Member theatre Dallas Theater Center has been exploring new ways to connect their audiences to the materials presented on their stage. One of their most innovative programs is a community book club that meets to discuss books, chosen by DTC staff, that relate to each show in the DTC season. American Theatre digs into this community engagement program, talking with staff at DTC about the successes and the challenges that this program has faced.
The book club fosters strong connections—among plays and club members, their community, and the theatremakers. Though theatre appreciation in an academic sense isn’t a goal of the project, the direct interaction with theatre personnel leads to more personal investment. “I’m always surprised by how much some audience members want to see how the sausage is made,” [Travis] Ballenger [DTC’s artistic associate] commented. “They formed a deep connection with the shows after those conversations and would often see the production multiple times. It was those conversations that led us to create New Play University,” a separate program, in its initial year, in which participants read drafts of, and meet with the artists behind, new plays in development in Dallas.
Read more about this program on American Theatre’s website.