Robyn Baker Flatt, founding artistic director of Dallas Children's Theater in 1984, was inducted into the prestigious College of Fellows of the American Theater on April 22, 2007 in a ceremony at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

This was an honor also bestowed in 1996 upon her father, Paul Baker, founding artistic Director in 1959 of Dallas Theater Center. Ms. Flatt's award marks only the second time in the 42-year history of the organization that members of two generations of the same family have received this honor.

The College of Fellows of the American Theater recognizes "distinguished service to the theater profession" and each year "inducts into the society a small group of individuals whose work has received national recognition... Each member of the College holds the honorary designation of American Theater Fellow (A.T.F.) for life."

In a recent phone conversation with Flatt she spoke of the seminal efforts to found Dallas Children's Theater. "I had developed a lot of programs at Dallas Theater Center, and I felt they were vital and important and should continue (and)...there was not an independent theater for youth and families (in Dallas). I was very impressed and excited about the Minneapolis Children's Theater and the work they were doing, and I had been in charge of developing plays for the (Dallas) city parks for family audiences. Some of these productions toured Texas and surrounding states year after year. I was going in the same direction as (the) Minneapolis (Children's Theater); so it was a natural step that this needed to be a separate entity. The kind of work we were doing -- puppetry, movement, dance, and theater -- and I loved that combination of all of those entities in live theater...formed the basis for what we do here at Dallas Children's Theater."

Flatt saw a huge need for this type of theater and felt the touring productions coming through Dallas were very weak. "A lot of them played down to children and often didn't offer anything of substance. (Much of) it was watered down, and junk. I knew we could do a lot better."

And indeed they have. I have yet to see a DCT production that wasn't thoroughly professional and technically excellent and always entertaining, even when I haven't always liked the play.

Kathy Burks of the eponymous Theater of Puppetry Arts has worked with Flatt since she founded DCT and utilized some of Burks empty classrooms in 1984 at Withers Elementary School where Burks' theater, then named Kathy Burks Marionettes, was housed.
Said Burks: "It is a delight to work with Robyn...she (has) invited us to be on their [DCTs] program since 1996. She is an educator, and I admire the work she does. I like to work with her as she is directing and conceiving her shows, because the play's the thing... She really does have the full concept of what theater is and how to use all of the theater arts to tell a story... She is a force that makes things happen."

Their most recent collaboration, Carnival of the Animals, in February of this year, was a delight from the opening overture until the final curtain.

Another of Flatt's early associates is B. Wolf who was musical director of Dallas Theater Center at its founding in 1959. Wolf said:  "I met Robyn when she was just out of graduate school. I was musical director of The Wizard of Oz (at Dallas Theater Center), and she played Dorothy. She was always very professional and very dedicated and always gave her best."

Wolff, currently a collaborator with Kathy Burks, still works closely with Flatt, most recently in November 2006 when Flatt directed DCTs production of The Velveteen Rabbit.

In 2004 Dallas Children's Theater was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the five top family theaters in the United States.

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Key Subjects: 
Robyn (Baker) Flatt, Dallas Children's Theater, Kathy Burks, Dallas Theater Center
Writer: 
Rita Faye Smith
Date: 
April 2007
Subtitle: 
Robyn Baker Flatt Honored for Distinguished Service