Paul Frellick Diagnoses Deep Dish Theater Company's Lasting Legacy and Quiet DemiseSeptember 28th, 2016
by Adam Sobsey, writing in IndyWeek
In June, Deep Dish Theater Company quietly announced its closure after a fifteen-year run in Chapel Hill's University Place (ne University Mall) a major loss for the area's theater scene. Yet the company's demise received virtually no public notice. That typified the modesty and reserve of founding artistic director Paul Frellick, who "was always happy to have my work disappear in the course of rehearsals," as he puts it. There was no zero-hour plea for donations, no closing party. The curtain simply dropped.
Starting in 2001, Deep Dish produced fifty-eight plays (plus a dozen workshops and coproductions), from classics to world premieresincluding, full disclosure, one of mine. Their work always exuded intelligence, warmth, and artistic rigor, often bringing challenging fare to the unusual venue of a mall. I invited Frellick for an exit interviewtruly an exit, as he and his family will move at year's end to Southern California, where his wife, Grace Baranek, has a new job at USC.
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]Deep Dish Theater - 2001-2016September 21st, 2016
The Deep Dish Theater Company has ceased operations after 15 years of producing plays in Chapel Hill.
After a lengthy effort to find a future home for Deep Dish, Founding Artistic Director Paul Frellick wrote in an email to supporters that he and the theater's Executive Board "were until very recently optimistic that we could find a place that would make sense for us financially and accommodate the kind of work we were committed to presenting. We have looked in all directions, explored a variety of properties, consulted with possible partners, but to no avail."
He added that in order to operate in sustainable fashion, the theater needed to double its audience and expand programming, noting that such a process would probably have been a lengthy one. "We just couldn't find a way to finance those intervening years and cover the costs of building or upfitting a new theater space."
The Deep Dish Theater Company opened on April 26, 2001 with a sold-out two-week run of Samuel Beckett's apocalyptic comedy, Endgame
. The original site was the space now occupied by the Dina Porter clothing store, but in 2003, shortly after the retailer A Southern Season opened in the former Belk's space, the theater company relocated to the other end of the mall. That space, adjacent to the newly-arrived Silverspot Cinema, is now part of a substantial overhaul of the property by the management of University Place, necessitating Deep Dish's departure.
Over the years, Deep Dish brought acclaimed writers like Eric Overmyer, Joel Drake Johnson and Austin Pendleton to Chapel Hill for productions of their plays; introduced the Triangle to the works of celebrated young playwrights like Sarah Ruhl, Amy Herzog, Daniel Perle and Annie Baker; offered new productions of such outstanding and rarely-seen masterpieces as Nathan the Wise, The Game of Love and Chance,
and Journeys End
; championed new work by area playwrights Adam Sobsey, Katja Hill and Ian Finley; and presented plays and musicals like The Exonerated, Polish Joke, The Landing, Superior Donuts, Via Dolorosa, Permanent Collection
and Lobby Hero
in regional premiere productions. The theater also showcased the work of many of the area's most accomplished actors, designers, directors and production personnel.
All told, the company produced well over 60 plays, readings, workshops and special events. The final offering was an acclaimed seven-week run of two plays in rotating repertory, Outside Mullingar
and The Cherry Orchard
; that production closed on November 14, 2015.
"It's been immensely gratifying these past few months to receive so much encouragement and support from those who missed us and anxiously awaited our return," Frellick wrote. "I wish we could have done so."
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]Theater mourns loss of long-time board member David LedererMarch 11th, 2016(A remembrance by Artistic Director Paul Frellick)
The Deep Dish Theater lost a great friend Saturday night. Officially, David Lederer was our Board Treasurer for the last 10 years, but unofficially and more importantly, he was the keeper of the faith, an outspoken champion of our accomplishments and a fervent flag-bearer for our organization.
David brought great business savvy and an entrepreneurial spirit to our enterprise, as well as a love of theater from the perspective of both audience and producer. He was thoughtful and kind, warm and generous, with a roguish wit and unflagging high spirits.
I met him when he invited me to speak to the Chapel Hill Newcomers Group, and soon after that he offered his services to the theater as a board member. But that term couldn't begin to encompass the array of services David performed for Deep Dish--he threw parties, he draughted blueprints for theater spaces, he trained business staff, he installed seating into our space, etc. etc. etc.
Most of all, he was a wonderful colleague, one who understood the challenges of the work at hand and the ephemeral nature of the rewards. I was never as proud of our work as when I was listening to him espouse it. He was a businessman who loved the arts and understood how the two can and must go hand-in-hand; he was also a man of considerable accomplishment who loved artists and was always anxious to help solve even the tiniest problem.
Just days before his death he was grappling with several challenges in our search for a space for the theater--extensive chemo- and radiation therapy could not distract him. Consequently, his passing surprised all of us, as he appeared to be taking everything in stride, as usual.
He will be missed mightily by his many friends and his loving family, and I know I will not be alone in looking to the greatness of his spirit as a continuing inspiration. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to know David and to have shared this great theatrical adventure with him.
A memorial service is being planned for Saturday, March 19, at 1 pm at the Community Church of Chapel Hill Unitarian Universalist, 106 Purefoy Road.
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