New project elevating possibilities for small theater companies


Rachel Hastings, Contributing Writer



This fall, the AT&T Performing Arts Center (ATTPAC) is making an effort to even the playing field for small Dallas-based theater groups through their new Elevator Project.

The program will allow five small theatrical organizations to stage their productions at the Wyly Theatre, one of the city’s top venues. By giving lower-budget companies the chance to perform at a venue ordinarily out of their price range, ATTPAC hopes to support the local art scene as well as foster the innovative spirit of Dallas artists.

The Elevator Project will be hosting six performing arts companies this fall: Upstart Productions; the Danielle Giorgiou Dance Group; Dallas Actor’s Lab; Second Thought Theatre, Cara Mia Theatre Co.; and the African American Repertory Theater. According to an article by journalist Mark Lowry, the groups were selected based on the consistent, exceptional performance quality demonstrated in their productions. Lowry says that, despite their low budgets, the groups present high-caliber work and hope to receive the recognition they deserve when they take the spotlight in one of Dallas’ classiest venues.

In “The Year of the Rooster,” Gil Pepper (right, played by Brian Witkowicz) trains his rooster Odysseus Rex (left, played by Joey Folsom) to murder those who have taunted him. -Photo courtesy of Upstart Productions
In “The Year of the Rooster,” Gil Pepper (right, played by Brian Witkowicz) trains his rooster Odysseus Rex (left, played by Joey Folsom) to murder those who have taunted him.
-Photo courtesy of Upstart Productions

According to David Denson, the artistic director of Upstart Productions, the Elevator Project has been a godsend for his organization. Kicking off the program with their play “Year of the Rooster,” Upstart Productions has already experienced the benefits of performing in Wyly Theatre.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the amount of press we’ve received,” says Denson. “Normally we perform in little spaces. Most people aren’t used to hunting down companies like us.”

Denson says the Elevator Project should revitalize the Dallas arts scene by shedding new light on hidden local talent. So far, the program has been well received by the Dallas audience, and will likely increase in popularity as it moves forward this fall.

“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback,” Denson stated. “There are things like this in the Dallas area that people don’t really know about. This project has made it much easier for Dallas audiences to explore a theater scene they would normally have to make a stronger effort to find.”

The Elevator Project will present six performances over the course of the next six months. Performance times and descriptions are listed below. Other company performances are still to be announced. Tickets for individual shows can be purchased for $20 each online.

Upstart Productions: Year of the Rooster, Aug. 22-Sept. 6.

Friday night, the curtain fell on the last performance of the successful season opener, “Year of the Rooster.” Nancy Churnin of the Dallas Morning News called it “something to crow about at Wyly Theatre.” Dallas audiences were captivated by the compelling story of Gil Pepper, a downtrodden McDonald’s employee who experiences a sense of renewed hope as he trains his rooster Odysseus to be a fierce fighter. As the story’s tension rises, the cock comes to represent the suppressed frustration and bitterness of his master. According to Churnin, the dramatic choreography of the fight scenes, the creative costume design and the moving performance of Brian Witkowicz as Gil made “Year of the Rooster” an unforgettable series opener.

The Danielle Giorgiou Dance Group: NICE, Nov. 13-Nov.17.

NICE is an emotionally resonating show that explores the world of social mores, particularly the expectation that people should be “nice” to each other. The boldly-choreographed production will be the first of the dance-theatre company’s fall season performances.

Second Thought Theatre: “Bull”, Feb. 26-Mar. 9.

Described by Jennifer Smart of Arts and Culture Texas as “razor sharp and blackly comic,” the show highlights the connection between harsh office politics and playground bullying.


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