New venues are laying roots around downtown Arlington, and a few older ones have switched saddles.
Steven Morris, Lamar High School’s former theater director, is now Theatre Arlington’s executive producer, while over at Arlington Music Hall, formerly Johnny High’s Country Music Revue, Mark Joeckel has taken the lead as general manager.
“I’m learning a whole new wheelhouse behind the scenes,” says Joeckel, a former radio show host and one of Levitt Pavilion’s founding board members. “I’ve kind of got my head above water right now, but the first few months, I just had to jump in.”
Joeckel, 54, says he generally starts the day by following up on offers to make sure the place has a pipeline of new talent. He also oversees more than a dozen people, including technicians, security, ticketers and volunteers who pull together to make sure the shows happen.
“We’re beginning the 70th year of operation this year,” Joeckel says of the stage, which opened in 1949 with an act that became known as The Light Crust Doughboys. “This couldn’t be a better match for my love of music and the arts and then also marketing. There’s always something rolling with advancing the shows.”
Along with signing contracts, working with agents and managers, booking hotels and staying on top of green room lists, Joeckel also recruits local bands to play in what he calls the small hall where concertgoers gather before the main show to eat, drink and listen to local talent.
While Joeckel has lined up national acts like Firefall, who’ll play Jan. 25, and Restless Heart, who’ll take the stage Jan. 31, he says people can expect to see more local bands perform there.
“A big part of what our nonprofit does here is support, encourage and develop the local arts scene,” he says.
The former movie theater, which recently upgraded to fully leather, semi-reclining seats, will continue to be “that go-to place for new, upcoming artists as well as established bands,” says Joeckel, but “it’s also becoming more diverse.”
While a burlesque show is coming up in March and part of the plan is to bring back theater, Joeckel says he’s mostly excited about the new artists that will roll through.
“There are a bigger variety of opportunities,” he says. “It's lots of traditional music but not just in the country vein anymore.”
Theatre Arlington is evolving, as well. The lobby has been revamped, and Morris says his goal is to also improve production values and show quality at the theater, which is celebrating its 46th season.
“We are developing new programming so that we can offer a variety of experiences,” says Morris in an email, adding that he’s most excited about adding a series of cabaret performances and getting to collaborate with all the talented theater artists in North Texas.
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“We have an abundance of designers, directors, technicians and performers,” he says. “I hope to be able to bring them to Theatre Arlington to share their expertise with our audiences.”
According to the theater’s press release, Morris has now directed, acted in or written more than 60 shows at Theatre Arlington.
“The challenge for any nonprofit or arts organization is funding,” Morris says.
To help with that, there will be a star-studded celebration to roast Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams. It's slated for March 1 at AT&T Stadium.