North Texas’ Esteemed Theater Celebrates 25 Years with a Spectacular Lineup That Explores the Depths of Human Experience, from Houdini to Oaxaca.
DALLAS/FORT WORTH, Texas (November 20, 2023) – Marking a quarter-century of theatrical excellence, Amphibian Stage proudly unveils its much-anticipated 2024 season lineup, set to kick off on February 2. This announcement comes shortly after the conclusion of the 2023 season, which featured a landmark inaugural acting competition, a co-production of unparalleled scale, and a successful rollout of a tiered ticketing model.
The 2024 season will showcase an exceptional range of never-before-seen theatrical experiences, pushing the boundaries of storytelling and inviting audiences to engage in new ways. In one season, audiences can participate in a séance, jam out to a gospel/rock concert, and travel to the glittering city of Oaxaca…all right in the heart of Fort Worth’s thriving South Main Street.
The Main Stage productions kick off with Instructions for a Séance (February 2 – 11), a magical journey created by Texas theatre artist Katie Bender and directed by Lily Wolff. This unique theatrical experiment, inspired by Harry Houdini’s spirit, invites audiences to join with Bender and confront the question: What are you trying to escape? April sees the arrival of Marie and Rosetta (April 5 – 28) by George Brant, a vibrant collision of gospel and rock & roll that brings to life the untold story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Marie Knight. Denise Lee, a DFW favorite, embodies the incomparable Tharpe in a performance that promises to be a soul-lifting entertainment experience. In the summer, The Handless King (July 26 – August 18) takes center stage, a morbidly funny new play by Harley Elias set in the Assyrian Empire. The play, an audience hit at SparkFest’23, unfolds as a deadly dispute between two Sumerian scribes takes unexpected turns, revealing profound truths and a revolutionary spirit. The Handless King is directed by Co-Artistic Director Jay Duffer, the creative mind behind Amphibian hits Marie Antoinette, Babette’s Feast, Spaceman, and more. Closing out the season is the uproarious The Amazing, Fabulous, and Spectacular Untruths of Juan Garcia (October 11 – November 3), a new comedy by Kathleen Culebro (based on the play La verdad sospechosa by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón). Directed by Evan Michael Woods (behind last season’s Summer hit Miss Molly), this comedic joy-ride weaves a tapestry of tall tales and misadventures, promising a night of laughter and unexpected twists.
As we enter the 25th season, Amphibian Stage reaffirms its commitment to supporting the creation of new work and providing a platform for underrepresented voices. SparkFest 2024, taking place from June 13 to 26, will shine a spotlight on the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) community, building on the success of the 2023 festival. The national acting competition, inspired by the “Van Cliburn Festival,” will offer AAPI actors a chance to compete for $18,000 in cash prizes.
Amphibian Stage’s 25th season is a testament to the transformative power of live performance and its ability to connect communities through the shared experience of storytelling. As we embark on this milestone year, we invite audiences to join us in celebrating 25 years of theatrical excellence and the promise of many more years to come.
Amphibian Stage 2024 Lineup
Main Stage Plays
February 2 – 11
Created by Katie Bender | Directed by Lily Wolff
A DIY Séance to Summon Harry Houdini
“I literally just googled ‘instructions for a séance.’ I took the night off, escaped the kid’s bedtime, to try this here with you. Tonight.”
-An excerpt from Instructions for a Séance
A century after Harry Houdini wowed the people of Fort Worth, Texas theatre artist Katie Bender brings magic and theatre together to conjure his spirit.
Take your seat at Katie Bender’s “DIY séance party”, as she attempts night after night to escape her own life by summoning the spirit of master escapologist Harry Houdini. This theatrical experiment, first workshopped at The Playwrights Center and The Alley All New Festival, transforms Bender’s mesmerizing personal journey into a collective experience that asks the audience: what are you trying to escape?
Don’t miss the opportunity to participate in this unpredictable theatrical event, where reality and illusion converge in a gripping exploration of the human experience.
“Lily and I have known and admired each other’s work for years since first meeting at UT Austin in 2011. We both had babies in the pandemic and it has been an incredible honor and privilege to explore this séance together as artists and mothers, first at the Alley All New Festival in June of 2023 and now here at Amphibian.”- Katie Bender, Creator of Séance
“Katie is a stunning writer and performer. We are so lucky to get the best of both in this piece – and as a very special bonus we get Katie as herself. I can’t imagine a better guide for Amphibian audiences. To the audience: We can’t wait to meet you. We can’t do this without you. Come! Escape bedtime with us.” – Lily Wolff, Director of Séance
April 5 – 28
By George Brant | Director TBA | Music Director TBA
An Earth-Shaking Musical Celebration
“God don’t want the Devil to have all the good music right?”
-Excerpt from Marie & Rosetta
Witness the collision of gospel and rock as DFW favorite Denise Lee embodies the incomparable “Godmother of Rock ‘N’ Roll,” legendary Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The play chronicles Tharpe’s first rehearsal with protégée Marie Knight in 1947, setting the stage for a historic tour that would establish them as one of the most significant music duos of the 20th century.
Despite their influence on Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, and more, Knight and Tharpe go largely uncredited for their contributions to rock and roll. George Brant’s play aims to correct historical oversights by providing a stage for Marie and Rosetta to share their story through powerful performances.
Don’t miss the chance to witness the birth of a musical legacy that transcends time with an unforgettable night of toe-tapping, head-bopping, and soul-lifting entertainment.
“While I had heard of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, I didn’t realize how great her legacy was. And I’m almost ashamed to say that I didn’t know about Marie Knight until reading this piece. There are so many unexplored stories in our history. I am so grateful to be able to play a part in sharing this one with the greater community.” – Denise Lee, Starring in Marie & Rosetta
July 26 – August 18
A new play by Harley Elias | Directed by Jay Duffer
“Listen kid, I’ll keep your secret, but this revolution… it needs to happen now. We need to do it now.”
-Excerpt from The Handless King
A coworker dispute turns deadly in this morbidly funny new play by Harley Elias. Set during the Assyrian Empire, The Handless King casts our heroes as two lowly government employees, both tasked with tallying the dead in wake of a recent battle. The problem? Only one of them can keep their jobs. As the day wears on, truths are revealed, revolution draws near, and someone’s losing limbs before the sun is set. The play drew inspiration from a stele (slab of writing) dating back to 728 BCE, that displayed two writing systems existing at once for the first time in our natural history. This high-octane historical fantasy comes to you after a wildly successful development at Amphibian Stage’s 2023 Sparkfest.
“Having The Handless King in SparkFest was a utopic theater moment for me, and is the reason this play exists. The incredible direction of Jay Duffer, the artistic vision of Kathleen Culebro, and the cast and crew lifted this play up and made it what it is now. It’s a dream come true to bring it to life in a production at Amphibian and get to continue the work with Jay. It feels like the play is coming home.” – Harley Elias, Playwright of The Handless King
October 11 – November 3
A New Comedy by Kathleen Culebro
based on the play La verdad sospechosa by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón
Directed by Evan Michael Woods
A Long-Awaited Comedic Joy-Ride
“This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a big fat lie.”
-Excerpt from Juan Garcia
He’s got looks that kill, charm for days, and absolutely…no. grip. on. reality. Juan Garcia has returned to his hometown of Oaxaca, armed with grand tales and big dreams of becoming the city’s biggest celebrity. Watch as he weaves a tapestry of tall tales and misadventures, aiming to impress (and possibly confuse) everyone, particularly the lady of his misguided affections. But as bills pile up and tired servants reach their limit, the stage is set for a comedy of errors that even Juan can’t lie his way out of. Fiction collides with truth in a spectacular night of theatre that promises to leave you breathless.
“There are so many wonderful plays—of all genres–written in Spanish that are hardly known beyond Latin America or Spain. I am excited to share one of my favorites, LA VERDAD SOSPECHOSA, with you. This source material is as funny as anything Shakespeare or Moliere wrote. Sure, as a woman writing in the 21st century, I did feel the need to update the story line a bit. After all, in the original, Juan Garcia’s only punishment for all the trouble his lies cause is that he has to marry the plainer of the two women. Oh hell no! I hope my version inspires audiences to expand their understanding of “The Classics.” And if you haven’t done so already, I’ll bet it will make you want to visit Oaxaca.” – Kathleen Culebro, Playwright & Founding Artistic Director of Amphibian Stage
Stand-Up Comic Residency*
Amphibian Stage will begin to roll out the lineup of 2024 comedians in January.
In 2024, SparkFest, the annual performing arts festival, will shift its focus to celebrate the AAPI community. Building on the success of the 2023 festival, which featured the inaugural Acting Competition, SparkFest’24 promises an even grander experience. Like last year, this event will become a beacon for artists from across the globe, fostering community and inspiration in Fort Worth.
This year’s festival will continue to showcase and develop new plays, offering Fort Worth a unique glimpse into the future of performing arts. The festival will again host a National acting competition, drawing inspiration from the renowned “Van Cliburn Festival,” offering a substantial $18,000 in cash prizes for the finalists. This competition will be open exclusively to AAPI actors.
In addition to the acting competition, SparkFest will feature a variety of engaging events. Past festivals have included highlights such as Light up the Runway, a Project Runway-style fashion show, dance performances, interactive workshops, and more. The festival lineup and details on the acting competition will be revealed in early 2024.