Theater Critic Picks

Best of 2018-19 get standing O from Dallas-Fort Worth theater critics

Best of 2018-19 get standing O from Dallas-Fort Worth theater critics

Circle Theatre presents Sweeney Todd
Circle Theatre's production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street secured awards for director, actress, and creative contribution. Photo by Tim Long
The Cake at Uptown Players
Shannon McGrann won four acting awards, the most of any person this year. Photo by Mike Morgan
Shannon McGrann, Drew Wall and Thomas Ward in Incognito at Second Thought Theatre
Incognito at Second Thought Theatre picked up awards for direction, actor, and ensemble. Photo by Karen Almond
Crossing the Line
Cry Havoc Theater Company and Kitchen Dog Theater collaborated on Crossing the Line, about the border crisis. Photo courtesy of Kitchen Dog Theater
Imprint Theatreworks presents In The Next Room (Or the Vibrator Play)
Jennifer Kuenzer won an acting award for Imprint Theatreworks' In The Next Room (or The Vibrator Play). Photo by Kris Ikejiri
Dallas Theater Center presents Sweat
Sweat at Dallas Theater Center picked up a few awards, including one for Sally Nystuen Vahle. Photo by Evan Michael Woods
Imprint Theatreworks presents Ghost Quartet
Imprint Theatreworks' immersive Ghost Quartet won a whole bunch of awards. Photo by Kris Ikejiri
Circle Theatre presents Sweeney Todd
The Cake at Uptown Players
Shannon McGrann, Drew Wall and Thomas Ward in Incognito at Second Thought Theatre
Crossing the Line
Imprint Theatreworks presents In The Next Room (Or the Vibrator Play)
Dallas Theater Center presents Sweat
Imprint Theatreworks presents Ghost Quartet

It was a strong season for women in Dallas-Fort Worth theater, not just acting-wise but also directing, music directing, writing, designing, leading, and playing musical instruments.

That made it that much harder for the eight critics of the DFW Critics Forum to narrow down our choices for the best of 2018-19. There was much debating, much lobbying, only a little name-calling (kidding), but eventually we finalized our list.

Not everyone's picks made it through the voting process, which needed either more than 50 percent of the votes or a unanimous decision if only two or three critics had seen the production. Look for personal favorites not included here to pop up in critics' end-of-year lists.

Without further ado, here are the awards:

Outstanding Direction:

  • Tim Bond, Sweat, Dallas Theater Center
  • Kelsey Leigh Ervi, Everything Is Wonderful, WaterTower Theatre
  • Joel Ferrell, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Circle Theatre
  • Jonathan Fielding and Brenda Withers, Artist Descending a Staircase, Amphibian Stage Productions
  • Alex Organ, Incognito, Second Thought Theatre
  • Mara Richards Bim, Crossing the Line, Cry Havoc Theater Company
  • Christie Vela, What We Were, Second Thought Theatre
  • Ashley H. White, Ghost Quartet, Imprint Theatreworks

Outstanding New Play or Musical

  • Crossing the Line, ensemble of Cry Havoc Theater Company
  • penny candy, Jonathan Norton, Dallas Theater Center
  • Jo & Louisa, Isabella Russell-Ides, WingSpan Theatre Company
  • What We Were, Blake Hackler, Second Thought Theatre

Outstanding Performance by an Actor

  • Chad Cline, Raptured, Theatre Three
  • Sonny Franks, The Cake, Uptown Players
  • Blake Hackler, Twelfth Night, Dallas Theater Center; and Drunk Enough to Say I Love You & Here We Go, Second Thought Theatre
  • David Meglino, In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), Imprint TheatreWorks; and Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika, Uptown Players
  • Steven Pounders, Everything Is Wonderful, WaterTower Theatre
  • Christopher Llewyn Ramirez, Sweat and Twelfth Night, Dallas Theater Center
  • Drew Wall, Incognito, Second Thought Theatre

Outstanding Performance by an Actress

  • Betty Buckley, Hello, Dolly!, Dallas Summer Musicals
  • Sarah Gay, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Circle Theatre
  • Ana Hagedorn, Steel Magnolias and The Wolves, Dallas Theater Center; and The Armor Plays: Cinched & Strapped, Theatre Three
  • Lindsay Hayward, Fur, Teatro Dallas
  • Jennifer Kuenzer, In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), Imprint Theatreworks
  • Laura Lites, Disaster!, Uptown Players
  • Shannon McGrann, The Cake, Uptown Players; Raptured, Theatre Three; Incognito, Second Thought Theatre; A Doll’s House, Part 2, Stage West
  • Christine Sanders, Artist Descending a Staircase, Amphibian Stage Productions; and Obama-ology, Jubilee Theatre
  • Lucy Shea, Bright Star, The Firehouse Theatre
  • Sally Nystuen Vahle, Sweat and Steel Magnolias, Dallas Theater Center

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast

  • Bright Star, The Firehouse Theatre
  • Crossing the Line, Cry Havoc Theater Company
  • Ghost Quartet, Imprint Theatreworks
  • Incognito, Second Thought Theatre
  • Men on Boats, Circle Theatre
  • penny candy, Dallas Theater Center
  • What We Were, Second Thought Theatre
  • The Wolves, Dallas Theater Center

Outstanding Touring Production

Outstanding Design or Creative Contribution

  • Vonda K. Bowling, music direction, The Ballad of Little Jo, WaterTower Theatre
  • Aimee Hurst Bozarth, pianist and musical associate, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Circle Theatre
  • Design team, Artist Descending a Staircase, Amphibian Stage Productions
  • Design team, Everything Is Wonderful, WaterTower Theatre
  • John M. Flores, sound design, What We Were, Second Thought Theatre
  • Olivia de Guzman, music, and Justin Locklear, lyrics, Doom McCoy and the Death Nugget, Ochre House Theater
  • Rusty Jones, scenic design, Babette’s Feast, Amphibian Stage Productions
  • Justin Locklear, score, Elwood, and puppet design, Doom McCoy and the Death Nugget, Ochre House Theater
  • Kelly McCain, choreography, Bright Star, The Firehouse Theatre
  • Adam C. Wright, music direction, Ghost Quartet, Imprint Theatreworks

Special Citations

  • To Katherine Owens (1957-2019), co-founding artistic director of Undermain Theatre, for groundbreaking work in experimental theater and excellence in producing modern classics, staging 35 world premieres in 35 years, and seeding the ground for the birth of exciting new companies in North Texas over the past three decades.
  • To Cora Cardona, founder and former artistic director of Teatro Dallas, for introducing North Texas audiences to writers from the Spanish-speaking world, giving emerging theater artists a home, creating the International Theater Festival, and keeping alive the legacy of Teatro Dallas.
  • To Joanie Schultz for her brief but significant contributions during her tenure as artistic director of WaterTower Theatre (December 2016–December 2018), including championing female directors, playwrights of color, and other inclusive initiatives; encouraging new works; and reinvigorating the DFW theater scene.
  • To Mara Richards Bim, Tim Johnson, Cry Havoc Theater Company, and Kitchen Dog Theater for creating Crossing the Line, a thorough and compelling look at the immigration controversy devised through extensive research that included a trip to the border to gather facts and opinions from a wide range of sources. Bim and Johnson edited hundreds of pages of interview transcripts into a narrative that delved deeply into the immigration issue.

Participating Critics

  • Lindsey Wilson, CultureMap
  • Janice L. Franklin, TheaterJones.com
  • Jan Farrington, TheaterJones.com
  • Martha Heimberg, TheaterJones.com and Dallas Weekly
  • Arnold Wayne Jones, Dallas Voice
  • Mark Lowry, TheaterJones.com
  • Manny Mendoza, Dallas Morning News
  • Jill Sweeney, TheaterJones.com

Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum is an organization of professional, paid critics that recognizes outstanding theatrical contributions in North Texas. Members see 40 or more productions per season (Sept. 1-Aug. 31) and are not practicing theater artists.