A yearly showcase of small theater companies is making its return to the Bath House Cultural Center at the edge of White Rock Lake.
Wingspan Theater Company founded the Festival of Independent Theatres in 1998 to aid local theater companies without permanent performance spaces. The festival begins this week and will feature eight one-act plays, paired in two-show blocks in rotating repertory, through Aug. 5.
As always, there’s something for every type of theatergoer. Longtime FIT fans will remember silent comedy The Boxer, which was a hit in 2007 and is returning for a 10th-anniversary revival.
Fun House Theatre and Film’s junior spinoff company, The Basement, will make its first FIT appearance with a new play by prolific Dallas funny man and writer, Jeff Swearingen. A world premiere by Dustin Curry, Dallas’ resident clown-about-town, will shed light on how much depth and humanity can be mined from clowning.
FIT is a great way to get a glimpse of some of the smaller, often self-produced or new work that is popping up in Dallas. Van Quattro’s solo show Tommy Cain is a great example of local work that audiences might not have a chance to see otherwise. And short plays are always a nice, low-commitment treat.
Below are the offerings from the festival this summer, which opens Friday, July 14, with The Boxer.
The Great Dictator (pictured at top)
Audacity Theatre Lab
by Charles Chaplin, adapted by Jaymes Gregory
Charlie Chaplin’s 1940’s satirical film The Great Dictator explores tyranny and was a stark condemnation of Hitler and Mussolini. The play features a Jewish barber who crosses paths with a certain fascist dictator to whom he bears a striking resemblance.
Featuring: Steph Garret, Brad MacEntire, Jamie Little Puente, Robert Shores, Chad Cline, Leslie Patrick and Jaymes Gregory
by Jeff Swearingen
Jeff Swearingen goes back to basics by examining the caveman and how societies can be reluctant to change and too slow on human empathy. The teen theater company features Fun House actors who are striking out on their own.
Featuring: Chris Rodenbaugh, Ashleigh Smith, Joseph Nativi, Laney Neumann, Doak Rapp and Taylor Donnelson
Bootstraps Comedy Theater
by Matt Lyle
“Pound for pound, The Boxer was the most playful, fun time I've ever had making theater," playwright Matt Lyle says. "I think I can speak for the rest of the returning original cast that it was one of the more joyful times in our lives, so why not revisit that if you have the chance?”
The 10th-anniversary production of the silent comedy is a “heartfelt homage to the glory days of American moviemaking,” Lyle says. And besides its charm and playfulness, it's unlike anything most audiences have seen before.
Featuring: Jeff Swearingen, Kim Lyle, B. Wolf, Johnny Sequenzia, Steve Jones, Ben Bryant, Ben Greely, Kineta Massey, Jenny Webb, Cassidy Crown and Cori Martin
Dustin Curry and Company
by Dustin Curry
This play is a world-premiere comedy created by writer Dustin Curry as an homage to his Arkansan roots and love of the Ozark Mountains. Fiddler's Cave tells the tale of a lonely fiddle player who finds himself lost and abandoned deep in a cave with no memory of how he arrived there.
Curry says it’s a way to expand the public's interpretation of what the art of clowning can be. “After last year's 'scary clown' sightings, I wanted to show people that there's more to being a clown than a Halloween mask or a children's party entertainer,” he says.
Curry believes a clown's job is to hold a mirror up to the human condition — not to scare but to be funny, sad or even bittersweet. It’s a unique way to tell a very human story.
Featuring: Dustin Curry, Debbie Crawford and Sterling Gafford
Trace of Arc
by Ali Smith
Echo Theatre is the only Dallas theater that produces work written solely by women. Trace of Arc deals with the monotony of the routines we act out in our everyday lives. When Mrs. Lord opens a lovely English corner shop in the heart of America, she insists that her two "shop girls" play the part, complete with English accents. The shop girls are forced to decide if living a fantasy is preferable to the depressing reality of their hometown.
Featuring: Natalia Borja, Abigail Palmgren, Octavia Y. Thomas, Allyn Carrell and Pam Myers-Morgan
L.I.P. Service Productions
by Van Quattro
Van Quattro is a bonafide screen actor who’s made appearances in films like Fight Club and the TV series American Crime. His one-man show tells the tale of Tommy Cain, a disillusioned youth struggling through his adolescence while navigating the tumultuous relationship he shares with his parents. The veteran actor’s show saw the stage last year with L.I.P, Service Productions and will return it to FIT this summer.
Starring: Zachary Leyva
Risk Theater Initiative
by Sherry Jo Ward
Sherry Jo Ward plays herself as she chronicles her struggle with Stiff Person Syndrome, an actual, incredibly rare disease that impairs her mobility and causes her unexplained pain. Ward takes the audience through a stand-up comedy, PowerPoint journey about the struggles of living with a life-altering disability.
Starring: Sherry Jo Ward
Finding the Sun
WingSpan Theatre Co.
The late playwright Edward Albee made headlines this spring after a controversial decision by his estate to deny an actor of color a role in Albee’s most famous work, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Far less divisive, Finding the Sun explores themes of life, love, marriage and mortality as eight characters enjoy a day at the beach. It's not without a touch of the playwright’s trademark; tensions will mount and drama will be had.
Featuring: Ethel Stephens, Robin Clayton, Catherine D. DuBord, David Helms, Charlotte Akin, Matthew Stepanek, Jerry Crow and Ian Mead Moore
Festival of Independent Theatres, Friday, July 14, through Saturday, Aug. 5, Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Individual tickets are $18. Passes are $60 to $70. To purchase and find more information, visit festivalofindependenttheatres.com.