North Texas is never short on performing arts. With symphonies, operas, dance and theater flourishing in abundance throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area, there are always plenty of options for entertainment onstage. And the suburbs are no exception, especially with one area theatrical director finding ways to celebrate diversity and inclusion in the smaller cities as much as in the larger cities of the Metroplex.
Ryan Matthieu Smith has worked with a number of the area’s prominent theater companies, including Shakespeare Dallas which produces “Shakespeare in the Park” productions throughout the summer, and with the professional company Theatre Three. He has also worked with Cara Mia Theatre, one of two Dallas companies focusing on Latinx theater experiences.
While those companies are in Dallas proper, Smith has stepped outside the Dallas city limits to work as a director with North Texas Performing Arts Repertory in Plano on musicals such as “Heathers” and “Mamma Mia!”
Smith spoke recently about his experiences in bringing his queer creativity to area stages, whether those stages are downtown or out in the ’burbs.
What attracts you to the arts scene here as a director and performer?
Ryan Matthieu Smith: I am a native of Oak Cliff, but I had moved to New York for college and did film work in Los Angeles. I felt like the access for someone who is queer and brown in Dallas was a big reason I came back. The arts are supportive, and if you’re dedicated and show up, you get in the room, and you keep getting invited back.
How would you describe your experience as a queer creative in North Texas?
RMS: I make queer art because I am queer, but it is not my focus. It’s more about reflecting humanity and we–queer, trans, nonbinary–exist, and we create just like everyone else. I’ve created work all over Dallas and Fort Worth.
You’ve directed shows in Plano, a suburb north of Dallas. It’s no surprise that there is a queer community in the suburbs, but what have you discovered about the audiences outside the big city?
RMS: We are building an audience and they are finding us. We have people who connect and return and want to see this work. We know there is a queer audience in North Texas, and there’s no reason we can’t reflect that diversity and inclusion to them. Dallas/Fort Worth is large enough to see our stories, whether it’s in downtown or in Uptown or in the suburbs like Plano.
How else are you involved with area theater companies?
RMS: I am the associate director for “Much Ado About Nothing” with interim Artistic Director Jenni Stewart for Shakespeare Dallas, and we begin our rehearsals for the summer season on May 1. I am also the costume designer for both summer shows, “Much Ado” and “Two Gentlemen of Verona.”
I’m also continuing my work within circus arts throughout the coming months. Lone Star Circus just hosted the second American Circus Fest. Acts from all over the world came to Dallas to compete under the big top tent. It was a huge success!
You are involved beyond just directing shows in terms of reflecting the community. Can you elaborate on that?
RMS: I’m a board member for the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access committee at Shakespeare Dallas, and we just hosted a community event called “Together We Dine.” It was in partnership with Project Unity, and it’s become an annual event. It’s a wonderful opportunity to break bread and have open and honest dialogue with folks from all over the DFW community.
What would you say to someone new or visiting to the area about the performing arts scene in North Texas?
RMS: What I can say for sure is there is a type of art for everyone. Classic or Shakespearean theater–we have it. Great musical theater–we have that. Avant garde–we have that, too. That’s a big plus about the area. It is such a diverse metroplex for audiences and artists. There is such access to amazing art here and, for artists like me, we can sustain an excellent way of life here.
Check out our scene in downtown and Fort Worth, but reach out to the suburbs. There is incredible art happening.
Rich Lopez is a staff writer for Dallas Voice.
This story is made possible with support from Comcast Corporation.