Reprinted with permission from the UT Dallas Mercury
Story by Eric Nicholson
When Josh Glover graduated last May, there weren't many opportunities to put a degree in arts and performance to use. So he created his own.
Glover founded his theater company Upstart Productions last summer, not long after graduation.
In November, Upstart debuted "Topdog/Underdog," a Pulitzer Prize winning two-man drama written by Suzan-Lori Parks about two young black brothers named Lincoln and Booth.
The show was a critical success. Elaine Liner, theater critic for the Dallas Observer, called the performance "stunningly, insanely good."
Lawson Taitte, theater critic for The Dallas Morning News, named Upstart the best new theater company in the area in his year-end review of 2008.
And though the Dallas Hub Theater's 50-seat space was a modest venue, it put Upstart on the map.
"I've seen several dozen new theater companies emerge on the scene in the last few years," said Tim Shane, owner of the Hub. "Josh and his team stand apart with Upstart. They certainly have my respect."
Glover had long toyed with the idea of founding a theater company. He and his roommates at UTD talked a lot about the Dallas theater scene, particularly the lack of opportunities for young people in the Dallas theater scene.
"There's this whole generation of actors that we felt were being overlooked," he said. "You have these 30-somethings who have been at it for 10 years, and all of them are really talented and deserve the visibility that they get. But, we just didn't see a lot of opportunities for younger guys to really show their stuff."
Founding a theater company remained a mere pipe dream until Glover happened upon some affordable theater space at the Hub.
Immediately, he began making phone calls, consulting veterans of the Dallas theater scene and trying to garner support.
Within weeks, he had put together a board of directors and was actively raising money.
"It was kind of a blur from that point on," Glover said. "The next thing I know, we're putting on 'Topdog/Underdog.'"
Glover attributes much of his success to the things he learned at UTD. While the theater program is small and relatively unknown, it offered him level of hands-on experience that would be impossible in a more established program.
"When it comes down to it, what you're really going to school for is to get real world experience, and I got that," Glover said. "And because I didn't have a lot of acting experience going into it, I couldn't hope to work in the theater right now if it weren't for UTD."
Glover has kept his ties with UTD. Theater director Jeff Stover and technical director Matt Unkenholz both serve on Upstart's advisory board and helped guide Glover through the pitfalls of starting a theater company.
"We support Josh completely," Stover said. "Not only because he's a former student, but because he is someone we know who is dedicated and focused and we have a firm policy of supporting local theater as much as we can."
For the time being, Glover's goals for Upstart are modest with current plans to produce two shows per year. He said he hopes that the success of "Topdog/Underdog" will make it easier to raise money.
"It's hard when you don't have any street cred," Glover said. "You have to be able to show people, to say this is what we're capable of. Right now, this is kind of a friends-and-family operation."
Upstart is already gearing up for its next show, Kenneth Lonergan's "This is Our Youth," a play that follows three Upper West Side teenagers in what Glover says is a funny but sobering glimpse at contemporary youth culture.
The show is slated to run March 6-22 at the Dallas HubTheater.