Dallas playwright Jonathan Norton named interim artistic director of the Dallas Theater Center

Jonathan Norton with Robert Barry Fleming, artistic director of the Actors’ Theatre of Louisville – who also directed Norton’s comedy, I AM DELIVERED’T when it premiered at the Theater Center in February. Photo: Jerome Weeks / KERA News

Dallas playwright Jonathan Norton — who’s had three plays premiere at the Dallas Theater Center — has been appointed the company’s interim artistic director.

Kevin Moriarty, who had been artistic director since 2007, was appointed executive director in 2022 — with the departure of Jeffrey Woodward as managing director. At the time, a search was announced for a new artistic director.

Since 2022, Moriarty, Norton and Sarahbeth Grossman, the theater’s artistic producer, shared the duties of artistic director, according to Thursday’s press release from the DTC. Those duties included season planning. Grossman recently left — hence the need for an interim artistic director.

Norton has been the company’s resident playwright and literary manager since 2019. That same year, his semi-autobiographical play about growing up in Pleasant Grove, penny candy, was produced by the DTC. And in February, the Theater Center premiered his latest comedy, I AM DELIVERED’T, which concerned Black church ushers and LGBT church members. It was a co-production with the esteemed Actors’ Theatre of Louisville.

In Thursday’s press release, the DTC also announced that its board of directors “will launch a national search for a new Enloe/Rose Artistic Director in the fall, with a new Enloe/Rose Artistic Director to be appointed in late 2025.”

Ace Anderson, Leon Addison Brown and Liz Mikel in Jonathan Norton’s semi-autobiographical play, penny candy, which premiered at the DTC in 2019. / Dallas Theater Center

Between 2019 and 2022, the DTC experienced a drop of 47% in paid attendance as well as a loss of 60% in season subscriptions — like many other North Texas performing arts groups struggling to bounce back after COVID. But then, last year, the DTC cancelled all of its summer programming and laid off nearly half its staff.

In addition, the ten members of its resident acting company were told the theater would return to show-by-show casting. In effect, this dissolved one of the purposes of a resident acting ensemble, which provides actors some assurance of employment during a season.

Last week, the Theater Center announced its 2024-25 season, which includes Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors, Waitress, Shane, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Primary Trust, as well as its annual holiday production of A Christmas Carol.

As a playwright, Norton first gained attention in 2013 with African-American Repertory Theater’s premiere of his play, Homeschooled. Since then, his drama about Medgar Evers’ shooting, Mississippi Goddamn, was staged at the South Dallas Cultural Center in 2015. It was staged in Memphis in 2022 by Playhouse on the Square. The next year, the American Theatre Critics Association gave the drama the group’s M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award.

Norton has also had his plays developed or produced by the La Jolla Playhouse in California, Primary Stages in New York and the Pyramid Theatre Company in Iowa. In North Texas, his work has been presented by Bishop Arts Theatre Center, Soul Rep, Kitchen Dog Theater, Undermain Theatre and Theatre Three.