House Party Theatre wasn’t joking about the whole “theater in a house” thing: Their next show is going up at the residence of the CEO’s mother. “Coming back to its roots,” says CEO Chris McCreary, "House Party Theatre is returning to the very place where it had its first Dallas rehearsal in 2014: the director’s mom’s house.”
The director in this case is McCreary himself. He'd been using a monologue from the play, Brilliant Traces by Cindy Lou Johnson, for college auditions. It stars House Party Theatre company members Taylor Harris and Claire Carson and places a runaway bride and a recluse in a desolate cabin in the Alaskan wilderness. The play explores what House Party Theatre calls “the depths of isolation and the pitfalls of human connection.”
Harris, who is also House Party's creative director, plays the recluse. A burly 6'4", he fits the part of an isolated man of the wild pretty well. Harris says he's enjoyed going to a vulnerable place for the role, and is also excited that for once he's not too big for his character.
“I initially had a conversation with Taylor about working together, and thought this would be a good role for him, but it wasn't until weeks later when I was having a totally unrelated conversation with Claire that the casting presented itself," McCreary says. "These two are meant for these roles, and for this production in particular.”
McCreary calls the plot irresistible: A runaway bride and a recluse who want nothing more than to be alone with their thoughts find themselves snowbound in the middle of Alaska. “The play wrestles with the necessity of human connection, which is a fairly universal theme, but [it seems particularly important right now],” he says.
As far as the location, McCreary says he's grateful his mom was willing to lend her home to the company. “She's a gem," he says. "She's been one of the main facilitators of House Party Theatre's culture by letting us rehearse in the dog's room, the dining room or the patio over the last two years.”
McCreary knew a home would be the most appropriate place to stage the play, but thought a full production would be too big of an ask. He pitched the idea to his mom, keeping the time they needed to a minimum. She exceeded his expectations by gladly giving them as much time as they needed. “There's ‘cool moms’ and there's my mom,” McCreary says.
The troupe of artists and actors has stayed true to its DIY mission. A wildly successful Halloween warehouse event in 2015 combined a haunted house with sketches, while an intense production of True West starring McCreary and Harris took place in a home art gallery. An evening of solo shows, HPThree, went off in the Arrington Roofing Co. in Bishop Arts, now a defunct theater space (but still a functioning roofing company) due to fire marshal shut downs.
Carson was thrilled to accept the part. “She's always about to explode, but very neatly contained," McCreary says. "She's like Champagne.” As far as House Party Theatre's nomadic mission, Carson says their low-key way of operating cultivates an experience that feels like a party. “It’s about good people getting together to watch good art and drink good beer," she says.
Harris is also enthused about their practice of performing theater in unexpected venues uniquely suited to each performance, which he calls a "found space" model. It helps House Party Theatre to circumvent a lot of the problems that small arts organizations with minuscule budgets face.
For Brilliant Traces, a house made most sense. “This play is especially exciting, because it is at House Party's mom's house," he says. "It's like throwing a party while the parents are out of town, but this time we're also doing theater.”
Brilliant Traces runs Friday, August 26, to Monday, August 29. Performances are at 8 p.m. at 10647 Pagewood Drive. Tickets are $10 on Ticketleap.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.