Dallas Theater Center will produce nine shows next season (up from seven this season), five of them back at DTC's original home, Kalita Humphreys Theater on Turtle Creek. That may be good news to theatergoers who prefer the free parking at Kalita and the more bottom-friendly seats at the 55-year-old Frank Lloyd Wright building, over the paid parking and hard green chairs inside the not-yet-5-year-old Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in the Arts District. But it could complicate the seasons of two other theater companies: Uptown Players, who've been producing their seasons at Kalita since 2009, and Second Thought Theatre, the smaller troupe using the black box space in Heldt Hall next to Kalita.
This season DTC is producing all seven of its shows at the 600-seat Wyly. That included a new production of A Christmas Carol, one of the company's two box office hits this year (along with Oedipus el Rey). Yet to come are Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, opening April 25, and Les Miserables, opening June 27. DTC hasn't produced a show at Kalita, which has about 200 fewer seats, since last April's musical Fly by Night.
DTC's artistic director Kevin Moriarty won't announce until April 7 all the titles of the nine shows he's picked for the 2014-'15 season. All we know so far is there's no Shakespeare (thank you!) and no new co-productions with New York's Public Theater (they're the partners for DTC's current musical The Fortress of Solitude, running through April 6). There will be several "new works" on the list, and the only world premiere will be the new musical Stagger Lee, which DTC has been workshopping here and in NYC for more than a year.
So why go back to Kalita, a space desperately in need of renovation (including the wonky air-conditioning system), when the $84 million Wyly was supposed to be DTC's new permanent home? The usual reason: money.
"In order to fill the stage at the Wyly, it takes more wood, steel, more lighting equipment, more sound equipment," says DTC's managing director Heather Kitchen, who handles the business side of the company. "It's a space that's more challenging than a static space like the Kalita. We're still learning about the Wyly space. In my opinion, we have two dynamic, incredible spaces. Anytime we need a fly tower [for more complicated scenery and effects], the Kalita doesn't work. We can't fly there. On the other hand, for some of the titles for next season, the intimacy is incredible at the Kalita. It is the kind of theater that we all, as theater professionals, love."
Reading those tea leaves, it sounds like DTC is planning a season of smaller, less-expensive-to-produce plays better suited to the smaller stage and less arduous tech requirements at Kalita Humphreys. Kitchen says the company's watching its budgets carefully. They'll finish this fiscal year $50,000 in the black, she says. Next year's overall budget for nine shows is $9-$10 million.
And what about Uptown Players and Second Thought? "We're having clear and direct conversations about how we can all use the Kalita," says Kitchen, who recently extended her contract. (Moriarty's negotiating his now, but all indications are that he's staying with DTC for a few more years at least.) "No question it is going to affect [Uptown] but we're making sure we both have access. We have a really good relationship with Uptown. They've been kind to us and we've been kind to them."
Dallas Theater Center always has first dibs on the city-owned Kalita, says Kitchen. But DTC shares the Wyly with three other companies: Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico and Texas Ballet Theater.
Uptown's co-founder Jeff Rane says his company will still operate at the Kalita on a season running from January to December 2015, working around DTC's producing schedule as needed. Uptown Players in recent years have been offering "bonus shows" performed in the Rose Room Theatre (the space above the Station 4 bar on Cedar Springs) and at the new City Performance Hall. Their current season at Kalita continues with Pageant, opening March 28; The Lyons, opening May 2; Soho Cinders, June 13; and The Boy from Oz, July 25. They're producing a concert version of Sweeney Todd, April 24-26 at City Performance Hall.
Second Thought Theatre artistic director Steven Walters, who's also in DTC's acting company, says he's staying positive about DTC's return to Kalita. Second Thought's three-play season takes place in the black box at Heldt Hall, across the parking lot from the main Kalita building. They share the parking lots on show nights. "DTC has been really great about accommodating our needs at Second Thought. We will have a season in our space," says Walters. (Next up at STT is Adam Rapp's one-man Nocturne, opening April 2, and then Walters' own new play Booth, opening May 21.)
Theater is an empty space, said legendary British stage director Peter Brook. In Dallas theaters, new and old, they don't stay empty for long.