Theater Critic Picks

Dallas-Fort Worth theater critics applaud the best of 2016-17 season

Dallas-Fort Worth theater critics applaud the best of 2016-17 season

Laurel Whitsett, Chris Hury, Kelsey Milbourn, Randy Pearlman, Matthew Grondin in Stupid Fucking Bird
The ensemble cast in Stage West's Stupid Fucking Bird was one of the season's best. Photo by Buddy Myers
An American in Paris touring company production
The national tour of An American in Paris charmed both Dallas and Fort Worth. Photo by Matthew Murphy
Kieran Connolly, Liz Mikel, and Ace Anderson in Dallas Theater Center's Inherit the Wind
Kevin Moriarty was recognized for directing three outstanding Dallas Theater Center shows, including Inherit the Wind. Photo by Karen Almond
Kitchen Dog Theater presents Feathers and Teeth
Feathers and Teeth at Kitchen Dog Theatre benefited from Stefany Cambra's bloody good properties design. Photo by Matt Mrozek
The cast of Hit the Wall at WaterTower Theatre
Hit the Wall was a — wisely chosen — replacement show at WaterTower Theatre. Photo by Jason Anderson
Hood at Dallas Theater Center
The puppet design in Hood: The Robin Hood Musical Adventure at Dallas Theater Center was amazing. Photo by Karen Almond
Second Thought Theatre presents The Necessities
Blake Hackler's The Necessities had its world premiere at Second Thought Theatre. Photo by Karen Almond
La Cage Aux Folles at Uptown Players
The large cast of Uptown Players' La Cage aux Folles kept wig and makeup designer Michael B. Moore busy. Photo by Mike Morgan
Euan Morton as Hedwig
Euan Morton rocked in the national tour of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Photo by Joan Marcus
Stiff at FIT
Sherry Jo Ward wrote and performed one of the year's most remarkable plays, Stiff. Photo by Thomas Ward
Laurel Whitsett, Chris Hury, Kelsey Milbourn, Randy Pearlman, Matthew Grondin in Stupid Fucking Bird
An American in Paris touring company production
Kieran Connolly, Liz Mikel, and Ace Anderson in Dallas Theater Center's Inherit the Wind
Kitchen Dog Theater presents Feathers and Teeth
The cast of Hit the Wall at WaterTower Theatre
Hood at Dallas Theater Center
Second Thought Theatre presents The Necessities
La Cage Aux Folles at Uptown Players
Euan Morton as Hedwig
Stiff at FIT

Bucking the national trend of diminishing arts coverage, attendance at the annual Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum was actually up this year. Nine professional critics gathered to nominate, vote for, and debate our favorites from the 2016-17 season — and was there ever debate.

In categories spanning new works to stellar performances, the nine critics fought for their favorites. 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, so look out for personal favorites not included here to pop up in those end-of-year lists.

It was a strong year for women, with female directors earning six of the eight nods (way up from last year's four out of 10). Kitchen Dog Theater had a stellar showing, as did Stage West and Dallas Theater Center, and the majority of theaters stepped up their community involvement thanks to the pioneering spirit of performer, producer, and activist Denise Lee. Some artists scored both on and off the stage, earning nods for their performances as well as directing and/or design contributions.

Without further ado, here are the awards:

Outstanding Direction

  • Robin ArmstrongRipcord, Circle Theatre
  • Emily Scott BanksStupid Fucking Bird, Stage West; The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord, WaterTower​ Theatre
  • Cheryl DensonAngels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, Uptown Players
  • Marianne GallowayStiff, Risk Theater Initiative (Festival of Independent Theatres)
  • Kevin MoriartyElectraThe Tempest, and Inherit the Wind, Dallas Theater Center
  • Jeffrey SchmidtThe Minotaur, Theatre Three
  • Joanie SchultzHit the Wall, WaterTower Theatre
  • Christie Vela, 'night, Mother, Echo Theatre; Straight White Men, Second Thought Theatre

Outstanding New Play or Musical

  • Br'er Cotton by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm, Kitchen Dog Theater
  • Hood: The Robin Hood Musical Adventure by Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn
  • The Necessities, by Blake Hackler, Second Thought Theatre
  • Stiff by Sherry Jo Ward, Risk Theater Initiative (Festival of Independent Theatres)

Outstanding Touring Production

Outstanding Performance by an Actor

  • Christopher CarlosPaper Flowers, Kitchen Dog Theater
  • Cameron CobbTrevor, Kitchen Dog Theater
  • Blake HacklerRichard III and Measure for Measure, Trinity Shakespeare Festival; so go the ghosts of méxico, part one: a brave woman in méxico, Undermain Theatre
  • Selmore Haines IIIThurgood, Jubilee Theatre
  • Max HartmanTrevor, Kitchen Dog Theater
  • Bob HessLa Cage aux Folles, Uptown Players
  • Alex OrganThe Tempest, Dallas Theater Center
  • Randy PearlmanFunnyman, Circle Theatre
  • Thomas WardStraight White Men, Second Thought Theatre

Outstanding Performance by an Actress

  • Deborah BrownRipcord, Circle Theatre
  • Whitney LaTrice CoulterThe Submission, Proper Hijinx Productions
  • Steph GarrettThe Great Dictator, Audacity Theatre Lab (Festival of Independent​ Theatres); Waiting for Lefty, Upstart Productions
  • Julie JohnsonMame, Lyric Stage
  • Jenny LedelGrounded, Second Thought Theatre
  • Kelsey MilbournRichard III and Measure for Measure, Trinity Shakespeare Festival
  • Sally Nystuen VahleElectra and A Christmas Carol, Dallas Theater Center
  • Christie VelaPaper Flowers, Kitchen Dog Theater; The Necessities, Second Thought Theatre
  • Sherry Jo WardStiff, Risk Theater Initiative (Festival of Independent Theatres)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast

  • Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, Uptown Players
  • Hood: The Robin Hood Musical Adventure, Dallas Theater Center
  • Inherit the Wind, Dallas Theater Center
  • 'night, Mother, Echo Theatre
  • Richard III and Measure for Measure, Trinity Shakespeare Festival
  • Stupid Fucking Bird, Stage West

Outstanding Design or Creative Contribution

  • Design teamBr'er Cotton, Kitchen Dog Theater
  • Stefany Cambra, properties design, Feathers and Teeth, Kitchen Dog Theater
  • Jay Dias, music direction, Camelot, Lyric Stage
  • John M. Flores, sound design, Feathers and Teeth, Kitchen Dog Theater
  • Pam Holcomb-McLain, musical direction, The Light in the Piazza, Brick Road Theatre
  • Design teamJesus Christ Superstar, Casa Mañana
  • Brian McDonald, set and sound design, Grounded, Second Thought Theatre
  • Aaron Johansen, lighting design, Grounded, Second Thought Theatre
  • Michael B. Moore, wigs and makeup design, La Cage aux Folles, Uptown Players
  • Lauren Morgan, a season of costume design for Stolen Shakespeare Guild
  • James Ortiz, puppet design, Stefano Brancato, associate puppet design, Hood: The Robin Hood Musical Adventure, Dallas Theater Center
  • Design team, Trinity Shakespeare Festival
  • Sean J. Smith and Rhonda Jones, choreography, Fly, African American Repertory Theater
  • Trigg Watson, magic consultation, Midas, Prism Movement Theater

Special Citations

  • Dallas Theater Center, for engaging the city with its Public Works production of The Tempest, which used 200 members of the community in its cast, and for committing to continue the program in future seasons.
  • Denise Lee, for starting Community Conversation, following the Dallas Police shootings, as an ongoing, free, inclusive program that gives theater audiences an opportunity to discuss tense issues and create fellowship across different cultures, races, orientations, and/or social-economic statuses in a safe, judgment-free setting. The program is held every fourth Monday at Dallas Children's Theater, alternates every other month at Circle Theatre and Stage West in Fort Worth, and has been offered after Second Thought Theatre's Straight White Men, Kitchen Dog Theater's Br'er Cotton, and WaterTower Theatre's Hit the Wall.

Participating Critics
Lindsey Wilson, CultureMap
Alexandra Bonifield, CriticalRant.com
Nancy Churnin, Dallas Morning News
Jan Farrington, TheaterJones.com
Janice Franklin, TheaterJones.com
Martha Heimberg, TheaterJones.com and Dallas Weekly
Arnold Wayne Jones, Dallas Voice
Mark Lowry, TheaterJones.com and Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Punch Shaw, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum is an organization of professional, paid critics that recognizes outstanding theatrical contributions in North Texas. Members see 45 or more productions per season (Sept. 1-Aug. 31) and are not practicing theater artists.