The next production at the Dallas Theater Center, In the Beginning (opening January 21), also marks the start of a new era for actors at the 50-year-old playhouse. It will be the first production to star all of the members of artistic director Kevin Moriarty's new nine-member resident acting company: Hassan El-Amin, Chamblee Ferguson, Matthew Gray, Sean Hennigan, Liz Mikel, Cedric Neal, Sally Nystuen Vahle, Lee Trull and Christina Vela.
DTC hasn't had a resident ensemble since the early 1990s. Resident companies are a rarity in regional theater these days. Theater biz is hurting so badly, some are trimming their seasons and booking cheap-to-produce two- and three-character plays. Addison's WaterTower Theatre informed subscribers this week that it was reducing runs from four weeks to three and canceling upcoming productions of Our Town and How to Succeed in Business..., replacing them with The Glass Menagerie and another small-cast show to be named later in the season.
Belonging to the all-Equity DTC troupe will mean semi-steady employment for the actors, with the guarantee of at least two roles in main-stage productions during the season, with the strong possibility of more. The actors also will be able to continue working at other Dallas theaters; Vahle, Trull and Vela are company members at Kitchen Dog, where they act and direct.
The company is an all-star team of Dallas talent. Gray was a founder of the now-defunct Classical Acting Company. Mikel has worked often at DTC, most recently playing the Acid Queen in The Who's Tommy, and she recently completed her third season as a co-star on the NBC-Universal series Friday Night Lights (returning to airwaves January 16). Hennigan, the oldest member of the company, was a DTC resident actor (with his wife Dee) in the late 1980s under artistic director Adrian Hall.
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From the looks of it, the company is heavy on character actors who bring a lot of classical experience and teaching ability (Vahle and Ferguson both teach). Moriarty could cast ingénue roles and young leading men from SMU's drama department (five SMU theater students are in In the Beginning) -- a good gig for young actors needing experience, and cheap talent that still qualifies as local.
What's it like to get a steady gig as an actor right now? Mikel and Neal used the same two words to describe it: "humbling" and "exciting."