Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Community theatre production links

Here are some links to the theaters in the Dallas area related to this week's appearance on "Good Morning Texas" on WFAA Channel 8. Community theaters -- or theatres, because the spelling varies -- are fun ideas for staycations.

For a national list of community theatres, search the database at www.aact.org, which is the Internet home of the American Association of Community Theatre.

Duncanville Community Theater
"The Odd Couple" (female version)
Now through July 25

End of the Runway Theatre in Grapevine
"Lucky Stiff"
Now through Aug. 2

Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth
"Gutenberg! The Musical"
Now through Aug. 26

Contemporary Theatre of Dallas
Neil Simon's "Chapter 2"
Now through Sunday

Rover Dramawerks in Plano (yes, that’s how they spell Dramawerks)
"Epic Proportions"
Now through Aug. 8

Denton Community Theater
Now through Sunday

Rockwall Community Playhouse
"Get Smart"
July 24-Aug. 2

You could also check out

"Captain Blood: The Pirate Melodrama" at Pocket Sandwich Theatre in Dallas. That's a comedy that encourages audience members to participate by throwing popcorn at the actors. Pocket Sandwich Theatre calls it one of their "infamous popcorn-tossing comedy spoofs"

Info at www.pocketsandwich.com.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Staycation idea: Community theater

In college, I took a class called “theater appreciation.”

Was I interested in a career in theater? Not really. Did I think I could be an actor? No way. I was pretty sure that the only role I would ever play in Hollywood would be that of a tourist on the Walk of Fame asking aloud, “Are you kidding? Wink Martindale has a star on the Walk of Fame?”

The real reason I took theater appreciation was because I heard that it was an easy class to ace. That’s also why I took a class in paranormal anthropology, which included guest speakers such as a palm reader and a person who told me I had a green aura.

Well, the people who told me theater appreciation was an easy class were right. But I did learn a lot, and the highlight of the class was an assignment that I wasn't thrilled about: I had to work for a week as a stagehand during a community theater production.

It turned out to be really exciting, and a lot of fun, as I helped move sets between scenes and place props where they needed to be. That’s also when I first realized just how talented people involved in community theater can be.

Fifteen years later, I’m a huge fan of community theater. It's also great for staycations because community theater is inexpensive, it’s nearby, and it’s something that’s often overlooked.

I feel the same way after watching productions at smaller theaters. They certainly provide more bang for the buck. At a smaller theater, I can actually see the actors and singers instead of thirty rows of heads between me and the stage.

But don’t get me wrong. Broadway productions are fantastic. Touring Broadway-like productions are also terrific, so if you can make those part of a staycation, go for it. But don’t brush off community theaters, or other small stages, because they’re not as polished. It’s not like the actors are going to forget their lines or start laughing in the middle of the play. It’s not like a third-grader Christmas play with shepherds dressed in bed sheets and carrying hockey sticks.

You can find a community theater near you, and its production schedule, in the database at www.aact.org, which is the Internet home of the American Association of Community Theatre (yes, they spell it theatre.)

If you live in a large metro area, there are probably several community theaters presenting shows. Smaller stages, some with professional actors, some with amateurs, are also great destinations. See four shows in four nights, even if it’s a dinner theater, and you’ll still spend less than on a typical Broadway show.

Many community theaters also offer acting classes during the summer, which can be fun. Theaters are also searching for volunteers to help with productions, and it can be a lot of fun.

*** "The Great American Staycation: How to Make a Vacation at Home Fun for the Whole Family (and Your Wallet!)" is now available. You can find it in stores or online.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Staycation day trip ideas, links

For staycationers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I talked about several day trips during this week's appearance on "Good Morning Texas" on WFAA Channel 8. Here are links and info for those trips:


Davis, Oklahoma
Turner Falls Park has a 77 foot waterfall, picnic sites, concessions, hiking trails, natural caves, wading areas, sandy beaches
Arbuckle Wilderness Safari is a drive-thru safari

Broken Bow, Okla.
Beavers Bend Resort has camping in tents or cabins, swimming, golfing, Forest Heritage Center Museum, hiking and biking, train rides for kids
Great fishing in Broken Bow Lake


Whitney, Texas
Calls itself the “Getaway Capital of Texas”
Lake Whitney State Park has nearly 1,000 acres of area for picnics, swimming, fishing, camping, scuba diving

Glen Rose, Texas
Dinosaur Valley State Park has preserved dinosaur tracks in the riverbed
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is a scenic wildlife safari in your car


Jacksboro, Texas
Jacksboro Fort Richardson State Historical Park has old restored buildings and a pair of replicas of a 19th century fort. It has tours, camping, hiking, wading in a creek.

Dublin, Texas
Dublin Dr Pepper Bottling Center
The only Dr Pepper plant using the original cane-sugar formula. Tours, soda fountain, gift shop
(There's also a Dr Pepper Museum in Waco.)


Athens, Texas
Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
Aquariums with Texas fish, wetlands trail, hatchery, fishing
Also a company offering zipline rides

Kilgore, Texas
East Texas Oil Museum
Includes Boomtown, USA, –a full-scale town full of stores, people, animals, and machinery depicting the activity of a town booming in oil.

*** "The Great American Staycation: How to Make a Vacation at Home Fun for the Whole Family (and Your Wallet!)" is now available. You can find it in stores or online.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Special treatment at sporting events

Sporting events are great ways to spend staycation time. And if you plan ahead, you might be able to make a trip to the ballpark extra special.

You can contact a team’s front office or community-relations department and ask for VIP treatment. No, they won’t send a limo to pick you up or roll out a red carpet, but you can get special treatment. This is especially true in the minor leagues, whether its baseball, hockey, football or basketball. Minor league teams are very eager to please.

So take advantage of that. Before you go to a game, contact the team’s front office or community-relations department. Tell them you’re coming out to a game and you want to know how you can make it more special. If you’re bringing kids to the game, definitely tell the team that.

You and your family could be part of a promotion or skit. The team might allow your kids to get on the field for part of batting practice or give them a chance to run the bases between innings or after the game. (I’ve covered minor-league baseball, so I’ve seen this firsthand). Maybe you can get your kids a chance to sit in the dugout for a few minutes before the game. Maybe they can meet a few of the players, get autographs and take pictures with them. Whether a pro athlete is destined for the Hall of Fame or the end of the bench, meeting him or her is a thrill for kids.

A team might not be able to set something up for that night, so again, planning ahead is valuable. But it’s hard to imagine many teams saying, “Sorry, we can’t do anything for you.” That would be like saying, “Why don’t you just go find somewhere else to spend your money.”

That’s why it never hurts to ask.

One last thing, as we finish discussing how someone else can make a sporting event more special. You can do it, too, especially if you have young kids. If you’re going to a minor-league game, make it a major-league event by immersing yourself in it. Stop by the team shop and can get a team shirt and a team hat. If your kids want to make signs for the game, encourage them (and help with spelling). Take pictures during the game of the kids in their seats, with their sports garb on, and as they eat treats from the concession stand.

It will make a great souvenir. My wife made a scrapbook page of my trip to the RoughRiders game with my oldest son, and the best picture is a close-up of him licking a plastic spoon with the last drops of ice cream on it and chocolate all over his face. Great, messy fun.

*** "The Great American Staycation: How to Make a Vacation at Home Fun for the Whole Family (and Your Wallet!)" is now available. You can find it in stores or online.