Dallas Children's Theater Blog

Astonishing Kids And Families With The Fun of Broadway-Like Plays and A Lot More!

Star power makes debut on DCT stage

Award-winning Dallas actress Janelle Lutz is on the DCT stage for the first timeJanelle
with the role of Doris in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET. Janelle has established herself as a consummate theater artist and was even recently named by American Theatre Magazine as one of the 20 Theatre Workers You Should Know.

I asked Janelle a few questions about her acting experiences to date, and about her first role at Dallas Children’s Theater.

What have been some of your favorite roles?

Favorite roles..hmm…I think my most recent favorite role would be Nellie Forbush in South Pacific.  That show and that role are very close to my heart.  Some other ones would be Liza Elliott in Lady In The Dark and Janet Van De Graaff in The Drowsy Chaperone.  The first two were at Lyric Stage and the latter at Firehouse Theater.

“However “star quality” is defined, Lutz has it. And ‘it.’ And everything else required to be a success on this or any other stage.” (Dallas Observer review of LADY IN THE DARK)

What attracted you to the role of Doris in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET? Miracle2015-4

I think what appealed to me first and foremost was the show in general.  But what appeals to me in Doris Walker is her strength.  She is raising this little girl all on her own and running a huge department store.  But through this tough exterior and wall of strength, we also see that she has a huge heart.  It has been hurt so she is guarded, but it’s still there and it’s such a joy to see how Fred, Susan and even Kris Kringle work to open her heart.  It’s exciting to go on that journey and tell this wonderful Christmas story all at the same time.  

Has your process at DCT been different than that at theaters for adult audiences?

Working at DCT is a joy.  The atmosphere is wonderful, and I love the people here.  It’s also really fun to do a show with all these talented kids; the adults are pretty wonderful too.   I’ve been wanting to work here at DCT for a long miracletime, so it’s really exciting that I have this chance.  I think the process has been the same as the other theaters I’ve worked at here in Dallas.  There was the initial audition and then the callback, then first day of rehearsal. Of course, for this one, I had the pleasure of reading with a number of girls that were called back for the role Susan.  It was really fun.

American Theatre Magazine asked Janelle about her favorite thing about Dallas theatre: “The people,” she answered. “They are the best people you will meet anywhere; they are beyond amazing. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive group. They have accepted me and have truly become my second family.”

As you gather with your family and friends this holiday season, we hope you will join Janelle, the rest of the cast of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET and the DCT family to experience all the things that make this time of year miraculous.

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET runs through December 20th. Purchase your tickets today at www.dct.org 


You are the cover story!

The first time I ever kept a journal, or was even introduced to the concept of Mom 1journaling was an eighth grade English class. At the beginning of each class, we had five minutes of free writing time. We could decorate our creation with pictures or stickers or whatever was representative of us at the time.

I still have it, and I have gone back and read it from time to time, and it’s like unraveling a mystery of how I became who I am.  They were never graded, never checked for grammar or spelling, just writing what was on our minds, so I wrote the way I talked, and it’s the closest I’ve ever come to traveling back in time and talking to my former self.

Oh, the things I wish I could tell my thirteen-year-old self.

DCT has crafted a season that takes us on a journey together, and just like any Lissy 1journey, it’s full of anticipation, time spent with loved ones, and epic performances that will live in the collective memory of your family forever. This year-long journey will be full of music, dancing, miracles, puppet magic and life lessons that will leave you and your family with so many invigorating conversations and lifelong memories.

We really want you to journal about your experience. We would love for you to share them with us, but you don’t have to. Our hope is that something you experience this season, whether it’s the tricky balancing act of being happy for our friends like Fancy Nancy or learning to think outside of ourselves and really love those around us like Edward Tulane, will be intertwined into the mystery that makes you who you are.  Years later when you read about your experience with a frog, toad, or big friendly giant, your own personal mystery will unravel a little more. The journey is even more fun the second time around.

unnamedSo, as you take this journey with us, create a journal, individual or together as a family about your experience at DCT.  Use adjectives to describe your experience – we love adjectives! If you do share even one journal entry with us, DCT will provide tickets to a family that wouldn’t otherwise be able to come together as a family for a live theater experience. Just think, you might land in their journal for making such a generous contribution to the story of their life.

For those wanting to share these stories just send them to family@dct.org.

We’ll see you at the theater, and we can’t wait to read about some of your adventures!

Young Schaeffer Playwright Comes Full Circle


Playwright Philip Schaeffer is a young professional, but he has a long history at DCT. His parents are Nancy and Karl Schaeffer, who were among DCT’s first employees over thirty years ago. He talked with us a little about growing up at DCT, and his inspiration for THE GHOSTS OF SLEEPY HOLLOW.




What was it like to grow up at DCT? Can you share a favorite memory?

Growing at up at DCT was awesome!  I have too many favorite memories to choose from, though, appropriately for the season, I will say that I always particularly enjoyed when the Halloween shows would roll around.  When it comes to scary stories, I always found live theater much spookier than movies or TV could be.

What was your involvement in performing at DCT as a teen?

I was in the old Crescent Players class when I was a teenager, which was the forerunner to the Teen Conservatory classes they offer now.  And I was also in several of the video camps and classes as a teenager, which is where I think I started to realize how much I enjoyed writing scripts.

What do you enjoy when it comes to writing for teens? Is it different than writing for adult performers?

I did not write THE GHOSTS OF SLEEPY HOLLOW any differently than I would have for adult performers.  I feel like teenagers are more than capable of rising to the occasion and performing challenging material (far more challenging material than this play) when given the opportunity and some guidance, so I never even considered that I was writing for youth performers.

Why were you particularly interested in the stories of Washington Irving?

Washington Irving was the first American author, and his stories influenced not only American literature, but the literature of the Old World as well, particularly depictions of the supernatural and spectacular.  I’ve also always been fascinated by the earliest days of American history, and Washington Irving is a great source for those kind of stories.

Are there other projects on the horizon you can tell us about?

Nothing I’m cleared to talk about at the moment, but lots of fun stuff percolating!

How did growing up at DCT influence your career and professional decisions?

Growing up at DCT certainly set me on the path to working in the entertainment industry.  It taught me how much fun it could be to try and tell stories in dramatic and exciting ways, and how much work goes into putting on an excellent dramatic experience for the audience.

Philip Schaeffer’s THE GHOSTS OF SLEEPY HOLLOW is running now through October 30 with DCT’s Teen Scene Players. Check out this fabulous teen talent now, because they are obviously going to go on to great things!

Get your tickets today at www.dct.org

Trying to raise “fancy” boys

I grew up with two older brothers, so I thought I knew boys. It turns out that as379086_10150514153464347_1895295255_n a little sister, I could get away with a lot more than I can with the two boys I am raising.  My big brothers let me put pink and yellow bow clips in their hair as long as they didn’t have to get up from the couch. My older brother would look at himself in the mirror, strike a pose, and say, “ooh, I’m so fancy.”  It made me laugh.

With our boys, if we ever suggest going out to eat, my ten-year-old says, “I don’t want to go some place fancy.” By this, he means any place where you sit down with a menu.  We often insist that we are going to go to a “fancy” place anyway. Along those lines, there are some other “fancy” traits that I want to pass along to my boys.

299830_10150330523199347_954563233_n1.“Please” and “Thank You”

Whether it’s a stranger serving you at a fancy restaurant with a menu or your dad bringing you some chocolate milk, it’s important to take the time to acknowledge the gesture.

2.  Smile

We’re nearing the age where the favorite form of non-verbal communication with the ten-year-old is an eye roll, and the six-year-old pouts his lip out so far that I’m afraid I’ll trip over it. I immediately take a picture of their surly face and show it back to them and say, “is this how you smile?” It still gets a laugh, and laughs are contagious.

3. Manners

Manners still go a long way. I was a bit of a tomboy myself. Actually, I was a total tomboy, but I never relished in the joy they do with burping. My husband, their father and role model, then shows them that he can burp louder. That doesn’t help. Sometimes the best I can do is remind them that there’s a time and place for everything, and make sure all of them say “excuse me.”

4. Eye Contact

Sometimes I just need them to look at me, but there are so many other places 10556230_10152858762599347_1282366919504768721_ntheir eyes can be. It’s hard to compete with all the screens. Sometimes, we use the “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach, and pile up on the couch with them, but sometimes we have to shut everything down, against their will and just look at their face, and talk to them.

5. Poise

This is a big, fancy word, and perhaps the most difficult. It’s hard to teach attitude, especially in the face of disappointment. You never wish for your kids to be disappointed, but you also know it’s a necessary lesson to learn. Like our friend Fancy Nancy, they have to learn to walk tall, sure of who they are with no resentment for those around them who might have more than they have. Nancy teaches all of us that we can’t always be the star. There is, as Nancy discovers, often great joy in just being who you are.

Fancy is more than feather boas and tiaras. A grown-up tomboy like me can learn to be confident in high heels, and two rambunctious boys can learn how to behave with grace. Fancy is part of the journey, friends, but totally worthwhile. Au revoir!

So, remember to bring your boys and girls to see Fancy Nancy:  The Musical while you still have a chance.  The show runs through October 25 and tickets can be purchased at dct.org!

Young Designers Sparkle on Stage


Claire Spigel and Alyssa Morales.

After pouring over almost a hundred design submissions, our production team selected the Shark design of Claire Spigel and the Mermaid design of Alyssa Morales. These prize-winning designers had a workshop with resident designer, Lyle Huchton, and the final results for the production of FANCY NANCY: THE MUSICAL were over the top with all the twinkle you would expect from fanciest girl who ever danced as a tree and a slippery singing shark.

We talked to Claire and Alyssa about their inspiration, and their experience.

Claire, what inspired your Shark design?

WinnerSharkThe inspiration for my Shark design was the Maki shark. It’s a beautiful shade of blue and has a pointed nose which I thought would be cute incorporated into a hood. Additionally, since the costume was meant for a shark ballet, I made sure to design it to be very movable and easy to work in. 


Alyssa, what sparked your idea for the Mermaid?

WinnerMermaidWhen I was little and learned how to draw, my favorite thing to draw was mermaids. I always drew mermaids. My inspiration came from that and the Fancy Nancy books. I loved reading Fancy Nancy when I was younger. She’s always fancy so I had to make my mermaid extra fancy. 


Claire, tell us a little bit about your one-on-one workshop experience with Lyle.DSCN2169

During my workshop with Lyle, I learned more about all of the work and planning beforehand that goes into designing a big, colorful show like Fancy Nancy. We talked about his process and how the costume gets from the page to the stage, which was very informative to learn about. 

What did you learn in your workshop, Alyssa?

DSCN2178I learned that there is a lot more that goes into being a costume designer than I thought, but it’s also cooler than I thought. I loved being in the design room! Makes me want to be a designer even more. I also learned that it’s ok to be shy. 



Claire, on your entry form, we asked how you could be happy for your friends when they got something you wanted, and you said, “Their happiness is my happiness.” We know this is a lesson Fancy Nancy has to learn, but what did you mean by that?

What I meant by “their happiness is my happiness” is that friendship is a DSCN2173partnership based on trust and mutual respect, knowing that the other person will have your back and be there for you. When one friend receives something that the other wanted, it’s the other friend’s responsibility to be there for them and support them, because they trust one another to do so. And when the other friend is supportive, then they too can get enjoyment from seeing their friend succeed. Additionally, when another similar occasion arises, the other friend will be more likely to support the friend that supported them. 

Alyssa explains her feelings about her friends very simply.

I want God to bless my friends and for them to be happy. I want them to be safe and for them to do good.DSCN2181

The Mermaid and Dancing Shark are scene-stealers, but the show is ultimately about supporting your friends and being the best at who you are. All of the designs, and the amazing cast of characters will take your breath away and inspire you to be the best friend you can be, now through October 25.


Library Outreach Puts the “Act” in Summer Activities

DSCN2068There are so many options for ways to spend our kids’ time in the summers. There are camps and sports, the pool… so many options to get them away from the screens and keep them active. Theater doesn’t necessarily come to every parent’s mind when thinking about summer activities, but after interviewing participants of this summer’s library outreach program, we heard the same words coming up: great exercise, good fun, a chance to be out front and on stage, and a fun way to bring books to life!

DCT enjoys a close collaboration with the Dallas Public Libraries, providing local performances and tickets in conjunction with the Mayor’s Summer Reading Program, and also taking trained teaching artists to area libraries to DSCN2072bring theater to local children at no cost to their families. Kids and their instructors were all smiles when we asked them about their experience this summer exploring THE MUSICAL ADVENTURES OF FLAT STANLEY. They would have the book read to them, then they would talk through it together, learn two of the songs, and then receive costumes so they could recreate the story on their own.

For most of these kids, this is their first exposure to theater. Many of these kids are super shy, and for some of them English is a second language, but they dove in, had fun and made new friends. Once they discover themselves on stage, they can’t get enough. Ramsey Kelly, one of the instructors explains, “Parents are coming up to us afterwards, almost at every location and asking us how and where their kids can experience more theater. I don’t think some people would necessarily know how to get involved in theater if we didn’t go out into the community.

DSCN2063According to Haley Evans, another DCT instructor, “I think it’s a great opportunity to meet new kids and it’s good to be out there. If you’re a shy kid, it’s a way to come out of your comfort zone and do fun things and know it’s not scary. They can put themselves out there and learn different talents they didn’t know they had before. It’s fun for the parents to see their kids doing something active with other kids.”

I totally get that. I was one of those painfully shy kids who never spoke, ever, except to my small circle of friends, and tried my hardest to blend into the crowd (which was difficult as a 5’6 twelve-year-old). My parents never would’ve thought to enroll me in an acting program, and I never would’ve asked, but my friends signed up to perform a number from ANNIE in our annual talent show and kindly asked me to join them.  I did it without hesitation and even sang a solo line on “Don’t it feel like the wind is always howling?” It was a whole new thing I could do, and I just had no idea. No one did, not even my family. And now, thirty (ish) years later, I have worked professionally as a theater artist on and off stage my entire adult life.

When we asked Ramsey what the library outreach program teaches, a huge smile came across her face and she said, “Teaches me or teaches the kids?”  Learning never ends in theater to be sure whatever your age.  We don’t always know what the kids from the library will do with their newly discovered skills, but the action and interaction they experience when the theater comes to them is invaluable. The outreach program also takes the stage to all kids, and not just those kids who display that “it factor” when they utter their first words. DCT is happy to support the Mayor’s efforts in not only getting kids to read during the summer, but also creating a special space for kids to bring those beloved books to life.

DCT Celebrates Grand Prize Designers!


DCT’s season opener FANCY NANCY: THE MUSICAL reminds us that we don’t always get to be the star, but that everyone still gets a chance to shine when they do their best. The Fancy Nancy Costume Contest celebrates young artists of all skill levels who put their creative ideas on paper. DCT received 90 entries for the Mermaid and the Shark from the Mermaid Ballet.


Mermaid Entry Winner by Alyssa Morales

Designing costumes is hard work, for artists of any level, especially whenhaving to think of such abstract ideas as a mermaid and a dancing shark. It might not be difficult for an imaginative kid to draw a mermaid or dancing shark, but a costume design requires that a human be able to wear the design and move around on stage with it, and in the case of the Shark, actually dance!  It’s amazing what these young designers were able to put together, and I can’t wait to see what the finished product looks like on stage.  As we learned from the Superbowl, a dancing shark always steals the show!




Shark Entry Winner by Claire Spigel


The Grand Prize winners will enjoy an exclusive workshop with DCT Costume Designer Lyle Huchton who was one of the judges that selected the winning designs!  With 90 designs to choose from, this was not an easy task. Even more exciting is the fact that these designs will be used as the actual basis for the costume we will eventually see on stage. This is an amazing opportunity for young aspiring artists! Now let’s meet the winners!



Mermaid Winner Alyssa Morales

Alyssa Morales (Mermaid) is a 7th grader at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School. Alyssa says she has always enjoyed art and design and also loves to be challenged.



Shark Winner Claire SpigelClaire Spigel (Shark) is an 11th grader at Booker T. Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts. Claire says in addition to practicing her rendering skills, she enjoyed the opportunity to design for one of her favorite books.


Of course with 90 designers, there are always going to be a few, aside from the grand prize winners, who catch the attention of the judges, so a few Honorable Mentions were selected in different age categories. We are celebrating them as well:

K-3 MERMAID: Cici Averitt

K-3 SHARK: Matthew Johnson

4-8 MERMAID: Laurel Mora

4-8 SHARK: Adam Roth

9-12 MERMAID: Anneke Davis

9-12 SHARK: Scout Villareal

Most Creative MERMAID: Gaetana Johnson

Most Creative SHARK: Rachel Browning

Fancy Nanciest: Marlowe Martensen

It’s always inspiring to look at the submissions from young designers, especially when they’ve been charged with a specific task.  Young minds’ wheels turn with a unique variety of imagination. We can all learn from their free-spirited approach to such tasks.  If we took this path, I dare say we would be less inclined to lose that spark when we become adults; all too often relying on logic and the confines of “reality.” I hope these designs inspire you to get your own set of colored pencils and markers and draw something…on paper.  If you can’t think of what to draw, try a mermaid and a dancing shark and make it fancy!

Fancy Nancy - The Musical

Fancy Nancy – The Musical

FANCY NANCY: THE MUSICAL runs September 18 – October 25 and will be fanciful fun for boys and girls ages 5 and up.  All the design entries will be on display throughout the run of FANCY NANCY: THE MUSICAL,September 18 – October 25, 2015.Season tickets are available now and single tickets for FANCY NANCY: THE MUSICAL are on sale now at www.dct.ortg .

Mermaids,Sharks, and brilliant Kid Designers!


Being a costume designer for a professional theater company is a big job, and DCT is fortunate to have award-winning maestro Lyle Huchton as our designer. During his time at DCT, he has designed and created hundreds of costumes, and this summer, his work is especially fancy, so we’ve issued a call for young designers to provide him with some inspiration.

Stuart Little Kerry

2013 Hats Off Contest Entry


2014 Believe Contest Entry

For the past few seasons, DCT has asked its patrons age five to seventeen to share their creativity with us through design contests. We are always amazed by the entries. They are so uninhibited by whether or not they are “doing it right.” As we grow older, we discover a nagging inner voice that warns us against taking bold choices. It’s the same voice that tells us that our clothes need to be coordinated and weather-appropriate, while the five-year-old doesn’t think twice about pairing polka dots with stripes and then putting on their rain boots to go to the beach!

This summer, we asked young designers to help with two particularly important costumes appearing in our season opener, FANCY NANCY: THE MUSICAL. These are the Mermaid and the Shark, both important elements in the climactic Mermaid Ballet. They were given only three guidelines:

1)     The best designs incorporate a variety of colors, textures, and materials.

2)     Costumes have to fit on human bodies and allow them to move safely on stage.

3)     Details are important, and they must be large enough to be seen from stage.

DSCN2098It’s going to be a challenge to choose the grand prize winners who will actually get to join Lyle Huchton in the costume shop during the design process.  This is not something we take lightly.  According to Lyle, ”I always get really excited to see what creative ideas come from the design contest. I, at times, tend to over think when I am designing a costume so when I see some of the creative ways they approach the challenge. I wonder why did I not think of that? It is important to seek out and encourage young talent. I am proud of DCT’s commitment to this type of outreach.”

Overthinking? That’s one of the most powerful tools of that nagging inner voice.

The contest winners will be announced on July 31, but all of the entries will be on display throughout the run of FANCY NANCY: THE MUSICAL. Hopefully when you see them, it will remind you of the dangers of over-thinking, and inspire you to color outside the lines sometimes.

unnamedFANCY NANCY: THE MUSICAL runs September 18 – October 25 and will be fanciful fun for boys and girls ages 5 and up.  Season tickets are available now and single tickets for FANCY NANCY: THE MUSICAL will go on sale July 31.

Supporting Hope

DSCN2058After meeting the family of Ryan Goldblatt, it became clear to me how important it is for children with terminal illnesses and their families to have a few hours of pure enjoyment together, and it has become even clearer that for many families, Dallas Children’s Theater is that special, happy place.

HopeKids is an organization that provides ongoing events & activities and a powerful, unique support community for families who have a child with cancer or some other life-threatening medical condition.

HopeKids describes their work as an ongoing program of highly-anticipated DSCN2056events and activities to which all the children and their families in our program are invited. This helps restore fun, excitement and hope to what can be a difficult and uncertain future.  Believing that the power of a wish is in the anticipation, we have created a program where there is constant anticipation of what is coming next, strengthening a child’s ability and willingness to fight.

The North Texas chapter of HopeKids has been working with Dallas Children’s Theater throughout this season, and has been bringing families to preview performances since DCT’s season opener RAPUNZEL! RAPUNZEL! A VERY HAIRY FAIRY TALE. After each performance, I have received handwritten thank you notes or drawings from children that attended, and each time, it warms my heart. The experience was not just a show for these families, it served as an escape from the realities of their illness, which is why HopeKids exists, and it has been our pleasure to work with them.

The Executive Director of the North Texas Chapter of HopeKids, Heather DSCN2051Weathers works directly with the families,and she says, “HopeKids is thankful to partner with Dallas Children’s Theater to help support children who have a life-threatening medical condition and their families.  The performances each month are exciting and provide a unique experience for families who would not normally have the chance to attend live performances.  Thank you for supporting more than 350 HopeKids North Texas families with such a fabulous program.”

HopeKids surrounds these remarkable children and their families with the message that hope can be a powerful medicine. DCT has enjoyed being an active part of their work, and look forward to continuing the partnership next season.  For more information about HopeKids, visit hopekids.org.

Flat Stanley… around the country and back home again!


DCT’s National Tour of THE MUSICAL ADVENTURES OF FLAT STANLEY hit the road at the beginning of DCT’s 2014-2015 Season in September, and has covered 71 cities in 30 states and one Canadian Province with 174 performances.  The touring production and its lively music was met by raves from audiences everywhere and is now dazzling hometown playgoers. Caroline Dubberly, who was part of the touring ensemble shared some tour highlights and some fabulous candid photos just for Dallas audiences.

What was your greatest memory of the tour?

Justin Duncan, Caroline Dubberly, James Chandler at our venue in St Catherine, Canada.

My greatest memory of the tour would have to be the performance we did on Thanksgiving at St. Catherine’s in Canada. It was the first venue we had where the space was too small to fit our set in, and we were only to meet for about an hour the night before to basically redraft the entire show as concert version that could suit the space. We planned to rehearse in the morning, during our load in time before our performance, but of course everything kept going wrong so we basically had to improvise the show and trust our instincts and each other to do the best show we could.  It really was a magical experience. The kids and adults had such a positive and visceral reaction to the piece, and it ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences for me.

How did kids react to the show, and what was their favorite part?

We were really lucky in that we got positive reactions to the show everywhere we went. There was always a lot of excitement from kids and adults alike. 

James Chandler modeling one of the many uses for travel pillows

James Chandler modeling one of the many uses for travel pillows.

I think the part that got the biggest reaction was probably the singing of “I Wish I Were”, or the part where Stanley comes out in the silly Bo Peep costume.

What was your favorite part of the show?

My favorite part of the show to perform is the Sneak Thief. She’s such a silly character, so unencumbered by normal speech patterns and physicality, so I got to explore a whole new range of acting every time I did it. Also that part of the script lends itself to a bit of audience interaction, and it was always so fun when the kids got really into it.

Any secrets you can share from months on the road?

Flat Stanley Cast MembersJohnny Lee, Justin Duncan, Caroline Dubberly, Laura Choate

Flat Stanley Cast Members:
Johnny Lee, Justin Duncan, Caroline Dubberly, Laura Choate

As far as tour secrets to share… Continental breakfasts are the best at Best Western. And travel pillows can change your life. And touring was made so much easier for me because I brought my stuffed animal/best bud Simba.

Whether or not you and your kids mailed or received a Flat Stanley, you will enjoy the lively music, and the quirky humor of this show about exploring the world and learning to appreciate home. DCT touring casts always have fun, and by the time they make it back to Dallas, their chemistry and physical humor are fine tuned.  This is a show you and your family won’t want to miss!


Remaining Show Times

Friday, June 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 27 at 1:30 p.m. (Sensory-friendly performance)
Saturday, June 27 at 4:30 p.m
Sunday, June 28 – 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, June 28 – 4:30 p.m. (ASL performance)
Saturday, July 11at 1:30 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 12 at 1:30 & 4:30 p.m.

Tickets at more info @ www.dct.org