Katherine Owens

Founding Artistic Director

Katherine Owens  (10/27/1957 - 7/21/2019), Founding Artistic Director of Undermain Theatre and celebrated artist and director, was known for bringing new and visionary theater to Dallas audiences. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Katherine was raised in Odessa, Texas and began her career in the theater after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 1981, first as a visiting artist at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and then directing for the Oklahoma Shakespeare Festival. She soon made her way to Dallas where she embarked on an artistic path to run one of the most noted small theatre companies in the country, the Undermain Theatre.  

With fellow actor Raphael Parry, Katherine excavated a basement space beneath Main Street in Deep Ellum and began performing experimental plays for small audiences in 1984. Within the year, they were joined by actor Bruce DuBose and together, they went on to form a company of longtime collaborators consisting of actors, designers, directors and writers. Initially sharing the artistic direction of the theater with Mr. Parry, who would move on from the theater after a decade and a half, Katherine created a thriving mid-sized professional theater that would take her and her future husband and executive producer Mr. DuBose on a 35-year history of award-winning productions, including many premieres, tours in Europe and productions in New York City. Central to Katherine’s work was forging relationships with American playwrights whose experimental new work came to be Undermain’s main focus. The company would also present, and become widely recognized for, stagings of classic works by writers they saw as key artistic influencers of Undermain’s experimental tradition. 

Widely recognized for her impact on the field, Katherine’s awards and honors included Texas Woman of Distinction, Fellow of the Sundance Theater Institute, Dallas Institute of Humanities Fellow, D magazine Best of Dallas and the Dallas 40 Influencers, multiple Dallas Theater Critics Forum Awards for directing and ensemble performance, Dallas Observer and Dallas Morning News Best Of lists, the Dallas Historical Society Award for Excellence, the Ken Bryant Vision Award and the McLean-Paris Award for Artists. She was a member of the SDC.

She received multiple awards for her directing of such notable productions as An Iliad, by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, Sarah Kane’s Blasted, Young Jean Lee’s The Appeal, classics such as MacbethThree Sisters and Galileo and world premieres like Gordon Dahlquist’s Tomorrow Come Today, Len Jenkin’s How is it that we Live, or Shakey Jake + Alice, Matthew Paul Olmos’s Trilogy so go the ghosts of méxico, and Lynn Alvarez’s The Snow Queen, among many others.

Ms. Owens work was not exclusive to the Undermain basement. In 1996 at the invitation of the Republic of Macedonia, Katherine and the Undermain company ventured to Macedonia during the siege of Sarajevo in neighboring Bosnia & Herzegovina to perform Goran Stefanovski’s Sarajevo for the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations; they performed in Ohrid in the amphitheater of the 10th century orthodox church, St. Sophia, in Bitola at the ruins of the Roman amphitheater Heraclea and the capitol city of Skopje in a performance attended by the Macedonian President. She returned to eastern Europe in 2001 to present a performance of Judges 19 by Ruth Margraff at the Belgrade international theatre festival in Serbia. In 1999 Katherine and Mr. DuBose began producing plays Off-Off Broadway in New York City at the Ohio Theatre, HERE Arts Center and Soho Rep’s Walker Space culminating in a premiere production of Neil Young’s Greendale as a rock opera adapted for the stage by Mr. DuBose and directed by Ms. Owens to a sold out run at The Ice Factory Festival. More recently in 2018 she directed the world premiere of Lonesome Blues, a play about legendary blues singer Blind Lemon Jefferson Off Broadway at the York Theatre, a play created by Alan Govenar with Akin Babatundé.

In all, she directed well over a hundred productions in her career. Owens said of her approach, “I think there are two traditions in the theater—the hermetic and the heroic.” 

Katherine served as a juror for the Asian Film Festival of Dallas, had been a panelist for the Alpert Awards and Texas Commission on the Arts, and was a member of the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts Artistic Council. Her familiar voice could be heard narrating a number of programs for PBS and KERA 90.1 as well as several documentaries including Mark Birnbaum’s Las Mujeres de Valle and Judy Kelly’s Frozen Music, which won an Emmy and a Matrix Award.

Katherine is survived by her husband Bruce DuBose, who will continue their work at Undermain as producing artistic director to lead the Undermain in accordance with her artistic vision.

In addition to Katherine’s directing career, she was also a painter and photographer and life time journal keeper of volumes of work dedicated to her research. Throughout the Undermain’s 2019/2020 season, there will be a celebration of her work in an exhibition of her watercolor paintings, drawings, and photographs in the Undermain Theatre lobby.