Many Dallasites know Raphael Parry for his extensive work in shaping the Dallas theater scene over the last thirty years. He currently serves as Executive and Artistic Director of Shakespeare Dallas, where he has directed or performed in over twenty-five Shakespearean productions. He also serves as a founder and Chief Artistic Officer of Project X: Theatre, a producing company that focuses on new play development. Raphael has been recognized by the Dallas Theatre League and the Dallas Theater Critics Forum with the Standing Ovation Award for his continued contributions to Dallas Theater.
What you may not know is that Raphael has deep ties to the Dallas Museum of Art, serving as Director and host of Arts & Letters Live’s Texas Bound series for almost two decades. The series showcases Texas-connected actors reading short fiction and essays by Texas-connected authors to a live audience. We like to say that it is “story time for adults.”
We caught up with Raphael for a short Q&A about his involvement with Texas Bound.
How long have you been involved with Texas Bound?
My first season I was an actor reading a very short story—less than three minutes long. The next year, I was invited to serve as Director and host—that was 1995. I will be starting my 18th season this year.
What do you enjoy most about working with the series?
Getting to read a huge number of stories, as we search to select just the right ones for the series. It has really brought me a profound appreciation for the art of the short story. And our audience is so generous and eager to hear the readings. It is always a pleasure to take part in Texas Bound in performance.
Can you talk a little bit about the process of selecting the stories and casting them?
It starts with a huge collection of stories that have been sifted through after an open call for stories. Our Producer, Katie Hutton, reads through all the submissions and selects the ones that are candidates for Texas Bound. At this point, we have approximately eighty to one hundred stories that we can consider for the Texas Bound series. We meet twice weekly starting in the late summer and I read the stories out loud to Katie and her team. What works on paper can often not transfer to a successful story being read out loud. After reading each story, we discuss three to four potential actors that would be the right match for the story. After reading all of the stories over many weeks, we have a small collection of stories that are strong candidates. Then the real puzzle work begins. We have to find a combination of stories that add up to the right length for the evening and have some balance. We often use a meal as the metaphor for the evening: appetizer, main course, and dessert. We are looking to create a balance and flow.
What is your most memorable Texas Bound experience?
The most memorable experiences are when everything comes together: the actors, the stories, and the audience. There have been many evenings where the flow is fantastic, and we are all moving through the performance with each story and reading building on another. It is like floating on a cloud when it all clicks, and then it’s over—like an ephemeral dream it all dissolves and we are left with a great memory.
What story or stories are you most excited about this season?
All of the stories intrigue me, as we work so hard to find just the right ones. I am looking forward to hearing Stephen Tobolowsky read his essay “F.A.Q” from his book The Dangerous Animals Club. He has such an interesting voice, and his essays are so personal yet universal. Also, John Benjamin Hickey is reading Patricia Highsmith’s “A Curious Suicide”; it is a murder mystery with a unique tone. Those two are standouts from a stellar field of stories.
Katie Hutton is the Program Manager for Arts & Letters Live at the DMA and Producer of Texas Bound.