Native Texan to Helm Renovation of Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed Kalita Humphreys Theater

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Kalita Humphreys Theater

Today, the Dallas Theater Center announced the selection of Diller Scofidio + Renfro to helm the renovation of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Kalita Humphreys Theater. The New York-based architecture firm’s task includes a master plan of nine acres connecting the Katy Trail, Dean Park, and Turtle Creek in an accessible public space for all. With the addition of two new theaters, the project aims to expand opportunities for artists, audiences, and students.

The announcement comes after a comprehensive selection process by the Kalita Steering Committee. Among the group of community shareholders are members of Dallas’ theater community, the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and architectural historians, as well as City of Dallas administrators.

Kalita Humphreys Theater and The Dallas Theater Center

In 1959, The Dallas Theater Center found its home in the Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only free-standing theater Wright ever designed. The theater, rooted in Wright’s love for nature and considered a stand-out of its time, fell into disrepair. After decades of neglect, the iconic theater is getting its due.

“All of us at Dallas Theater Center have been proud to call the Kalita Humphreys Theater our home since it was completed 61 years ago,” said DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty. “As we look to the future, we are thrilled to partner with the architects at Diller Scofidio + Renfro as well as the city of Dallas and the entire community to restore the Kalita to its original glory, and expand opportunities for theater artists, students and audiences. By creating new spaces and opening up the site, the new master plan will boost the natural beauty of the theater’s surroundings and improve its ability to serve as a welcoming, accessible space for all.”

A Texan Gets in Touch with His Roots

While the firm selected to helm the project is not local, it will be led by Charles Renfro, a native of Baytown, Texas.

“As a native Texan, I am particularly excited to contribute to our state’s architectural heritage and partner with Dallas Theater Center, whose bold productions are equally matched by their bold commitment to architectural innovation,” Renfro said. “This project is an opportunity to restore the Kalita Humphreys – one of Dallas’s most overlooked pieces of architecture – to its rightful place in the pantheon of design masterpieces in the city. Not only is it Frank Lloyd Wright’s only built theater, but it has also made significant contributions to the way theater has been presented and seen.”

Ultimately, Renfro intends to bring the theater back to its roots, connecting it to nature as Wright had envisioned it.

“Since it was built, the theater’s bucolic setting between Turtle Creek and the Katy Trail has been overwhelmed by parking lots and roadways. Our approach will seek to slow the site down and add new architecturally significant programs grown out of the surrounding urban green. The Kalita Humphreys complex will be an idyllic and iconic refuge surrounded by nature, merely footsteps away from the bustling city,” he said.

Construction of Kalita Humphreys Theater. Photos courtesy of the Dallas Theater Center.

Public Information Session

Interested in learning more about the project? Join the Dallas Theater Company and the steering committee on Wednesday, March 4 from 5:30 -7 p.m. in the Kalita Humphreys Theater. Diller Scofidio + Renfro will present their relevant past works, which will inform their design approach to the Kalita Humphreys master plan. Attendees will be invited to provide written feedback that night or via a website set up for public comment. The DTC will post a link to the Kalita Humphreys master plan feedback on their website.

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Heather Hunter

In addition to a 15-year career in marketing and communications, Heather is an accomplished freelance writer and has contributed to The New York Times’ “Modern Love” column and “The United States of Dating” on National Public Radio. Her blog, This Fish Needs a Bicycle, was syndicated by NBC Universal (iVillage) for four years. As a ghostwriter, her work has appeared in publications such as WIRED and Stadia Magazine

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