Amphibian expands theater, connections, reputation widely beyond Fort Worth stage


Amphibian Stage Productions

120 S Main St.

Fort Worth 76104


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Up next at Amphibian

Returning to Amphibian Stage after 10 years, Gutenberg! The Musical! is the third main stage production of 2019. The show’s writers, Anthony King and Scott Brown, were 2019 Tony Award nominees for Best Book of a Musical for Beetlejuice. This earlier King-and-Brown collaboration is not, as one might imagine, the story of printing innovator Johannes Gutenberg. It is the story of Bud and Doug, two enthusiastic showbiz hopefuls trying to get their big break. Gutenberg! The Musical! was a hit when director David A. Miller helmed back-to-back productions with Amphibian in 2008 and 2009, and his return as director is a nod to the popularity of the first two runs.

Production runs July 12–Aug. 18, 2019.

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In 2000, three Texas Christian University theater alums had an idea to bring a new and engaging form of theater to the city, one that inspires and opens new doors, along with increasing understanding of the world.

Amphibian Stage Productions was born, a nonprofit company that has produced numerous groundbreaking and challenging plays throughout its 19-year history. This includes several regional, U.S., and even world premieres. They have become widely recognized in a variety of areas, not the least being stylistically and thematically varied scripts.

Over the years, Amphibian has also developed a solid connection with youth through its outreach project, Tad-Poles. The group travels to places such as schools and community centers spreading a message of multicultural collaboration and tolerance with their performances.

Amphibian also presents National Theatre Live, a filmed version of top British theater, to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

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The three alums who got it all started are Kathleen Culebro, Carman Lacivita and Jonathan Fielding. Lacivita and Fielding, though not involved in the day-to-day operations, still direct, act and fundraise for the theater.

Culebro is the artistic director. She offered some reflections on the theater’s history and insight into what lies ahead.

FWBP: From where did the name Amphibian arise?

KC: We chose the name Amphibian in order to honor TCU, which gave us free use of space and equipment during our first eight years. Without that we wouldn’t be here today. Also, a weird coincidence: I have collected frogs (figurines) from around the world since I was a child. I’m not really sure how that started. I didn’t particularly love frogs, but pretty soon I had such a beautiful collection that it became what I did. Also, my dad started a chain of restaurants in Mexico named Señor Frog’s, so I think it was just meant to be.

FWBP: What are some of the greatest moments in Amphibian history?

KC: Oh wow, that’s a tough question. Here are a few of my favorite moments.

1. In 2014 we received an award from the American Theatre Wing, which is the organization that is responsible for the Tony Awards.

2. In 2012 we bought our theater on South Main Street in the Near Southside. This changed everything for us. Suddenly, foundations, donors and audiences started to see us as a real organization. It also helped us control our own destiny. It comes with a few challenges, but I don’t feel there is any downside to owning our building.

3. The day we spent filming Kevin Kline for our capital campaign was pretty huge. That’s a name that carries so much weight that people can’t ignore you.

4. The day I met actor/comedian Baron Vaughn, before he was on multiple TV shows, and we started planning our comedy residencies.

5. The day I met Ann Rhodes. She quickly became a dear friend. It took two years for me to gather up the courage to ask for a donation because I didn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize our friendship. She was fearless and passionate about theater. She would never support anything she didn’t deeply believe in, so it was an honor to have her on our board and to hear that she loved our work.

FWBP: Can you talk about how it was in the beginning and the theater’s growth over the years?

KC: We learned everything by doing it wrong at least once. We knew so little and had no idea how little we knew. It was our plan to produce in Fort Worth and in New York forever. After about three years of that we realized that New York didn’t need another theater company, and that we couldn’t sustain the cost of doing business there. In Fort Worth we were quickly growing a strong base of support. The great thing about those early years in New York City was that we learned so much.

FWBP: How would you describe Amphibian’s current status in Metroplex theater?

KC: I think this is a question for our patrons. There’s a lot of great theater in North Texas, and we are proud to be a part of the vibrant cultural landscape. As companies, I think we all share a lot of the same concerns, problems and goals. We’re all trying to work together to make our communities better. I’m not sure any of us thinks of status much. That can be really self-destructive.

FWBP: What sets Amphibian apart?

KC: I think that because I’m a playwright, we spend a lot of resources giving playwrights opportunities to create work. We also try to stay away from things people can see in other locations, including Broadway. We try to scout out those little-known scripts that are gems no one had heard of. We’re one of the few theaters left in the country that accepts unsolicited scripts. Again, that comes from knowing firsthand how hard it is to get your work seen by anyone if you don’t have an agent.

Lately, we’ve also started trying to find new ways to shed light on the fantastic work of so many nonprofits in the area. We are lucky to have captive audiences, but many nonprofits don’t. So we invite them in to talk to our audiences about their work, especially as it pertains to the themes in our plays.

FWBP: What lies ahead for Amphibian?

KC: We’ve been steadily growing or 20 years, and I don’t see that trend coming to an end anytime soon. We are dedicated to nurturing talent and to giving opportunities to artists. There is so much potential out there, and we want to help it thrive. Artists and audiences alike deserve it.

Imagine if no one had given Leon Bridges that big break. What a loss to everyone in the world. So we’ve still got a lot of work to do. Every day we’re learning how to do our jobs better. I want to find the next generation of playwrights and give birth to plays that will go on to be produced around the country.

FWBP: Can you discuss Amphibian’s theater education programs?

KC: Yes! Thank you for asking. We’re so proud of our outreach and education programs. Since 2008 we’ve been teaching kids and adults to stilt dance. This is such a great way to help them build confidence and to get them off their screens and moving. It’s really wonderful to watch them as they become more self-confident and collaborative.

In 2008 we were inspired by Stephen Wolfert of De-Cruit and LaJohn McDonald of MHMR Veterans Peer Network to start working with veterans. We combine Shakespeare and science to help veterans manage the effects of PTS (post-traumatic stress).

We go weekly to Green Bay Prison and Samaritan House. This opened a whole world to us. We’ve made so many new friends who inspire us daily through these programs.