2015 Meadows Prize goes to
Public Theater’s Lear deBessonet
DTC Director of Public Works Dallas Dayron J. Miles, Public Works director Lear deBessonet, and DTC artistic director Kevin Moriarty. (Photo by Karen Almond.)
From the 2015 Meadows Prize announcement:
Lear deBessonet is director of Public Works – a major initiative of The Public Theater that engages the people of New York as theater creators as well as spectators. Working with community partner organizations in all areas of the city, Public Works invites members of diverse communities to participate in theater workshops, attend classes and productions, and become involved in the daily life of The Public.
Under deBessonet’s leadership, Public Works deliberately blurs the line between professional artists and community members, creating theater that is by and of the people. For her Meadows Prize project, deBessonet will spearhead a new co-production between the Meadows School and the Dallas Theater Center of The Tempest, to be developed for spring 2017. This co-production marks a new form and scale for a Meadows Prize project and will engage hundreds of volunteers, community partners from across Dallas, and the institutional collaboration and alignment between SMU, The Public Theater and the Dallas Theater Center. DeBessonet’s first iteration of The Tempest was a 2013 Public Works production, in conjunction with a number of community organizations, featuring more than 200 New Yorkers on stage, many with little or no acting experience.
June 3, 2016
From the June 2, 2016,
edition of D Magazine:
The Dallas Theater Center is launching an experimental “participatory theater” project that will cast both professional artists and the members of several Dallas community groups in an upcoming production, softening the division between audience and performer.
Working with SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, the New York City-based The Public Theater’s Public Works, and the AT&T Performing Arts Center, “Public Works Dallas” will seek to encourage Dallas residents to tap into their creative sides through the theater, according to a press release from DTC.
The project will recruit its participants from five community organizations: the Jubilee Park and Community Center, Vickery Meadows Learning Center (VMLC), Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT), Bachman Lake Together and City of Dallas Park and Recreation.
In March 2017, Public Works Dallas will perform The Tempest (by William Shakespeare) under the direction of Kevin Moriarty. The cast will consist of 200 members, with only five being professional artists. The other 195 cast members will be amateurs selected from the community organizations. The production will be free to the public and is scheduled to be performed at Wyly Theatre.
The Dallas Theater Center
DALLAS – Dallas Theater Center (DTC), in collaboration with Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts and Ignite/Arts Dallas, and in affiliation with New York City-based The Public Theater’s Public Works and AT&T Performing Arts Center, announced details for Public Works Dallas, a groundbreaking community engagement and participatory theater project designed to deliberately blur the line between professional artists and Dallas community members.
Five Dallas community organizations are participating in Public Works Dallas, including Jubilee Park and Community Center, Vickery Meadows Learning Center (VMLC), Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT), Bachman Lake Together and City of Dallas Park and Recreation. All will participate in workshops throughout the year culminating in auditions for roles in the Public Works Dallas participatory musical theater production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in March 2017, directed by DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in the Dallas Arts District.
The Tempest will feature 200 cast members, only five of whom will be professional actors, including members of DTC’s Hal and Diane Brierley Resident Acting Company. The remaining actors will be residents of Dallas, 100 selected from the five community organizations and 95 from select community cameo groups.
Public Works Dallas is affiliated with Public Works, an ongoing initiative of The Public Theater that seeks to engage the people of New York by making them creators and not just spectators. Public Works presented The Tempest in 2013 in New York, directed by Public Works Director Lear deBessonet, who was awarded the SMU Meadows Prize in 2015 to bring the program to Dallas, and will be collaborating on the Public Works Dallas project. She notes that participants of Public Works gain not only personal satisfaction but a deeper sense of connection to the city and its people.
“It is at the core about building a radically inclusive vision of the theater,” says deBessonet. “What we found at The Public is that it has changed every aspect of what we do in the best way possible. The self-respect and sense of pride within a community that comes from being in a show that's exquisitely put-together and well-received is unmistakable. The experience transforms both those who make the show and those who witness it.”
Moriarty says sparking dynamic conversations in the community through the art of theater is DTC’s primary goal. “Through our collaboration with the SMU Meadows Ignite/Arts Dallas initiative, which is supporting the creation of this initiative at DTC, and my longtime friend and colleague, Lear deBessonet, we now have the opportunity to more fully engage in direct dialogue with an even broader spectrum of citizens throughout this great city, culminating in the powerful and joyful act of creating theater together. Public Works Dallas will radically deepen DTC’s level of authentic engagement within our entire community, and it will change Dallas forever. By reaching out to every corner of our city, listening to the community and welcoming them as collaborators, partners and friends into our home at the Wyly Theatre, DTC will more fully live up to its ideals: to use theater to provide a center for our North Texas community to gather."
DTC, SMU Meadows and deBessonet began to develop Public Works Dallas during her Meadows Prize residency. A key initiative of Ignite/Arts Dallas, led by Clyde Valentín, the Meadows Prize is an annual award and residency given to pioneering artists and creative professionals that allows students to interact with artists at the top of their fields and integrates the Meadows School more deeply into the community. DeBessonet will return during rehearsals and for the production of The Tempest.
DTC will work with community members at the five partner organizations to participate in workshops and join in the creation of participatory theater. Sessions will be led by DTC’s Public Works Dallas Fellow Leah Harris, at Jubilee Park and Community Center; actress, Meadows theatre alum and Texas Christian University adjunct instructor Lydia Mackay at VMLC; SMU Meadows Artist-in-Residence and DTC Playwright in Residence Will Power at LIFT; actor and Cara Mía Theatre company member Ivan Jasso at Bachman Lake Together; and DTC Brierley Resident Acting Company member and Resident Artist, Hassan El-Amin at City of Dallas Park and Recreation. El-Amin will depart in July, and Brierley Resident Acting Company member Liz Mikel will lead the workshop.
“This is an important moment in Dallas’s history,” says Valentín, director of Ignite/Arts Dallas at SMU Meadows School of the Arts. “The narrative of Public Works in New York is that of a city that champions diversity and access. So what kind of city does Dallas want to become? We believe Public Works Dallas will help to ignite and inspire that conversation across our young city and become an important vehicle for our students to learn about this kind of approach to making art.”
DTC is a resident company of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, an affiliate with Public Works Dallas. “What really excited us about this project is how every corner of our very diverse city is the talent pool, and all sorts of people at every level of talent, will create, perform and experience theater like never before,” says Doug Curtis, president and CEO of the AT&T Performing Arts Center. “In just a few short years, the Center has become known as a platform for new and groundbreaking work, including that of our resident companies. Partnering with DTC and SMU on Public Works Dallas is an outstanding fit.”
Public Works Dallas is one of two pilot sites to be affiliated with Public Works, along with Seattle Repertory Theatre. Public Works Dallas is the ultimate community engagement initiative, says DTC Director of Public Works Dallas Dayron J. Miles. “The main goal is to engage our community with a joyful artistic experience that enriches lives and creates a more connected Dallas. Public Works Dallas and Public Works Seattle are the first national Public Works partners and we are thrilled to join our friends at The Public Theater in this necessary work that we hope will spread to other regional theaters across the country.”
The 90-minute production of The Tempest will be held March 3-5, 2017 at the Wyly Theatre located at 2400 Flora St., Dallas, TX 75201. The production will be free and open to the public. Ticket and full cast information will be announced at a later date.
Public Works Dallas is the recipient of a 2015 TACA Bowden & Embrey Family Foundation Artist Residency Fund grant and a City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs Cultural Vitality Program grant.
ABOUT DALLAS THEATER CENTER:
One of the leading regional theaters in the country, Dallas Theater Center (DTC) performs to an audience of more than 100,000 North Texas residents annually. Founded in 1959, DTC is now a resident company of the AT&T Performing Arts Center and presents its Mainstage season at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, designed by REX/OMA, Joshua Prince-Ramus and Rem Koolhaas and at its original home, the Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only freestanding theater designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. DTC is one of only two theaters in Texas that is a member of the League of Resident Theatres, the largest and most prestigious non-profit professional theater association in the country. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty and Managing Director Jeffrey Woodward, DTC produces a seven-play subscription series of classics, musicals and new plays and an annual production of A Christmas Carol; extensive education programs, including the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award-winning Project Discovery, SummerStage and partnerships with Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and South Oak Cliff High School; and community collaboration efforts with the Sixth Floor Museum, the City of Dallas, North Texas Food Bank, the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Public Library, Dallas Holocaust Museum, Dallas Opera, Dallas Black Dance Theater, and leading the DFW Foote Festival. Throughout its history, DTC has produced many new works, including The Texas Trilogy by Preston Jones in 1978, Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, adapted by Adrian Hall, in 1986, and recent premieres of Clarkston by Samuel D. Hunter; Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical by Robert Horn, Brandy Clark, and Shane McAnally; FLY by Rajiv Joseph, Bill Sherman and Kirsten Childs; Fly by Night by Kim Rosenstock, Michael Mitnick and Will Connolly; Giant by Michael John LaChiusa and Sybille Pearson; The Trinity River Plays by Regina Taylor; the revised It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Charles Strouse and Lee Adams; Give It Up! (now titled Lysistrata Jones and recently on Broadway) by Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn; Sarah, Plain and Tall by Julia Jordan, Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin; and The Good Negro by Tracey Scott Wilson. Dallas Theater Center gratefully acknowledges the support of our season sponsors: Texas Instruments; American Airlines; HP; JPMorgan Chase & Co.; City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs; Lexus; and Time Warner Cable. www.DallasTheaterCenter.org
ABOUT SMU MEADOWS SCHOOL OF THE ARTS
Meadows School of the Arts, formally established at SMU in 1969 and named in honor of benefactor Algur H. Meadows, is one of the foremost arts education institutions in the United States. The Meadows School offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in advertising, art, art history, arts management and arts entrepreneurship, corporate communication & public affairs, creative computation, dance, film and media arts, journalism, music and theatre. The goal of SMU Meadows School of the Arts, as a comprehensive educational institution, is to prepare students to meet the demands of professional careers. The Meadows School is a leader in developing innovative outreach and community engagement programs, challenging its students to make a difference locally and globally by developing connections between art, entrepreneurship and change. Meadows is also a convener for the arts in North Texas, serving as a catalyst for new collaborations and providing critical industry research.
The Meadows Prize is awarded as a key part of Ignite/Arts Dallas, a program launched by the Meadows School to foster projects that integrate the arts and community engagement in the broader SMU campus, the city of Dallas and the arts field at large. Led by Clyde Valentín, Ignite/Arts Dallas aims to engage the Meadows School in deep relationships with the Dallas community, using the arts to foster connections between diverse groups, and to introduce its students to the arts’ critical role in social engagement.
For more information about SMU Meadows School of the Arts, visit www.smu.edu/meadows.
ABOUT THE PUBLIC THEATER
The Public Theater, under the leadership of Oskar Eustis and Executive Director Patrick Willingham, is the only theater in New York that produces Shakespeare, the classics, musicals, contemporary and experimental pieces in equal measure. Celebrating his 10th anniversary season at The Public, Eustis has created new community-based initiatives designed to engage audiences like Public Lab, Public Studio, Public Forum, Public Works, and a remount of the Mobile Unit. The Public continues the work of its visionary founder, Joe Papp, by acting as an advocate for the theater as an essential cultural force, and leading and framing dialogue on some of the most important issues of our day. Creating theater for one of the largest and most diverse audience bases in New York City for nearly 60 years, today the Company engages audiences in a variety of venues—including its landmark downtown home at Astor Place, which houses five theaters and Joe’s Pub; the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, home to free Shakespeare in the Park; and the Mobile Unit, which tours Shakespearean productions for underserved audiences throughout New York City’s five boroughs. The Public’s wide range of programming includes free Shakespeare in the Park, the bedrock of the Company’s dedication to making theater accessible to all; Public Works, an expanding initiative that is designed to cultivate new connections and new models of engagement with artists, audiences and the community each year; and audience and artist development initiatives that range from Emerging Writers Group to the Public Forum series. The Public is located on property owned by the City of New York and receives annual support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; and in October 2012 the landmark building downtown at Astor Place was revitalized to physically manifest the Company’s core mission of sparking new dialogues and increasing accessibility for artists and audiences, by dramatically opening up the building to the street and community, and transforming the lobby into a public piazza for artists, students, and audiences. The Public is currently represented on Broadway by the Tony Award-winning Fun Home and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acclaimed American musical Hamilton, and Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed featuring Lupita Nyong’o. The Public has received 47 Tony Awards, 167 Obie Awards, 52 Drama Desk Awards, 54 Lortel Awards, 32 Outer Critics Circle Awards, 13 New York Drama Critics Awards, and five Pulitzer Prizes. www.publictheater.org.
ABOUT AT&T PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
The AT&T Performing Arts Center is a nonprofit foundation that operates and programs a 10-acre campus comprised of three premier performance venues and a park in downtown Dallas. Opening in October 2009, the Center helped complete the 30-year vision of the Dallas Arts District. Audiences enjoy the best and most recent from Broadway and off-Broadway; the finest dance companies from across the globe co-presented with TITAS Presents; top concerts and performers through Center Presents; cutting-edge speakers from the #hearhere series; and a five-year initiative to present The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The Center has also become known as a platform for world premieres, including new creations from Twyla Tharp, Kyle Abraham, St. Vincent and Pharrell Williams, as well as acclaimed new works from its five resident companies. They are among the city’s leading arts institutions: Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, The Dallas Opera, Dallas Theater Center and Texas Ballet Theater. The Center’s iconic venues include the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, Annette Strauss Square and Elaine D. and Charles A. Sammons Park. The Center offers free programming for audiences from every part of the community and produces the expansive, biannual light-based art event Aurora across the Arts District. Thousands of students explore and more deeply experience the arts through the Center’s education program, Open Stages. The Community Partners program works with local service agencies to provide free tickets to underserved individuals and families. These programs are made possible by the ongoing support of donors and members. The Center’s mission is to provide a public gathering place that strengthens community and fosters creativity through the presentation of performing arts. www.attpac.org.
ABOUT JUBILEE PARK & COMMUNITY CENTER
Jubilee Park & Community Center (Jubilee) was founded in 1997 through a collaboration between St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Habitat for Humanity and AmeriCorps. Jubilee is a catalyst for comprehensive community revitalization and enrichment in the southeast Dallas surrounding neighborhood, with emphasis on the education of children and adults. Jubilee’s purpose is to improve lives and strengthen community. Jubilee takes a comprehensive approach to revitalization through education, health, safety, economic development and housing. The neighborhood is a 62-block neighborhood bounded by I-30, East Grand and Fair Park. The majority of families are working poor, with 46% living below the federal poverty level. Annually, 14 staff members and more than 800 volunteers provide services and education to over 1,100 individuals in Jubilee Park and the surrounding area. Jubilee operates a multi-facility campus, which includes the Walt Humann – T. Boone Pickens Community Center, a resource center, two Head Start schools, a senior housing complex and a three-acre park.
ABOUT VICKERY MEADOW LEARNING CENTER
Vickery Meadow Learning Center is dedicated to improving English literacy levels among non-English speaking adults and their young children by providing programs in communication and life skills. We do so in the belief that the ability to understand, read, write and speak English contributes to independence, productivity and the overall well-being of the learners, their families and the greater community.
ABOUT LITERACY INSTRUCTION FOR TEXAS
Founded in 1961, LIFT is one of the largest and most widely respected adult basic education programs in Texas. Our mission is to enhance lives and strengthen communities by teaching adults to read. Each year more than 3,500 adults seek economic empowerment through LIFT’s adult basic literacy, GED preparation and English as a Second Language programs. All instruction is outcomes-focused, utilizes proven curricula and is delivered by 350+ dedicated, trained volunteer teachers. LIFT’s unique classroom-based approach creates a system of peer support and a sense of community that helps students develop a belief in their ability to succeed. To learn more, please visit lift-texas.org or call 214-824-2000.
ABOUT BACHMAN LAKE TOGETHER
Bachman Lake Together is the first collective early childhood impact initiative powered by the Zero to Five Funders Collaborative. The Bachman Lake Together Family Center is an almost 20,000-square-foot co-location facility for the community of Bachman Lake. Bachman Lake Together brings resources to help parents support their children’s development together under one roof. Families have access to coordinated early learning experiences and parent engagement programming, all from the same experienced providers they know and trust from their neighborhood.
ABOUT CITY OF DALLAS PARK AND RECREATION DEPARTMENT
Among the nation’s largest urban park systems, this award-winning department provides residents and visitors exceptional recreational opportunities and facilities. The department cares for almost 24,000 land and water acres that include 379 parks, 100 trail miles, athletic complexes and natural areas. To encourage active and healthy living, it manages recreation centers, golf courses, community pools, tennis centers and family attractions Bahama Beach Waterpark and the historic Fair Park. This year, the department launched a new program division to serve the ever-changing needs of active senior adults. Visit www.dallasparks.org for details.