Each summer the Festival of Independent Theatres puts Dallas' hottest stage actors in a bunch of short one-act plays in rotating rep over four weekends. The 12th annual FIT fest, as it's redundantly nicknamed, goes up tonight at the Bath House Cultural Center on the east side of White Rock Lake, with a slate of eight shows running through Saturday, Aug. 7.
It's always a cool event, a place to spot fresh talent and see small theater companies debut new scripts. (It's where Matt Lyle and his Bootstraps Comedy Theatre premiered the brilliant silent comedy The Boxer, which has since been produced in a half dozen theaters.) The festival features only companies that don't have the scratch to rent permanent stage space, so for troupes like the experimental White Rock Pollution and The Drama Club, it's a rare chance for them to own a stage for six fully realized performances.
The atmosphere for theatergoers is casual and tickets are cheap (just $49 for a two-week festival pass, $69 for all four weeks, breaking down to less than $6 per show, or you can get $16 single tickets). Last year there was barely a peep from the sold-out crowds when the air conditioning broke down in the final week; shows went on with the help of some floor fans aimed at actors and viewers. (With new a/c in place at the Bath House now, it's a meat locker. Bring a jacket.)
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Festival manager David Meglino says this year's FIT, despite a 50 percent budget cut by the Office of Cultural Affairs, has particularly strong buzz going into opening night: "Every company has picked something they're really passionate about. I think it's the most exciting lineup yet."
Jump for the lineup.
- One Thirty Productions (opening tonight, July 16): The Turquoise Pontiac by Ellsworth Schave. World premiere of the follow-up to last year's FIT hit, Under a Texaco Canopy. This one tells of a traveler on his way to the newly opened Disneyland in the summer of 1955. Starring Shane Beeson, Morgan Justiss, Elias Taylorson and Dan Tillman.
- The Drama Club (opening tonight, July 16): The Muse, a world premiere by the Dallas writer-designer and company founder Jeffrey Schmidt. Anastasia Munoz, Lulu Ward, John M. Flores, Marayam Baig Lush and Newton Pittman star in a story that blends myth, fantasy, sex and fashion.
- White Rock Pollution: Alice in Wonderland, based on the production by Andre Gregory and The Manhattan Project. Danielle Pickard, Randy Pearlman, Brian Witkowicz, Ben Bryant and Clay Wheeler star in this familiar tale that has a surprising twist.
- Churchmouse Productions: Georgie Gets a Facelift by Dan Guyton, and Thank U Berry Munch by Dallas playwright Kurt Kleinmann. Starring Joey Folsom, Stephanie Hall and LisaAnne Haram. Two short plays about a day in the life of a suicidal/homicidal maniac and his mother, plus a mysterious Girl Scout, mark this company's FIT fest debut.
- Echo Theatre: Bible Women, a song cycle by Elizabeth Swados, with additional text by Dallas playwright Vicki Caroline Cheatwood. Denise Lee stars in a contemporary musical celebrating the women of the Bible, including Esther, Ruth, Naomi and Lilith. Also starring Annie Benjamin, Teri Ferguson, Jodi Wright and Amy Hughes.
- McClarey Players: Purgatory, a Bedroom Farce by Cliff McClelland. These first-time FIT-ers take on the story of the residents of the Purgatory Apartments, content to repeat the same sins for eternity until the arrival of a strange new roommate changes everything. Featuring Amanda Doskicil, Amber Guest, Aaron McDavis, Sean Murphy and Dustin Sauter.
- Second Thought Theatre: Once More, With Feeling (A Power Play) by Christina Cigala. A couple's break-up, woven into the story of a snake and its owner. Featuring Sachin Patel, Jason Robert Villareal, Tiffany Lonsdale-Hands, Cara Reid and Matt Clark.
- Wingspan Theatre Company: Feeding the Moonfish by Barbara Wiechmann. Josh Glover and Barrett Nash play Martin and Eden, together in southern Florida, each running from something dark in the past.
You'll find a downloadable FIT schedule (PDF) here. Call 214-880-0202 for tickets.