Dallas Children's Theater Blog

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

Dallas Children's Theater Blog - Astonishing Kids And Families With The Fun of Broadway-Like Plays and A Lot More!

Meet DCT’S returning director of A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD, Cheryl Denson

Cheryl DensoCheryl Denson Headshotn is one of the most in-demand directors in Dallas, and we are thrilled that she is back to direct A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD again after having directed DCT’s first production in 2008. Cheryl has the reputation for being a director that actors want to work with, which is evidenced by the fact that a few of the cast members from the original production are also returning. We wanted to know her thoughts on putting this wonderful play about friends and weathering life together on stage again at DCT. This is what she had to say:

I’m so excited to have a second chance to bring this magical musical to a new generation of Dallas Children’s Theater audiences. A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD has an imaginative score with clever lyrics, bringing to life these enchanting characters that are so dear to every child’s heart.  What an amazing theater experience to introduce DCT audiences to musical theater.  

Families and friendships often come to us in unconventional places from unexpected beings-both two- and four-legged.  This musical takes us into the friendship that exists between Frog and Toad; two very different personalities who care so deeply for each other that their differences are little more than bumps in the road.  Making the most of the friendships that are put in our path is the core of this tale. 

Check out what she had to say in this cool video preview!

We can’t wait to see Cheryl’s work as well as this cast of friends in A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD which runs January 29 – February 28.


A Year with FFrog&Toad2015rog and Toad

Music by Robert Reael
Book and Lyrics by Willie Reale
Based on the books by Arnold Lobel
Originally presented on Broadway by
Bob Boyett, Adrianne Lobel, Michael Gardner, Lawrence Horowitz and Roy Furman
World Premiere at The Children’s Theatre Company Minneapolis, Minnesota

January 29 – February 28, 2016

Recommended for ages 4 and up

Get your tickets today at www.dct.org

Thixton Mother/Daughter duo talk about the role of Angela in dont u luv me?

_KA17028The role of Angela in dont u luv me? by Linda Daugherty is a tough one for any actress to tackle. It demands both an emotional complexity as well as a willingness to handle an intense attack scene. The character of Angela is a young high school student, and in past productions, the role has been portrayed by a young adult actor who could pass for a high school student. This season, DCT has made another choice.

Bailey Thixton has performed in Teen Scene productions for DCT previously, and the 18-year-old high school senior was selected to play the role of Angela. Director Nancy Schaeffer carefully considers putting young people in such roles, but at the auditions and subsequently in rehearsals, Bailey’s handling of the character has been spot on.

We were curious about how Bailey and her mother felt about this opportunity/experience, and why they felt it was important for her to take part.

We first asked Bailey to share her feelings and motivation. Here’s what she said.

I’m honored to be a playing Angela in dont u luv me? because it is such an important and powerful play. The emotional arc of Angela has been my _KA17095biggest challenge, because she changes so much as the play progresses. Although I’ve never been in a dangerous situation like Angela’s, I identify with her throughout the play, and I think most teenagers will, as she tries to navigate high school and her first real relationship.

Finding the internal momentum to approach the most dramatic moments of the play has come with rehearsal, as I’ve gotten to know Angela and sympathize with her. Angela’s situation escalates as the play progresses, so I really try to stay in character backstage and focus on the emotions as they naturally happen in the scene. Haulston is great (he’s actually a really nice guy) and his intensity as C.J. helps me find the emotion I need for the dramatic moments in their relationship. It’s also amazing to have the playwright, Linda Daugherty, present in rehearsals to give us all insight into our characters. 

Haulston Mann is a young theater and film actor in DFW who is playing the _KA17081
role of C.J., the charming high school basketball star who surprises Angela with how much attention he shows her at the beginning of their relationship, but then gradually becomes jealous and violent after he has won her over.

To hear Bailey, she sounds like a seasoned performer, and it makes sense why she was the obvious choice to play Angela. She goes on to talk more specifically about the primary issue in the play.

Being a part of dont u luv me? brought up the topic of dating violence, an issue that my mom and I hadn’t thought to discuss before reading the script together. With me going to college in the fall, my mom and I talked a lot about safety plans and what to do in dangerous situations. I’ve always been able to talk to my mom about anything, but dont u luv me? really emphasized the importance of communication between teenagers and their parents and their community.  

Nancy (director) and Linda (playwright) made sure that we read statistics during the first rehearsal, so I’ve learned a lot about dating violence and the warning signs. I encourage everyone to see it, not just mothers and daughters, because dating violence is a prevalent issue that can affect anyone, regardless of gender. I hope that dont u luv me? will open communication between other teenagers and their parents about the important and previously quiet topic of dating violence. Linda Daugherty, Nancy Schaeffer, and Dallas Children’s Theater are wonderful for bringing light to such an important issue! 

We appreciate Bailey for her candor in discussing the play with us, but we also wanted to hear from her mother Joanna, because she was obviously a big part of making the decision for Bailey to play this role.

I feel the role of Angela is a great learning opportunity for my daughter, Bailey. This role is challenging and focuses on the issue of physical and IMG_8350emotional abuse which is very difficult to handle, especially for teens. As a mother and teacher, I am grateful to Dallas Children’s Theater for producing plays like dont u luv me? that promote awareness and encourage communication. I hope parents and teens in our community will see dont u luv me? and be encouraged to discuss this important issue like I have with Bailey. 

You’ve heard from both parent and teen about why dont u luv me? is such an important play to share. We hope you and the teens and young adults you love will join us and our team of expert consultants for this very important and timely play. dont u luv me? runs February 12-21.



dontuluvme2016Teen Scene Players Present

dont u luv me?

By Linda Daugherty

February 12 – February 21, 2016

Recommended for ages 13 and up – NOT suitable for children under 13-contains strong situations and language


Why you should make time to see DCT’s dont u luv me?

dulm heart


  • In Texas, a man kills his current partner or a female former intimate partner every 2.7 days, with victims ranging in age from 16-90.
  • One in three teenagers experiences physical violence in a dating relationship.
  • Dallas and Tarrant counties tied as the 2nd highest county in all 254 counties in Texas in 2014.
  • Of 120 witnesses who saw these murders take place, 43 of them were children and 10 other people were caught in the violence and lost their lives.
  •  The majority of victims were 29 and younger.
  • 132 women died in 2014 due to domestic violence in the State of Texas.

In 2013, the Dallas Police Department Family Violence Unit reported 13,007 family violence calls resulting in 1,215 aggravated assaults, 23 murders, 10,812 reported offenses, 91 sexual assault offenses, 180 violations of protective orders, and 5,782 arrests.

DCT’s Teen Scene Players are tackling a difficult play with Linda Daugherty’s dont u luv me? It is a hard play to digest whether or not you’ve been affected by _KA17028domestic violence. It is approached in a very realistic manner from the first flirtation to a life-threatening assault. We’ve created this play in hopes that it is a part of the overall community solution to keeping a young woman or young man from being a statistic the next time Texas counts victims. We’ve created the play so parents or friends of someone in a dangerous relationship will be motivated to have that uncomfortable encounter that could help save a life. We’ve created the play so that a grown child who may have witnessed a violent encounter will know they are not alone and their pain can be helped.

Of course producing a play cannot solve every issue, but theater is a powerful medium. It provides a non-threatening, yet in-your-face way, to look at tough topics. It provides a way to call attention to the world around us, right here in our neighborhood. Our hope is that teens, young adults, old adults, parents, grandparents, all of our neighbors will see this show and talk about it to anyone they trust.

On opening night, Dallas City Council Member Tiffinni Young will speak briefly before the show about the City of Dallas’ focus on reducing its abnormally high rate of domestic abuse. Each performance of dont u luv me? will be immediately followed by a post-show discussion from a team of experts who will be available to meet with audience members that might have questions. dont u luv me? runs from February 12-21 in DCT’s Studio Theater. Seating is limited, and tickets are only $14. The play is only suitable for ages 13 and up. Please come, and bring those you love.


dontuluvme2016Teen Scene Players Present

dont u luv me?

By Linda Daugherty

February 12 – February 21, 2016

Recommended for ages 13 and up – NOT suitable for children under 13-contains strong situations and language

Tickets and more information at www.dct.org


Magnificent people

Melissa-with-ticketsYou’ve seen their faces on our season brochure​ and in other DCT promotional materials. Now we would like to introduce you to the Magnificent folks that are ​taking the season-long journey with us. As we prepare for our upcoming production of THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE, we are reminded of how precious it is to love and be loved, and we LOVE ​getting to know families who ​have spent time with DCT​ over the years​.

Melissa Deakins has been involved with DCT ​since its inception​. As a leader of DCT’s board and a passionate patron, she has seen more of the ins and outs than ​others. Here is Melissa​’s take on DCT and being one of our models for the Magnificent campaign…

Once​,​ my nieces were with me when I accepted one of those giant checks from ​amellisa major sponsor on behalf of the theater, so they are used​ to seeing me as a part of the DCT family.

My great nieces and nephews are growing up and don’t come to DCT with me anymore, so the kids I bring are borrowed friends. I just try to introduce them to live theater.

I valued the opportunity live theater ​gave me to be with my great nieces and nephews, seeing literature come alive for them, and opening the door for great conversations. We always made a special occasion of going to the Theater, eating out and dressing up.

Melissa shows us that even if kids don’t live in your home, there are ​many in your circle who can benefit from the DCT experience. ​One of our featured journeys this season is THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE. EDWARD, the toy rabbit, takes a very personal and powerful journey that has teachable moments for the young and the young at heart. ​We hope you will share the story of Edward Tulane with the kids you most treasure. The book by Kate DiCamillo is available ​for sale ​at the DCT Store​ and of course available for checkout​ ​ at your local library .



THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE runs at DCT March 18 – April 10. You won’t want to miss this one, we mean it!

Get your tickets today!

Finding friends in unusual (often fuzzy) places


Animal2We’ve all seen the super cute photos: the chimpanzee snuggling with a baby tiger; the mother cat who’s accepted an abandoned infant pig as part of her litter; the German Shepherd who follows on the webbed heels of a duck with unflinching loyalty, and the list goes on. Each time, these scenes make a special deposit in our love bank because it’s unexpected and because it shows a soft side that we can’t explain, and sometimes can’t understand.

AnimalThe most shocking, of course, are the surprising bonds between predator and prey. A wildlife photographer was taking photos in northern Canada when a polar bear arrived on the scene. The photographer immediately feared for his Canadian Eskimo sled dog, but to his astonishment, the bear nuzzled the dog and in return, the dog licked the bear’s face. Thus a heartwarming round of playtime and cuddling began between two natural predators.

How does this happen? Of course we all know it’s not a good idea for humans to take in a predator to try to tame it as a pet, but there are those instances Animal3where the lion is reunited with the conservation expert that saved his life and greets him with an embrace, and it warms us because there is no fear on either end. There is a bond, and the king of beasts has a memory of a time when it was vulnerable and this furless two-legged being came to its rescue. I think it’s a kind of love we all want to possess.

We see these animals not only getting along and playing together, but embracing each other and holding each other in a way that shows ultimate safety and lack of discrimination. It’s hard for us to imagine embracing someone we don’t know and showing that kind of compassion, so we try to learn a lesson from these other species that it can be done. It’s especially hard when we see people that are different from us as potential predators. How do we make it our default reaction to embrace and accept and protect? That’s a question that I don’t have an answer for , but these animals definitely demonstrate that you can’t judge a book by even its furry cover.



DCT’s holiday production NOT A CREATURE WAS STIRRING shows another unusual friendship between one of the most notorious of animal adversaries, the cat and the mouse. We see the Mouse family embarking on a dangerous journey to securely bypass the family cat to obtain some holiday decorations. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I promise you that this play with give your family all the warm feels that you experience when you see the bird wrapping its wing around a cold baby bunny. It’s perfect for a holiday snuggle.

NOT A CREATURE WAS STIRRING with Kathy Burks’ cuddly puppets runs through December 23 in the Studio Theater. For tickets or more information, call 214-740-0051 or visit dct.org.



Photo Credits:

German Shepard and Duck

Polar Bear and Husky

Lion and Human


Reasons to Believe…

Francis Fuselier's HeadshowIt’s officially the Holiday season, and DCT’s production of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET certainly gets you in the mood with songs and sounds and some of the most celebrated local actors and actresses. Francis Fuselier has returned to play the most important role of the season – Kris Kringle. His performance, both last season and this, leaves everyone feeling there’s no reason whatsoever to outgrow a belief in miracles.

Nancy Churnin from Dallas Morning News said this of Fuselier’s performance, “A deep bench of adult acting talent —twinkly-eyed Francis Fuselier as Kris Kringle — keeps the charm grounded in its gentle thesis that the ability to believe is the first step in learning to love.”

Learning to love? That’s a tall order. We talked to Mr. Fuselier about his role
and what it is about MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET that has audiences eagerly returning to see it a second time. Here’s what he had to say:

_KA16723I think people love MIRACLE because a) it’s a good story and lots of fun to watch with lots of spectacle, singing and dancing, b) everyone loves Santa Claus! c) It’s a show for the whole family, and d) it’s the perfect feel good holiday show. The thing that amazes me most is the love everyone in the audience has for the character of Kris Kringle. It is very humbling. I get to meet so many wonderful children and their parents at the autograph/picture sessions after the show and have such a good time with the other cast members. 

Director Robyn Flatt says, “Our Santa, as performed by veteran actor Frances Fuselier, is so genuine, so charming and delivers authenticity with an unending twinkle of the eye.” TheaterJones referred to Fuselier as, “One of the most authentic looking and sounding Santas to grace the stage. This Kris Kringle is the real deal.”

It seems that Fuselier is also benefiting from his time as Santa. He concludes, saying:

_KA16434The show makes me a better person because when you are expected to BE someone like Santa, you just can’t help trying harder to fulfill those expectations. I find myself looking at the world with more love and patience, and it was an unexpected and beautiful thing that took me totally by surprise!  After last year’s show, a friend sent me a copy of a Reader’s Digest article about an actor in New York who has written a book about that very same experience after playing Santa in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas shows. Life is indeed, strange, random and wonderful!  Theater CAN change your outlook and your life.


275x275_miracle (1) 

Don’t miss your chance to see Francis Fuselier and the rest of the magical cast in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET playing at DCT now through December 20th. For tickets or more information, call 214-740-0051 or visit dct.org.

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!