In May, WaterTower Theatre announced big news: Longtime artistic director Terry Martin would be leaving to accept a new position as the head of fine arts at the Greenhill School in Addison. In February, the school announced plans to open a $28 million facility for performing and fine arts, the Marshall Family Performing Arts Center.
For the time being, Martin will continue work as a guest director at WaterTower, currently directing the production of One Man, Two Guvnors. It will be the regional premiere of that Tony-winning musical, which Martin worked hard to acquire. Martin has helmed WaterTower for 17 of its 20 years, growing the theater to a budget of over a million dollars, and ushering in the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival, which it launched in 2002.
That festival was designed to “provide opportunities for other existing and emerging theatre, dance and music companies, and artists in the region, to present work that may vary in form and presentation from their typical content.” Its 2010 festival featured performances from often controversial monologuist Mike Daisey, which coincided with a sort of town hall round table meeting about the future of theater and Dallas’ place within that narrative.
Though it’s located north of Dallas, WaterTower Theatre has never been an outlier. The versatile space has been home to big musicals, many regional premieres and hefty dramas. With equity contracts in short supply around Dallas, WaterTower is a viable competitor to Dallas’ only League of Resident Theatres member, the Dallas Theater Center.
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With changes looming, WaterTower must now seek an artistic director to keep the momentum going. They’re hopeful about the future. In a statement from media relations manager, Garrett Reeves, the theater addresses the very real challenges in replacing an artistic director, as well as the opportunities it presents for the company moving forward:
"When longtime producing Artistic Director Terry Martin gave his resignation to the Board of Directors, the Board took the opportunity to explore a number of key issues important to the long-term stability of WaterTower Theatre, including the Company's prior organizational structure. The outcome of our deliberations was the approval of a bifurcated senior management structure with a Managing Director handling the operational/financial aspects of the Company and an Artistic Director responsible for the artistic side.
"It was clear from the beginning that Gregory Patterson, a highly accomplished arts executive, was the natural candidate to assume this important leadership role. His extensive industry knowledge, his acumen in both fundraising and marketing plus his entrepreneurial experience have been on full display during his nine-year tenure with WaterTower Theatre. The Board loves Greg's combination of passion and enthusiasm and we have full confidence in his ability to lead WaterTower Theatre to new and exciting heights. In addition, the Board has formed a Search Committee to begin exploring candidates to fill the position of Artistic Director. The Board appointed the search firm of Genovese, Vanderhoof and Associates from Toronto to lead the search. The Search Committee is chaired by Derek Blount, is made up of WaterTower Board members Rose Colarossi, Stan Graner, Paul Shultz, and Managing Director Gregory Patterson."
With smaller, younger theater troupes popping up around Dallas, the idea of “grassroots,” DIY theater is becoming the norm. WaterTower is situated with a home of its own, which even longtime Dallas resident theaters like Kitchen Dog Theater are now struggling to secure. With the continual development of Dallas, WaterTower's Addison location may become more enticing for theater companies that continually run up against obstacles that make producing work in Dallas difficult.
WaterTower will close its 2016-17 season with Sunday in the Park with George, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winning musical inspired by the famous Seurat painting. The character George's opening line as he sits before a canvas in the park is a fitting description of the challenges before WaterTower. "White, a blank page or canvas," he says. "The challenge: bring order to the whole, through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony."