Four of the City’s most interesting young theater companies perform their productions at the Bath House Cultural Center at White Rock Lake. This feat of cooperation, conflict and speedy set manipulation is all the more remarkable on the part of The Gryphon Players, Actors’ Stock Company, Actors’ Theatre of Dallas and New Horizons Theatre when the schedule of dance and music and poetry reading performances on the BHCC’s single stage also are dropped into the equation.

The theater companies share mailing lists, costumes, props and technical expertise – and several share an office at Sammons Center for the Arts – but they all scramble for space and time.

It’s a real crunch,” says Keith Oncale of Actors’ Stock Company.

Scheduling performance and rehearsal time for legitimate cultural groups requesting space is “challenging”, says BHCC director Teri Aguilar. Together with Bill Parr, the Center’s technical director, and another staff member, Aguilar juggle requests.

Approximately $400,000 in bond money has been designated for renovation and remodeling of the Center’s basement, says Mildred Honore, City assistant director of cultural affairs, but the project is “not active” at the moment.

“We hope to pull the Bath House renovation out and start getting bids on the work some time this year,” says Honore, adding the space is intended for classroom use rather than more theater.

Aguilar says space is space, and if and when the basement is renovated, it might be used for rehearsal, if not performance.

Meanwhile, visitors to the BHCC can find entertainment from Thursday through Saturday nights.

“Most requests are for weekends, but maybe we should start encouraging people to book up all our Tuesday and Wednesday nights, as well,” Aguilar says. (The BHCC, 521 Lawther, is closed Sunday nights and Mondays. Call 670-8749 for information and scheduling.)

Low rent and an accommodating staff are the big reasons homeless theater companies like the BHCC.

“We pay about $20 per performance for the 100-seat space, or $900 for a typical run of a play, and that’s very reasonable,” says Stephen Williams, co-director of The Gryphon Players, a three-year-old, non-profit company specializing in classical plays. Keeping costs low allows the theater to sell most tickets for $8-$12.

Like most BHCC companies, The Gryphon Players have a three-play season, with shows each fall, winter and spring.

“We’re limited in the choice of material we do by the limited number of hours the Bath House operates and by the space to put things,” he says.

“The Romantic Young Lady”, the company’s most recent production, sold out most performances, and their next show, “The Misanthrope”, will play in April and May.

The group welcomes volunteers, season subscribers and garage sale items for its annual fund-raiser, Williams says. For information, call 521-6726.

Actor’s Stock Company director Keith Oncale says his four-year-old, for-profit company’s next production at the BHCC will be in July – “An Evening with Eugene: Three Ionesco Plays”. Oncale likes the rental rate and helpful BHCC staff, but he is finding it difficult to fit his eclectic productions into available time slots.

“To be honest, it’s become more and more difficult to load in a set on Saturday afternoon and get out of there by midnight. The Bath House is closed Sundays and Mondays, and we can’t get a key. The rules are that Teri can’t let us in unless a City of Dallas employee is there – that’s that.”

Oncale welcomes help in finding reasonably priced theater space. Tickets for Actors’ Stock productions also average $8-$12; for information call 343-9723.

Mickey Bones, artistic director of Actors’ Theatre of Dallas, says her group is lucky to have space at the BHCC, particularly “with the economy down”.

The group will be presenting A.R. Gurney’s “Sweet Sue” march 6-28. Admission to an Actors’ Theatre production is $6 and a toy or canned food, which is donated to Dallas-area charities.

“This is our community outreach; we can’t afford yet to put together programs to go into schools,” Bones says. For tickets and information, call 826-3789.

New Horizons Theatre director Beverly Jacob Daniel was working out of the City and could not be reached for comment. New Horizons will perform in August, Aguilar says.


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