FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 28, 2021
Pocket Sandwich Theater Announces the Retirement of Cofounder Rodney Dobbs, Welcomes Two New Partners, and Departs Its Performance Space of More Than 30 Years.
Pocket Sandwich Theatre cofounder Rodney Dobbs will be retiring at the end of our 2021 season. He had hoped to retire at the conclusion of our 40th anniversary season in 2020, but the pandemic forced an alteration in his plans. The Pocket welcomes two new partners, Nick Haley and Kim Winnubst, as part of this transition. The shopping center where the theatre has been located since 1990 has been sold and the new owners have asked the Pocket Sandwich Theatre to vacate at the end of 2021.
Rodney Dobbs Announces His Retirement
Rodney Dobbs co-founded the theater with Joe Dickinson in 1980. He is best known as our resident set designer. Rodney served as the scene designer and technical director for virtually every production. Rodney’s combination of art education and construction experience blended to create a distinctive scene design style that has become a large part of the Pocket’s character. Particularly in the early years, the Pocket had almost no budget for materials and only volunteer labor. Rodney took on the creative challenges these issues posed and staged sets most designers would not attempt. Few set designers can regularly start a set on a Sunday morning and have it ready for an audience by Thursday night. An exhaustive list would be impossible but here are a few memorable highlights: A barber chair that becomes a slide through a trap door for Sweeney Todd – The Fiend of Fleet Street. A French street scene unfolded into a basement before the audiences’ eyes in The Madwoman of Chaillot. For Noises Off, an entire two-story set was swung around so that both the onstage and offstage perspectives could be utilized.
Rodney wrote or co-wrote many shows here as well. With George Gagliardi, Rodney wrote the “Dos and Don’ts” and the “Cloak and Dagger” series of musicals. With Joe Dickinson, he began the “Dirk Spatula” series of melodramas, completing the last after Joe’s passing. Rodney also penned melodramas beginning with The Curse of The Bermuda Triangle and, most recently, Night of the Living Walking Dead. But as a playwright, Rodney is probably best known for Frankenstein the Musical and Bride of Frankenstein the Musical which he wrote with Mary Duren (now Medrick) composing.
Rodney directed our first production of Joe Dickinson’s Jack the Ripper: Monster of Whitechapel. This will be our Halloween show this season and was the first Pocket script to be picked up by a major publisher. As a director, Rodney is probably best known for directing two productions each of Rumors and Moon Over Buffalo, as well as our last production of Deathtrap. In our first production of Deathtrap Rodney played the young writer Clifford Anderson (it was a long time ago). Other memorable roles of Rodney’s include the Reverend David Lee in The Foreigner, E. K. Hornbeck in Inherit the Wind, and El Gallo in The Fantasticks.
Rodney had a life outside of the Pocket. He taught for many years at Greenhill School. Rodney has and continues to design sets for theaters all over the metroplex. But it was the Pocket Sandwich Theatre the was Rodney’s artistic home for more than 40 years. After Joe Dickinson’s passing Rodney assumed the duties of Artistic Director.
In 2000, Joe Dickinson won the Leon Rabin Award for Best Actor for our production of Vikings. (The dragon head from that show in our lobby is another of Rodney’s handiwork.) In his acceptance speech, Joe thanked Rodney, stating that he was the finest set designer in this city. In 2004 the Dallas Theatre League awarded Dickinson and Dobbs their Standing Ovation Award for “contribution to the advancement of theatre in the Dallas area.” Rodney leaves the Pocket with big shoes to fill and the Dallas theater community with quite a legacy.
Welcome to Nick Haley and Kim Winnubst
Nick Haley and Kim Winnubst are joining Shanon Dickinson, Brad Dickinson, and Jeff Vance as the Pocket Sandwich Theater’s management team. Nick came to the Pocket when he appeared in the 2006 production of Drac in the Saddle Again. He went on to appear in many other shows such as playing Bob Cratchit in Ebenezer Scrooge, Kreton in Visit to a Small Planet, and countless melodramas. Nick directed shows such as Phantom of the Opera, featuring the woman who would later become his fiancé, Kim Winnubst. Finally, he tried his hand at playwrighting and penned our fan-favorite Herbbits Wizards and Borks! Oh My! Kim Winnubst first appeared on our stage in 2012’s Musical Comedy Murders of 1940. She has evenly split her Pocket roles between five melodramas and five straight shows. Kim played Lucy in Dracula the Melodrama and may be best remembered for The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged]. She met Nick at the Pocket on a date with another man to see the 2014 production of Herbbits Wizards and Borks! Oh My! and she later was cast in the 2016 production. (Despite how it worked out for Kim’s date, we still enjoy a great reputation as a place for a first date.)
Joe had recently passed when Kim first joined the theater, but it was clear the impact and legacy he and Rodney had created. Nick and Kim seized the opportunity to join the Pocket as partners because they both feel it is important that Joe and Rodney’s legacy is carried on for generations to come. Our playwrights, crew, and actors have always been a fantastic mix of newcomers and "veterans," and our audiences have been the same.
Pocket Sandwich Theater Will Be Moving
Joe Dickinson and Rodney Dobbs met in 1977 while working at Dallas Repertory Theatre. In 1980 they started producing plays at the Greenville Avenue Pocket Sandwich Shop under the auspices of The Emporium Players. Joe and Rodney bought out the shop owners, renaming the place the Greenville Avenue Pocket Sandwich Theatre. In 1990, the theater moved to its present location at 5400 East Mockingbird Ln., dropping the “Greenville Avenue” from its name, and became the Pocket Sandwich Theatre.
The year 2020 was the Pocket Sandwich Theater’s 40th anniversary. The hand-picked season of shows celebrating various aspects of our history was planned but these were all derailed by the Covid 19 pandemic. While the Pocket, like all the other theaters, was struggling to survive the pandemic, the shopping center that had been our home for more than 30 years was sold. We met with the new owners and they informed us that we do not fit their vision for the shopping center and informed us we needed to vacate our theatrical home of more than 30 years. This Christmas we will present Ebenezer Scrooge for the 39th time in our history and as the final production at our current location.
We are currently looking for other locations that would be suitable to convert into a dinner theater, conveniently located for our customers, and financially sustainable. We will be announcing a new location as soon as a new place is identified and arrangements are formalized.
When theater artists work on a show for ten to twelve weeks—encouraging, inspiring, and challenging one another on stage—they create something that you cannot just walk away from at the end of a run. They create a family. As evidenced by the headshots adorning the walls of the Pocket, it’s a massive family. We cannot express enough gratitude to the members of this massive family for all they have done to help us to the pandemic and the commitment they express to moving forward with the Pocket. New Pocket partner Kim Winnubst noted “I have never felt more welcomed at a theater in Dallas than I have at the Pocket, either as a performer or an audience member. It is our goal to ensure everyone who steps through our doors feels that way. The Pocket has always been the most fun you can have in a Dallas theater, but it also has the most heart you will find at a Dallas theater.”
Theater is meant to be transient; we create something that is meant to last for a moment in time. We do not know where will be located for the next chapter of the Pocket Sandwich Theatre story. However, we remain confident that the story is not over. We want to continue to grow our outreach, audiences, and impact in the community.
Pocket Sandwich Theatre