Playing to the balcony

Posted on 14 Jun 2007 at 3:10pm
By Arnold Wayne Jones Staff Writer

Kevin Moriarty, the Dallas Theater Center’s newly-appointed gay artistic director, promises to develop a season as diverse as the city



(TADD MYERS)

It’s tempting and exciting to believe that Kevin Moriarty will do exactly what he says. Last week, when the Dallas Theater Center introduced Moriarty who, when he ascends to the post in September, will become only the fifth artistic director in its nearly 50-year history the 40-year-old Midwesterner glowed like a newly-crowned American Idol. He was all smiles and big ideas conveyed in a chatty, friendly way. Without getting into specifics, he spoke ebulliently about his plans to turn the DTC into a reflection of the entire Dallas community.

“We are going to create theater that is as bold and diverse and expansive as the city of Dallas and its citizens are,” he said in his opening remarks. “We will create, over the course of a single season, the experience of everyone from high school students to senior citizens.”

And, he said, he will do so by reinventing the classics (he’s an experienced interpreter of Shakespeare) while simultaneously developing world premieres at least one per season.

Can all that really be done? Moriarty thinks so. And he seems to have the energy and enthusiasm to lead the way.

Handsome, impish, with curious, flashing eyes, Moriarty arrives in Dallas from Ithaca, N.Y., where he has served for eight seasons as the artistic director of the Hanger Theatre. He’s also an associate with Rhode Island’s Trinity Repertory Company, which won a Tony Award for outstanding regional theater in 1981 an accolade that has so far eluded the DTC.

It’s reasonable to assume that the DTC board hopes he can be the one to remedy that.

Moriarty rises to his post during a significant stage in the DTC’s history. In the fall of 2009, the Performing Arts Center including the Winspear Opera House, the Wyly Theatre and the renovated Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet High School, in addition to the other venues already there will open in downtown’s Arts District.

And Moriarty has been chosen as the man to lead DTC into a new era of performing arts heights.

The most acclaimed regional theaters always produce original works and world premieres, something DTC has not diligently cultivated in more than a decade. But Moriarty plans to do that.

“My experience has been to read a lot of great playwrights and work with scripts, inviting them here to develop their plays,” he says. “We’re going to do a world premiere every year. We must encourage and celebrate new works.”

When he was first contacted about the position with the DTC in January, he says his first thought was, “Would I really fit in there?”

It was a reasonable question. Until he came here to interview for the DTC job, Moriarty’s sole visit to Dallas was when he was in tech rehearsals while directing the national tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” His ties to Texas simply weren’t that strong.

But that one experience was part of what sold him on the position and the city.

“We had a two-hour dinner break during rehearsals, and I asked the stage manager where I could get a bite. He said, “‘Well outside those doors, the Texas State Fair is going on,’” Moriarty remembers.

He was like a kid in a candy store overwhelmed by the selection of carnival foods and the image of Big Tex towering over him. Every day of rehearsals, he wandered around, riding Midway attractions and carbo-loading on such Lone Star-fried delicacies as Twinkies, Oreos and Fletcher’s Corny Dogs while everyone else in the cast worried about getting fat.

But it was the day he ventured away from Fair Park that Moriarty realized the strengths of Dallas’ arts community.

“I ended up at the Dallas Museum of Art, which took my breath away,” he says. “Then I went to the Nasher. I first thought, “‘An entire museum of sculpture?’”

He was skeptical, but was quickly won over by its depth and the beauty of the collection.

Then he saw the Meyerson Symphony Center across the street.

“I didn’t even know what it was, I just wanted to look at the architecture. Then I saw that they were playing a Charles Ives concert that afternoon at 2. It was about 1:30, and I asked if they had a ticket, and they did. And they were recording the performance for a CD!”

It was then he realized there was more to Dallas than J.R. Ewing, big hair and football.

“I grew up in the rural Midwest, and the people here have the same openness as there, yet the same sophistication as my friends in New York City. They have been incredibly knowledgeable but also friendly,” he says.

To date, however, Moriarty has yet to see any actual locally produced theater. To his credit, he realizes this drawback and plans to remedy that by spending his first few months in his post soaking up the theater community, meeting other arts leaders and getting a feel for what Dallas needs.

“One of the most exciting things when I get here will be to seek out the artistic directors at the companies,” he says. “To flourish, we need to see that other companies are thriving and surviving. I’m ready to set down roots, become a real part of a community.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 15, 2007.

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