This weekend, eight local theater critics, including me, gathered in an East Dallas manse to hash out our collective favorites from the previous 12 months of theater. Multiple “winners” are announced, but no one artist is singled out.
Out theater pro Blake Hackler was singled out not only for acting (for Twelfth Night and two plays by Caryl Churchill), but for best new play for the current production of What We Were, the only winner still running… which is, of course, the nature of theater. But some winner stretch back to late last year, including Uptown Players’ Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika. Broadway legend Betty Buckley, who is from North Texas, was named one of the best actresses of the year while appearing in the national tour of Hello Dolly; next week, she exits the show after more than a year. Shannon McGrann had a great season, too, singled out for her output in four productions, most recently The Cake; her costar Sonny Franks was also cited.
The forum also cited for special notice several former local practitioners for past performance — the late Katherine Owens of Undermain; Teatro Dallas’ retired artistic director Cora Cardona; and significantly, former WaterTower AD Joanie Schultz, who was ousted after only two years but made a substantial impact during her tenure.
This list, of course, is merely a collective decision among a varied group. Dallas Voice will, as always, print its Year in Review in December including local theater. Here, though, is the full list of winners from the DFW Theater Critics Forum. Congrats to all.
Outstanding direction: Tim Bond, Sweat, Dallas Theater Center; Kelsey Leigh Ervi, Everything Is Wonderful, WaterTower Theatre; Joel Ferrell, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Circle Theatre; Jonathan Fielding and Brenda Withers, Artist Descending a Staircase, Amphibian Stage Productions; Alex Organ, Incognito, Second Thought Theatre; Tim Johnson and Mara Richards Bim, Crossing the Line, Cry Havoc Theater Company/Kitchen Dog Theater; Christie Vela, What We Were, Second Thought Theatre; Ashley H. White, Ghost Quartet, Imprint Theatreworks.
Outstanding new play or musical: Crossing the Line, ensemble of Cry Havoc Theater Company; penny candy, Jonathan Norton, Dallas Theater Center; Jo & Louisa, Isabella Russell-Ides, WingSpan Theatre Company; What We Were, Blake Hackler, Second Thought Theatre.
Outstanding performance by an actor: Chad Cline, Raptured, Theatre 3; Sonny Franks, The Cake, Uptown Players; Blake Hackler, Twelfth Night, Dallas Theater Center, and Drunk Enough to Say I Love You & Here We Go, Second Thought Theatre; David Meglino, In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), Imprint TheatreWorks; and Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika, Uptown Players; Steven Pounders, Everything Is Wonderful, WaterTower Theatre; Christopher Llewyn Ramirez, Sweat and Twelfth Night, Dallas Theater Center; Drew Wall, Incognito, Second Thought Theatre.
Outstanding performance by an actress: Betty Buckley, Hello, Dolly!, Dallas Summer Musicals; Sarah Gay, Sweeney Todd, Circle Theatre; Ana Hagedorn, Steel Magnolias and The Wolves, Dallas Theater Center, and The Armor Plays: Cinched & Strapped, Theatre 3; Lindsay Hayward, Fur, Teatro Dallas; Jennifer Kuenzer, In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), Imprint Theatreworks; Laura Lites, Disaster!, Uptown Players; Shannon McGrann, The Cake, Uptown Players, Raptured, Theatre Three, Incognito, Second Thought Theatre and A Doll’s House, Part 2, Stage West; Christine Sanders, Artist Descending a Staircase, Amphibian Stage Productions and Obama-ology, Jubilee Theatre; Lucy Shea, Bright Star, The Firehouse Theatre; Sally Nystuen Vahle, Sweat and Steel Magnolias, Dallas Theater Center.
Outstanding ensemble; Bright Star, The Firehouse Theatre; Crossing the Line, Cry Havoc Theater Company/Kitchen Dog Theatre; Ghost Quartet, Imprint Theatreworks; Incognito, Second Thought Theatre; Men on Boats, Circle Theatre; penny candy, Dallas Theater Center; What We Were, Second Thought Theatre; The Wolves, Dallas Theater Center.
Outstanding touring production: Aladdin, Dallas Summer Musicals; Hamilton, Dallas Summer Musicals; Hello, Dolly!, Dallas Summer Musicals; The Play That Goes Wrong, AT&T Performing Arts Center; Unveiled, WaterTower Theatre.
Outstanding creative contribution: Vonda K. Bowling, music direction, The Ballad of Little Jo, WaterTower Theatre; Aimee Hurst Bozarth, pianist and musical associate, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Circle Theatre; Design team, Artist Descending a Staircase, Amphibian Stage Productions; Design team, Everything Is Wonderful, WaterTower Theatre; John M. Flores, sound design, What We Were, Second Thought Theatre; Olivia de Guzman, music, and Justin Locklear, lyrics, Doom McCoy and the Death Nugget, Ochre House Theater; Rusty Jones, scenic design, Babette’s Feast, Amphibian Stage Productions; Justin Locklear, score, Elwood, and puppet design, Doom McCoy and the Death Nugget, Ochre House Theater; Kelly McCain, choreography, Bright Star, The Firehouse Theatre; Adam C. Wright, music direction, Ghost Quartet, Imprint Theatreworks.
To Katherine Owens (1957–2019), co-founding artistic director of Undermain Theatre, for groundbreaking work in experimental theater and excellence in producing modern classics, staging 35 world premieres in 35 years, and seeding the ground for the birth of exciting new companies in North Texas over the past three decades.
To Cora Cardona, founder and former artistic director of Teatro Dallas, for introducing North Texas audiences to writers from the Spanish-speaking world, giving emerging theater artists a home, creating the International Theater Festival, and keeping alive the legacy of Teatro Dallas.
To Joanie Schultz for her brief but significant contributions during her tenure as artistic director of WaterTower Theatre (December 2016–December 2018), including championing female directors, playwrights of color, and other inclusive initiatives; encouraging new works; and reinvigorating the DFW theater scene.
To Mara Richards Bim, Tim Johnson, Cry Havoc Theater Company and Kitchen Dog Theater for creating Crossing the Line, a thorough and compelling look at the immigration controversy devised through extensive research that included a trip to the border to gather facts and opinions from a wide range of sources. Bim and Johnson edited hundreds of pages of interview transcripts into a narrative that delved deeply into the immigration issue.
Participating critics: Arnold Wayne Jones, Dallas Voice; Manny Mendoza, Dallas Morning News; Lindsey Wilson, CultureMap; Martha Heimberg, TheaterJones.com and Dallas Weekly; Mark Lowry, Jill Sweeney, Janice L. Franklin and Jan Farrington, TheaterJones.com. The Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum is an organization of professional, paid critics that recognizes outstanding theatrical contributions in North Texas. Members see 40 or more productions per season (Sept. 1–Aug. 31) and are not practicing theater artists.
— Arnold Wayne Jones