In Summer 2016, Downtown Dallas, Inc. sponsored a contest for locals to create Dallas experiences Live Like a Local, with a series of winning #mydtdcontest experiences launching this fall on the Guidrr app. As part of this effort, local Dallas downtown small businesses also gave away fun prizes and perks to winners. One supporting business was Undermain Theatre, with their very own #mydtd story.
What do Frank Lloyd Wright and an underground fall-out shelter have in common? Both are key parts of the many-layered story of Undermain Theatre.
Most Dallasites have never heard of Undermain, an authentic indie culture outpost in hip Deep Ellum. Located in a small side street off Main Street, just around the corner from local food, coffee and street art — Undermain is the brainchild of Katherine Owens and Bruce DoBose, who have run this arts not for profit for more than 33 years.
Today a key part of Deep Ellum’s vibrant and growing arts scene, many patrons of the theater don’t know it used to be an old fallout shelter. “In fact, our logo is inspired by the fallout shelter symbol,” says Katherine, “and the name “Undermain Theatre” comes from literally being ‘under Main’ street.” Another fun fact: The Undermain Theatre has the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright seats.
The launch of the whole project so many years ago was a bet on the Dallas cultural scene, says Katherine. “The arts scene was already well developed. We saw a crowd that enjoyed and was interested in intelligent theatre. So we opened Undermain Theatre to address an underserved audience of people who enjoyed literary poetic tradition in American Drama. We wanted to showcase new playwrights that needed to be exposed who were more experiential in their works,” shares Katherine. “These plays were not available for audience consumption in Dallas and we wanted to change that.”
Katherine recalls they found their first two scripts from the Dallas Public Library (Theatre of Wonders and Word Plays) as a way to get started – and the rest they say, is theater history. She personally loves this Dallas Morning News quote about the not-for-profit: “When Undermain tells you they’re going to show you a good time, you better believe it!”
When speaking about about Undermain, Katherine gets philosophical. “It’s just a rehearsal until you have the audience,” she says. “And every season, we’re looking to grow that audience, and share more theater experiences with Dallas locals.”
This season, four original plays will be performed during the fall and winter. Matthew Paul Olmos’, so go the ghosts of mexico, part one closed October 8, and 10 out of 12 by Anne Washburn starts November 9.
For Katherine, Undermain isn’t a business, it’s a labor of love and a commitment to growing the local Deep Ellum community. “It can’t be a business when it’s what you love to do,” she says. “We are more than just a theater. We are also a way to support the businesses in and around Deep Ellum.” Her hyper-local tip? She loves All Good Cafe but also gives a shout-out to Pecan Lodge, Baker’s Ribs and Murray’s Coffee Shop.
We asked Katherine what gets her and Bruce most excited about owning a business in downtown Dallas. “Firstly, people are super nice,” she says. “And, it’s a walkable part of town, where everyone knows each other and looks after each other. The arts community is sophisticated, smart, and supportive. Here in Deep Ellum, there’s a genuine desire to grow the Dallas Arts community.”
This led Katherine to talk about her passion for growing the Dallas arts scene arts even more, especially for those who visit as tourists and for locals who could have more cultural experiences downtown. “If artists knew that the Dallas arts community was as alive and well that more would stop and tour here,” she says. “Just like people go to Austin for a night to see a show and do dinner, Dallas can be done in just the same way – particularly around the arts and Deep Ellum.”
“Just like people go to Austin for a night to see a show and do dinner, Dallas can be done in just the same way – particularly around the arts and Deep Ellum.” ~ Katherine Owens
To experience Undermain, take advantage of the 2016 season, (note: there are several discounts currently available for students, seniors, and KERA members. Rush tickets are also available to those that subscribe to the mailing list).
For 2016-2017 season tickets, click here: http://undermain.org/season-tickets/. The season will showcase four talented and original playwrights. Season passes can be purchased here: http://undermain.org/season-tickets/season-pass