On four of the hottest weekends of the Dallas summer, the Bath House Cultural Center at White Rock Lake will host some of the city’s most forward-thinking performers and artists when Dallas’ Festival of Independent Theatres returns for its 20th iteration. This year, the festival will also feature two art installations in the Bath House gallery.
FIT began in 1998 with a mission to aid theater companies without permanent performance spaces. It also gives audiences an opportunity to see some of Dallas’ most innovative artists.
“FIT was founded and designed to cultivate and cross-pollinate our audiences,” says Susan Sargeant, producing artistic director of WingSpan Theatre Company.
WingSpan is one of the eight companies performing in this year’s festival and the only one that has been at FIT for all 20 years. Sargeant describes the festival as a “launching pad.”
"FIT allows emerging companies to make themselves known to the Dallas theatrical landscape," she says. "It also provides the continued opportunity for a more established indie theater like WingSpan to expand, experiment and explore."
The festival format pairs two one-act plays at each performance.
“We all get 50 minutes to perform," Sargeant says. "During the intermission, there is a total turnover — set, light, sound, etc. When the audience walks back into the theater, it is a different world.”
The festival opens Friday with WingSpan’s production of Landscape, a haunting Harold Pinter play that examines memory and time through the lens of one couple’s dying relationship. If that sounds heavy, don't worry. After that comes Prism Movement Theater's presentation of a movement play by Jeffrey Colangelo . BruNO and lOUIe is billed as a fun-filled romp about two mimes.
Each show will be performed multiple times, but the schedule changes for each performance. The pairings are what makes FIT unique.
“FIT producer David Meglino does a great job of pairing the groups," Sargeant says. "This is the big attraction of FIT, and the audiences love it."
One night, Just Girly Things, Danielle Georgiou Dance Group’s humorous take on the struggles of being a woman, precedes Echo Theatre’s Bible Women, a haunting song cycle featuring local cabaret diva Denise Lee.
Just for laughs, you can see Imprint Theatreworks production of Devin Berg’s dark comedy Suckers with Camp Death Productions’ presentation of Dallas playwright Ben Schroth’s dystopian retelling of Pinocchio, Jimmy Pine.
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Eccentric Bear Productions’ The Book of Gabe by Isaac Young is an irreverent send-up of God’s favorite archangel. It teams with Dick Monday’s clown story Where Do I Sit? presented by Laughter League.
Those are just a few of the combinations to choose from among a total of 24 performances.
“I guarantee you will see things you have never seen before on another Dallas stage," Sargeant says. One word to sum up the FIT festival? “Risk," Sargeant says.