Amphibian Stage goes global to bring the unexpected to Fort Worth in 2023
Amphibian Stage's 2023 season lineup doesn't just stop with four plays (one of them a world premiere) — it also includes a new, Texas-wide Van Cliburn-style acting competition during SparkFest and three weeks of back-to-back stand-up comedy featuring prominent Black comedians.
“For years I've dreamed of hosting an acting competition that would not only reward actors for their years of training and experience, but that would also allow audiences to see the brightest Texas talent," says artistic director Kathleen Culebro. "There is a perceived absence of MENASA talent in the area, and this further limits the opportunities available to them. By showcasing them, we hope to introduce artistic leaders to more actors and thus encourage all of us to include their stories in our seasons."
The season starts with Spaceman, written by Leegrid Stevens and directed by Jay Duffer. It follows Molly Jennis’ solo mission to Mars after her husband's failed, tragic attempt at the same journey. When Amphibian Stage co-artistic director Jay Duffer reached out to Stevens about producing Spaceman, she revealed how apt it was that the play would be presented in DFW, specifically at Amphibian Stage.
“My mother-in-law is a native Fort Worth resident and has attended several productions at Amphibian Stage," says Stevens. "Like a dutiful mother-in-law, she suggested I submit a play to Amphibian as ‘they’re real good.’ Well, I listened to her for once and here we are! My wife grew up in Keller and we return to Fort Worth once or twice a year. I am thrilled that Spaceman is taking flight again, with a new team, in our second home.”
This production will be the first since the world premiere at New York City’s Loading Dock Theatre in 2019. It runs February 10-March 5, 2023.
After Spaceman, Amphibian Stage travels back to Earth: 1980, New York City U.S. Office of Immigration, specifically. Babachronicles the tender, funny, and complex relationship between a newly immigrated father and his U.S.-born daughter. Freedom and family collide when Mohammad’s search for the American dream leads Layla on a quest home to Egypt, 30 years after the story begins.
Playwright and performer Denmo Ibrahim developed Baba as a solo performance for herself, portraying both Mohammed and Layla.
"I'm thrilled to see Baba reimagined from a solo performance to a two-person, fully realized play," he says. "In Amphibian Stage’s production, the story transforms beautifully from a daughter grappling with her father's memory to a father and daughter’s longing for home. The play received its world premiere a decade ago, and considering what our country has endured these last 10 years, Baba now has become ever more timely."
Directed by Hamid Dehghani, it runs April 21-May 7, 2023.
Next, Amphibian's own Evan Michael Woods directs the world premiere of Christine Carmela's Miss Molly, A Marital Deceit of Honest Intentions.
The play is an homage to Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, offering the same humor and charm of Wilde’s work while incorporating modern references and exploring queer themes (an act punishable by law during Wilde’s lifetime).
Carmela and Woods are TCU alumni who also happened to be roommates when Carmela first drafted Miss Molly. Since graduating, Carmela made her Off-Broadway debut at SoHo Repertory Theatre and has accrued 6.2 million likes on TikTok — all while studying for her masters in screenwriting from the University of Southern California.
While Woods is known as a multidisciplinary theater artist in DFW, Miss Molly marks his directorial debut.
"To have Miss Molly premiere in any other city, at any other theater, with any other director would feel blasphemous," Carmela says. "DFW has always been an artistic home for me; it's where I started my career as a writer and performer. Before USC and Off-Broadway, Amphibian was the first professional theater to give me a chance when they hosted a staged reading of one of my early plays. There is not a single director better suited to bring Miss Molly to life than the person who lived in the room next-door to me for most of my time in DFW, whom I consider a go-to collaborator, confidant, and friend."
It runs July 21-August 13, 2023.
Just in time for Fall, Amphibian Stage closes their mainstage season with a darkly comic tale from prolific German writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt. The Visittells the story of a wealthy philanthropist returning to her hometown to save it from financial ruin — but the money comes with a deadly request that will test the morals of the town’s inhabitants.
This larger-than-life classic will be brought to the stage in partnership with the University of Texas at Arlington’s Theater faculty and students.
“We’ve had the opportunity over the last several years to have Amphibian’s co-artistic director Jay Duffer share his directing expertise with UTA’s junior and senior theater majors in the Directing I course," says Dr. Anne Healy, chair of Department of Theatre Arts & Dance at the University of Texas at Arlington. "The opportunity to now further collaborate with this professional union theater is a critical next step for both faculty and students. Working in partnership with Amphibian on The Visit will provide a conduit for real-world application where students will work alongside area professionals (including our design faculty) toward a commercial production. We are thrilled!”
Adapted by Maurice Valency and directed by Jay Duffer, it runs October 20-November 12, 2023.
Amphibian Stage's stand-up comic residency returns with an impressive lineup and the promise of more performers to be announced in the New Year.
Grace & Frankie star Baron Vaughn returns for the third time since creating the residency series back in 2017. After starting this unique opportunity for stand-up artists, many big-name comedians — including Aparna Nancherla, Phoebe Robinson, River Butcher and Sasheer Zamata — have come through Amphibian Stage. He performs March 9-11, 2023.
You’ve seen Nore Davis’ comedy on Comedy Central, Prime Video, The Tonight Show, Conan, and acting in hit shows Boardwalk Empire, Succession, and Dickinson. This is Nore’s first time performing at Amphibian Stage, March 16-18, 2023.
2 Dope Queens' Phoebe Robinson returns to Amphibian Stage after a sold-out residency in 2019. While Robinson is best known for her work as a comedian and performer, she is also a New York Times best-selling author and acclaimed producer. She sold out five nights in 2019 and will return March 23-25, 2023.
After Miss Molly closes in August, comedian Gabe Mollica is developing a stand-up set that straddles the line of theater and comedy. This is not the first stand-up residency to balance these two mediums; Jacqueline Novak ironed out Get On Your Knees at Amphibian Stage before it arrived Off-Broadway to critical acclaim.
Mollica's new project, Deductible, takes aim at the US healthcare system, and dates will be announced in early 2023. Three more residencies are also expected in 2023, and the comedy lineup is subject to change.
This summer, the annual performing arts festival SparkFest returns June 1-17, 2023, to the Near Southside for the third time.
The 2023 iteration will introduce a Texas-wide “Van Cliburn Festival”-style acting competition with $18,000 in cash prizes for the finalists. The competition will be limited to MENASA actors and artists.
The remainder of the festival will focus on the development and showcasing of new plays, supplemented by other engaging events. In 2021 and 2022, SparkFest included Light up the Runway (a Project Runway-style fashion show), a puppetry workshop, a comedy for beginners workshop, stand-up comedy performances, and much more. Details on the acting competition and festival lineup will be announced in early 2023.