In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 30 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Stanton Stephens. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here .
Tina Parker always knows when she's stayed away from acting on her own stage a mite too long. After one of her rousing pre-show speeches -- audiences expect and love her opening "Howdeee!" -- a new patron will grab her in the lobby later and tell her she's so entertaining she should think about maybe auditioning sometime.
Parker, Kitchen Dog Theater's co-artistic director, has been with KDT since 1993, and she now shares running the 22-year-old company with Christopher Carlos (like KDT's founders, they're both SMU grads). Parker produces and directs plays every season, including directing the world premiere of Kitchen Dog member Tim Johnson's One: Man.Show. at the recent 15th annual New Works Festival. She did have a rare starring role this spring, turning in an outrageously funny performance opposite Max Hartman in the pharmaceutical comedy RX, but she's done more acting on the big and small screens in recent years than she has on KDT's two stages at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary.
Parker, who's 44, enjoyed a recurring role as secretary Francesca on the AMC series Breaking Bad. And she plays a Temperance Union lady named Helen in the summer blockbuster The Lone Ranger, with scenes on a runaway train alongside star Armie Hammer. (Both the TV show and film were shot in New Mexico.)
"My artistic life is fed by theater," Parker says. "My pocket is fed by film and TV." Producing a mainstage show with a large cast on a budget of about $18,000 means Parker has been known to Dumpster dive for props and furniture. She almost never takes a vacation. After long hours at the theater, she goes home to a feisty Maine coon cat named Prince Harry.
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Actors love her attention to detail. "Whether she's acting or directing, her specificity draws you into the piece," says actress Martha Harms, who co-starred in RX. "I've known since I was a small child that I would be a performer," Parker says. "I got lucky with Kitchen Dog. I fit with the people here and believe in the mission. I'm with the right group at the right time."