Memorial service tonight for Jac Alder

jacalder01Jac Alder, the long-serving founder and artistic director of Theatre 3 who died in late May at 80 after a long illness, will be remembered in a memorial service tonight.

The service will be held at City Performance Hall, 2520 Flora St., in the Downtown Arts District. Complimentary parking will be provided at the Lexus Silver Parking Garage next door. It begins at 6 p.m.

Friends and colleagues, as well as fans of Theatre 3 and Alder’s more than half-century of dedication to theater in North Texas, are all invited to attend.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Lights will be dimmed Friday in honor of Jac Alder

City Performance Hall and the Winspear Opera House will darken their marquee and lobby lights on Friday at 7 p.m. in honor of Theatre 3 founder Jac Alder, who died last week at age 80tides-1. He was the longest  continuously-serving arts company director in the U.S.

Theatre 3′s board also issued a statement mourning Alder’s passing today. The board revealed the establishment of the Jac Alder Memorial Fund to continue the arts leader’s legacy. A memorial honoring him will be held at CPH on July 13 at 6 p.m.

Bruce Coleman was announced as acting artistic director, with Marty Van Kleeck serving as advisor.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Remembering Jac Alder

A photo I took of Jac as the Arts District went online.

I’ve known Jac Alder for many years, but not nearly as many — not by a long shot — as he has been an arts leader in Dallas. In fact, he has led Theatre 3 for longer than I have been alive … and I’m not a kid. So yeah, maybe for a decade or so I was privileged to say, “Hi, Jac,” or even set up a photo shoot with him or get an exclusive or two in a private conversation, but if you wanna know someone who knew Jac Alder best, well, hell — it wasn’t me.

In many ways, I bet it was Terry Dobson, who was the music director at T3 for nearly 35 years and worked closely with Jac. Sadly, Terry died of sepsis just a few weeks ago … just as Jac checked into the hospital in respiratory distress. Jac’s condition was serious, but he seemed to be improving last I heard. So when word spread last night that Alder had passed away at age 80 … well, it’s a lot to digest in a short period of time.

Jac was widely acknowledged as the longest-serving artistic director of any arts organization in the U.S., which he cofounded (with his late wife Norma Young) in 1961; notably, Jac died just after the final show of the company’s 54th season concluded — Jac knew how to make a timely exit.

That’s because he did it all — not only as a producer and artistic director, but also as an actor (I saw him several time trod the boards, and he was brilliant each time), an entrepreneur (he turned himself in a puppet to give the curtain speech at Avenue Q), a director and occasionally as a designer. He could be prickly, but also droll; fiercely opinionated but also flexible; charming (the first time I met him he told me, “I’ve heard many excellent things about you … but I won’t say from whom”) and defiant. As a critic, I would sometimes write negative reviews of shows he produced, and I could usually tell when he disagreed with me, but never was he rude. He was the gentleman of Dallas theater.

He was savvy, as well, in helping Theatre 3 grow. When it had a reputation for doing “safe” work, he took some risks and put on plays with nudity (Metamorphoses, The Wild Party, The Full Monty), interspersed with Agatha Christie thrillers and song-filled revues. The mission statement of Theatre 3 says it took its name from the interplay between author, actor and audience; Jac really tried to embody that in every production. No one cared more about theater that Jac.

Few cared more about his fellow man, as well. Jac nurtured the young careers of such folks as Morgan Fairchild and Doug Wright; he was well-known to employ theater professionals who needed work so that they could keep their health insurance; he was supportive of AIDS causes and a long-standing friend of the gay community. Theatre 3 embraced its Uptown neighbors.

So, I didn’t know Jac as well as many other people. But I knew him well enough: Through his largesse, his artistry, his commitment. He wasn’t a tall man; but he was a giant.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Terry Dobson, longtime actor and musician, has died

11182129_10153223194264417_6063514439171344223_nTerry Dobson, who for 30-plus years served as a music director, keyboardist, actor, playwright and bon vivant in the Dallas theater community, died last night. He was 59.

It was hard to miss Terry. Standing six-foot-six and cutting a lanky silhouette with a Marty Feldman-esque mug, he towered over theater lobbies. But much of his career, mostly as the musical director at Theatre 3, was spent behind the scenes, arranging scores of the musicals performed there, usually leading the band and playing keyboards. He once arranged a piece for Stephen Sondheim which the composer was pleased with; he loved to tell that story.

But Terry could also be frequently seen in front of the limelights. He performed in the Tony Award-winning three-hander Art at FMPAT, as well as numerous shows at Theatre 3. He last trod the boards in Assassins playing the would-be presidential murderer Sam Byck.

But the show Terry will be most closely associated with will surely be My Own Private Diva, a more-or-less solo show about his journey from his native Slapout, Ala., to the big city of Dallas. The play was also a love letter to his best friend and muse, local actress Sally Soldo.

Soldo was with Terry and members of his family when he passed away last night in New York City. Plans are currently underway to arrange for a cremation. Dallas memorial services are pending.

Terry was a longtime HIV survivor, and was very open about his status. About a year ago, his health took a serious turn which necessitated him stepping down from his duties at Theatre 3. But in recent weeks, he had bounced back. Personally, I ran into Sally and Terry about a month ago at the Dallas Summer Musicals. He was in good spirits and alert and friendly. “He was in great shape and happy,” Soldo told me. “We were [recently] at [Theatre 3's production of] Hot Mikado and a big Easter celebration with his extended family. This was very sudden.”

His fatal illness was not only unexpected, but unrelated to his HIV status.  A few weeks ago, Terry took a trip to New York City to take in some Broadway shows. The day after one, he fell quickly ill and was admitted into a hospital. He had developed sepsis owing to a perforated ulcer. He was treated with antibiotics and seemed to be improving. Then he developed some abscesses and his condition worsened over the weekend. Soldo flew to his side Tuesday to meet with the family.

This is one of several sadnesses visited upon Theatre 3′s staff recently. The company’s founding producer, Jac Alder — the longest-serving artistic director of an arts organization in the U.S., having helmed it for more than 50 years — was recently admitted to Baylor’s ICU for treatment of pneumonia. Until he is released, which will hopefully be in a few days, plans for a memorial for Dobson are on hold.

“Terry hated memorial services,” Soldo said. “When he had to play music for them, he ducked out as soon as it was over. So I don’t know what we will be doing, but I am sure it will involve chocolate.”

Terry would have appreciated that.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Your curtain speech at “Avenue Q” delivered by Jac Alder … but which one?

When Avenue Q opens tonight following its weekend of previews, there will, as ever, be a curtain speech delivered by Theatre 3′s long-standing co-founder and executive producer, Jac Alder.

The question is, which one?

As I reported in this week’s edition, Michael Robinson and his team built a monstrous 36 puppets for the show … and one of them is of Alder himself.

So who will deliver the speech? Apparently, both: Alder will voice the reminder to silence your cell phones and drunk plus-ones, but someone else will be pulling the strings … or manipulating the hand.

This could start a trend. I’m sick of seeing the same folks trot up every show telling me how to behave — I already know, but increasingly, the folks sitting next to be don’t seem to. Maybe if they heard the same from a foam head, they’d actually pay attention.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Theatre 3 announces 2012-13 season

Theatre 3, which for 50 years has been run by Jac Alder, pictured, begins its 51st season this summer with a schedule that includes a world premiere and the regionally-produced debut of a queer hit.

The unofficial start of the season is Avenue Q in the downstairs Theatre Too space. A sassy puppet show with adult themes and gay characters, it’s the first time the show has been mounted locally, although the national tour has been through numerous times. Unlike in recent years, this (and the Valentine staple  I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) are the only shows scheduled for the smaller space. It opens June 29.

The remainder of the seven-show schedule upstairs is as follows:

Present Laughter (Aug. 2–Sept. 1). Gay bon vivant Noel Coward’s witty farce.

Freud’s Last Session (Sept. 20–Oct. 20). An imagined exchange between the atheist father of psychoanalysis and Christian author C.S. Lewis.

Godspell (Nov. 15–Dec. 15). T3′s music director, Terry Dobson, recently met with Stephen Schwartz, who dubbed him one of his “official” arrangers. That will no doubt apply to this revival of the off-Broadway classic musical.

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (Jan. 10–Feb. 9). Rajiv Joseph’s recent Broadway hit starring Robin Williams, narrated by a giant cat.

Idols of the King (Feb. 28–Mar. 30). Longtime T3 collaborator Ronnie Claire Edwards debuts her new play about Elvis Presley.

Enron (Apr. 25-May 25). A quasi-musical drama about the notorious collapse.

City of Angels (June 13–July 13). The season closes with the Tony-winning hit about the movie business.



—  Arnold Wayne Jones