As it prepares to celebrate a major birthday, Onstage in Bedford has attained something that many other 30-year-olds find elusive — maturity.
“We started off as very much a community theater where it was people in the Mid-Cities doing shows for people in the Mid-Cities,” says Michael Winters, who has served as the artistic director of the theater company, located on the grounds of the Bedford Boys Ranch, since 2013. “The quality back then was sort of typical community theater. Not to knock that. But the production values were not as good as we have today.
“We worked very hard to raise all of that up so our overall product is better. Our actors now come from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area to perform in our shows.”
Onstage in Bedford began presenting shows in its current location in 1985. As Winters notes, it developed a reputation for serving its community with productions that tended to be more concerned with encouraging a maximum number of people get involved than with creating a new level of dramatic excellence — an appropriate and, many would say, laudable approach for any amateur, community house such as this one.
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But in recent seasons, Onstage in Bedford has upped the ante.
“Next to Normal, Proof, Assassins and Xanadu,” says Winters, reeling off titles of some of the more mature and challenging shows to be presented there in the past two seasons. “Those shows, in particular, let people know that Onstage has changed the thought process.
“We are going to bring in a wider variety of shows each season. Some are going to be shows that are comedies and farces that are just a fun ride. But we’re also going to stage one or two shows like Proof [each season]. Plays that are really strong, and that deal with very adult topics and ideas that challenge you. We want people to think a little bit while we entertain them.”
The show opening Onstage’s 30th-anniversary season, Neil Simon’s Rumors, is something of a combination of both sides of Winters’ programming philosophy. It is a farce (not a comedy like Simon’s The Odd Couple) with a bit of a bite, that owes a debt to a much more venerated master of stage comedy.
“In doing the research, I came to understand that all of [Simon’s] stuff comes from a dark place. And he uses playwriting, specifically comedy, as a catharsis,” says David Wilson-Brown, who is directing the show. “He wanted to deal with [some downturns], and wanted to write a farce — the first one he had written. He wanted to put it in the style similar to Moliere, where it is all about the upper-crust, high society crowd.”
The action of Rumors, which debuted in 1988, unfolds in the fashionable home of the deputy mayor of New York. The guests flirt, squabble and plot with one another while gunshots occasionally ring out from another room.
“It’s all about how these people have to rely on one another in an extreme crisis,” says Wilson-Brown, a theater teacher at Watauga Middle School who directed Same Time Next Year at Onstage last year. “Expect crazy. Expect slamming doors. Expect controlled chaos.”
Changing with the times
Winters had been involved with Onstage as an actor and lighting designer for more than a decade before becoming artistic director. He says Onstage has been able to make it to this landmark season by being responsive to its audience.
“Like with Proof,” he says. “It had stronger language than is usually heard in our shows, and we got a mixed response to that. But most of the response was very positive. And that gave me the encouragement to do Next to Normal.”
Onstage is also sporting a slightly new look for its 30th season. The theater recently has done some renovations, most obviously in its lobby area. And there is a general refurbishing of the Boys Ranch underway that, while it will not directly impact Onstage’s building, might raise the theater’s profile a bit.
“We hope that the park getting a facelift will bring more people in ... and give them the chance to see us,” says Winters. “We like to say that we are the best undiscovered jewel in the Mid-Cities.”
▪ Through Feb. 15
▪ Onstage in Bedford, Bedford Boys Ranch
▪ Forest Ridge Drive at Harwood Road
▪ 817-354-6444; www.onstageinbedford.com
Note: The show is rated “PG-13,” the theater says.
Remaining shows in Onstage in Bedford’s 30th-anniversary season:
▪ The Marvelous Wonderettes by Roger Bean (March 20-April 12)
▪ The Boys Next Door, by Tom Griffin (May 15-31)
▪ Almost, Maine, by John Cariani (June 26-July 12)
▪ The House of Blue Leaves, by John Guare (Aug. 14-30)
▪ Company, by Stephen Sondheim (Oct. 2-25)
▪ The Daughter of St. Nicholas, by Linda Daugherty (Dec. 4-20)
More Bedford-area news and events
Beginning Wednesday, the Star-Telegram will introduce a new weekly newspaper — HEB News — to be delivered to single-family homes in the greater Hurst-Euless-Bedford area. The new weekly will be a free publication with news and advertising content featuring local residents, local businesses, community stories, school news, area entertainment events, business happenings, school athletics, reader opinions and a variety of local content.
Residents in Hurst, Euless, and Bedford will receive the newspaper one of two ways: for Star-Telegram subscribers, the paper will be inserted each Wednesday inside their Star-Telegram. For non-subscribers, the paper will delivered in yards of single-family homes by Wednesday evening each week.
The new HEB News also will be available online at www.star-telegram.com/HEBnews/ and all content also will be available via existing Star-Telegram apps for your phone and tablet.
Submit event news and tips to Faye Reeder at email@example.com or call 817-996-5868.