DR Hanson is a busy man: he’s an actor, director and, most recently, a feminist crusader. Hanson has been hired as a director by Bishop Arts Theatre Co., which is producing a one-act festival of six plays – all written by female playwrights
“I am consistently shocked at how few opportunities women are given,” says Hanson. #TheCount is the national hashtag being used to unite a conversation about the gender disparity in theater, which became the inspiration for the festival’s name.
Executive Artistic Director/Founder Teresa Coleman Wash reached out to Hanson to direct all six shows for the festival. They range in length from 5-25 minutes and run consecutively each night. Hanson had worked for BATC in the past as an actor and was eager to take on more responsibility with the company. An actor by education, and patron services manager at the Dallas Theater Center by day, Hanson is eager to flex his muscles outside of the office.
“I worried a little,” Hanson says, “about whether or not it was weird or a little misogynist for a man to direct these shows written by women. But what I came to is that these are human stories — they are about all of us. Women are just as entitled as men to tell these stories. I think I have a right to be a part of the stories just as they have the right to tell them. I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Part of the excitement for Hanson is the different perspectives he and the female actors and writers bring to the plays. “We are stumbling onto some great discoveries and growing in this process together,” he says.
Hanson credits this all to Teresa Coleman Wash. Wash was at a Dramatists Guild conference last year and was embarrassed to find how underrepresented women are in the theater.
“I’m the artistic director of a theater and even I didn’t realize how big of a problem this is,” Wash says.
BATC holds a playwriting competition each year, and Wash really wanted this year’s to have a “shot in the arm” in some way. Featuring all female playwrights felt like the perfect way to rejuvenate the festival while giving a much needed voice to local and established female playwrights.
At the conference she met playwright Charlayne Woodard — a two-time Obie Award winner and Tony nominee. Over dinner they discussed the lack of female representation in theater. Out of this dinner came the idea to make Down for #TheCount. Woodard agreed to BATC producing one of her plays, Phenom, in a Dallas regional premiere. The festival will also feature Maya Baktum El Umbral by Maria Patrica Urbina, Breathing Room by Vicki Caroline Cheatwood, A Thing of Beauty by Ruth Cantrell, Turndown Service by Sharai Bohannon and Occupy Hallmark by Cassie M. Seinuk.
It has been crucial to Wash to give a platform to Dallas-based female playwrights as well. It will be a “compelling and complete night of theater,” she promises.
Hanson says he is often confronted with a “surprised delight” by people who are impressed by what Dallas has to offer as far as an arts scene. “It’s good, but it’s also kind of insulting, you know?" he says. "Dallas has this kind of reputation and I don’t think people really realize how thriving this arts scene is becoming.”
For Hanson this is the perfect reason that Dallas is primed to be a major voice in the movement to promote female playwrights.
“Teresa is cultivating these playwrights — that’s almost unheard of," he says. "There are so many small theaters in Dallas. If we all banded together we could practically solve this problem. But it has to be a conscious choice.”
Down for #TheCount opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and continues through March 5. Tickets and more at bishopartstheatre.org.