Fort Worth’s Stage West is one of the oldest, most respected theaters in the region. It was founded by Jerry Russell, a producer, director, and actor who helped grow the theater from a little 65-seat storefront theater into a respected 170-seat Actors Equity playhouse producing some of the most reliable and acclaimed theater in the region.
Russell, we have learned, is in critical condition at a Fort Worth hospital due to complications from abdominal surgery that turned into pneumonia.
While Russell has since stopped running Stage West, he is still very involved in the theater. He was currently directing an adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse’s Thank You, Jeeves, and was set to begin rehearsals on Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas.
Russell is also known as the father of Texas state senator Wendy Davis. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Davis updated her Facebook page with news about her father’s condition late last week. Today we learned that Davis has held off on commenting on her political future while her father remains ill.
Davis’ paternity was a point of comment, you may remember, during the height of Davis’ filibustering of the state legislator’s abortion bill. During that time, Governor Rick Perry incorrectly referred to the state senator as being born out of wedlock. Russell and Davis’ mother were married for five years by the time they divorced.
Russell’s involvement in State West brings further context to Wendy Davis’ childhood. Running a start-up community theater is by no means a lucrative proposition, to say the least. The modest conditions of Wendy Davis’ childhood were as much the product of low income as they were the result of a father whose passion for his art drove him into the thankless world of local theater. His committed to theater, and the contributions he has made to the culture of the region over the last few decades, should not, however, be undervalued.
Photo: Jerry Russell (Credit: Buddy Meyers for Stage West)