Dallas Children's Theater Blog

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

Artist at Work: An Interview with DCT Technical Director Josh Smith

It takes a village to make a play happen. Though the actors are the face of the operation, there is a body of artists making our work at Dallas Children’s Theater possible. From artists in charge of lighting the stage to those responsible for every moment of sounds, to those actually constructing the set, there are dozens of people thinking through every single detail to ensure your experience as an audience member is nothing less than extraordinary.

DCT Technical Director Josh Smith took time out of his busy schedule to talk about the process of assembling the touring set of HOW I BECAME A PIRATE. The show literally traveled to 60 cities and performed for 113,791 audience members before returning to Dallas for a four-week run on the DCT mainstage this June. Over the course of our interview, Josh let us in on the steps involved in building a set, the challenges of creating a transportable pirate ship, and how young people can work towards a career in technical theater.

How did you get into theater?
I kind of stumbled into theater. My older sister was in theater when I was in college, and I’d go see their final performances. For fun, I’d help them strike. Later, when I went to the same college, the teachers already knew me. And they said, “If you want to work in theater, we’ll give you scholarship money.” I thought, “Hey, get paid to play around and build stuff: my kind of deal.”

What did you do when you first started out there? What were your jobs?
I did some set construction. As I got good at it, they had me do more and more set construction, but I was in a theater program where there were never enough guys, so I always ended up on stage. Even though I never auditioned for anything, I’d be cast. And I’d say, “Just let me run sound or lights or the flyline,” but I was always on stage.

What’s the first step in getting ready to design a set, and what was your experience like getting ready for PIRATE?
When you’re designing a set, the first step is obviously reading the script. You read the script; you do research on the subject – for this case, our designer did research on pirates and studied the [How I Became a Pirate] books. My job comes in usually after the designers come up with their design and talk to the director to make sure they’re on the same page. I get to see the plan and the drawings, and then I have to figure out how to build what they want, even if it defies physics. We have to make sure we’re in budget and on time, so there are a lot of steps involved, and one of the biggest things is making sure the actors are safe.

How did knowing that your set would have to be boxed up after each performance to tour the country affect your process?
One of the big things about tours is you can’t build a big, heavy, unit set. Everything has to fit into a box truck, so everything needs to break apart, be as light as possible, and be as durable as possible because it’s going to get thrown around and slammed around. It’s a big challenge balancing all that while also making a set that can be put together within a two-hour time span. For the touring group to build it, the set has to be light enough to allow them to move everything.

What was your work schedule for building this set, and what was the team process?
Here, we try really hard to keep a 9 to 5 schedule as much as possible and not work on weekends during the building stage, so a lot of it comes down to planning ahead of time, knowing your crew and what their strengths are – making sure people who are good at welding do welding; people who are good at finish work do finish work; and people that are good at artsy, decorative stuff do artsy, decorative stuff.

What do you enjoy about your job, and what’s difficult about it?
I really enjoy the challenges. No two sets are the same. You have curved stair railings; you have crow’s nests that have to be supported with minimal amount of structure showing. There are always different and interesting challenges. That’s my favorite part of the job, but that can also be the most stressful part of the job because you can do anything with the right amount of money and time. In theater, though, those are two things that you usually don’t have a whole lot of.

What advice do you have for kids who are interested in technical theater and design?
Just jump in there and do it. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. A mistake is a good thing to make as long as you learn from it. If you really care about it, go out there, read books on it, do research, and get involved in internship programs. The more people you work with, the more different experiences you have and the better you’re going to be.


HOW I BECAME A PIRATE runs June 15th through July 8th at DCT. For tickets and more info, visit dct.org.


Photos by: Karen Almond, and courtesy of Josh Smith and Ryan Diller


Ryan Diller with CaterpillarRyan Diller is a DCT Guest Writer, pictured here with one of his favorite childhood memories. He is the former Web Editor of 1966: A JOURNAL OF CREATIVE NONFICTION, and his writing has appeared in MULTIBRIEFS and HOT PRESS. He is currently working towards an MFA in Playwriting at the University of Calgary.

Remembering Ryan Goldblatt: Seeing Ryan’s Show for the First Time (part 3 of 3)

One of theater’s most profound aspects is the fact that any one performance can leave a deep, permanent impact on an audience member. Such was the case when Ryan Goldblatt saw HOW I BECAME A PIRATE with his grandparents in 2010. His mother, Joanne, remembers Ryan as bouncing off the walls with excitement when he came home, so thrilled was he by seeing his favorite book brought to life. The performance—the only theater performance he ever attended—was a highlight of Ryan’s all too short life. On September 15, 2010, Ryan died just a few weeks shy of his fourth birthday after a brave and difficult fight with Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor, a rare type of cancer that usually strikes children under the age of three.

Shortly thereafter, Joanne and her husband, Andy, welcomed another child into the world, a daughter whom Ryan had chosen a name for: Emily. The three continue to keep Ryan’s memory alive through the work of the Ryan Goldblatt Foundation, which is dedicated to raising funds for the organizations and medical institutions that served Ryan during his lifetime.

In this three-part series, Joanne—with input from family members—discusses her son, the Ryan Goldblatt Foundation, and DCT’s production of HOW I BECAME A PIRATE, which is dedicated in Ryan’s memory.


Seeing Ryan’s Show for the First Time
(part 3 of 3)

Is Emily excited to see HOW I BECAME A PIRATE? 
Emily is definitely excited to see the show. She loves ALL Dallas Children’s Theater plays, but knowing this is the only show Ryan saw is very special to her.

Do you see shows with Emily now? What does she think of the theater?
Of course we see shows with Emily now! We are season members of Dallas Children’s Theater. She sees about four or five plays a year. She LOVES Dallas Children’s Theater and the whole experience.

Why do you and Emily enjoy coming to Dallas Children’s Theater specifically?
I love coming to the theater because there is something to be said about seeing a performance “live.” The scenery and backdrops are always stunning. There is no question how much time and dedication and passion are poured into each one of the plays at Dallas Children’s Theater. I love watching Emily’s face during the play. She is so mesmerized and is taken to another place and time. It’s truly amazing. She loves seeing her favorite characters come to life in shows such as PINKALICIOUS; FANCY NANCY; and GO, DOG. GO!

How did you react when you found out DCT would be producing PIRATE again?
I cried. That was my first reaction. It was a happy cry, though! I was so touched beyond words that Dallas Children’s Theater wanted to bring back the play because of Ryan. As a mother, I can’t think of a higher compliment. All of the hard work and effort we have put into this foundation has led to this: Ryan’s memory is living on. I couldn’t be more proud. As mentioned before, Andy and I never saw the play. His grandparents took him. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to see the play that Ryan loved so much. I’m sure it will be emotional for me, no doubt. I’ll cry rivers, but it will be perfect.

What do you hope will occur as a result of DCT dedicating the production to Ryan?
My hope is that more people will get to know Ryan. I hope that his memory continues to touch people in positive ways. I also hope that families with young children choose to take their kids to plays more often. Going to the theater is such an amazing experience for a child. I hope more children get exposed to theater and benefit from it the way Ryan did and the way Emily does.

Any thoughts from Andy?
I’m very excited that this show is being brought to life again and that our story somehow inspired it. HOW I BECAME A PIRATE is a story about a young boy who uses his imagination to create wonderful places and characters. It’s a great message and one that is very near and dear to our hearts as we remember our son, Ryan.


HOW I BECAME A PIRATE runs from June 15th to July 8th. For more information, go to dct.org.


Contributors: Joanne Goldblatt (Ryan’s Mom), Andy Goldblatt (Ryan’s Dad), Emily Goldblatt (Ryan’s Sister), Neil and Lois Goldblatt (Ryan’s grandparents), and Jack and Barbara Wilpon (Ryan’s grandparents)

Photos: Courtesy of the Goldblatt Family and Ryan Diller


Ryan Diller with CaterpillarCompiled by Ryan Diller, a DCT Guest Writer who is pictured here with one of his favorite childhood memories. He is the former Web Editor of 1966: A JOURNAL OF CREATIVE NONFICTION, and his writing has appeared in MULTIBRIEFS and HOT PRESS. He is currently working towards an MFA in Playwriting at the University of Calgary.

Dallas Children’s Theater takes the magic of live theater to Dallas Public Libraries for summer fun

During summer 2018, Dallas Children’s Theater (DCT) is taking its love of stories on the road to Dallas Public Libraries (DPL) through the DCT STORYTIME initiative. At 25 different library locations, DCT-trained interns will lead an interactive drama workshop that merges reading and acting. Attendees will have the book How I Became a Pirate, on stage at DCT from June 15 – July 8, 2018, read to them and then act out a scene from the story. DCT STORYTIME events are best suited for children ages 5-12.

For over 16 years, Dallas Children’s Theater has been going to public libraries in the summer to present the DCT STORYTIME program. Graduate-level theater students who are interning at the theater give participants a chance to learn about the page-to-stage process. This summer, students will read from the How I Became a Pirate storybook and then have their own chance to act out the story. Costume pieces are provided and area librarians look forward to weaving this offering into their already-existing programming each summer.

This community program increases access to theatrical arts to a broader range of Dallas children and families, as they experience live theater in a joyful, dynamic way at a location easily accessible to them. “Participation in the arts is key to inspiring learning in all other areas of life. Through this outreach, we are doing our part to ensure children are introduced to the soft skills, like sharing emotions in different ways and being able to focus for long periods of time—skills that will ultimately predict their success in life,” said Robyn Flatt, Executive Artistic Director of DCT.

In the face of Dallas’ educational inequities and reports on the lack of middle-skills workers in Texas, DCT’s years of experience teaching social-emotional skills and use of teaching artists are essential tools to preparing children to be college- and career- ready. DCT programs instill such skills as cooperation, empathy, team building, decision-making and others, all skills that employers say are in the greatest demand. As research supports, children love interacting with professional actors who are both inspiring and knowledgeable about their craft.

“Working with Dallas Public Libraries and our other community partners is a natural pathway to extend our unique service during the summer,” said Flatt. “We want all young citizens of Dallas to have equitable access to experiences only DCT can provide, and this use of our unique and enriching theater experience really allows us to do that in a special way.” Rated one of the country’s top five children’s theaters by TIME magazine, Dallas Children’s Theater is the largest performing arts venue in the Southwest focused solely on productions, classes and other programming for children and families.


The following are the confirmed workshops. Regular updates to the schedule will be posted here.

Dates Time Location Address
Mon. June 11 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Skyline Library 6006 Everglade Rd.  75227
Tues. June 12 11:00 am – 12:00 pm Forest Green Library 9015 Forest Ln.  75243
Tues. June 12 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Audelia Road Library 10045 Audelia Rd.  75238
Wed. June 13 11:00 am – 12:00 pm Hampton-Illinois Library 2951 S. Hampton Rd.  75224
Wed. June 13 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Highland Hills Library 6200 Bonnie View Rd.  75241
Thurs. June 14 11:00 am – 12:00 pm Fretz Park Library 6990 Belt Line Rd.   75254
Thurs. June 14 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Polk-Wisdom Library 7151 Library Ln.  75232
Mon. June 18 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Skillman Southwestern Library 5707 Skillman St.   75206
Tues. June 19 1:00 pm  – 2:00pm Dallas West Library 2332 Singleton Blvd.   75212
Wed. June 20 11:00 am – 12:00 pm Lochwood Library 11221 Lochwood Blvd.   75218
Wed. June 20 1:30 pm  – 2:30 pm Mountain Creek Library 6102 Mountain Creek Pkwy 75249
Thurs. June 21 11:00 am – 12:00 pm Timberglen Library 18505 Midway Rd. 75287
Thurs. June 21 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm Renner Frankford Library 6400 Frankford Rd.  75252
Fri. June 22 10:00 am – 11:00 pm Highland Park Library (in the park) 4500 Drexel Dr.   75205
Fri. June 22 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Prairie Creek Library 9609 Lake June Rd.  75217
Mon. June 25 11:00 am – 12:00 pm Timberglen Library 18505 Midway Rd. 75287
Tues. June 26 11:00 am – 12:00 pm Martin Luther King Library 2922 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd Bldg C 75215
Tues. June 26 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Bachman Lake Library 9480 Webb Chapel Rd.  75220
Wed. June 27 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm University Park Library 8383 Preston Center Plaza, Ste 200 75225
Thurs. June 28 11:00 am – 12:00 pm Park Forest Library 3421 Forest Ln.   75234
Thurs. June 28 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm J.Erik Jonsson Central Library 2nd Floor, 1515 Young Street 75201
Mon. July 2 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Grauwyler Park Library 2146 Gilford St.   75235
Tues. July 3 10:30 am – 11:30 am White Rock Hills Library 9150 Ferguson Rd.  75228
Tues. July 3 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Arcadia Park Library 1402 N. Justin Ave.  75211
Thurs. July 5 11:00 am – 12:00 pm North Oak Cliff Library 302 W. 10th St.  75208
Thurs. July 5 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Lakewood Library 6121 Worth St.   75214



Photo credits: Craig Lynch; Courtesy of Dallas Children’s Theater.