Pocket Sandwich Theatre's New Building Owners Want Them Out by Year's End

Pocket Sandwich Theatre staged  Werewolf of London in 2019 just in time for Halloween at its Mockingbird Lane location.
Pocket Sandwich Theatre staged Werewolf of London in 2019 just in time for Halloween at its Mockingbird Lane location. Rodney Dobbs/ Pocket Sandwich Theatre
Pocket Sandwich Theatre, the raucous, popcorn-tossing melodrama theater and late-night entertainment showcase space, will move to its third home just shy of its 40th anniversary. Jeff Vance, director for the theater, said the owners of the block of stores on Mockingbird Lane, where it operates, decided not to renew Pocket Sandwich's lease. It must move out of the first-floor, corner space by the end of the year.

"We're confident we will find a new place," Vance says. "We don't know if we'll finish our Christmas show, and we don't know if we'll be open New Year's Day. There will be a little gap in there, but we'll be open late winter or early spring."

Vance says that they have their eye on three possible locations around Dallas.
click to enlarge Dan Janjigian (middle) reprises his role from Tommy Wiseau's The Room as a tough drug dealer. - JENY SIDDALL
Dan Janjigian (middle) reprises his role from Tommy Wiseau's The Room as a tough drug dealer.
Jeny Siddall

"We're just trying to figure out what can work," Vance says. "We want it to feel like it's an upgrade and growth and not just we get kicked out and find some hole in the wall to move into. We've been in that space for 30 years, and we're planning for something that can last."

The move sparked another dramatic change for the 40-year-old theater company. Rodney Dobbs, who co-founded Pocket Sandwich with Joe Dickinson in 1980, announced he will retire from the theater by the end of the year rather than endure another move.

Vance says Dobbs planned to retire during the theater company's 40th anniversary year, but the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent shutdown pushed back his plans.

"When it became apparent that the new owner of the building was not willing to renew our lease and the Pocket's only available option was to move, I made a difficult personal decision," Dobbs says. "I had been at the forefront of moving the Pocket to its current location in 1990 when I was in my mid-30s. It was a very challenging experience. Now in my late 60s, I felt I was not physically, mentally or emotionally up to that challenge again."

Dickinson and Dobbs opened the first Pocket Sandwich Theatre on Greenville Avenue in the Pocket Sandwich Shop restaurant, which gave the theater its name, with a performance of the 19th-century temperance melodrama The Drunkard. Less raucous comedies by Neil Simon and Mary Chase and serious dramas by Jerome Lawrence and Kurt Vonnegut also were on the bill.

Sometime later, Dickinson and Dobbs started drafting their own melodramas, creating parodies of classic horror films, cheesy sci-fi adventures and beloved pop culture franchises like The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and The Godfather. The theater also performed Dickinson's musical Ebenezer Scrooge, a lyrical retelling of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol produced every year at Christmastime since its premiere in 1982.

Vance assures Pocket Sandwich's followers that, while it may take some time to relocate, the theater will still be around.

"I think we will be fine," Vance says. "It will be a major hiccup in our operations but it's something we'll get through just fine." 
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.