Rich Gilles, properties manager at the Dallas Theater Center (DTC), hauled furniture in the subway when he worked in New York. In Dallas, shopping is easier — and plentiful. Gilles says Forney, just east of Dallas, is the antique capital of Texas. There, he likes DeRidders and Little Reds. In the city, the Uncommon Market imports books, antique sportswear, European lighting, and statuary. Love Field Antique Mall offers the most reasonably priced antiques in the area. And in nearby Fort Worth, “Harris Antiques sells Indonesian-made Victorian furniture at insanely cheap prices.”
Elliott's Hardware “has an employee on every aisle. You can buy hardware by the piece — one screw at a time,” says Gilles, adding that hardware for farms and horses can be really useful for rigging. He visits Star for dried flowers, trees, and bamboos and gets theatre supplies from Norcostco and Samarco. The Leather Factory carries wholesale leather, tools, dyes, and related supplies. And for crafts supplies, glassware, home decor, and ornaments, Gilles shops at Garden Ridge, “like Michael's on steroids — everything has to be bigger in Texas.”
When Bob Lavallee, production designer for PBS's Barney and Friends (shot near Dallas) needs a “versatile, talented translator of design,” his first call is to Cathey Miller, “a seasoned scenic artist with a great work attitude.” He has found good big fabrication shops but champions Scenic Artist, “a small facility that can grow depending on the job.” Larry Langley, who runs it, has been a stage light board operator, an electrician and a grip for films, and more. If you need something “done now and right, he is the guy,” says Lavallee.
Set designer Clare Floyd DeVries favors Alston's Old Home Place for budget antiques, old furniture, set dressing, and metal pieces. For fabrics, she heads to Warehouse Fabrics.
Set designer Leiko Fuseya finds DW Distribution useful for moldings, picture rail, chair rail, and window details but says they lack large cornice pieces.
“The best hidden resource in Dallas is our high number of exceptional moving light programmers,” says LD Steve Woods. “Dallas is ground zero for automation. Whenever I have a problem with a console or light I can call upon Russell Reed at the Courtyard Theater for the solution. He wrote the book on programming across many different types of consoles and movers.”
When Woods lights theatre and dance, “I send my electrician to Samarco or Dallas Stage Lighting. Both companies are more than capable of sending out hundreds of fixtures and just about any dimmer and console configuration I need.” When he lights for TV, he gets what he needs from Panavision or Christie Lites.
LD Suzanne Lavender also names Samarco, particularly Sam Nance who is “always willing to go the extra mile.”
Jeff Stover, TD at the University of Texas-Dallas (UTD), trusts Mandy Welch of Barbizon Lighting, who keeps up with new technology and does research to help find the best product at the best price. Stover says Scott Guenther, a fellow TD at the WaterTower Theatre “is a walking encyclopedia of technical theatre.”
And LDs everywhere count the staff at Vari-Lite among their resources.
Costume designer Leila Heise heads for Bon Ton Vintage Market in Forreston, 45 minutes South of Dallas for antique clothes from the 1800s to the 1970s. She also treasures the “incredible craftspeople at Irene Corey Design Associates. They create ‘walk-around characters,’” she says, explaining they can make anything, from giant crab people to a life-sized flu bug.
Want to study design in Dallas? Southern Methodist University has a highly regarded design program.
UTD doesn't have an official theatre department, but an unofficial program is developing, according to Jeff Stover, who teaches a design class there. Stover also recommends his alma mater, Collin County Community College. The school's theatre, he says, is excellent. “Many students go on to pursue their degrees at prestigious universities and to work professionally.”
Venues: Designers' Picks
The Dallas Theater Center tops many lists. Frank Lloyd Wright designed it. Eugene Lee designed a flexible theatre in a metal barn to add to it. Rem Koolhass and his associates are working on a new building. Sound designer Bruce Richardson appreciates the “amazing running crew” there. Leiko Fuseya, set designer for its current production of The Violet Hour, says artistic director “Richard Hamburger brings very talented artists from all over the nation [to do] a great mixture of classic and contemporary plays.”
Richardson believes that the elegant Morton Meyerson Symphony Center, by architect I.M. Pei, is “one of the best concert halls in the country, and probably one of the best recording halls in the world.” He also likes the Majestic a “very posh, old-school venue” downtown, with nice acoustics.
LD Suzanne Lavender says crews at The Dallas Opera — in Fair Park Music Hall — are strong and productions have integrity. Lavender also praises the staff at Kitchen Dog Theater and says everyone there is “always ready to lend a hand to make things work.” Jeff Stover appreciates its “cutting edge quirky new work.” Director Tina Parker “is a bit eccentric, goofy, and wild, but always brings the best out of her performers and designers.”
The McKinney Avenue Contemporary is “an art gallery as well, the center has two challenging performance spaces”: a small black box with older equipment but “a great, intimate place to see a show,” and Heldt Hall, “a pseudo-proscenium space” that can be reconfigured, says Lavender.
Stover says the egoless staff at The WaterTower Theatre at the Addison Centre “makes designers feel comfortable and welcome. I feel I achieve my best professional work with them.” Clare Floyd DeVries also applauds the complex with a main black box — “the most flexible, adventurous space in town,” a smaller black box, and a park across the street for festivals and concerts.
DeVries also likes the small space of the Courtyard Theater (home of Plano Repertory Theatre), “with a great lobby/gallery attached.”
The Undermain Theatre is a basement space with limited equipment, but, says Lavender, “the intimacy and often the subject matter of their plays have made a lot of designers work within the space to create amazing theatrical pieces.”
Bob Lavallee likes the 2,000+ seat facility of Bass Hall that several resident companies share. “The house/stage relationship is accessible and intimate,” he says. When he designs there, opening “always carries with it a great sense of event.”
WHERE TO GO IN DALLAS:
Little Reds: 972-564-2209
Uncommon Market: 214-871-2775, www.dfwantiquedealers.com/uncommonmarket
Love Field Antique Mall: 214-357-6500
Harris Antiques: 817-246 8400
Elliott's Hardware: www.elliottshardware.com/findpag.htm
Norcostco: 214-630-4048, www.norcostco.com
Samarco: 214-421-0757, www.lighting-guy.com/samarco
The Leather Factory: 972-289-5246, www.leatherfactory.com
Garden Ridge: 972-681-5006
Cathey Miller: 214-773-3907
Scenic Artist: 972-564-3202
Alston's Old Home Place: 972-272-3970
Warehouse Fabrics: 214-366-2778
DW Distribution: www.dwdistribution.com
Bon Ton Vintage Market: www.VintageMartini.com
Irene Corey Design Associates: www.irenecoreydesign.com
Russell Reed at the Courtyard Theatre: 972-941-5610
Dallas Stage Lighting: www.dallasstagelighting.com
Panavision: 972-929-8585, www.panavision.com
Christie Lites: www.christielites.com
Barbizon Lighting: 972-416-9930, shop.barbizon.com
Scott Guenther: 972-450-6222
Southern Methodist University: www.smu.edu/meadows/theatre
Collin County Community College: www.ccccd.edu
Dallas Museum of Art: dmaws.dallasmuseumofart.org
Meadows Museum: www.meadowsmuseumdallas.com
Amon Carter Museum: www.cartermuseum.org
The Tramell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art: www.crowcollection.org
The Dallas Theater Center: www.dallastheatercenter.com
Morton Meyerson Symphony Center: www.dallassymphony.com
The Dallas Opera: www.dallasopera.org
Kitchen Dog Theater: www.kitchendogtheater.org
The McKinney Avenue Contemporary: www.the-mac.org
WaterTower Theatre at Addison Centre: www.watertowertheatre.org
Courtyard Theater: www.planorep.org
The Undermain Theatre: www.undermain.com
Bass Hall: www.texasoutside.com/fort_worth/basshall.htm