There was a time a few years ago when the most exciting thing happening in Dallas theater may have been the young company called Upstart Productions. Launched amidst the advance hype for the new AT&T Performing Arts Center, the company seemed to suggest that Dallas’ theatrical viability was built not only on the back of a big new building, but on a burgeoning scene of passionate young talents. For a couple of years, Upstart’s plays were fresh, well-acted, and high-quality. And then, Upstart disappeared.
Until now. Last week, a release dropped in the inbox proclaiming an Upstart come-back. On August 8, the company will stage The Aliens (which was just produced by another new company, PlaySite), their first production since 2010. Leading the production will be director David Denson, who has served as Artistic Director of New York City-based Yazoo City Productions and The Anomalous Collective, directed at SMU, and worked at the Dallas Theater Center. Currently, he’s a programmer at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
Upstart also says they are looking for a new artistic director, which means Upstart founder Josh Glover has moved on. Upstart also employs a PR firm for their press releases now, eschewing their old approach of having Glover blast his contact list. It all has the feel of a reinvestment in the effort by someone, but the press release doesn’t make it clear who. It also makes the company feel a little less, well, upstart.
Here’s the full release:
Upstart Productions Signals Its Theater Come-Back With The Production of
2010 Obie Award-Winning Play, “The Aliens”
AT&T Performing Arts Center’s David Denson guest-directs all-local cast in Upstart’s first production since 2012
July 19, 2013 – Upstart Production, a theater group that launched to local critics’ praise in 2008, marks its return to the stage after a yearlong hiatus with a guest-directed production of award-winning off-Broadway play, “The Aliens”. Opening night is August 8, 2013 at the Magnolia Lounge in Fair Park.
The dingy back alley of a sleepy Vermont coffeehouse is home to trash bins, weathered patio furniture, and two affable slackers, KJ and Jasper. They fill their languid days with Bukowski references, low-key jam sessions, aspirations to launch their band dubbed The Aliens, and ’shroom-spiked tea. When smart but awkward teenager Evan, a new coffeehouse employee, attempts to evict them from their makeshift perch,
KJ and Jasper recruit him as their summer protégé.
“The simple slice-of-life play is as much an inspirational, coming-of-age story as it is an acute study of human behavior,” says David Denson, Upstart’s guest director of “The Aliens.” “Our set design brings the audience into the play, like a fishbowl, allowing a very personal and up-close look at the very often awkward, but also touching lives of three young men.”
Award-winning playwright Annie Baker premiered “The Aliens” at The Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, New York City, in April 2010. The New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood heralded it for its “subtle magic.” Later that year, the play won the industry’s preeminent OBIE Award for Best New American Play and was a finalist for the 2010 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.
Consistent with Upstart’s mission to incubate local up-and-coming actors, “The Aliens” cast includes a mix of both familiar and fresh faces for Upstart audiences: Joey Folsom (who plays Jasper and also appeared in Upstart’s 2010 production of “Suburbia”), Tim Maher (a recent graduate of University of Dallas who plays KJ) and Justin Duncan (who plays Evan and is also currently in Shakespeare Dallas’ “Pericles.”)
Opening night is August 8, 2013. All performances start at 8 p.m. with doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15, and $5 off for students with school ID. Opening night also features a “Second Act” after-party with local rock-blues indie band, Markdown Madness, and complimentary food and drink. Tickets to attend Second Act are $5. Tickets available at http://upstartpresentsthealiens.eventbrite.com.
What: “The Aliens”
Who: Presented by Upstart Productions, written by Annie Baker, guest directed by David Denson, production manager Cindy Ernst; actors Justin Duncan, Joey Folsom and Tim Maher; sets, lights, sound by Chris Ham; costumes by Cristee Cook; music supervisor Adrian Cook.
Where: The Magnolia Lounge
Dates: Opening Night is August 8th. Shows rare August 8-10, 14-17, 21-25, and 29-31.
Times: Performances start at 8:00 p.m. Seating at 7:30 p.m.
Ticket Price: $15 at http://upstartpresentsthealiens.eventbrite.com.
Student Price: $5 off tickets purchased the day of show. Must present student ID when picking up tickets.
Accessibility: All performances are fully accessible to accommodate patrons with special needs. Please call Cindy Ernst at (972) 978-1257 in advance to arrange priority seating.
Location: Magnolia Lounge in Fair Park, 1121 First Ave. Dallas, TX 75210
Parking: Parking is available within Fair Park. Enter through Gate 5. Parking is monitored throughout the performance by Upstart Productions.
DART: Fair Park Station – Parry Ave. and Exposition Ave. (3710 Parry Ave., Dallas 75226-Mapsco 46K)
About Upstart Productions:
Upstart Productions was formed to usher in the next generation of local artists by providing them with the opportunity to showcase their talents and develop their craft on and off stage. Founded in 2008 by Josh Glover, Upstart is dedicated to contributing to the local community by giving these artists an avenue for the production of exceptional contemporary, classical, and original works. Upstart believes that theater should foster growth for artist and audience alike and should be accessible to individuals from all walks of life. More information is available at www.upstarttheater.com.
About David Denson:
David Denson is a co-founder and has served as Artistic Director of New York City-based Yazoo City Productions and The Anomalous Collective, directing the world premiere productions of Kate Chell’s “The Resurrectionist;” Jeff Hirsch’s “Destination and A Private Conversation;” Foster Soloman’s “The Penny Executive: The Maggie L. Walker Story” and OBIE award winner Harold Levitt’s “The Song of the Speechless Whore.” As an assistant, David served under Phillip Oesterman for the TONY-nominated “Urban Cowboy: The Musical” and the world premiere of Chiori Miyagawa’s “Leaving Eden: The Chekhov Project.” Locally, David directed numerous productions including “The Underpants” and “Hamlet” for Southern Methodist University and served as the Artistic Associate and resident Dramaturg at the Dallas Theater Center’s 2007/2008 season. David has spent the last two years promoting the arts in Dallas with the Office of Cultural Affairs where he led the campaign to bring the 2013 Theater Communications Group National Conference to Dallas and has recently joined the programming staff at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. He received his BFA in performance from East Carolina University and his MFA in directing from Southern Methodist University.