A look at 58 years of Dallas Theater Center, from its founding to its Tony Award

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Nancy Churnin, Theater Critic

      Dallas audiences can count on at least one big win at the Tony Awards: Dallas Theater Center’s pre-announced 2017 Regional Theatre Tony Award.  Made on the recommendation of the American Theatre Critics Association, this honor, which decrees Dallas Theater Center as the nation’s best regional theater, has been a long time coming for the company founded in 1959 as one of the country’s first regional theaters. The award will be presented June 11 as part of the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Here’s a look at Dallas Theater Center highlights.


Paul Baker, founder of the Dallas Theater Center, circa 1994 (Baker Idea Institute)
Paul Baker, founder of the Dallas Theater Center, circa 1994
(Baker Idea Institute)

1959 Dallas Theater Center becomes one of the country’s first regional theaters when Paul Baker founds a resident company of artists and serves as artistic director. Its first home is the Kalita Humphreys Theater, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Among the new work premiered: Preston Jones’ A Texas Trilogy, which was produced on Broadway in 1976.

1982 Mary Sue Jones serves as interim artistic director.

1983 The next artistic director, Adrian Hall, transforms the company into a fully professional theater with a resident company of actors. During his tenure, Tony Award-winning set designer Eugene Lee designs the Arts District Theater (which was closed in 2005 to prepare for the building of the Wyly Theatre). The company turns Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, first produced in 1969, into an annual tradition starting in 1984 and launches Project Discovery in 1986. This educational outreach program has enabled more than 265,000 students from North Texas middle and high schools to attend and receive supplementary educational instruction about main stage programs.

Dallas Theater Center's production of <i>A Christmas Carol</i> in 1985.(1985 File Photo/DMN)
Dallas Theater Center’s production of A Christmas Carol in 1985.
(1985 File Photo/DMN)

1990 Ken Bryant, who’d worked at Dallas Theater Center since 1984, serves briefly as artistic director, but dies suddenly after a traffic accident. Bryant Hall on the Kalita Humphreys campus is named for him.

1992 Artistic director Richard Hamburger promotes new work in The Big D Festival of the Unexpected and Fresh Ink/Forward Motion and oversees the growth of Project Discovery. Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum frequently recognizes him for outstanding direction for shows, including 1999’s South Pacific. He is named Dallas Theater Center’s first artistic director emeritus in 2007.

Dallas Theater Center artistic director Kevin Moriarty stands in front of the new Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre Center.&nbsp;(2009 File Photo/David Woo)
Dallas Theater Center artistic director Kevin Moriarty stands in front of the new Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre Center.
(2009 File Photo/David Woo)
Ashley D. Kelley played Bella last year during a performance of "Bella: An American Tall Tale" in the Dallas Theater Center.&nbsp;(2016 File Photo/Andy Jacobsohn)
Ashley D. Kelley played Bella last year during a performance of “Bella: An American Tall Tale” in the Dallas Theater Center.
(2016 File Photo/Andy Jacobsohn)

2007 Artistic director Kevin Moriarty oversees the company’s move to the Wyly Theatre in the AT&T Performing Arts Center in 2009; reinstates the resident acting company as the Diane and Hal Brierley Resident Acting Company, launches Public Works Dallas, an annual event featuring free performances of a show featuring 200 community members alongside a small core of professional actors and builds connections with multiple regional and New York theaters.

2010-2016 Dallas Theater Center’s Give it Up! transfers to Broadway as Lysistrata Jones in 2011; The Good NegroGiant and Fortress of Solitudetransfer to the Public Theater off-Broadway in 2009, 2012 and 2014 respectively; Bella: An American Tall Tale transfers to Playwrights Horizons off-Broadway where it continues through July 2.

2017 Dallas Theater Center wins the Tony Award for best regional theater.


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Filed under Paul Baker, theater

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