Dallas’ rich art culture makes it an attractive stop for actors, but we want to highlight the true talent that originates from the Big D and, most importantly, from the Hilltop. Catherine DuBord ’06 is the founder of Belle Sauvage, which she started in January 2023. The Last Flapper, starring DuBord and directed by SMU alum Lydia Mackay ’08, is her company’s first show.
The Last Flapper is about Zelda Fitzgerald, icon of the Jazz Age, who is alone in a mental hospital asking herself the questions her doctor should have as she finally gets to tell her side of the story.
“This is a show I fell in love with when I was 16 years old, and I actually have a couple connections to Zelda Fitgerald. I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and we lived right around the corner from the Fitzgerald house when they lived in St. Paul, so when I found this play about her letters and her writing, I was immediately sucked in.”
DuBord has been acting for years and is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association, but sometimes it is difficult to find stage work due to the limited number of theaters who offer contracts. That is where the idea of starting her own company originated.
“I founded my own theater company in January called Belle Sauvage, which means wild beauty in French. I’m half French, and I’m a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast. I also think the name spoke to this project because she [Fitzgerald] is a wild beauty.”
The play is set in the insane asylum the day of Fitzgerald’s death as she takes herself through a self-therapy session. Part of the problem is her being a woman during an era where they did not know what to do with mental illness for women or men at this point.
“The show has undertones of a woman’s right to her own medical decisions and she [Fitzgerald] did not have that. She was a woman trying to find her voice while being in a world that was not ready to hear from women yet. That was in the 1920s–1940s, and a fair amount of time has passed, but I still do not feel like we’ve moved that far in society today. The echoes of the past that I find extremely relevant still today is why I decided to start with this project.”
The Last Flapper will run in Dallas from June 1–11, and DuBord will also take her talents to Edinburgh, Scotland, for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
“It’s the world’s largest theater festival. It’s 25 days in August; they have more than 50,000 performers doing over 3,800 shows across 250 venues. The love and support for the live performing arts is astounding. The city almost triples in size from visitors who come in.”
DuBord is working on this project with director Lydia Mackey, who earned her Master of Fine Arts from SMU in 2008. DuBord and Mackey were two of the few people who graduated from the fine arts program and stayed in Dallas rather than moving to markets like Los Angeles, New York or Chicago.
“We had been talking for years about trying to find a chance to work together in this capacity. We’ve shared the stage as both actresses but never director and actor. I called her [Mackey] and asked her what she was doing summer 2023, and she luckily had the time and was interested in the script. I’m so grateful and stoked to work with her.”
DuBord credits the Hilltop for a lot of her success today, especially since she stayed in Dallas and has been able to build a renowned reputation in the theater scene here.
“SMU has a wonderful program, especially how they expose you to theater throughout the ages. Your senior year, if you’re on the acting track, you’re focused solely on Shakespeare, but that classical training sets you up so much better to do everything else, and the professors and their skillsets were so amazing."
"It’s great to walk into an audition with SMU theater on your resume because it’s a small, exclusive program, so that means a lot and holds a lot of weight.”
Although this is DuBord’s first one-woman show, she has worked with over 30 different companies in the DFW area and has an extensive resume. Two of her favorite roles were Brooke Ashton (Vicki) in Noises Off and Catherine in Proof.
DuBord has tips for Mustangs in the theater program. “Go see theater,” she says. “Go see any local shows and get entrenched in that community, especially if you’re planning on staying here. Also, during the summers or if you can get permission to do a show during the school year, do it. There’s amazing theater happening here in Dallas. They say the business is who you know, but it really is. Lastly, be kind to everyone you meet.”
Tickets for The Last Flapper are on sale now and are selling out quick, get yours soon!