DALLAS — Throughout his illustrious career, America’s greatest architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, designed just one professional theater and one only: The Kalita Humphreys Theater in Dallas.
And... you could say it sucked.
“You could say that,” laughed Chris Ramirez, a Brierly Resident Acting Company member at the Dallas Theater Center. “Out of respect, I would never.”
Nobody really said that, of course.
But some people still believed it -- and that much has come back to haunt them.
“Be gracious to those who came before you because you never know what they can do in the afterlife,” said BJ Cleveland, a director and actor with Uptown Players at the Kalita Humphreys Theater.
Like every Wright design, the Kalita Humphreys Theater is stunning. It just wasn’t very functional initially.
For instance, moving props from the basement meant pushing them up a ramp, when what was really needed was an elevator.
However, Wright would never agree to that -- and he didn’t have to. He saw the project through to completion, but he died in 1959 before the theater opened.
“And with the architect out of the picture, they said we need to make some modern changes to the building,” Cleveland said.
They started by putting in that much-needed elevator.
“[They did it] without Frank Lloyd Wright’s consent,” Ramirez said.
“Well apparently Frank wasn’t very happy about that -- even after death,” Cleveland said.
Both Ramirez and Cleveland said Wright has made his frustrations known as a spirit haunting the grounds -- like the time he showed up in the middle of a rehearsal.
“All of a sudden, a huge light explodes and a stool goes flying across the stage like somebody threw it,” Cleveland said.
That’s not the only time Wright has thrown his weight around.
Ramirez once tried to open a door leading to the stage and someone immediately pushed it shut back into him.
“So I push, push, push, push, and I looked, and there was nobody there,” he said.
Ramirez pushed the door all the way against the wall -- it was impossible for someone to hide behind. But he insists he felt someone pushing on the other side of the door.
Cleveland said the strangest encounter he’s had came in the bathroom.
“I’m washing my hands and all of a sudden here on the stall I hear [banging],” Cleveland said. “[I looked] and there was nobody in the stall. Then all of a sudden, the water turned on.”
Pretty much anyone who’s performed at Kalita Humphreys has seen props move, shadows appear and lights flicker.
To pacify Wright, the people who work there have created a shrine in his honor. At the exact moment Cleveland started showing our cameras the shrine, the light in the room began to flicker.
Perhaps another sign that, though Frank Lloyd Wright may have created this theater 60 years ago, he’s still putting on a show.