The cast of ‘High Five,’ from left, Whitney LaTrice Coulter, Marti Etheridge, Max Hartman, Kat Lozano, Lee George. (Photo by Matt Mrozek courtesy KDT)

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

Kitchen Dog Theater to close season with New Works Festival

In a press release this week, KDT announced details for this year’s New Works Festival which will close the theater’s 31st season.

Now in its 24th year, KDT’s New Works Festival is an eclectic series that not only includes the anchor mainstage productions of High Five but also a collection of five staged readings. The readings feature diverse and new voices of local, national and international playwrights. The festival also includes PUP Fest, a co-production with Dallas ISD and Junior Players, that features area high school playwrights.

The festival will feature the world premiere of High Five. For this headlining production, KDT commissioned five short plays that each shine a spotlight on one of the five senses: taste, touch, vision, hearing, and smell.

From Kitchen Dog Theater:

The High Five plays are:

Dinner with Dee by Migdalia Cruz (taste) – This is what happens when you dine with destiny…and need a good strong broth.

A Dance of Joy by Matt Lyle (sight) – A young man dances a powerfully climactic dance of a lifetime that leaves the entire world covered in his joy. His family disapproves.

What’s Heard Between Words by Regina Taylor (hearing)- A Black woman goes on a poetic and visceral journey to unearth the rich history- past and present – behind her voice.

Human Resource by Allison Moore (touch)- This story explores our need for physical connection in a remote world.

Ode to Zeb by Jonathan Norton (smell) – On a lonely highway, two strangers meet their fate.

The ensemble cast includes KDT Artistic Company members Lee George and Max Hartman, Whitney LaTrice Coulter, Marti Etheridge and Kat Lozano, who will all play multiple roles across the five plays under the direction of KDT artistic director Tina Parker. The production team features KDT Artistic Company members Clare Floyd DeVries (set design), Aaron Johansen (light design), Claire Carson (sound design and COVID safety manager) and Sarah Duc (Stage Manager) alongside Cayla Tally (costume design), Danielle Georgiou (choreography), Natalie Rose Mabry (video projections design) and Lori Honeycutt (Technical Director).

New Works Festival will preview June 9 and run through June 26. More information can be found here.

Review: POPT pulls no punches on hate crime at MainStage 222

Bruce R. Coleman quietly dropped a play last weekend over at MainStage’s 222 venue in downtown Irving. POPT was minimalist in its delivery with only chairs and tables as the set but big on a dramatic story about a gay hate crime set in and around Dallas. The play closes this weekend.

Written and directed by Coleman, story centers on Louie Blunt (Matthew Allan Holmes) who was attacked after a night of drinking with friends at JR.’s. During the attack something triggers and he fights back and beats his attacker (Vinnie Serionel) into a coma. The aftermath of the incident trickles down to his partner Jamie (Steve Robert Pounds), Louie’s therapist Andrea (Arianna Movassagh) and his friend Ty (Carlos Brumfield). The drama follows Louie to court where his uncaring lawyer (Mike Speare) merely gives him the bare minimum. A heartfelt encounter with the attacker’s mother (Pamela Garcia Langton) unsettles both Louie and Jamie as they both try to move forward.

As the central figure and victim, Holmes played Louie with the weight of trauma burdening him at all times. The character always seemed on the verge of exploding and when he does, Holmes simply unleashed that anger with ferocity. To counter that, Pounds played Jamie as a sympathetic dutiful partner who wasn’t going to take Louie’s shit either. On Saturday night’s performance, the two had to find a groove that made them feel believable as a couple but ultimately they connected which of course helped the rollercoaster they were going through together. Movassagh delivered a perfectly level-headed performance as the therapist. An almost thankless role that other characters bounced off of, she made her part shine nonetheless. Brumfield made the most of his one scene as the friend who puts not-the-best ideas into Louie’s head about more aggressive ways to deal with attackers, while Langton’s appearance evoked that desperation of a mother’s love.

Coleman’s play was a visceral experience that craftily painted a picture of the hate crime incident from its surreal opening to the therapist office, the courtroom and even inside a car. Without a set or extensive props, the setting was all there and the actors committed to their environments. Throughout scene changes, voiceovers by Lisa Anne Haram played reciting tidbits of LGBTQ discrimination and hate crimes. These felt rather unnecessary and almost reduced the play to a live version of an educational industrial film. The cast however easily drew the me back into the story.

The cast was strong, but I was personally torn on seeing an actor of color cast as the attacker or villain of the story. Did we need to be told again that a person of color only does bad things while the handsome white couple suffers? No. As a benefit of the doubt, no characters seemed to be written of any particular demographic. There were subtle touches that were nice such as the use of Ty’s pronouns and references to Dallas, but what resonated the most was not only the intensity of POPT, but how real it too often is.

Theatre Three’s Virginia Woolf cast announced

With a new lobby and a new marquee, Theatre Three welcomes patrons “home” to the Norma Young Arena Stage with the classic American play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee. The play is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, coinciding with Theatre Three’s 60th anniversary season. Starring Artistic Director Jeffrey Schmidt and Associate Artistic Director Christie Vela, this dark comedy embraces the style of the 1960s and methodically shatters the impossible societal standards set by the era.

“The thing I find most interesting is that the play is about America at a certain period in time when the country was changing; when the surface idealism of the American Dream 50’s was beginning to crumble for many reasons: religious, political, social, scientific,” Vela said in the press release. “And right now, 2022, we’re still figuring out how to survive this traumatic event that we’ve collectively experienced as a country. We’re once again shedding a facade of who we are as a culture.”

Considered Albee’s masterpiece,Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a show that invites us into the home of Martha and George. When Nick and Honey, a young couple, come over after a boozy university faculty party, the evening unravels to reveal a series of bitter truths about mid-century American life.

“It’s a doubles tennis match but the court is lava, the ball has spikes and the rackets are gin bottles,” Schmidt stated. “It’s a deliciously dark comedy set in the ’60s when America was on the brink of massive social upheaval. Sound familiar? This great play endures because its themes never age. Once again, this country is embattled in a fight for its identity, its survival. It’s Artistic Director vs. Artistic Director. Who will win? Me or Christie?”

The show will be directed by Blake Hackler and also stars Felipe Carrasco as Nick and Olivia Cinquepalmi as Honey.

The show runs June 9-July 3 with tickets on sale now. Theatre Three is located in the same building in Uptown Dallas’ Quandrangle but has a new address at 2688 Laclede St, Dallas, TX 75201.

T3’s updated COVID-19 policies are as follows: Face masks are highly encouraged at all times, especially in the lobby and restroom areas. For additional security, Theatre Three has installed ActivePure air sanitizers within our HVAC system.

New CEO Announced for AT&T Performing Arts Center

Warren Tranquada (Courtesy NJPAC)

On Wednesday, the AT&T Performing Arts Center (ATTPAC) in Dallas announced that veteran arts executive Warren Tranquada from New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) will be its new president and CEO. He is currently the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President at the NJPAC, one of the top centers in the country. He will replace Debbie Storey, who has been President and CEO since 2017. She announced last fall that she would be stepping down once a new leader was identified.

“Warren comes to us from NJPAC, one of the top performing arts centers in the nation,” Danny Tobey, chair of the AT&T Performing Arts Center Board of Directors said in Wednesday’s press release. . “To bring that level of business experience to Dallas – along with a commitment to artistic excellence, arts education and community engagement – will prove transformative for the Center and our community.”

Tranquada has been with NJPAC since 2009, responsible for strategic planning and business operations for the organization and its $50M annual budget. The organization has a national reputation for its diverse and distinctive programming, entrepreneurial and innovative business model, vibrant arts education, community and civic engagement and its role as an economic catalyst for downtown Newark.

He has played a critical role in finance, ticketing, strategic planning, real estate development, new business development, special projects, fundraising, arts education planning, organizational governance and more.

“Dallas has a national reputation as a thriving cultural hub, both for its vibrant Arts District and the diverse arts community throughout the city,” Tranquada said in the release. “I’m eager to begin working with the talented team at the AT&T Performing Arts Center and its partners to build on this tradition.”

Prior to NJPAC, Tranquada was a co-founder and partner with the social sector consulting firm Aperio in Newark and Toronto, a vice president with Chase Manhattan Bank in New York, and an associate consultant with Bain & Company Canada in Toronto. He has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University in Montreal and an MBA degree from Harvard Business School, with a focus on nonprofit business structures and social-purpose investment vehicles.

“The AT&T Performing Arts Center couldn’t have made a better choice for its new CEO,” John Schreiber, President and CEO of NJPAC mentioned. “I’ve had the privilege of working with Warren Tranquada on a daily basis for the last 11 years, and I know him to be a uniquely wise, thoughtful, creative, effective and innovative leader. A genuine community- and consensus-builder, Warren will deliver enormous value to Dallas. While we’ll miss him every day, all of us at NJPAC wish him great success in this new and exciting endeavor.”

Debbie Storey is stepping down after leading the Center through the COVID-19 pandemic, which devastated the arts community. Under her leadership, the Center safely re-opened its outdoor venue, Strauss Square, so that local arts groups would have a place to perform. She also helped lead the Center through the pandemic with a balanced budget.

“Serving with such incredible colleagues at the Center, but also in the arts community has been an experience of a lifetime,” Storey said in the release. “They have all demonstrated such resilience and optimism in the face of everything we have been through over the last few years.”

Storey is also known for working to expand the Center’s arts education and community engagement programs and for reaching a groundbreaking partnership with Broadway Dallas (formerly known as Dallas Summer Musicals.)

“Even before COVID-19, Debbie had a long list of accomplishments and would have left behind a remarkable legacy of achievement,” Board Chair Danny Tobey stated. “But the pandemic saw Debbie’s leadership reach new levels. Not only did the Center survive the pandemic, she is leaving the Center in the best financial health in its history.”

Since the Center’s opening in 2009, the Center has become known for its signature venues, diverse and high-quality entertainment, esteemed resident companies, extensive arts education and community engagement programs, and collaborative leadership in the Dallas arts community.

Tranquada will assume his new role on July 25.

Broadway’s Abe Goldfarb joins Women of a Certain Age: The Musical ahead of tour

In the musical comedy, Abe Goldfarb (Broadway’s “Beetlejuice”) plays six different lovers, foils, accomplices, and one extremely British television singing competition judge. Goldfarb is joined by the trio of Andrea Canny, Fredericka Meek and Sheri Sanders. Complete casting was announced ahead of the production’s official world premiere and its Take a Shot tour launch in Phoenix. The show’s tour will include a stop in Fort Worth. The tour follows a sold-out tryout show of the musical at the Art Park Players in Deer Park, Texas last August.

After putting their dreams on hold to raise families and build careers, Bev (Andrea Canny), Max (Fredricka Meek), and Lulu (Sheri Sanders) are ready to grab life by the mic, reclaim their college dreams of being singing sensations, and compete for glory on the hit TV singing competition American Starmaker! They’ve rehearsed for weeks and nothing is going to stand in their way — except, apparently, the show’s age limit. Turned away for being too old, they take matters into their own hands to capture the attention of the show’s brutally honest judge: one way or another.

The site hasn’t announced the venue for the Fort Worth performance(s) but dates for the show are Aug. 1-21, but the venue has yet to be announced.  For more information, click here.

Actor Robert Wagner joins Morgana Shaw with narration in All About Bette

Morgana Shaw as the titular star in ‘All About Bette: An Interlude with Bette Davis’ (Courtesy photo)

Last weekend, actor Morgana Shaw opened her one-woman show All About Bette: An Interlude with Bette Davis at Four Day Weekend Theater. The show now features a television and film actor Robert Wagner who had worked with Bette Davis. He will provide a recorded narration to the unique show.

“It brings me great pleasure knowing that Morgana will be interacting with my voice for years to come,” Wagner stated. “Camilla’s [Carr] script is filled with Bette’s attitude and spirit, and Morgana dives deeply into her character. Bette’s legacy is in good hands in this telling of her story. I’m happy to be a part of this production.”

Wagner recorded his voiceover lines at his home in Aspen, Colorado.

Wagner met Bette Davis in the early 1950s and then worked together on his Golden Globe nominated television series, It Takes a Thief, in 1970 and again in 1972 on Madam Sin, which he also served as executive producer.

According to playwright Camilla Carr, Wagner was in her original vision. “When I wrote the script, I heard his voice saying these words in my imagination, and now we have them in perpetuity. I’m thrilled beyond sentiment. It’s simply wonderful,” Carr said.

Recalling their first meeting at the Plaza Classic Film Festival in El Paso, Texas, Shaw said, “He was lovely and kind and so generous. He kept looking into my eyes, trying to see Bette. He must’ve seen something.”

She added, “We’re dealing with Hollywood royalty here. R.J. [Robert Wagner] and Bette are part of a history of glamour and prestige, the era of the movie star, and his voice delivers that elegance.”

Go here for more information and tickets.

Lyle Lovett returns to Bass Hall

Performing Arts Fort Worth, the nonprofit owner and operator of Bass Performance Hall, announced this week that Grammy Award winner and country music icon Lyle Lovett will return to Bass Hall for one night only on Aug. 23. Ahead of closing out his nationwide tour at Austin City Limits, Lyle Lovett and his Large Band will play Fort Worth’s Bass Performance Hall as the first show of the 2022-2023 BNSF Popular Entertainment Series lineup.

“We are thrilled to have Lyle Lovett return to the Bass Hall stage,” Performing Arts Fort Worth President & CEO Dione Kennedy said in a press release. “We’ve had the pleasure of hosting him many times, the last being in 2019. We consider him a dear friend and couldn’t think of a better act to have open the 2022-2023 BNSF Popular Entertainment Series.”

Lyle Lovett and his Large Band will kick off the series with remaining shows to be announced at a later date. This will also mark 25 years of Performing Arts Fort Worth at Bass Performance Hall.

Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. and can be purchased here.

Opening this week:

The cast of ‘Sex, Guns, and Vodka’ by The Classics Theatre Project. (Courtesy TCTP)

Sammons Cabaret: Audra Scott and Keron Jackson: The Best of Both Worlds, 7 p.m. today.

Dallas Symphony Orchestra: Prokofiev Concerto No. 1, today-Sunday at the Meyerson.

Nasher Sculpture Center: ’til Midnight at the Nasher, 6 p.m., Friday.

Dallas Black Dance Theatre: Spring Celebration, Friday and Saturday at the Wyly Theatre.

Texas Ballet Theater: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Friday-Sunday at Bass Hall.

Art Centre Theatre: Heathers: The Musical, Friday-June 5.

Richardson Theatre Center: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Friday-June 5.

The Classics Theatre Project: Sex, Guns, and Vodka (Anton Chekhov’s Untitled Play), Friday-June 11 at the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park, pictured.

The Core Theatre: Steel Magnolias, Friday-June 12.

Runway Theatre: (title of show), Friday-June 12.

Bruce Wood Company: Wood/Shop – New Works by Company Dancers, 4 p.m. on Zoom.

Dallas Symphony Orchestra Jazz Series: Yellowjackets, 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Meyerson.

Echo Theatre: Echo Reads 2022, 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays through July at the Bath House Cultural Center.

Ochre House Theatre: Under the Moon (In the Garden series), Wednesday- June 4.

On stage now:

MainStage222: POPT, today-Sunday in the Black Box Theater.

MainStage Irving-Las Colinas: Enchanted April, through Saturday in the Dupree Theater at the Irving Arts Center.

Allen Contemporary Theatre: Clue, through May 29.

Firehouse Theatre: Big Fish, through May 29.

All About Bette: An Interlude with Bette Davis by Morgana Shaw, through June 30 at Four Day Weekend Theater. 

— Rich Lopez