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Dallas Theater Center Founder Paul Baker Dead at 98


by Stephen Becker 26 Oct 2009

Paul Baker, who founded the Dallas Theater Center in 1959 and was the first principal of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, died Sunday morning due to complications from pneumonia. He was 98. The Baker Idea Institute’s Web site has a short biography that highlight’s Baker’s numerous achievements in the […]

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Paul Baker c.1994 (300dpi gs)-200

Paul Baker, who founded the Dallas Theater Center in 1959 and was the first principal of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, died Sunday morning due to complications from pneumonia. He was 98.

The Baker Idea Institute’s Web site has a short biography that highlight’s Baker’s numerous achievements in the fields of theater and education. A public memorial service will be held at the Rosewood Center for Family Arts in early December.

UPDATE: The Dallas Theater Center sends along the following comments from its staff:

Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty:

“Dr. Paul Baker was a great artist, a visionary leader and a master educator. As the founding artistic director of Dallas Theater Center he created a vital company of actors, directed boldly original interpretations of classic plays, and developed new plays that have had a lasting impact on the American theater. Equally important, his deep commitment to education has inspired generations of students. His quarter-century of leadership at DTC will never be surpassed in its duration, vision and passion.

As an artist and arts lover living in Dallas, I am awed by the size and scope of Dr. Baker’s legacy, which includes not only his leadership of DTC, but also the Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, which he founded, and the vital work of Dallas Children’s Theater, founded by his daughter, Robyn Baker Flatt.

Personally, I am deeply saddened by this news. Paul Baker’s legacy is an inspiration to me in my work at Dallas Theater Center, where I have the great privilege of following in his large footsteps. Many of DTC’s current initiatives, including the creation of our new acting company, our collaborative relationship with Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts (which Dr. Baker founded), and our renewed commitment to developing and producing new plays, have been inspired by Dr. Baker’s original vision. I was immensely fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet Dr. Baker and be inspired by the strength and depth of his vision.”

All of us at DTC extend our condolences to the Baker family and have them in our thoughts and prayers.

DTC Board of Trustees Chair Frank Risch:

“Paul Baker’s vision and artistry were a testament to what can be accomplished when we have the audacity to make our dreams a reality. His contributions to American theater are numerous, but his direct impact on the city of Dallas was invaluable. He brought art and culture to our city, enriched our lives with the power of theater and helped lay the groundwork for a vibrant theater scene right here in Dallas. The strongest statement we can make about the vitality of Paul Baker’s vision, dedication and hard work is that 50 years after Dallas Theater Center’s founding we have an essential cultural institution and energetic organization that serves as a community cornerstone that will continue to carry on his legacy. Our deepest and most heartfelt sympathies are with Robyn Baker Flatt and her family during this difficult time.”

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  • Rawlins Gilliland

    Those who have grown up or ultimately shown up in Dallas join hands today saluting Paul Baker. Those who once scoffed at Dallas being fertile ground for performing arts are today eating crow while we dine on the bounty Baker helped propagate. In true Texas style; The irony is rich and the legacy immense.

    Paul Baker, Bravo! RIP

  • Clyde Herring

    I took Mr. Baker’s class “Integration of Abilities” at Baylor in the summer of 1956. I’ve been in pastoral ministry from ’56 until recently. His teaching opened up my own imagination in wonderful ways. I wrote the short story called, “The Lord and His Pray-er”. It was published in numerous languages and still circulates on the internet. It was the first of “prayer dialogues” that became monthly articles for a youth magazine for seventeen years.
    Mr. Baker put me in touch with architect David George of Dallas who studied with Frank Lloy Wright. Mr. George designed a unique and beautiful sanctuary for Calvary Baptist Church in Garland.
    He blessed many many people through my ministry unknown to him and except when I told them unknown to them. I will always be grateful for his influence.
    Clyde Herring

  • Blair Tarley

    I was fortunate enough to be taught by Dr. Baker at Trinity University. His presence filled the entire complex and his generosity of spirit could not be diminished by age. He was a thoughtful and caring individual who had an immense talent even if he couldn’t remember your name.

    He was humorous and lent a helping hand to all kinds of people. I am so glad that he graced us for as long as he did. My best wishes to his entire family. I know he will be missed – I know I will miss him – he taught me more than I could ever have imagined.

  • David Sligar

    Dr. Baker was one of a handful of inspired and inspiring teachers at Baylor during the early 60’s. I was a very minor actor in Caucasian Chalk Circle under Paul’s direction, and came away from that experience with a lifelong appreciation for theatre and the art of acting. My brief encounter with Dr. Baker is one for which I’ll always be grateful.