Articulations

But Is it ART? Finally, Yes

For months, the local stage community has been buzzing over the rumor that Tuna Top Dog Charles Duggan was hard at work on a plan to create a new professional theatre company. Details were hard to come by, but one big piece of the plan was known: The company would be affiliated with UT's Department of Theatre & Dance. Drama fans pondered the forms this might take and wondered how long it would be before Duggan and UT broke their silence. Well, just long enough for the ink on the contract between the two entities to dry. That was when Duggan began furiously faxing the media and calling friends to tell them that the new venture was a go. At a press conference on Monday, April 19, Duggan and theatre and dance department chair Richard Isaackesannounced officially the founding of Artists Repertory of Texas (ART). The company is a nonprofit but one that's fully professional, operating under the auspices of Actors Equity, using theatre pros while providing opportunities for UT Theatre & Dance students to work on productions. Shows will be staged both on campus and off, with the Paramount Theatre serving as ART's away-from-campus home. But make no mistake, this endeavor is one in which the university plays a leading role; that much is clear just from looking at the ART logo, which superimposes the UT Tower over the letter A. (And the time on the clock, Duggan noted, is 8 o'clock, "when all of our shows will start.")

Duggan noted that the company has been in the works much longer than a few months. "I moved to Austin seven years ago," he said on Monday, "and six years and 11 months ago, I met with Coleman Jennings, chairman of the theatre department" about the company. He also met with Jennings' successor, Sharon Vasquez, Vasquez's successor, Isaackes, and various other arts professionals Performing Arts Center director Pebbles Wadsworth and Programming Director Neil Barclay, head of the theatre department directing program Michael Bloom, former College of Fine Arts Dean David Deming, current Acting College of Fine Arts dean Charles Roeckle, and the Paramount's Paul Beutel before the deal came through. Finally, this spring, all approvals were secured, and contracts were signed.

ART has yet to hire an artistic director or a producing director those will be sought and hired once the Board of Trustees is in place but Duggan is proceeding with the company's inaugural season, and announced the first two projects. The first is bound to generate a buzz for ART, as it is the world premiere of another never-produced play by a young Tennessee Williams. The title is Spring Storm,and like Williams' Not About Nightingales, which was rediscovered by Vanessa Redgrave and staged to great acclaim in London, Houston, and New York, it was written for a new play contest in the late Thirties, was rejected, and has been gathering dust in Williams' archives in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center for decades. According to Bloom, who will direct the ART premiere, it is closer in spirit to the Williams of The Glass Menagerie and Summer and Smoke than Nightingales is. He describes finding it as like "finding a watercolor by an artist who was to be a great oil painter later." The play will run November 4-21 at the B. Iden Payne Theatre. Then, in February, ART will mount a new production of Master Class, by Terrence McNally. More details next time.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Charles Duggan, Artists Repertory Of Texas, Ut Department Of Theatre & Dance, Richard Isaackes, Tennessee Williams

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