Of all the buildings in Dallas, none has been so consistently misunderstood, mistreated, misused, mismanaged, maligned and generally neglected as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kalita Humphreys Theater.
It is a sorry treatment that began before this landmark structure was even completed, in 1959, and has pretty much continued unabated ever since. Even this paper has been guilty of defamation. After one of the many unfortunate renovations inflicted upon the theater over the years, my predecessor as architecture critic bemoaned it as a “forlorn ammonite in a sea of asphalt.”
Let me suggest a more generous reading.
The Kalita, which became a city landmark in 2005, is an iconic late work by America’s most singular architect; a masterpiece of structural daring wedged with care into a verdant landscape; and an enveloping jewel that promotes innovative theatrical productions. At least this is how it was conceived, and in many ways how it remains, although its attributes have been veiled and sometimes erased by decades of accumulated degradation, in both the physical and figurative senses.
🎙️ DMN architecture critic Mark Lamster discusses the Kalita Humphreys Theater on KERA’s Art & Seek Podcast:
PAUL BAKER was Randy Ford’s greatest mentor. Randy followed him from the Dallas Theater Center, Baylor University. Trinity University, and back to the Dallas Theater Center. Randy received his Masters of Fine Arts from Trinity University at the Dallas Theater Center. That is a lot of history.
Over the last few months I’ve been looking for something that I hadn’t defined. I couldn’t name it, which didn’t matter, as long as I continued to have an inner dialogue about it. I know what it is now, for I have had a few of them come to me since I started looking; the results have amounted to aesthetic experiences that have been both exciting and personal. Nothing like this has happened to me in a long time, nothing that would constitute an “epiphany” (the name I was looking for), and I can see now that it hadn’t come to me quickly. And if I had been looking for results I don’t think I would have had any of these ideas, ideas I consider my own and to me seem quite remarkable. I can imagine how skeptics among you might be thinking “oh, yeah,” and yet I am unwilling to make public these ideas without first testing them and seeing what other “epiphanies” might emerge. But for now, it is the process that I am writing about, that I took time to make room for thought (or to have an on-going inner dialogue): yes, working in isolation, I didn’t rush it.
I will use the acting methods I’ve developed. They seem sound to me and have so far worked with the few students I have tried them out on. But I am not in the mood to give them away. In the right setting, I would be willing to start training people in the methods. Frankly, I don’t know where to start. I have the ideas for a product. But I don’t have the how. And I think my epiphanies can also be applied to writing, as the impetus for them came from that endeavor. Ideas rarely come out of the air. As Frank Lloyd Wright said, they come from “the mind, the heart, and the head.”
I want to move on. Randy Ford
I started reading plays because I thought it would be easier reading than reading other things. I didn’t know about subtext or that if a play were any good action had to be inherent in the dialogue. In drama there is always more to it than what is on the page; of course it is inclusive of all the creative energy of all the people (actors, director, technical people) involved in a production of it. I had to visualize the piece staged; but that might seem impossible for someone who had never seen a stage play. (I grew up on television and AS THE WORLD TURNS and GUIDING LIGHT.) So if a play doesn’t really come to life until it is mounted on stage by a combination of artists, how did I get very far? Well, I got as far as I could; and I didn’t associate until later the written play with theater. (It wasn’t until later that I learned that theater was the one place where all the arts come together.) I actually read very little. My ego got in the way; I showed off by writing. Luckily a teacher confiscated my work (“stuff” then because I dashed it off) and didn’t know what to do with it. The writing was alien for Irving High School; so the teacher pointed me in the direction of the Dallas Theater Center, and I had the courage to go.
Creative work, according to Frank Lloyd Wright, is a combination of “the hand, the heart, and the mind.” To have discovered that on my own would’ve been impossible for me; walking into a Wright designed theater had to have been a start for me, though I’m sure I wasn’t aware of it. It was in fact the beginning of a very long journey that continues today, a journey full of surprises. Even this morning when faced with the task of writing this blog, I didn’t know what I was going to write and it required courage and faith to start with “I started reading plays because…” It was stepping into that building and my rejection of the familiar that led to drama and my going to Baylor and Trinity; and the rest, as they say, is history, my history.
With all the options available to me then, why did I choose drama? I certainly didn’t have a desire to perform on stage, though performing in other ways wasn’t out of character for me. Those snippets of dialogue, which I wrote during study hall, I’m sure didn’t survive (though I honestly I don’t know because I have boxes of unrelated scribbling). It was through my teachers that I gained the insight about the creative process that I have (Paul Baker and Eugene McKinney in particular). Now I know I owe more to my dad than I have readily admitted; he enjoyed making things with his hands from scratch and later after retiring enjoyed creating skits for his travel club (I didn’t have the privilege of seeing any of them.) But besides these influences, by and large, I have been on my own. Even today my family doesn’t read what I write; but I can’t afford to read too much into that.
Good morning, Randy Ford