I confess it: This is my favorite story of the year.
It’s not because it’s my last (thank god) or the best written (it’s not, I hope). It’s because after 51 weeks of saying what theaters don’t always do right, I get to say what the actors who make those plays happen did perfectly.
It’s a bigger deal than some think. Actors in Dallas toil long and hard for little recompense, but they are essential artists who elevate our community in countless ways (you’re more likely to see them in TV commercials and on billboards than stages sometimes, but they are OK with that — it pays the bills). So to single out the ones who, as much as a year later, still resonate … well, it’s simply a privilege.
A privilege to remind everyone that Cindee Mayfield began the year strongly (with January’s The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife), reached a high mid-year with June’s Lydie Marland in the Afterlife and ended strongly this month with Other Desert Cities. She also made many of her co-stars (Elias Taylorson, Brandi Andrade, Barbara Bierbrier and Catherine DuBord) raise their games to memorable levels.
Full casts of other shows collectively shone as well, especially Drew Wall, Barrett Nash, Van Quattro and David Jeremiah, who made a potent quartet in the dark comedy A Behanding in Spokane.
Among large casts, Doug Jackson (Enron) and Linda Leonard (Kiss of the Spider Woman) distinguished themselves, as did Liz Mikel as the matriarch in A Raisin in the Sun; and David Coffee, who’s heartbreaking solo in Fly By Night transformed the show from good to great. Another actor who scored, like Mayfield, in multiple roles: Max Hartman in Penelope and RX.
Several people you don’t usually think of as actors also impressed me: journalist and film festival programmer Todd Camp, as a gay man delivering his partner’s eulogy in Standing on Ceremony: The Marriage Plays and theater critic Elaine Liner moving in front of the footlights for her one-woman show Sweater Curse.
Tim Johnson is also best known for something other than acting (he’s a gifted director), but his confessional performance in One.Man.Show. was brave and striking. Another solo show that stood out was Georgia Clinton’s turn as Molly Ivins in Red Hot Patriot. Johnson even even directed two actors to career-best work: Rhonda Boutté and Raphael Parry in The Chairs. What skill!
But my four favorite performances of 2012 were all turned in by women. I couldn’t take my eyes off Heather Henry in In a Forest Dark and Deep as she rose and fell with emotional nuances as a woman hiding gruesome secrets. Marianne Galloway (herself hearing impaired) turned the prickly character of a deaf-mute into a comprehensible damaged child in Children of a Lesser God. In a much lighter vein, Arianna Movassagh played vulnerability and hopefulness with comic mastery in the fluffy but enjoyable farce Made in Heaven.
But ultimately, the performer I think of most is one who seems to figure into every year’s best-of list. In RX, and then again Detroit, Kitchen Dog co-artistic director Tina Parker showed how it’s possible to be strong and weak as a marshmallow at the same time. No one does — nor has done in my memory — the combination of intelligence, willfulness and innocence with such deftness as Parker. She’s a Renaissance woman made for the contemporary (st)age, and for that alone — but much more — Parker deserves recognition as our actor of the year.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 27, 2013.