Alder, William "Jac"

December 8, 1934 - May 22, 2015

Jac Alder, a cornerstone in the history of Dallas theater and co-founder, executive producer and director of Theatre Three, died Friday of respiratory failure at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. He was 80.

The company’s current show, The Liar, will continue as planned this weekend.

“We’re going to perform for him,” said Bruce R. Coleman, a resident artist who got his start at Theatre Three as an intern almost 30 years ago.

“He would not want the theater to be dark. It’s such a funny show and he would not want the theater to be dark. He would want it filled with laughter.”

Alder, an Oklahoma native who had trained as an architect, had been battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia for years, but rarely took breaks from the theater which remained, until the end, his favorite place to be.

His last production meeting was Sunday in his condomium. He cooked Coleman breakfast as they went over plans for the upcoming world premiere musical, Kountry Girls.

Alder was a fierce advocate for the arts, says Marty Van Kleeck, co-founder of One Thirty Productions, who recently served as Theatre Three’s managing director.

“We’re not just losing a leader of a theater, we’re losing an institution. He was at every advocacy meeting. There isn’t any part of the city he hasn’t touched in some way.”

He nurtured three future Pulitzer Prize winners on his stage: Beth Henley, Tracy Letts and Doug Wright. He encouraged a shy young Dallas girl named Patsy McClenney to try performing. She later achieved film and television fame as Morgan Fairchild.

Undermain Theatre’s artistic director Katherine Owen credits him for giving her company its first major donation that was “not from her parents,” she said in an interview with the DMN. Last year, he dedicated Theatre Three resources to help Junior Players launch its first musical, In the Heights, which gave high school students a free opportunity to train and perform with professional support at Dallas City Performance Hall.

Alder co-founded Theatre Three with his wife-to-be Norma Young, who died in 1998, and a couple of friends in a ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel in April 1961. The company moved to its permanent and current home in the Quadrangle in 1969.

Throughout the years, Alder did everything that needed to be done, from acting to directing, to designing sets, hanging lights, planning seasons and working on the budget. He encouraged versatility in others, too.

Michael A. Jenkins, president and managing director of Dallas Summer Musicals, remembers helping to build a set for the fledgling company in the hotel when he was in junior high school.

“Even if I was just nailing two pieces of wood together, he made it seem like it was a very important thing to be doing.”

Jenkins and Alder became close friends. When Alder gave actress Camilla Carr her chance to have her first play, All About Bette: An Interlude With Bette Davis, produced at Theatre Three’s small Theatre Too space, he encouraged her to bring her positive reviews to Jenkins.

Jenkins was impressed. He plans to bring the show to New York June 8 to show it to investors.

“Jac Alder is now my angel. I know he will be watching over this show and me,” Carr says.

Coleman says the succession plan for Theatre Three will be announced after the theater’s board of directors meets.

Plans for a celebration of his life are pending.

Arrangements are under the direction of:
ARIA Cremation Service & Funeral Home
10116 E. NW Highway
Dallas, Texas 75238

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