The first time I saw Robyn (Baker) Flatt, founding artistic director of Dallas Children's Theater, she was onstage in the role of Dewey Dell in a production of Journey To Jefferson, an adaptation of the William Faulkner novel, "As I Lay Dying." The play was produced in 1964 at Dallas Theater Center and directed by Flatt's father, Paul Baker, who founded the DTC in 1959. Flatt also co-designed the lighting for that production with DTC company member, Randy Moore, now a long-time company member of Denver Center Theater Company. The play won the Special Jury Prize from the Theater of Nations in the Theatre Sarah Bernhardt in Paris, France.

Flatt acted, directed, and did lighting design for numerous DTC productions prior to co-founding Dallas Children's Theater in 1984 with Dennis Vincent. Their Mission Statement reads in part:
"...to develop the minds and ideals of our children, inspiring them to rewarding and productive lives through theater arts and art-in-education programs by: Creating and producing challenging professional theater for a multi-generation audience (while) Developing innovative programs to integrate arts into curricula, enriching language skills, learning processes, and promoting an early appreciation for the arts. Building bridges of understanding between generations and cultures through the...universal...language of theater."

To this end, Dallas Children's Theater has succeeded admirably by producing some of the finest theater in the country. It is the jewel in the crown of Dallas Theater. Robyn Flatt and her staff carefully select plays which are relevant and age appropriate. The casts are top-notch, and the production values are flawless. In 2004 Dallas Children's Theater was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the five best children's theaters in the U.S.

In Spring 2002, when DCT produced James Still's incisive tale of the Holocaust, "And Then They Came For Me," and recommended it for children as young as eight years old, I asked Flatt if she thought children that young could grasp the issues presented in this play. She replied unhesitatingly: "We have to teach them (about prejudice) when they're young." This was definitely a multi-generation play -- a play for children with a lesson for adults, and a play for adults which children could understand.

A 180 degree turn from such a serious subject was the recent romp for tots as young as three, Laura Numeroff's If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. I even found myself chuckling at the over-size props and the silly antics of a very large "mouse."

Robyn Flatt was born in New Haven, Connecticut. At two she moved to Waco with her parents, Paul and Kitty Baker, where both were professors at Baylor University. At four she moved with her mother and new-born sister to Lynchburg, Virginia, while Mr. Baker was managing overseas entertainment during World War II. Four years later, the family returned to Waco and Baylor. Flatt participated in the Children's Theater at Baylor. When she was a teenager, she spent two months in Paris, France, where her parents organized an Arts School. During high school in Waco, she was active in her father's Southwest Theater Company. She studied theater at Baylor where she received a BA and an MA in Theater Arts. Immediately after receiving her Master's Degree in 1960, she began working at the Dallas Theater Center. During her first year at DTC, Flatt played one of the three Ophelias in Mr. Baker's adaptation of Hamlet.

Besides teaching and performing at DTC, Flatt also oversaw the graduate studies department in DTCs partnership with Trinity University in San Antonio. She officially left Dallas Theater Center in 1984 when she incorporated Dallas Children's Theater. Both her daughter and granddaughter continue the Baker legacy. Her daughter, Kristi, is a theaters instructor at Episcopal School of Dallas, and her seven-year-old granddaughter has been performing at DCT since the age of four.

Flatt's husband, Richard, whom she met in junior high and married in 1963, is an architect and did the preliminary design for the theater's new home, a converted bowling alley, which opened in Fall 2003. He also designed and built many of the sets.

If you're looking for an activity to enjoy with your children or grand-children this month, DCT has two enchanting productions on their schedule:
The Kathy Burks Theater of Puppetry Arts presents The Frog Prince,March 4 - April 3, 2005. An adaptation of the C.S. Lewis prequel to the Chronicles of Narnia, The Magicians Nephew, follows March 18 - April 17, 2005. Both productions take place at the Rosewood Center for Family Arts at 5938 Skillman at NW Highway. For information, call the DCT box office at: 214-978-0110 or visit: www.dct.org.

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Key Subjects: 
Robyn (Baker) Flatt, Dallas Children's Theater, Randy Moore
Writer: 
Rita Faye Smith
Date: 
March 2005
Subtitle: 
Robyn Flatt and Dallas Children's Theater