Miranda Parham on Directing Her First Show, Working in Dallas Theater

Opening night of any show is nerve-wracking. What if someone forgets their lines? Or walks onstage at the wrong cue? What if the lights don't work or the music won't play? It can make even the most polished professional feel the urge to nervous puke all over their shoes. Now imagine sitting in the back row on opening night of your first foray as a professional director, just a year out of college, at one of the most beloved theaters in Dallas. This was the seat Miranda Parham took at opening night of Second Thought Theatre's Nocturne, but if you'd caught her eye, it didn't show signs of fear. Her show was ready and would go on to earn rave reviews from critics, including the Dallas Observer's Elaine Liner.

As we dig into the heartbeat of the Dallas arts, it's easy to find first timers in all arenas. Artists here are getting off their asses and creating opportunities, many of them at an age that most of us wouldn't associate with the word "professional." Parham follows Key in a new series, Five Under 25, which highlights local artists in an age bracket that will almost certainly remind you of your wasted youth. Swallow your self-pity and read on about her work on Nocturne, playing a gay Ebenezer Scrooge, and setting her sights on Los Angeles.

You're 23 now and directing a professional play? How did that happen? I had just come to work for Second Thought Theatre as their administrator and associate producer. In my first week they announced the season without a director attached to this project and I certainly didn't expect to be handed a production in my first year out of SMU. But the co-artistic director Steven Walters knew I had assistant directed on a few projects around town and he asked my mentor, Michael Connolly, if I could handle a one-man show. Then, they asked Drew Wall, who was the actor attached tot he project if he wanted to work with me. And the next thing I know, I'm reading the script trying to determine if I should work on it.

At that point, there was a question in your mind? I feel like I would've said, "Hell yes." I really had to make sure I was drawn to it. Because if you're not drawn to a script, you have no business directing it. I remember reading it and feeling intimidated because it's thematically heavy and incredibly dense. Adam Rapp's language is like an English lesson. The rhythm is unique and the heightened language is a challenge to read. Everything about the play intimidated me, which is exactly why I knew I had to say yes. If something scares me that much, I know that's the thing I have to do then in order to grow.

What was it like working with Drew Wall? I think when they first asked Drew whether he would work with me, he didn't know what to say. He knew I was young, which had scared him when they hired me as the administrator, much less as a director of his show. But I was talking to Drew about this at the Truck Yard last night and he said when we first sat down to go over the script, he knew it would be a good collaboration. That first meeting we went over the nitty gritty details of it, and he confessed how in love he was with this play, and at that point I was falling in love with it. As dark as the play is, I really think we both fell in love it. Him years ago; me in the past three months.

When did directing become interesting to you? Well, I started directing when I was a child. I would write and direct my own plays and often star in them. When I was about 12-years-old, I wrote A New Year's Carol, which was about a gay Ebenezer Scrooge, which I played myself, naturally. But I didn't really start thinking about directing seriously until I was going to college. I had this knowledge you only have as a senior in high school, this omnipotence that convinced me I'd found what I wanted to do.

You're not originally from Dallas, how has your experience been here in the past few years? Well, I'm originally from Knoxville, Tennessee and I moved here for school. After school, I stayed here because of an emerging artist internship at Undermain Theatre, then of course this job at Second Thought. It's been great. I have roots here in the professional world now and the opportunities here are amazing. I couldn't do these things anywhere else. And wow, I'm constantly amazed by the amount of talent and energy in Dallas. There's so much energy to create and collaborate.

Do you feel like you have to leave Dallas for personal growth or happiness? I don't think I have to leave, but I knew when I graduated and I still know now that I want to move to L.A. I feel like I have to go or else that curiosity will always be an itch in the back of my mind. It's more curiosity than anything. You always grow when you throw yourself into a situation where you don't know what to expect.

What do you have on your schedule after this show? I'll be performing in the New Works Festival at Kitchen Dog Theater and producing Booth at Second Thought Theatre. It's been crazy and it's been the year I wanted and needed right after school. It's the opposite of a gap year, it's a hustle year.

See Nocturne at Second Thought Theatre through April 26. But grab your tickets fast. It's a hit and it's selling out.

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Lauren Smart
Contact: Lauren Smart