It's rare that one of the more difficult categories to choose for the DFW Theater Critics Forum Awards is "Best New Play or Musical." But with Dallas Theater Center leading the charge and the smaller companies rising to the occasion, this year in Dallas/Fort Worth theater featured numerous new plays and musicals, which is something to celebrate.
Every September, the city's working theater critics meet to deliberate on the good, the bad, and the ugly in Dallas theater. There are the occasional unanimous nods when a member nominates a show, but mostly it's a morning spent debating (and sometimes fighting for) the shows we think deserve recognition. The final list contains the shows, actors, designers, etc., which received a quorum vote from the dozen critics on the forum. But what we unanimously agreed upon was that this year was a great year in Dallas theater.
Direction: Liesl Tommy, Les Miserables (Dallas Theater Center); Tim Johnson, Detroit (Kitchen Dog Theater); Tre Garrett, A Raisin in the Sun (Dallas Theater Center) and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Jubilee Theatre); Susan Sargeant, The Diaries of Adam and Eve and Happy Days (WingSpan Theatre Co.); Daniel Aukin, The Fortress of Solitude (Dallas Theater Center); Terry Martin, Dogfight (WaterTower Theatre); Kevin Moriarty, Oedipus el Rey (Dallas Theater Center); David Denson, Year of the Rooster (Upstart Productions); B.J. Cleveland, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Uptown Players)
Actor: Steven Walters, Les Miserables (Dallas Theater Center); Drew Wall, Nocturne (Second Thought Theatre); Garrett Storms, for his season of performances; Adam Anderson, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Jubilee Theatre); Joey Folsom, Year of the Rooster (Upstart Productions) and Hank Williams: Lost Highway (WaterTower Theatre); Alex Ross, The Boy from Oz (Uptown Players); Jaxon Beeson, Stiff (Fun House Theatre and Film).
Actress: Tina Parker, Detroit (Kitchen Dog Theater); Liz Mikel, A Raisin in the Sun (Dallas Theater Center); Tiffany Hobbs, A Raisin in the Sun (Dallas Theater Center) and Spunk (WaterTower Theatre); Allison Pistorius, Venus in Fur (Circle Theatre) and Clybourne Park (Dallas Theater Center); Juliette Talley, Dogfight (WaterTower Theatre); Janelle Lutz, The Boy from Oz (Uptown Players); Sarah Elizabeth Smith, The Boy from Oz (Uptown Players); Ashley Wilkerson, The Mountaintop (Jubilee Theatre).
Ensemble: Heroes (Stage West); Barbecue Apocalypse (Kitchen Dog Theater); Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Uptown Players); The Echo Room Presents: Her Song (Echo Theatre)
Creative Contribution: Coy Covington for his wig and makeup design for The Boy from Oz (Uptown Players) and wig designs for Pageant:The Musical (Uptown Players); Clare Floyd DeVries for her set design, Detroit (Kitchen Dog Theater); Jay Dias for his music direction, Nine and Titanic (Lyric Stage); the design team for their season with Trinity Shakespeare Festival; Jeffrey Colangelo and Katy Tye for their movement design, Galatea (Prism Co.).
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New Play or Musical: Stiff by Jeff Swearingen (Fun House Theatre and Film); Booth by Steven Walters (Second Thought Theatre); Barbecue Apocalypse by Matt Lyle (Kitchen Dog Theater); mania/gift by Shelby-Allison Hibbs (Echo Theatre); The Fortress of Solitude by Itamar Moses and Michael Friedman (Dallas Theater Center)
Touring Production: Evita (Dallas Summer Musicals); Trick Boxing (Sossy Mechanics); The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess (ATTPAC); Peter and the Starcatcher (ATTPAC).
Special Citations: to Matt Tomlanovich for reviving the Margo Jones as a busy performance space, opening it to fledgling companies at a reasonable price, and making it available to small festivals, poetry slams, readings and dance groups; and to Lawson Taitte, for his distinguished career in arts criticism.
Voting members: Elaine Liner and Lauren Smart, Dallas Observer Lindsey Wilson, D Magazine Nancy Churnin, Dallas Morning News Mark Lowry, Martha Heimberg, Jan Farrington, M. Lance Lusk, David Novinski, TheaterJones.com Alexandra Bonifield, criticalrant.com Punch Show, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Arnold Wayne Jones, Dallas Voice