning to let Kevin Moriarty know that the Dallas Theater Center had won the regional Tony Award.
Within the next four hours, Moriarty would see nearly 200 members of the Dallas theater community, between rehearsals and a memorial service for late Dallas director Rene Moreno. But he was forbidden to reveal the news until Monday.
The giddy artistic director was only allowed to discuss the news with one other person: DTC managing director Jeff Woodward. The Broadway League, which presents the Tonys, quickly needed organizational information from Moriarty, who was due to conduct rehearsals for Inherit the Wind in less than two hours.
Luckily, Woodward had been down this road before. Woodward was managing director of the McCarter Theatre Center in New Jersey when it won a Tony.
“Jeff told me what we needed to do," Moriarty says. "We called a mandatory company-wide meeting for five minutes before the announcement.”
Moriarty was worried the company would be expecting bad news, so they made sure to add, “Don’t worry! It’s good news” to the meeting request. At 1:55 on Monday afternoon, Moriarty announced the news to every employee of the company and the response was everything he could have hoped.
That meeting had to take place at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Kalita Humphreys Theater, the original home of the Dallas Theater Center, which was started in '59 by Paul Baker. The fact that the company announced the news at the Kalita was meaningful to Moriarty.
“There was something poetic but accidental about being at the Kalita that day," he says. "The founders of this theater could not have imagined this, in their day, for the regional theater movement.”
One of Moriarty’s first phone calls was to Robyn Flatt, artistic director and founder of Dallas Children’s Theater, and Baker's daughter. It was important for him to share the news with her. The current success is a continuation of the work she and her father started so long ago.
As far as getting the award, there’s nothing a theater can do to earn one. Moriarty knows because he asked all those question years ago. He was just as surprised as anyone to get the call Saturday.
“Some theaters might make getting a Tony part of their strategic plan, but we’ve never done that,” he says.
Instead, Moriarty and his team have focused on developing a clear vision, working hard to achieve that vision and hoping over time their hard work will be recognized. He and Woodward will travel to New York on June 11 to accept the Tony at the award ceremony at Radio City Music Hall.
As far as what might have directed national attention to the theater, Moriarty says he's told wherever he goes that DTC stands out in its commitment to new work; inventive use of space; and emphasis on equity, diversity and inclusion.
Most of all, he believes DTC’s dedication to maintaining a resident company of actors sets them apart.
“Having a resident company wasn’t surprising in 1959, but it is in 2017," Moriarty says. "There’s only a handful of theaters that still have one.”
The theater is in the process of transitioning resident acting members to a 52-week pay period so that they can truly be professional actors, and not just view it as a “sometime job,” he says. Two will receive the status this year; next year, one more. His hope is to add a new actor to the full-time payroll each year.
Moriarty brims with excitement and gushes over the surprise Tony win, and he keeps coming back to the Dallas community of theater artists. Each phone call, text message and flower delivery since the news was announced has come with a remembrance of DTC's history.
“It’s truly exhausting, but so emotionally moving,” he says. “Each name comes with a story, and it pulls me back to where we were, where people are now, and how we’re all connected to DTC. It’s my job now to reflect back to them how they contributed to this award. It’s ours.”
The 71st Annual Tony Awards will air 7 p.m. Sunday, June 11, on CBS.
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