Yesterday, we linked to Channel 8/WFAA’s report about how the Dallas Summer Musicals‘ contract with the city to run the Majestic Theater is expiring in June and how the DSM wasn’t eager to renew it on the same terms. Plus, there’s that new competition from the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts.
In TheaterJones today, Mark Lowery pretty much maps out the changing new environment for theater and dance tours in North Texas — from the Eisemann Center in Richardson to Casa Manana in Fort Worth. Interesting insight from Bruce MacPherson of the Eisemann about how they’re not trying to compete head-to-head with the big boys but are finding their own niche with smaller shows.
But the DSM has tried to find a ‘niche’ in its bookings for the Majestic (which will continue, the company just won’t run the joint unless it can negotiate a different contract). The problem is, there’s just not that much quality touring theater material that isn’t musical. When it comes to ‘straight’ dramas, the recent run of Frost/Nixon with a headliner like Stacy Keach is now an extreme rarity on the road. So at the Majestic, it’s mostly music performances (David Byrne in June), solo acts (Defending the Caveman returning in June), small-scale musicals/revues and ‘special events’ like Def Poetry Jam
The Majestic is limited because it doesn’t have much in the way of wing or ‘fly’ space (the offstage and overhead areas where set pieces can be raised or rolled and stored when not used). These are the standard limitations with a converted movie palace, which is what the Majestic is. Not to bad-mouth the place; it’s a beautiful theater, but just as it can’t handle big shows, the long ‘throw’ between performers and audience means it often can kill little shows. When I saw Greater Tuna there years ago, I thought Tuna, Texas, had moved to the next state. All of this actually makes the Majestic perfect for dance groups (Dallas Black Dance there next week, a Russian Nutcracker coming in November) — yet many of the local dance groups have now gone to the DCPA.
So we have a close-in cluster of three theatrical venues, the Music Hall at Fair Park, the Majestic Theater and the Winspear Opera House (four if you count SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium). And although they vary in audience size by more than 1,500 seats (Music Hall at 3,400, Majestic at 1,700, the Winspear splitting the middle), when it comes to live theater, they fish more or less from the same Broadway/off-Broadway pond.