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Community Connection: Our Friends and Neighbors

June 3, 2010

Dear loyal blog readers,

We have a new summer blog post schedule.  Look for new posts on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Have a fabulous summer!

The opening of the AT&T Performing Arts Center last fall brought our friends at the Dallas Theater Center (DTC) to the ever-growing Dallas Arts District.  Having comfortably settled into their new home at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, the DTC has developed programs and collaborations as innovative as the building itself.  Lisa Holland, Director of Education and Community Programs at the DTC, gives us a peek behind the scenes.

Tell us about your new home at the Wyly Theatre.
The Wyly Theatre is remarkable – there’s not another theater like it in the entire world.  The flexibility that it affords is unparalleled and I think that we, as the primary tenants, are going to learn about this building as time goes on.  I think the possibilities are going to be limitless in this building.  I also think our patrons are going to be the lucky beneficiaries of seeing what this building can do.  It’s like a giant transformer.  What that provides to the patron in terms of the audience to artist relationship is going to be powerful and immediate. There’s nothing like it.  

Also, the synergy between other organizations in the Arts District and the potential collaborations that exist now is so thrilling.  I think about how we can collaborate with our friends and family at the Arts District in ways that will be really engaging and exciting.  To walk down the street and see who you’ll run into, or walk down the street and have a meeting at the DMA – it’s exciting. 

Do you ever consider integrating or thinking about works of art related to your programs?
Absolutely.  In the past, we’ve incorporated a visual arts component in our SummerStage program.  I believe that whatever kind of artist you are, you need to “feed your hopper”.  In other words, you pour into yourself different experiences, whether it’s a trip to the zoo or going for a walk and looking at leaves.  You never know what will inform your work as an artist.  

Also, we deal with a lot of visual arts formal elements like color, line, and composition in the theater.  And, we have had collaborative events with the DMA in the past, such as sending artists to the DMA and working with Arts & Letters Live.

Tell us about the Shannon and Ted Skokos Learning Lab, your new partnership with Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
It was brand new this year, and it was a resounding mutual success. Last spring, we auditioned the rising juniors and from that group chose eighteen seniors.  The Learning Lab has three components.  Kevin Moriarty (DTC Artistic Director), Charlton Gavitt (Booker T. Washington High School Theater Cluster Faculty), and I team-taught the class component, which occurred every other day, all year long.  The second component is a twenty-hour internship that students complete outside of class hours.  The final component is a performance project, in which we paired the students with our professional acting company, and they performed ten scenes in the Wyly Theatre with the professional actors.  The students also came to every single show we produced this year, free of charge.  This is a super exciting program, and I don’t think anywhere else has that sort of integrated relationship between a school and a professional theater with that kind of access.  The program is a great example of the kind of collaboration that can happen in the Arts District – it was so simple to walk across the street, teach, and walk back to my office.

How did you come to your position as Director of Education & Community Programs?
I grew up in the theater.  My parents took me to theater and I’ve been a theater student my whole life.  After I earned my graduate degree in directing, I was hired as one of two artistic directing interns at the Dallas Theater Center thirteen years ago.  I was hired to work in the artistic office after my internship year, and I basically never left.  I defected into the education department about halfway through my tenure, but that made sense because my undergraduate degree is in theater education.

What program/performance are you most looking forward to this summer?
We have a program called SUPERStage (SummerStage’s alter ego), where we have theater day camps for kids ages 4-14. I’m also looking forward to our summer production It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s SupermanI’m so excited about having a mainstage show running concurrently with our SUPERtage program.  Our SUPERStage students will have access to what we do in a primary way, and we’re going to enfold into the curriculum what is happening on stage so it becomes a learning lab of sorts.  It’s going to be awesome.  Superman – what can you say – there’s flying  –  it’s Superman!

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Teaching in the Community

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