Is Dallas theater suddenly eclipsing the Alley? The New York Times says yes
In the interminable Houston versus Dallas wars, Houston has always had a couple areas of excellence that Dallas couldn't match. With a world-class company like Alley Theatre as a cornerstone — the only company in Texas ever to win the Regional Theatre Tony Award, in 1996 — dramatic theater has for years been a force in Houston that had no equal in Dallas.
But is all that changing? Christopher Kelly writes in The New York Times (and Texas Monthly) that the Dallas Theater Center has recently taken a few pages out of the Alley's playbook, garnering national attention while the Houston company has stumbled.
Though the Alley remains the state’s heavy hitter, with an annual budget north of $14 million and recent world premieres like Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries, the theater earlier this year sustained a high-profile disappointment. Gregory Boyd, the Alley’s artistic director, was the co-author of and directed the musical Wonderland, which had a short run at the Alley before opening on Broadway in April. But the show was a flop; it received mostly negative reviews and closed after just 31 previews and 33 regular performances."
Perhaps more notably, the Texas theater buzz has traveled north, to the Dallas Theater Center, a company that has recently made impressive strides. It presented the premiere of a musical comedy in early 2010 called Give It Up!, which recently had a successful Off Broadway run in New York under the title Lysistrata Jones and will open on Broadway this year, with a number of the original Dallas cast members. Another world premiere, a reworked version of the 1966 musical It’s a Bird ... It’s a Plane ... It’s Superman, was staged during the summer of 2010."
Frankly, Mr. Kelly — who is also the critic for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and thus promoting his own turf — doth protest a bit too much.
Yes, the Dallas Theater Center has new digs in the form of the plush Charles and Dee Wyly Theater, part of the new cultural arts megaplex known as the AT&T Performance Arts Center. And it's great that the DTC has actually hired a resident company of actors, something that the Alley has had, oh, forever.
Certainly Dallas, as a major American city, deserves a top-level theater program. If Dallasites and outsiders want to give the resurgent company credibility by comparing it to Houston, that's fine. But a theater town isn't made in one or two strong seasons — nor is it unmade with one New York non-starter. When Dallas has more than just whispers about getting Tony attention, or relationships with legendary talent like Edward Albee, then maybe I'll concede a general parity.
Until then, the Alley is still the Texas program to beat.