Theater Director Attacked by Masked Men Outside of Target in Uptown Still Recovering

Derek Whitener, artistic and education director of The Firehouse Theatre in Farmers Branch, is recovering at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas after being attacked in the parking lot of Target on Haskell Avenue in Dallas on Saturday night.The 33-year-old Keller native and longtime director, actor and costume designer had stopped at the store on his way home from performing as Leaf Coneybear in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Firehouse Theatre. Two masked men, one in a ski mask and the other in a monkey mask, attacked him, hitting Whitener with a pipe as he headed to his car, reports David Moore, the company's executive business director. The men didn't steal anything. A police report was filed and Whitener was taken by ambulance to Baylor Hospital in Dallas.Whitener's skull was fractured. He underwent surgery Sunday, Moore said, to remove a hematoma on his brain. He is expected to be able to leave the hospital Thursday. While the Sunday matinee performance of Spelling Bee was canceled, the show will finish its run as scheduled Jan. 19-22 with Spencer Baker, who played the same role at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth in 2016 . Whitener had also been working as the costume designer for the regional premiere of Aaron Posner's Stupid [Expletive] Bird at Stage West, which starts previews Jan. 19.Whitener, who has worked at many Texas theaters, including Zach Theatre in Austin, Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth, WaterTower Theatre in Addison and Dallas Children's Theater, had just started a full-time position as artistic and education director of Firehouse Theatre Jan. 1. In addition to directing and performing in shows, he's in charge of the community theater's new education initiative, funded by a grant from Walmart, that will allow him to bring a company of actors into public schools. Moore says he is hoping that Whitener will recover in time to direct the company's next show, Bye Bye Birdie, which opens Feb. 23.Whitener, who attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and Marrymount Manhattan College, impressed Moore with his first directing assignment for The Drowsy Chaperone in February of 2015. He quickly became a favorite with the board and the company's patrons."We're thrilled that he's with us," Moore says. "He brings hope and light. He's a great storyteller and we love every show he does. His shows touch your heart regardless of the subject."  Continue reading...

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