Theatre Arlington (TA) is a semi-professional live theatre in the bustling downtown area. It has evolved into an Arlington institution since being established in 1973, and the once small theatre now seats 199 season ticket holders and patrons for almost back-to-back, year-round performances that will make you laugh, cry, contemplate and escape reality with your peeps for a period of time. But did you know the theatre functions as more than just entertainment for a night out? The staff members, actors and production crew are seasoned, multi-faceted professionals, both on-stage and behind, that see Arlington's theatre as a calling, and (most importantly) as a family. And their "family" is passionate about yours, because they host all-youth productions, acting classes, and other offerings to engage all age groups and interest levels of the community.
"I love everything this wonderful city has to offer, and the arts and the theatre are strong, vibrant parts it, said Kim Lawson Turner, Director of Marketing & Development for TA. “We are proud to do our part to start children early on this path so they will understand why it's so fun! And why it is so important."
Turner, who grew up in Arlington and still calls it home, has worn many volunteer and staff hats with TA since 2003. She has been involved with theater in some capacity since junior high, and she is proud that her four children are also passionate about the arts and Theatre Arlington too. In addition to performing onstage, her kids have also served as backstage crew members, touring troupe members, and even as house managers.
"There's so many sides to the final product, and I think it's important to know all of them if you truly want to master your craft," Turner said.
Theatre Arlington has been dark since the middle of March, due to adherence to COVID-19 social distancing policies, but that has not dampened the enthusiasm of all involved. Turner says she is thrilled with the volume of people that have responded directly to their recent email blasts, which are decorated with photo collages of old show photos. She has enjoyed reading feedback from patrons who reply to her promotions with comments like: OMG I remember that show 30 years ago!
"It's been fun, said Turner. “Even when the stage is dark, people are still connecting with us. This experience has shown me first-hand how close people are to us. They definitely feel like they are part of our family!"
When asked about her favorite moments over the years, Turner cites an infamous performance when she was part of the cast of Neil Simon's Rumors. She was atop a large staircase in heels and a tight formal gown when the power suddenly flashed out due to storms. It was pitch black in the theatre, but "The Show Must Go On" in show business, so Turner started trying to walk down the stairs.
"I was like I'm gonna die!" said Turner with her effervescent chuckle.
Turner 's potentially disastrous tumble was averted by the concerned stage crew, who started shinning cell phones and flashlights on the staircase.
"The really cool thing about theatre is how it unites people, just like a sports team," Turner said. "People spend so much time together, so many long hours, they can't help but bond. You always hear about sports teams getting close, it's the same way with the arts community. But theatre also bonds the fan, the audience member, with the cast. Live theatre pulls that person INTO the story. You become part of it, unlike a movie or TV show. You are all living and breathing that same scene, that same story. It is ALIVE and takes both the performer and the viewer to make it happen. It will always have my heart."
Turner also retold the fun tale of opening night of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The actor playing The Governor had a major family emergency and couldn't make it for the performance, so the director of the show, who is executive producer, Steven D. Morris (her boss) grabbed a script and worked under deadline to memorize the part and relearn the song. She explained the rest of the story:
"So during the opening night curtain speech, thanking sponsors and whatnot, Steve said that one of the actors had an emergency so "someone" would be filling in. What he didn't say was WHAT part or WHO would be filling in. When he made his entrance down and the spotlight hit him...OMG...the crowd HOWLED and SCREAMED with laughter! He was amazing. And honestly, you would have never known he wasn't really cast as the Governor."
All of the silliness aside, Turner said one of her most treasured moments with her theatre tribe, surprisingly happened on the night of a tragedy. The night that a special young man's life was cut short. Tevin Cates was the 23-year-old boyfriend of her daughter, and he was a well-loved TA actor. He died very tragically last year of an aortic tear, and not only Kim's family and TA family, but the entire DFW theatre community was devastated. As the news started getting out that afternoon via word of mouth, the TA staff suggested they cancel classes and rehearsals and open the doors to the families and theatre community that night. Turner said she was overwhelmed with tears when she opened the lobby door to find it packed with the TA family, who provided food, flowers, and pictures of Tevin. Giant hugs were exchanged along with prayers of support with the TA “family” that included other theaters, family, friends and more.
"There are a lot of long hours and workdays in theatre, and occasionally my friends ask me why I do this. That was the moment I knew why. THAT was why," Turner explained. "There is no price you can put on those kinds of connections, that type of bonding. We laugh together and we cry together. It’s beautiful. We always have each other’s back. I wish everyone could experience that in their work life."
Doesn't that sound nice? Who doesn't have a longing for more extended family right now? Maybe you're a regular at TA, or maybe you've only been once. Either way, know that they are set to present The Pinnacle Bank Summer Sunset Cabaret Series on Friday, July 31st.
The building is just a block from the Arlington Museum of Art and Arlington Music Hall and other entertainment venues. Make a night of it and dine at a nearby dining favorite like Urban Alchemy, Babe's Chicken Dinner, J. Gilligan's, or one of the ever-expanding options in Urban union. I encourage you to connect with Turner and the rest of the TA tribe the next time you are looking for something to do.
"The theatre community is a place where you can be yourself, and everyone is welcome," Turner said. "We are the place that opens up the doors for total strangers and allows them to connect with each other and us. We believe that theatre can not only entertain us but challenge us and even change us. We believe theatre brings a community together. We are all a lot more connected than we think. All of us at Theatre Arlington hope you will come out and be a part of our art. The door’s always open!"