What a Collaboration Between a Famous Playwright and a Local Theater Means for Dallas’ Creative Future

SMU Theatre Artist-in-Residence Will Power is serving as a mentor to the finalists in TeCo’s annual New Play Competition, and six SMU theatre directing students are serving as directors of the plays.

By Iris Zubair

For more than a decade, the little TeCo Theatrical Productions, located on Tyler St. in Oak Cliff, has hosted a New Play Competition. The idea, says Teresa Coleman Wash, executive artistic director of TeCo Theatrical Productions, is to showcase new talent and encourage local playwrights, helping them to hone their craft in a real world setting. This year, however, the program received a boost thanks to an unofficial collaboration between big name local institutions, national philanthropies, and the little non-profit theater in Oak Cliff.

Will Power
Will Power
On paper, Southern Methodist University, the Dallas Theater Center, and the Mellon Foundation aren’t involved with TeCo’s New Play Competition, but they are part of the story of how playwright Will Power got involved. The San Francisco native, who has been hailed by critics as “the best verse playwright in America” and is known for bridging the gap between contemporary hip-hop and performance theater, first came to the Dallas area after he was awarded SMU’s prestigious Meadows Prize. Then, a grant from the Mellon Foundation to set up artistic residencies at regional theaters around the country created a permanent home for Power at the Dallas Theater Center. That proved serendipitous for groups like TeCo; Power is a strong community advocate and one of the things that attracted him to the region was the ability to nurture local writers.

“A big reason why I moved down to Dallas from New York is to really agitate and excite and provoke and stir up all of the amazing storytellers here,” Power says. “There’s a lot of new energy now in Dallas about the arts district and making Dallas a prominent artistic city. Part of that to me is not just having the Winspear Opera House, which is great and important. But part of it is the newer stories and being able to encourage artists to articulate what is Dallas about, what is North Texas about and getting those stories out locally and then nationally. That’s how you really become prominent as a city, when you begin to articulate what’s going on in your region to the world, not just bring in big acts.”

Power’s stay at SMU as artist-in-residence at the Meadows School of Arts eventually led him to pick up the phone and call Wash in an effort to get more involved with the New Play Competition. Wash then suggested linking SMU students to help with the project in an effort to inspire more local talent.

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