Spotlight On ATX Theatre Companies

Get to know ATX Theatre affiliated companies here one at a time.

Spotlight On: Hyde Park Theatre

Ken Webster, Artistic Director

September 2021

What was your first show and why?

In 1992 the first play produced by our company, then called Frontera Productions, was Life During Wartime by Keith Reddin. Vicky Boone was Artistic Director from 1992–April 2001, and was a big fan of Reddin’s work. Frontera Productions later came known as Frontera@Hyde Park Theatre. Ken Webster became Artistic Director in April 2001 and the company was renamed Hyde Park Theatre.

Where does your company perform?

Our season shows and FronteraFest Short Fringe shows are performed at Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd Street in Austin. FronteraFest Long Fringe shows are produced at Ground Floor Theatre.


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Photo of Hyde Park Theatre's side mural courtesy of Hyde Park Theatre.

If I wanted to bring a date to your theatre, what might a typical night out look like? Are there places to eat nearby? Is there parking?

Each night of performances, couples can enjoy great food and drink at The Parlor, New World Deli, Hyde Park Bar & Grill, Asti, and Julio’s.

What is your favorite part of the theatre production process?

I’ve always loved the rehearsal process best.

What is your mission statement — and are you doing it?

Hyde Park Theatre develops writers, designers, directors, and actors from within the Austin community, while at the same time producing works by exciting new and established voices of the alternative theatre scene. We work with a broad and diverse base of local artists to produce theater that confronts, challenges, and entertains. We have a strong commitment to paying local writers, actors, and designers a decent wage for their work, and to expanding the base of working artists in Austin. We work to diversify and expand the audience for theater in Austin, making theater accessible and essential across lines of income, class, race, gender, and sexual identity. We’ve been reaching these goals for almost 30 years.

 

What kind of work do you do and why? What was you all-time favorite production so far? 

New plays by exciting playwrights like Annie Baker, Will Eno, Sarah DeLappe, Martin McDonagh, Zell Miller III, Raul Garza, Maggie Gallant, Jen Silverman, Rebecca Gilman, Melanie Marnich, & Lucas Hnath. It would be hard to pick a favorite single production, but we are the only theatre company in the country to produce six Annie Baker plays.

How do you pick your scripts?

Literary Manager Megan Thornton and I read many plays every year, as well as reviews of plays. She makes suggestions and I choose the season. Theatres around the country were urged to produce plays by women in 2018. We decided why wait, and produced a three-play season in 2017 with only female playwrights: The Moors by Jen Silverman and The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe, which Thornton recommended to Webster, and John by Annie Baker. We had already produced four of Baker’s plays at that time, so we were excited when the rights to John became available.

 

How do you hire? Do you attend unified auditions?

We have a company of actors and designers, but we hold open auditions. We have attended unified auditions on several occasions.

Is your company an Equity LORT/regional/resident theatre, a small professional theatre (Equity SPT), a transitional theatre, or a community theatre?*

We have offered Equity Guest Artist contracts from time to time, so we would be considered a transitional theatre according to the definitions.*

 

Anything else you want to tell us?

Founded in 1992, Hyde Park Theatre has produced over 50 world and regional premieres. In addition to a mainstage season, HPT hosts the largest performance festival in the Southwest, FronteraFestThe quality of our work has been acknowledged by 50 Critics' Table Awards, 27 B. Iden Payne Awards, 4 NEA Awards, three TCG National Artist Residencies, and feature articles in American Theater and Yale Theatre Magazine.  Thirteen of our company members were named to the Austin Chronicle's list of Austin's top 40 stage actors. Artistic Director Ken Webster has received 50 B. Iden Payne Award nominations and 14 B. Iden Payne Awards. Webster was inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame on June 5, 2006.

* Definitions: 

LORT/Regional/Resident Theatres offer Actor’s Equity contracts for every show; every participant is compensated for work.

Small Professional Theatres offer Equity SPT contracts for most shows; every participant is compensated for work.

Transitional Theatres offer stipends for every participant for every show, and have offered Equity Guest Artist contracts from time to time (some union relationship).

Community Theatres pay some people sometimes, but do not have a uniform pay structure, and utilize many unpaid volunteers. No Equity contracts offered.

Spotlight On: Ground Floor Theatre

Lisa Scheps, Founder & Co-Artistic Director

July 2021

When did your company begin? What was your first show and why?

Ground Floor Theatre (GFT) came about in 2014 after a conversation with Ken Webster of FronteraFest/Hyde Park Theatre and Christi Moore of FronteraFest/Scriptworks discussing the lack of theatre venues in Austin. Patti Neff-Tiven and I teamed up to form GFT with a mission of producing works by and for underrepresented communities. Our first production in 2015 was Parade. Parade is a powerful musical by Jason Robert Brown about the true story of Leo Frank who was a Jewish man falsely accused of killing a young girl. Leo Frank was pulled out of the jail and lynched by an antisemitic mob. We chose this for a variety of reasons: it fit fully within our mission, the story is powerful and not told often, and the music is extremely challenging. We produce a (non-holiday) musical every December.

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Photo by Kenny Gall of There and Back by Raul Garza, directed by Patti Neff-Tiven, Scenic Design by Ia Ensterä, Lighting Design by Natalie George, Costume Design by Pam Fletcher Friday, Pictured: Karina Dominguez & Giselle Marie Muñoz

Where does your company perform?

We are fortunate enough to have our own venue at Airport and Springdale (979 Springdale Rd., #122, Austin, TX 78702).  GFT is a versatile black box theatre with lovely high ceilings (16' grid), full lighting, sound and video, 2 dressing rooms, a green room, AND a bathroom for cast and crew!!! Our lobby/gallery provides a place for local visual artists to feature their work. We offer the wall space free of charge and do not charge a commission if a piece is sold at our theatre.

 

If I wanted to bring a date to your theatre, what might a typical night out look like? Are there places to eat nearby? Is there parking?

You could make a day of it! Start around 3 p.m. with a glass blowing class at Ghost Pepper Glass, then a little shopping at the incredible Blackfeather Vintage Works followed by an early dinner at one of the many nearby restaurants like Sawyer & Co, Justine’s, or Jacoby’s. After you and your date are suitably full, head on over to GFT, park in one of our many spaces, enjoy snacks from our concession stand, take in the art in our gallery, and see some amazing theatre. After the show, stay on the property and get some cider at Austin Eastciders or a beer at Friends & Allies brewery. After that? Well, that is up to you.

 

What is your favorite part of the theatre production process?

We love fostering new work. The creative process thrills and excites us. The initial script that the director reads goes through updates before the cast and designers get involved; it changes during the rehearsal process as the actors add to each of their characters. So that what finally ends up on stage is a true collaboration between many theatre artists.

 

What is your mission statement and are you doing it?

Ground Floor Theatre fosters an environment for creative thinkers and artists to produce works by and for under-represented communities, lifting voices that need to be heard to people who need to hear them — working to create equity through art. Ground Floor Theatre provides performance space for companies that share our vision and serves as a creative home for the Austin performance community for collaboration and artistic development. 

We do this by choosing works that speak directly to our mission and staffing our shows appropriately. Also, we have a vision of Theatre for Everyone therefore all of our shows are pay-what-you-can. We do not want theatre to have a financial barrier. We subsidize this by offering VIP tickets and subscriptions that cost a bit more and help us pay for those that cannot afford a full-price ticket.

 

What kind of work do you do and why? What was you all-time favorite production so far? 

All of our work is mission driven and runs the gamut from dramas to comedies to musicals as well as workshops and our new quarterly artist in residence program, “GFT in Residence.” Our favorite production? We love all of our children equally!

 

How do you pick your scripts?

This is an evolving process. Currently our two artistic directors choose the pieces, but we are looking into opening up the selection process to continue our mission-driven work.

 

How do you hire? Do you attend unified auditions?

For individual shows, we hire our cast, creative team, and technicians by collaborating with the director and consultation with other stakeholders. We do attend the unified auditions and have cast actors that we first saw there.

 

Is your company an Equity LORT/regional/resident theatre, a small professional theatre (Equity SPT), a transitional theatre, or a community theatre?*

By your definitions*, we are a transitional theatre, having offered some Equity Guest Artist contracts. But we are based in Austin, use Austin talent, and our mission is about serving Austin, so we would add the word “community” in there… Perhaps Transitional Community Theatre.

 

Anything else you want to tell us?

Only that we are so proud of the theatre community in Austin and truly hope every theatre here succeeds in its individual mission which will raise the tide for ALL theatre in Austin. We are also thrilled to be the inaugural Spotlight On theatre company for ATX Theatre!

* Definitions: 

LORT/Regional/Resident Theatres offer Actor’s Equity contracts for every show; every participant is compensated for work.

Small Professional Theatres offer Equity SPT contracts for most shows; every participant is compensated for work.

Transitional Theatres offer stipends for every participant for every show, and have offered Equity Guest Artist contracts from time to time (some union relationship).

Community Theatres pay some people sometimes, but do not have a uniform pay structure, and utilize many unpaid volunteers. No Equity contracts offered.