When Jeff Rane and Craig Lynch created Uptown Players in the aftermath of 9/11, they really just wanted to produce one show and see how it went. Nearly eight years later, they are the up-and-comer in North Texs theater, having grown each year by at least 10 percent and boasting a season subscriber base of more than 1,000 patrons. From that initial show, they now field a slate of five productions a year, plus their two-week sell-out fundraiser, “Broadway Our Way.”
But the proof of how much they have expanded is evident in the developments about their new season, which we discuss after the jump.
Despite their name, Uptown Players has only been tagential to Uptown since their founding, fielding most of their shows at the KD Studio Theatre on Stemmons Freeway, with occasional forays into the Rose Room on Cedar Springs and even El Centro downtown. But that’s about to change — at least a little.
With the Dallas Theater Center moving its production schedule to the Wyly Theatre downtown in the fall (except for the annual “Christmas Carol”), the Kalita Humphreys Theater, an historic and protected landmark, was set to be fallow most of the year. Not anymore. Two of Uptown Players’ productions for its 2010 season will take place inside the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed venue along Turtle Creek. You can’t get much more “Uptown” than that.
The first, “Equus,” is a revival of the 1973 Peter Shaffer play about a disturbed young man who blinds six horses with a spike. It’s great theater literature, full of homoeroticism, but best know recently because Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe starred in it on Broadway, and was naked for a key scene. Uptown Players’ founding producer Craig Lynch rightly expects the gays will turn out for this one at the Kalita — nuidty sells.
But selling tickets and SELLING TICKETS are two different things. KD Theatre seats maybe 120 people each performance; if you include the balcony, the Kalita’s main theater can accommodate nearly 550. Uptown Players doesn’t plan to use the balcony. but that’s still 400+ seats to fill — a tall order in a down economy. So, for the two shows this season there, the trope is cutting the usual Thursday night performance, limiting t performances to Friday nights, Saturday nights, and Sunday matinees. Still, that’s about 1200 seats to sell a week, as opposed to about 400. But Lynch told me if the shows sell well, they might even consider adding Thursdays back, or clearing the balcony. being at the Kalita allows some flexibility.
The second show of the 2010 season, the big musical “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” will also be at the Kalita, a contrast to the sparsely-decorated “Equus.” The remaining three shows — the Paul Rudnick comedy “Regrets Only,” the pastiche camp revue “Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits, Volume 1,” and the U.S. premiere of the Pet Shop Boys musical “Closer to Heaven” — will all take place at KD. Lynch says they may do a late-year show at the Rose Room again.
And what does the future hold for the Kalita? That remains to be seen. Certainly it is a bright pink feather in the cap of Uptown Players to become a de facto resident company at the theater, which since its construction 50 years ago has been exclusively the home of the DTC. For Uptown to take it over, even for a while, is almost historic… hell, not even almost, it is. And UP continues to raise funds for their “dream project,” building their own theater. Here’s to hoping to their continued success, wherever they end up.
Here’s the complete 2010 season:
“Broadway Our Way: Legally Divas,” Jan. 15–24 (directed by Andi Allen). KD Studio Theatre.
“Equus,” Feb. 16–March 21 (directed by Bruce Coleman). Kalita Humphreys Theater.
“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” April 23–May 16 (directed by Cheryl Denson). Kalita Humphreys Theater.
Regrets Only,” June 11–27 (directed by Coy Covington). KD Studio Theatre.
“Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits,Vol. I,” Aug. 6–29 (directed by B.J. Cleveland). KD Studio Theatre.
“Closer to Heaven,” Oct. 1–24 (North American premiere; directed by Bruce Coleman). KD Studio Theatre.