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Not Only Cowboys Live in Dallas, Surprise!

The Dallas Series explores the challenges and rewards of creating theater in Big D. Join us this week as we journey deeper into the heart of Texas.

This one’s for the young’uns just out of school and wondering where to go from here.

It is May 2012, and I’m graduating in two weeks. I keep telling myself that surely most of the class of 2012 across the country is having the same personal crisis I find myself in, but that doesn’t change the sense of looming isolation I feel. You know how it is—your friends move away or drift apart, you’re forced to confront the fact that you actually have to use your BFA in acting for something meaningful, and all of a sudden you wish you’d utilized the free therapy your university offered. Oh, and also, I’m staying in Dallas. What?

I always figured I’d move to New York right out of college, and it’s hard not to feel like a bit of a disappointment to myself and my professors when I tell them of my plans to stay in Dallas “for the time being.” I assure them all that I’m here for six months max, to get my head on straight and maybe earn some Equity points along the way. I wish I could tell that girl to look around, and take note of the untapped potential all around her.

When I choose to put it poetically, I say I took “the road less traveled”… Really, I chose “the only road I didn’t feel in my soul was the wrong choice at the time.” I ended up staying in Dallas more through a process of elimination rather than an initial zeal for the theater scene here. But I chose right, plain and simple. I’ve lived here for about five years, four of which I was a student at Southern Methodist University earning my BFA. In that time I’ve watched an entire arts district somehow rise out of the ground, multiple theater companies be born, and I’ve joined the ragtag team of young artists looking to see what this town has to offer. That leads me to something big I’ve learned: “Ask not what your city can do for you; ask what you can do for your city.”

Being a newbie to the theater scene here, I’m probably a bit “bright eyed and bushy tailed”—but the good news is, I’m at an age and a situation where I can afford to be idealistic. So can you. I can’t compare the Dallas theater scene to any other with much authority, but I can speak of my own experience here, and you can do with that what you want.

Being a young actor in Dallas, I am excited by the imprint we can make on the town. We are a part of the movement, a part of the momentum this city is currently experiencing—it is essential to the growth of this place that young people choose to stay. Dallas is going to be whatever we choose to make of it, and there is freedom in realizing and embracing that. My friend recently held a fundraiser for her fledgling theater company in the gallery underneath her apartment, and the entire neighborhood pitched in through free booze, food, and art to auction. It was beautiful. A group of friends and I get together every Monday for “playtime and practice”—whether it be a movement experiment or a play reading. Everyone knows that young people are thirsty for opportunities, and I’m glad to be in a place where we make the opportunities we want to embrace.

Upon graduation I was afraid of the inevitable “down time” I thought I’d experience as an actor—and don’t get me wrong, if you want to work you’ve got to earn it (I think that’s true for any city). Out of the 20 months I’ve been out of school, however, I’ve been working in the theater for 17. I’ve gotten the opportunity to grow as an actor and as a teacher to kids. I was also afraid of the selfishness that can naturally grow in your heart as an actor—sure, I want you as my friend to succeed, but if it's me against you for a role I want, obviously I’d rather you lose and I win. While that competitive air will always be a part of this business, in Dallas there is an awareness amongst the younger artists that we need each other if we want this to be a place worth building a career in. If we all stick around we’re going to run into each other somewhere down the line, and for me that was a reality check that it pays off in the long run to be kind and vulnerable with each other and build something together rather than make an island of oneself. 

Sometimes I still look around and ask myself, “How on earth did I end up in Dallas? What am I doing here?” But really, I know exactly what I’m doing here. I’m growing with the city. I’m working on my craft. I’m riding the wave. I’m seeing how this all pans out—aren’t we all?

My advice to the class of 2014? Go with your gut. If its’ telling you to move to New York, do it. If its’ telling you to go back to the suburb you were raised in and start a theater company there, do it. I’m a firm believer that if you are happy in a place and feel at home there, you will do your best work. If your gut is telling you to check out Dallas, look me up. We’d love to have you, and there’s a play reading workshop at my apartment every Monday night you’re invited to. Talented, passionate people are starting to make Dallas their home, and we need more of you. Godspeed.

 

Thoughts from the curator

The Dallas Series explores the challenges and rewards of creating theatre in Big D.

Dallas, Texas

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Inspiring words, Katherine. I'm always trying to remind myself of the same things: to make what I want, to be "idealistic" while I'm young, and to live where I feel excited to make art. Thanks for putting it so well to the Class of '14.

Amen, Katherine. Dallas is an exciting place for young theater artists. We can make work, and people - critics, even! - will come to hear and see it. Does it get better?!I don't know about NY/LA, but I can speak for this city on its own merits. The theaters here are busy at work, and they want young artists to join the conversation - join "the movement," as you say. I always heard that "getting in the room" would be the most difficult step toward building a career in theater, but my experience in Dallas was just the opposite. Established artists reached out to me and invited me to work on plays with them - as an actor, assistant director, etc. - while I was in school. I then chose to stay in Dallas after graduation because I felt truly welcomed by the artistic community here.

New faces are embraced, celebrated, and ultimately involved in artistic conversations that will shape the future of this city.

“Ask not what your city can do for you; ask what you can do for your city.” - See more at: http://www.howlround.com/no...

I completely agree with this, Katherine. Dallas has such potential for growth and its going to take young artists like us to sustain and keep that growth going! Also that play reading workshop sounds fantastic, I'll have to get in on that!