Stage Notes is a weekly aggregate post about theater, classical music and stage news, events, reviews and other pertinent information.

Fort Worth Opera artistic director has resigned

FWO’s Afton Battle has announced her resignation. (Courtesy photo)

On Tuesday, the Fort Worth Opera (FWO) announced that Afton Battle has resigned as General and Artistic Director. Her last day will be Nov. 23. Upon joining the FWO in 2020, Battle helped usher in a new era at the organization while adapting to the ongoing pandemic challenges. She was the first woman and the first African American to lead the opera company in the state of Texas.

During her tenure, she launched new programming and civic engagement initiatives that helped to increase Fort Worth Opera’s outreach efforts. She also work to build an intentional practice of inclusion that would reflect the diverse Fort Worth community. Among her notable achievements are the creation and annual production of A Night of Black Excellence; the return of Noches de Ópera, FWO’s Hispanic Heritage engagement initiative; the development of FWOGO! to provide performance opportunities beyond Fort Worth; the expansion of Children’s Opera Theatre to include youth opera that serves more than 30,000 students across North Texas; the development of an online curriculum for local music students during school closures due to COVID-19; and the evolution of the Hattie Mae Lesley Resident Artist program to include a new relationship with TCU’s School of Music beginning fall 2022.

“I have been chosen to steer this company and together we will focus on expanding our reach and engagement into communities that have historically been marginalized — Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, LGBTQIA,” she said back in 2020 at the time of her appointment.

As to reasoning behind her resignation — running a high profile arts organization as a Black woman in Texas could have been a big part of it.

The Dallas Morning News reported:

A self-professed artist activist, Battle previously expressed frustrations over running the company as a Black woman in a conservative state. She told the board she was planning to resign in July, and decided to stay on through the opening of the season.

“I have done that, and now I must move on to new opportunities that are presenting themselves, and open the door for the next leader of FWO to continue the journey,” Battle said in an email to The Dallas Morning News.

Several former board members told The News they left Fort Worth Opera during Battle’s tenure over concerns about the direction in which she was taking the company.

In Tuesday’s announcement FWO Board of Trustees acting chair Hayne Shumate stated, “I am deeply grateful to Afton for her leadership and vision during her time with Fort Worth Opera. The Opera remains committed to providing the Fort Worth community with exceptional performing and operatic art experiences that are accessible, inclusive and equitable across all audiences. The pandemic created enormous challenges for companies producing live art. Afton’s dedication, along with the dedication of the talented FWO staff, saw us through these difficult seasons and on behalf of the board, staff and community. We were saddened when Afton shared her intent to leave FWO, but on behalf of the board, staff and community, we wish her the best.”

The FWO recently kicked off its new season with on Oct. 21 with Noches de Latinidad: El Fuego de Una Mujer (Latin Nights: The Fire of a Woman) and a one-night-only performance of Noches de Zarzuela, a Hispanic Heritage Month Concert at Artes de la Rosa Cultural Center for the Arts at the Rose Marine Theater. FWO’s next production is the world premiere of the socially conscious chamber opera Stand Up! on Nov. 11. The final show of Afton’s tenure will be My Sister’s Keeper with Metropolitan Opera star Karen Slack on Nov. 13 at the new Van Cliburn Concert Hall at TCU.

“In 2020, when I was appointed General Director, I set out to create an organization by which the community of Fort Worth felt safe, seen, respected and comfortable when engaging with us, my goal was to build The People’s Company,” Battle said in the emailed announcement. “Fort Worth Opera has seen tremendous growth in its local and national footprint. We have increased and diversified our audiences, our board, our donors, our funders, our external partners and, most importantly, we have built a company that is truly reflective of the community we serve. A company every Fort Worthian can be proud of.”

Undermain to preview Katherine Owens’ book

Undermain Theatre’s Bruce DuBose sent an email announcement on Thursday regarding Katherine Owens book of haikus and the newest recipient of the Katherine Owens/Undermain Fund for New Work. Owens was the founding artistic director of Undermain along with her husband DuBose. She passed in 2019.

From DuBose:

To honor the life and work of Katherine Owens, we are pleased to release a preview of her book, Umbrella Girls, a collection of haiku and photographs from the Katherine Owens Archive, in celebration of the birthday of Undermain’s founding Artistic Director, Oct. 27.

Three years ago, the Undermain Board of Trustees and I created the Katherine Owens/Undermain Fund for New Work to commemorate and honor our Founding Artistic Director. Each year, the fund has commissioned an artist to create or cultivate new work for the theater. This year’s recipient will be announced in November during the run of Feeding on Light by Lenora Champagne, the first recipient of the Katherine Owens/Undermain Fund for New Work.

For more information about the fund and to see the preview, click here.

Undermain Theatre is currently running the regional premiere of Fairview in partnership with Bishop Arts Theatre at the latter’s venue in Oak Cliff.

Meet the cast of WTT’s Jesus Christ Superstar

WaterTower Theatre announced the cast of its upcoming production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera directed by Natalie King. The show opens Nov. 30-Dec. 11. From WTT:

The production stars Feleceia Wilson as Jesus, Christopher J. Deaton as Judas, John Michael Marrs as Pilate, Caitlin Chapa as Mary Magdalene, Ellen Eberhart as Herod, Nikka Morton as Simon, Jason Hallman as Caiaphas, Anthony J. Ortega as Annas, Nijel Smith as Peter, and an ensemble of skilled singers, dancers and actors including Aren Hugo, Kevin Davis Jr., Mikki Hankins, Spencer Laboda, Johanna Nchekwube, Lisette Sandoval Perez, and Daniel Vanegas who will all portray apostles and many other characters.  

The cast will be joined on stage by a live band led by Music Director, Conductor & pianist, Cody Dry, featuring Vonda K. Bowling (keyboard 2), Jesse Ramirez (guitar), Brittany Hart (bass), and Kami Lujan (drums).

The creative & production team includes Kennedy ‘Kae’ Styron as Set Designer, Megan A. Liles as Costume & Properties Designer, Aaron Johansen as Lighting Designer, Mark Howard as Sound Designer & Engineer, Dwight Sandell as Production Stage Manager, and Rebecca Bongiorno as Assistant Stage Manager.

Tickets are available here.

Stage Notes Exclusive: Hate Mail director David Meglino talks about his return to theater at Pegasus

The cast of ‘Hate Mail’ by Pegasus Theatre. (Courtesy photo)

Last weekend, Pegasus Theatre opened it newest show Hate Mail which also launched the company’s 37th season. The show runs through Nov. 5 at the Bath House Cultural Center.

Director David Meglino took some time to discuss the show and how it was the one that drew them back into the director’s chair. They helm the production which is touted as an “alternative to Love Letters” about a retail employee and disgruntled customer by playwrights Bill Corbett and Kira Obolenksy and stars J.R. Bradford as Preston and Bethany Soder as Dahlia.

Meglino spoke with Dallas Voice just prior to the show’s opening.

David Meglino

Dallas Voice: Congratulations on the show. How has it come along for you? Meglino: I am feeling really good about Hate Mail and it’s been an enjoyable experience. I have been away from theater for some time so it’s nice to dip my toe back into this world and it’s been nothing but a positive experience.

What was it about Hate Mail that interested you to direct again? When I read the script, I could see that there so many things to do with this play. But I was also open to good ideas that would come my way and this has been a great team and cast to work with. I’ve been in the midst of a journey with flow in my life. I wanted to take those traits and translate them to theater for a bit.

How long were you away from theater? I stopped working about a year before pandemic so it would be just shy of four years even though it doesn’t feel like it. I mean I spent 2020 in my apartment. This was the longest break I’ve ever taken but I have my hands in a variety of things.

Were you getting antsy? This opportunity presented itself and I thought I could get out there a little. I have been working recently with (actor/director/playwright) Justin Locklear on workshops hes developing. One of the things that he says is “The risk doesnt have to be scary if what your risking doent have to save you.” This didn’t feel frightening and the universe said to me “This is the path.”

I’ve know and I’ve worked with Kurt (Kleinmann) and Barb (Weinberger) at Pegasus and it felt like a family.

So how do you describe Hate Mail? This show is incredibly funny in a very offbeat, offputting kind of way, but it has so much heart. It’s this interesting and strange tender relationship that runs the gamut from love to hate to back again. It’s supposed to be this alternative to Love Letters but in the end, i think it is remarkably strange journey between two character with a relationship that is seemingly absurdist but more truthful than we might give credit for. 

When does this take place because you know, texts and emails. One of the things I thought when i frst read it was “Oh god does anyone write letters?” Was this anachronistic, but I kept reading. The authors make it clear they are aware of what the internet is. Decidedly it’s intended to be just prior to where we are now technolgoically but in the play we switch from letters to chat room. 

You in the director’s chair also gives a bit of representation for the community. I’m constantly torn by things like this because I dont self identify as anything. It took me a long time to get to a place where I can hang my human experience. As I get older, a lot of my experience is nonbinary even though I would say I identify as nonbinary. Who’s business is it anyway? I use “queer’ which feels encompassing to me, but having the conversation is good. I never imagine we’d have these public conversations. 

Does your experience extend into theater at all? Theater is part of the stimulus of my experiences and the choices I make in that room. Those can color the directions I take but I don’t think as a gay or queer director. There are populations hugely underrepresented onstage and we want to use the theater experience to explore those view. I don’t ever want to cut off an opportunity to do that.

For tickets to Hate Mail, click here.

TACA announces its fall Pop-Up Grant recipients

In its latest edition of this grant cycle, TACA stated on Wednesday that these “six programs stood out from the many unique arts projects across the city to become TACA’s September and October Pop-Up Grant recipients.” This grant program spotlights arts organizations “creating programming that demonstrates exceptional quality, innovation, and accessibility safely, without skimping on the creative impact.”

The current recipients include:

Cara Mía Theatre for  Latinidades: A Festival of Latinx Theatre;

The Classics Theatre Project for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof;

The Dallas Opera for Rigoletto (livestream);

Echo Theatre for Echo Offstage: Theatre Women Speak;

Latino Arts Project for Yanga and the AfroMexican Experience;

The Walls at Pleasant Grove for StylesFest.

Read more about each organization’s project here.

Face Forward International hosts charity comedy show for Domestic Violence Awareness

The nonprofit Face Forward International provides reconstructive surgeries and emotional support to survivors of domestic abuse, human trafficking, war violence, acts of hate crime and cruelty. Of its two locations, one is located here providing treatment from world-class surgeons and medical providers who specialize in violent sustained injuries like broken bones, scars and burns. FFI also conducts implant and tattoo removals for survivors of sex trafficking.

The organization commemorates National Domestic Violence Awareness Month with Laugh it Forward on Friday. An annual event in Los Angeles, FFI brought it to Dallas with headliner Todd “T” Rexx, comedian, actor and writer. The event will also feature TK Matteson, Kara with a K and Dave PPL with proceeds benefiting FFI’s mission.

The event is at 7:30 p.m. Friday at TK’s Comedy Club in Addison. Tickets are available here.

Show announcements

Legally Blonde tickets now on sale

Single tickets for Legally Blonde are now on sale. Presented by the Moody Foundation, the musical will hit the Winspear Opera House stage Jan. 19-21 as part of its 2022/23 Broadway at the Center season.

Based on the film starring Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde follows the transformation of Elle Woods from stereotyped pretty girl to the smartest person in the room through sassy showtunes and fabulous dancing.

The 2022-2023 national tour of Legally Blonde is produced by Daniel Sher of Big League Productions, Inc. The musical is directed by Jeff Moss, with choreography by Bob Richard. Set design is by Randel Wright, lighting by Kirk Bookman, costumes by Derek Lockwood, video design by Jon Infante, and casting by Alison Franck.

Tickets are available here. Watch the promo below.

NTPA to present annual holiday show

North Texas Performing Arts announced today the dates for its 12th annual traditional Christmas show. The Plano tradition will have performances at both the Courtyard Theater and NTPA’s home at Willow Bend for the Arts.

From NTPA:

North Texas Performing Arts Community Theatre proudly announces its Christmas tradition Scrooge the Musical, a show by award-winning songwriter, Leslie Bricusse, creator of the musical versions of Jekyll & Hyde and Willy Wonka. Receiving four Academy Award nominations and five Golden Globe nominations in its movie version, Scrooge closely follows the plot of Charles Dickens’ acclaimed book, A Christmas Carol.

In his 8th year of involvement in this production, Mike Mazur returns as director guaranteeing a fun-filled, joyous and positive family, and high-quality entertainment experience with some exciting new twists and changes to keep this message and twelve-year tradition fresh and alive!

Tickets are available here.

Opening this week:

‘Hansel and Gretel’ by The Dallas Opera. (Courtesy photo)

The Elevator Project: In the Conservatory with a Knife by Bombshell Dance Project, today-Saturday at the Wyly Theatre.

Second Thought Theatre: One Flea Spare, today-Nov. 12.

Circle Theatre: Kodachrome, today-Nov. 19.

TITAS/DANCE UNBOUND: Nrityagram, Friday and Saturday at Moody Performance Hall.

Dallas Symphony Orchestra: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Concert, Friday-Sunday at the Meyerson. 

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra: A Trip to St. Petersburg: Glinka, Glazunov, and Tchaikovsky, Friday-Sunday at Bass Hall.

The Dallas Opera: Hansel and Gretel, Friday-Nov. 5, pictured.

Theatre Arlington: Club Cabaret featuring Creepy Cabaret, 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Dallas Opera: TDO Family Series: The Billy Goats Gruff, 2 p.m. Saturday. 

6 o’Clock Dance Theatre: Memories in Motion, Sunday

Broadway Dallas: My Fair Lady, Tuesday-Nov. 13 at the Music Hall at Fair Park

Sammons Jazz: Swing is Now in Session, 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Sammons Center

Onstage now:

Rover Dramawerks: Stone Cold Murder, through Saturday at the Cox Playhouse.

Art Centre Theatre:The Rocky Horror Show, through Sunday.

Dallas Theater Center: Trouble in Mind, through Sunday at the Kalita Humphreys.

Hip Pocket Theatre: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, through Sunday.

Jubilee Theatre: Plenty of Time, through Sunday.

MBS Productions: Theatre of Death, through Sunday at the Addison Conference and Theatre Center.

North Texas Performing Arts: Heathers, through Sunday.

Repertory Company Theatre: Young Frankenstein, through Sunday.

Stolen Shakespeare Guild: The Producers, through Sunday at Arts Fort Worth.

Upright Theatre: Wait Until Dark, through Sunday.

Pegasus Theatre: Hate Mail, through Nov. 5.

Art Centre Theatre: Evil Dead the Musical, through Nov. 6.

Garland Civic Theatre: Sleuth, through Nov. 6 at the Granville Arts Center.

Lyric Stage:The Rocky Horror Showthrough Sunday at the Majestic.

Artisan Center Theatre: Little Shop of Horrors, through Nov. 5.

Bishop Arts Theatre: Fairview, in partnership with Undermain Theatre, through Nov. 6.

Stage West: Guards at the Taj, through Nov. 20.

— Rich Lopez