If you didn’t already know, Dallas has the country’s largest urban arts district. Quite the bragging right isn’t it? Three performing arts venues (one more on the way), and three museums all located within walking distance along Flora Street in the heart of downtown. That means that there are times, such as right now, when two world-class (and in this case very different) performances will be happening on either side of the street.
The Dallas Theater Center has mounted Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” at the Wyly Theater, while across the street the Lexus Broadway Series (part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s in-house programming) opened the touring production of “Hair” at the Winspear Opera House.
Both shows kick off their company’s respective seasons with a bang.
DTC’s “Tempest” is a modern, abbreviated version of Shakespeare’s classic, final play about the exiled Prospero and his daughter Miranda and the exacting of Prospero’s revenge on his jealous brother Antonio. The versatility of the Wyly never ceases to amaze and the stark but ethereal set for this play, designed by Beowulf Boritt, was atmospheric and perfect.
The casting for this"tragi-comedy" was spot-on. Chamblee Ferguson as Prospero and Steven Walters as Miranda’s (Abbey Siegworth) suitor Ferdinand were both full of emotion and spirit. The play is quiet, it’s dramatic and it’s surprisingly funny.
I’m going to go on a limb and say this might be one of the most accessible productions of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and of any Shakespeare play I’ve seen in a long time. If you don’t consider yourself a Shakespeare fan, this could change your mind.
Across the street at the Winspear is an entirely different experience. The touring production of “Hair,” which bills itself as "the love rock musical" is truly rocking the house. And it might shock some Dallasites who aren't prepared for the adult content.
The plot is minimal and if you lived through the sixties (or wish you had) you might have an easier time relating to what little is there; the copious drug use, free love and burning of draft cards. The music is undeniably fun though and the ending is touching and quite the sing-along; everyone knows "Let the Sun Shine." It’s a musical that is seriously all about the music, in a good way.
Dallas may be (currently) lacking a true "theater district" but these two shows playing simultaneously over the next couple of weeks makes it feel a little like we do. If you have the time see them both, they’re certainly worth the price of admission.
“Hair” runs through October 2 and “The Tempest” runs through October 9. For more information and tickets visit www.attpac.org and add some theater in your daily routine.