When Denton Community Theatre opened the company’s black box theater in 2010, the company was just ahead of a downtown boom.
Nearly 10 years later, the company is relocating its secondary venue — which quickly became a busy rehearsal and performing space — in a new partnership with Golden Triangle Mall.
The theater company will move the black box to a storefront in the mall in August.
When the nonprofit theater company raised the funds, renovated and opened the intimate space, it was on lease from the Denton Record-Chronicle. In 2017, the newspaper sold the building. North Central Texas College took over the building and embarked on a massive remodeling project.
The plan, managing director Mike Barrow said, was to share the venue with the community college, which has already begun scheduling events in the venue.
“First of all, it’s really important for me to say that everyone we’ve dealt with at NCTC has been absolutely wonderful to work with,” Barrow said. “They worked around the shows we had already planned in the space, and if we ever needed them to stop working on something so we could work without noise, they obliged us. They’ve been just absolutely wonderful partners.”
Barrow said the reality of a new venue owner sort of plunged the local company back to 2009, when casts and directors had grown used to rehearsing in local churches, schools and volunteers’ homes. And sharing the space with the community college meant lots of hours figuring out how to accommodate both the college and the theater.
“The writing was on the wall,” Barrow said. “There were going to be more scheduling conflicts for both groups, which was nobody’s fault.”
Thom Talbott, the chairman of the visual and performing arts division at NCTC, said the college doesn’t consider the company’s relocation an end to future partnerships.
“We wish Denton Community Theatre all the luck going forward,” Talbott said. “We’re definitely going to continue to move forward and forge partnerships in the community. We’re a community college. We want to be part of the community.”
Talbott said the college has already planned a season in the downtown black box. The college will hold an encore performance of The Erroneous Moby Dick, which Talbott adapted from the Herman Melville novel. Talbott said the college will be taking the show to New York City after presenting it in downtown Denton.
Donna Trammell, a longtime local theater volunteer and the president-elect of the company’s governing board, said the two organizations were still planning to share the space as of this summer, but she met Golden Triangle Mall general manager Matt Ludemann first at an awards ceremony at Robson Ranch and again at an event at Apogee Stadium. Ludemann suggested the Trammell Group, a company that performs parodies written by Trammell, perform at the mall.
“We got to talking about the black box and Matt said, ‘Let’s see what we can do.’ It was just one of those things,” Trammell said.
Ludemann said the mall offered Denton Community Theatre a 23-month lease to the theater company for a storefront on the south central end of the mall, where the CarMax pop-up office is currently located. Golden Triangle also leased a space close by that the company will devote to costume and prop storage. Barrow said the storage space was previously a retail space, and the walls are already prepared for garment racks. Throughout the summer, the mall has opened the storefront that used to be occupied by PacSun for DCTedu, the company’s children’s theater.
“Carrie [Carter, Golden Triangle Mall’s director of marketing] is always looking for ways to create unique experiences for our shoppers,” Ludemann said. “We think this will definitely give shoppers and the theater people a unique experience.”
The mall placed the black box on the end of the shopping center where there isn’t a lot of retail. The venue is near a chiropractor’s office and a dental office.
“We had a lot to consider before we chose a space,” Ludemann said. “We were looking at size, layout, ceiling height and no columns that would get in the way of seeing.”
Trammell said the plan has already been well received, especially by parents with children in the theater summer camps.
“The restrooms are just right outside of the space, and there are more restrooms than we had downtown,” Trammell said. “The parking is really easy — you don’t have to pay for parking at all. And I think it’s really neat that if parents are really busy, they can pick up food here in the mall on their way home. The actors will be able to buy dinner here, too.”
Ludemann and Carter said the mall has a major advantage over the downtown location.
“We have security on site 24/7,” Ludemann said. “It’s already been just great. We had the really little kids here for the camp, and on June 14, they did a performance for the parents and the shoppers.”
Ludemann said the big, open center court nearby is a perfect place for parents, grandparents and guardians to wait while campers finish up.
When the community theater built the downtown black box, they scored a rental price from the Denton Record-Chronicle that allowed the company to use most of its earnings on programs.
“We were able to give Denton Community Theatre the exact same deal,” Ludemann said.
Barrow said there is still some work to be done. He said the company plans to change out the roll-down gate with a glass door. The company hopes it will be able to sell some of its technical inventory to the college and use the money to buy a new lighting system.
Barrow also said the company plans to paint the walls black and hang black curtains. The company will probably use the curtains to create a true black box, but he and Trammell said there’s something charming about walking around the mall, looking into a glass-window storefront, and seeing live theater rehearsals.
Trammell said she’s already envisioning some partnerships with shops in the mall — possibly selling donated food as concessions and teaming up for marketing projects.
The company won’t keep a box office in the mall, but will direct patrons to the theater’s ticket portal online. They’ll use a sandwich board sign to market shows.
“We’ll have to see where this goes, but it’s just been a great situation all around,” she said. “And how often can you say that? We had a wonderful relationship with NCTC, and now this new partnership with Golden Triangle. It’s like it’s meant to be.”