Directors Announced for WaterTower Theatre's 2016-17 Main Stage Season
About B.J. Cleveland
B. J. Cleveland is an award winning actor/director/choreographer with a career that spans 46 years with nearly 500 different shows to his credit, and he'll be making his WaterTower Theatre Directorial debut. A well-known stage and television personality, Mr. Cleveland has been the recipient of several DFW Theatre Critics Forum awards as both actor and director, and has also been named Best Actor and Director by the Dallas Voice, Dallas Observer & D Magazine. The Live Theatre League of Tarrant County (of which he is a former President) also awarded him with the Lifetime Achievement award. He is an associate artist and guest director with Uptown Players, One Thirty Productions, Theatre Three, the Irving Arts Center, and Contemporary Theater of Dallas. He is currently starring in the regional premiere of Terrence McNally's comedy It's Only a Play, and next appearing as King Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar for Casa Mañana.
About Sonny Franks
Sonny is thrilled to once again be involved with WaterTower Theatre as Musical Director. Sonny's more than ten year history with WTT began with his first production, Pump Boys and Dinettes, as an actor/musician playing the role of Jim. His first Musical Director opportunity with WaterTower followed with their Christmas presentation, Beautiful Star. Since then, he has been seen in such productions as Hank Williams: Lost Highway, The Grapes of Wrath, Violet, Unnecessary Farce, Bonnie & Clyde and this August he will Musical Direct and play the role of Charlie "the Duck" Clench for WaterTower's regional premiere of One Man, Two Guvnors, starring Brian Gonzales. Sonny's other Musical Director credits include Cotton Patch Gospel, the world renowned folk group The New Christy Minstrels and his own original musical The Kountry Girls, A Folk Musical.
About Kelsey Leigh Ervi
Kelsey Leigh Ervi is considered one of Dallas' top young directors. A graduate of Baylor University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance, Kelsey currently serves as Associate Artistic Director for WaterTower Theatre. At WaterTower, she most recently directed Lord of the Flies and the World Premiere of The Spark (which she also wrote) at the 2015 Out of the Loop Fringe Festival (awarded "Best of Loop 2015"). Other directing/assistant directing credits at WaterTower include The Santaland Diaries (2013 & 2014), Honky, The Tom Sawyer Project, Bonnie & Clyde, Dogfight, Good People, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Grapes of Wrath, The Ugly One, and August: Osage County.
Her directing work has been seen on many other Dallas stages including Echo Theatre, Rite of Passage Theatre Company, Shakespeare Dallas, Festival of Independent Theaters, and Greyman Theatre Company. In 2014, Kelsey was recognized in the Dallas Observer's list of 100 Dallas Creatives. She was recognized by the Dallas Observer in 2015 for "Best of Theater" for Precious Little, and CultureMap Dallas for "Best of Theater" for The Spark.
As an actor, Kelsey was most recently seen in WaterTower Theatre's Studio production of Bright Half Life. Other favorites include Mr. Burns, a post-electric play (Stage West; Dallas-Fort Worth Theatre Critics Forum Award - Best Ensemble); Richard III, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Shakespeare in the Bar); The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told (Uptown Players); [sic] (Echo Theatre); and The Winter's Tale (Shakespeare Dallas).
When she's not working in theatre, Kelsey can be heard talking about it. In November of 2015, Kelsey joined forces with two other Dallas artists and launched the Little Big Scene Podcast, a bi-weekly podcast which serves to promote the past, present, and future of the Dallas-Fort Worth theatre community.
About Emily Scott Banks
Emily Scott Banks' decade and a half back in DFW Theater has established her as one of the leading theater artists in the area. Over fifty lead roles in Equity houses, many winning awards including Critics' Forum Awards, Best Actress of the Year nods for Dallas Observer, D Magazine, and TheaterJones. Emily has in recent years also proven as one of the most prolific directors on DFW area stages. A graduate of the BFA Conservatory at UT Austin, an alumnus of nearly every training area the esteemed Shakespeare and Company of MA has offered, and a student of the Meisner technique with Terry Martin for nearly fifteen years, Emily has never stopped being both a student of the art form, as well as a constant practitioner.
As an actor, Emily has covered the gamut from language plays such as Shakespeare and Stoppard, to high comedy, to edgy new works. Some area favorites include the one-actor "Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol" this past winter to sold out houses and a twice-extended run; the world premieres of George Elliot in "A Most Dangerous Woman" and Mrs. Surratt/Keene in "Booth", the Portuguese-speaking Mathilde in "The Clean House", and saucy Italian Gabriella in "Boeing-Boeing" (twice), and Emma Brookner in "The Normal Heart."
Considering WaterTower almost a second home theatrically, many of Emily's favorite roles have been on WaterTower stages. These include Sarah in Terry Martin's "A Country Life", Lotty in "Enchanted April", Mrs. Gibb in "Our Town, and many more. As a director, Emily has directed "The Big Meal, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "A Feminine Ending", and assistant directed "Doubt" & "Laughter On the 23rd Floor" at WaterTower.
Directing work outside WaterTower includes "The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence" for Stage West, "Gee's Bend" for African American Repertory, "Fix Me, Jesus" for Theatre Three, "Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly Away Home" for Contemporary Theatre Dallas, and both "Doubt" and "W;t" for Theatre Arlington. Emily will direct the upcoming productions of both "An Iliad" and "Stupid F*&^ing Bird" for Stage West.
About René Moreno
René Moreno recently directed John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar as part of WaterTower Theatre's 2015-2016 Season. Previously at WaterTower, René directed Bonnie & Clyde, Black Tie, and August: Osage County. His other directing credits include Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Living Out by Lisa Loomer, and Scott McPherson's Marvin's Room. An accomplished actor and director, he studied music at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and theatre and dance at Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, where he holds an MFA in Directing. As an actor, he has performed On and Off-Broadway at prestigious regional theaters across the country, on radio, television and film. He has directed numerous plays regionally, including classics and those of modern and emerging writers, in productions that have garnered critical acclaim and award recognition. A Dallas native, he is a member of SDC (Stage Directors and Choreographers Society) and an Artistic Associate with Shakespeare Dallas, as well as an Affiliated Artist with the Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre.
About Terry Martin
Terry Martin's long and distinguished career in the theatre has established him as one of Dallas-Fort Worth's leading actors, directors and arts administrators. Terry recently took the next step in his career by assuming the position of Head of Fine Arts at Greenhill School. Before that, Terry served as WaterTower Theatre's Producing Artistic Director for the 16 years. During his tenure he placed an indelible stamp on the professional theatre scene in Texas through his stewardship of one of the nation's fastest growing theatres. Under his leadership, the company received 129 Dallas Theatre League Leon Rabin Award nominations and 31 DFW Theatre Critics Forum awards.
Terry's extraordinary body of work as a director at WaterTower Theatre includes a number of influential, award-winning productions such as Sexy Laundry, Full Gallop, Dogfight, The Grapes of Wrath, Putting it Together, Spring Awakening, The Diary of Anne Frank, Sweeney Todd, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Country Life, Take Me Out, Cabaret, Little Shop of Horrors, The Laramie Project, and The Crucible. He is a proud member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.
About Jeff Lankov
Pianist and Musical Director Jeff Lankov has been hailed for his "alternately ferocious and sensitive" (New York Times), "muscular and moving" (Dallas Morning News) "performances of brilliance and dedication...there seems to be nothing that eludes his grasp." (New York Concert Review).
As a solo recitalist, collaborative pianist, and musical director, Lankov has performed in the nation's major concert venues; on Broadway in Mary Poppins, Newsies, and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and with National Tours including Phantom of the Opera, Will Rogers Follies, My Fair Lady, South Pacific, The Book of Mormon, Miss Saigon, Jesus Christ Superstar, Beauty and the Beast, Spamalot, Beautiful, and Wicked.
Lankov is a specialist in the works of living composers and the American Minimalist movement, and has recorded compositions of Gershwin, Messiaen, Finnissy, Piazzolla, and Rodríguez. His repertoire includes works by composers as diverse as John Adams, Blind Tom, John Cage, George Crumb, Michael Finnissy, and Jacob TV, along with music for toy piano and prepared piano, and Lankov's own solo-piano transcriptions of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and The Firebird. His multimedia performance pieces combine music with theatrical elements, visual art and computer-generated sounds and images, often in unusual juxtapositions that explore the synthesis of popular and classical forms. Lankov holds a Ph.D. in Piano Performance from New York University.
THE 2016-2017 SEASON:
The five show subscription season includes four Regional Premieres. Highlights of the season include a Stephen Sondheim classic, a musical tribute to American music legend Johnny Cash, two plays by leading female playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Karen Zacarías, plus a holiday extra.
The season opens with the Regional Premiere of Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash (October 7 - 30, 2016), created by Richard Maltby Jr., conceived by William Meade, with orchestrations by Steven Bishop and Jeff Lisenby. Ring of Fire pays tribute to the legendary Johnny Cash, and his iconic music. The season continues with the Regional Premiere of Silent Sky (January 20 - February 12, 2017), a new play by Lauren Gunderson, which tells the story of Henrietta Swan Leavitt, a brilliant and headstrong pioneer at the dawn of modern astronomy. Following, is the Regional Premiere of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord (April 14 - May 7, 2017) by Scott Carter (Executive Producer of Real Time with Bill Maher). This whip-smart comedy examines what happens when great men of history are forced to repeat it. Up next is the Regional Premiere of Native Gardens (June 2 - 25, 2017) a new comedy by Karen Zacarías, one of the country's leading Latina playwrights. The final production will be the iconic Stephen Sondheim musical, Sunday in the Park with George (July 28 - August 20, 2017).
The 5-show subscription package can be enhanced with the addition of the hilarious holiday extra, Sister's Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi's Gold (December 2 - 23, 2016) by Maripat Donovan with Marc Silvia and Jane Morris.
WaterTower Theatre gratefully acknowledges the support of our Season Sponsors including The Town of Addison, TACA, the Texas Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Shubert Foundation, The Canterbury Family, Don and Barbara Daseke, and Janiece and Jimmy Niemann. Production Sponsors for the 2016-2017 Season include Barbara and Bob Bigham: Baylor Oral Health Foundation, Pinnacle, Relax the Back, Million Air Dallas, FastSigns Carrollton, Rainmaker Advertising, The Corporate Council, Women of WaterTower Theatre, and The WaterTower Theatre Board of Directors.