August 24th, 2011

Waiting in the Wings: The 2011-2012 Houston Performing Arts Season

Fellow performing arts junkies, rejoice! Houston’s theatre community is offering up what promises to be a delicious 2011-2012 season. Between all the musicals, showcases, readings and classics on the horizon, we can breathe a collective sigh of relief, as summer boredom slips away into one weekend after another of artistic indulgence. In an effort to minimize the strain on my overworked, overflowing Google calendar, I’ve sifted through the press releases and TheatrePort gossip and narrowed my list of absolute can’t-miss upcoming productions. Now I’m sharing that list with you. ‘Cause I’m sweet like that.

ArticleImage-Theatre-RDOAS2011

Republic Day – Big Head Productions

The Specs:
By Tom Stell
Produced by Big Head Productions
The Site:
Obsidian Art Space
September 8 – October 1, 2011
The Sell:
“The Rivers family struggles to survive as their country, the Republic, is torn apart by ethnic conflict and chaos. The father, John Sr., is a political prisoner and a hero to his people. John Jr. just wants to get by or get rich. Younger son Simon is a firebrand revolutionary bent on bringing his people to power. When daughter Beth falls in love with an idealist from the other side, Mom struggles to keep the family together. In a conflict where everyone is fighting for their home, how can anyone win?”
The Scoop:
This will be my first experience with Big Head Productions, but after hearing so many good things, I’m looking forward to checking out their first offering of the season. While I anticipate and hope for an off-beat play that (please?) borders on satire, I’m also primed for a nice juicy metaphor. “Ethnic conflict… chaos… revolutionary…” While I haven’t been following the real-world news as closely as I should this summer, I sense that Republic Day will have as much to say about all of us as it does about its fictional characters.

ArticleImage-Theatre-EDAT2011

Ether Dome – Alley Theatre

The Specs:
By Elizabeth Egloff
Directed by Michael Wilson
The Site:
The Alley Theatre
Neuhaus Stage
Previews start September 9, 2011
September 14 – October 9, 2011
The Sell:
“About love, deception and betrayal, Ether Dome tells the story of the discovery of anesthesia and focuses on the relationship between two of the greatest medical innovators in Western history, Horace Wells and his student, William Morton. Highlighting the inherent contradiction of profiting from people’s illnesses, Ether Dome challenges our understanding of God, pain and what it means to be truly human.”
The Scoop:
For the great masses out there that have trouble staying awake through a night at the theatre, a play about anesthesia may pose a challenge. But I suggest we defer to Alley Artistic Director Gregory Boyd’s brilliance on this one. My guess is that playwright Elizabeth Egloff isn’t winning Oppenheimer Awards for nothing. My other can’t-miss offering from the Alley is Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris. By. David. Sedaris. Enough said.

ArticleImage-Theatre-TCDW2011

Texas Contemporary Dance WeekendDance Source Houston

The Specs:
Produced by Dance Source Houston
Featuring Ad Deum Dance Company, Earthen Vessels/Sandra Organ Dance Company, HIStory, Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, iMEE, Psophonia Dance Company, Vault, and independent choreographer Ashley Horn.
The Site:
Miller Outdoor Theatre
September 23 – 24, 2011
The Sell:
“Gone are the days of just dancing on a bare floor. Through doorways, on screen, and up walls, Weekend of Texas Contemporary Dance brings to life dance as an artistic expression for 21st century humanity. Framed by Texas’ top performing companies, Weekend is a mixture of athleticism, technology, and imagination rolled into one evening.”
The Scoop:
Contemporary: A style rich in deceptive simplicity, stripped bare of stiff tulle and fairytale plot lines. Dance: My childhood dream before my knees, hips, ankles, and will to starve gave out. So really, this is a no-brainer for me.

ArticleImage-Theatre-TIHTMICT2011

There Is a Happiness That Morning Is – Catastrophic Theatre

The Specs:
By Mickle Maher
Directed by Jason Nodler
The Site:
The Catastrophic Office
September 24 – October 15, 2011
The Sell:
“In There is a Happiness That Morning Is, Maher is focused on how differently two people can view even the most intimate shared experience and the impact that difference might have on their lives.”
The Scoop:
Two professors share more than a love of poet William Blake, as their lives collide in a very public way. There is a Happiness that Morning Is will be delivered as two lectures, and entirely in rhymed verse. One of the highlights of recent years in Houston theatre for me was the Catastrophic Theatre production of Hunter Gatherers. This company respects contemporary material in a way that very few can, and I’m itching to see their next effort.

ArticleImage-Theatre-SA2011

Spring Awakening – Aeon Theatrix

The Specs:
Book and Lyrics by Steven Sater
Music by Duncan Sheik
Directed by Chris Patton
Music Direction by Luke Kirkwood
The Site:
Obsidian Art Space
October 13 – 29, 2011
The Sell:
“Winner of 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Spring Awakening celebrates the unforgettable journey from youth to adulthood with a power, poignancy, and passion that you will never forget. The mystery of love, the power of friendship, and the discovery of the person you’ve become, set to a modern rock score. Come and know the wonder…of purple summer.”
The Scoop:
I was fortunate enough to be present at the Aeon Theatrix launch party some months ago, where they introduced themselves to Houston’s artistic community and announced their ambitious first season. They immediately endeared themselves to me with their commitment to utilizing Houston’s local talent and their debut production of Spring Awakening went on my calendar that very afternoon. Spring Awakening swept the Tony Awards in its debut year – who knew that Duncan Sheik (think 90’s hit – “I am barely breathing, I can’t find the air…” yeah, that guy) had a hit Broadway musical in him? Also on my list from Aeon is Glory Days, a musical that scaled all the way to an Off-Broadway production, only to be overlooked by the ever-distracted New York theatre world. Here’s hoping that the big apple’s loss is H-town’s gain.

ArticleImage-Theatre-MODMUTC2011

Museum of Dysfunction IV – Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company

The Specs:
By ???
Produced by the talented company members
The Site:
Obsidian Art Space
December 1 – 10, 2011
The Sell:
Showcase of original short plays by local writers
The Scoop:
Mildred’s Umbrella Theater has no problem with challenging the safe norm that occasionally settles over our city’s theatre realm. Their Museum of Dysfunction event gives local playwrights the opportunity to have their work produced by a passionate group of artists who embrace the good, the weird, and the weirder.

ArticleImage-Theatre-UVCTC2011

Uncle Vanya – Classical Theatre Company

The Specs:
By Anton Chekhov
Adapted for the Classical Theatre Company by John Houchin and Martine Kei Green
Directed by John Houchin
The Site:
TBH Center
January 5 – 22, 2012
The Sell:
“This collision of desires culminates in a flurry of conflict, gunplay, suicide attempts, and finally, in true Chekhovian fashion, more questions than resolutions.”
The Scoop:
I am such a sucker for Chekhov, and it’s probably best to forgo any attempt to psychoanalyze my own motivations on this front. At least, not in such a public forum. But feel free to shoot me an email with any theories on why I can’t get enough of Chekhov and Russian writers, in general. Seriously, this may be my cry for help. In the meantime, let me just say that no one is better equipped to handle Uncle Vanya than the gifted folks at the Classical Theatre Company. They consistently make classics accessible and fun again with their firm grasp of the material they tackle.

ArticleImage-Theatre-CPH2011

2012 New Play Reading Series – Country Playhouse

The Specs:
By Talented Houston Writers (Could be you… they’re still accepting submissions!)
The Site:
Country Playhouse
March 4 – April 8, 2012
The Sell:
“Country Playhouse’s New Play Reading Series is comprised of six Sunday nights of concert readings of new plays written by Houston-area residents. The readings are rehearsed, and the public is invited. Since 1993, more than 100 new works have been presented in the Series. Of these plays, we know that almost half have gone forward with a production, publication, or recognition in a national competition.”
The Scoop:
This series comes with the right price tag (free!) and a great opportunity to see the work of some up-and-coming playwrights in the area. Just keep in mind that this is a reading series, so if you go expecting a full-blown production, you’re sure to be disappointed. This series is as stripped down as they come – actors seated on stage, reading from fresh-off-the-presses scripts. The focus is truly on the dialogue, and the Q & A sessions with the playwrights that follow the readings are invaluable to anyone interested in the methods of successful scripting. I’m also awaiting the County Playhouse production of Speed the Plow. Fun fact: this is the Mamet play that led to Jeremy Piven’s fishy exodus from Broadway and from the hearts of theatre lovers, everywhere.

ArticleImage-Theatre-RRT2011

Rock, Roll and Tutus – Houston Ballet

The Specs:
World Premiere
Choreography: Stanton Welch
Rooster
Music: The Rolling Stones
Choreography: Christopher Bruce
Divergence
Music: Georges Bizet
Choreography: Stanton Welch
The Site:
Wortham Theatre
7:30 PM on March 8, 10, 16, 17, 2012
2:00 PM on March 11, 18, 2012
The Sell:
“Contemporary ballet has come of age, and it’s looking better than ever. At 20 years old, Christopher Bruce’s Rooster is still rocking audiences around the world. It’s a fast-paced romp of machismo and nostalgia set to eight classic tracks by The Rolling Stones. Also on the program are two ballets by artistic director Stanton Welch: a world premiere choreographed to highlight the talents of Houston Ballet dancers, and Divergence, the explosive ballet that put him on the international map.”
The Scoop:
Finally, some leverage in the struggle to get the husband to the ballet. He may merely tolerate tutus, but he’s sure to jump right in when The Stones are involved.

ArticleImage-Theatre-DAMSTC2011

Dog Act – Main Street Theatre New/Now Series

The Specs:
By Liz Duffy Adams
Directed by Andrew Ruthven
The Site:
Main Street Theatre – Rice Village
July 13 – 29, 2012
The Sell:
“A theatrical, post-apocalyptic dark comedy, Dog Act follows Zetta Stone, a traveling performer, and her
companion Dog (a young man undergoing a voluntary species demotion) as they walk through the wilderness of the former U.S.A. with their vaudeville troupe. They are heading toward a gig in China, if they can find it…”
The Scoop:
I know this play is nearly a year out, but I just can’t help but flutter at the thought of Main Street Theatre once again taking on Liz Duffy Adams. Last year, their brilliant production of her award winning Or provided the high point of my entire theatre-going season. So what we have next July is a playwright who has mastered the fine art of wordplay, combined with one of the most seasoned theatre companies in town… not to mention a “species demotion” plot line. This promises to be good, oh-so-very good. Another good one (or three) coming up at MST: The Coast of Utopia Trilogy

Have I missed anything? Let me know where you’ll be this season…

Fellow performing arts junkies, rejoice!  Houston’s theatre community is offering up what promises to be a delicious 2011-2012 season.  Between all the musicals, showcases, readings and classics on the horizon, we can breathe a collective sigh of relief, as summer boredom slips away into one weekend after another of artistic indulgence.  In an effort to minimize the strain on my overworked, overflowing Google calendar, I’ve sifted through the press releases and TheatrePort gossip and narrowed my list of absolute can’t-miss upcoming productions.  Now I’m sharing that list with you.  ‘Cause I’m sweet like that.

Republic Day – Big Head Productions
The Specs:
By Tom Stell
Produced by Big Head Productions
The Site:
Obsidian Art Space
September 8 – October 1, 2011
The Sell:
“The Rivers family struggles to survive as their country, the Republic, is torn apart by ethnic conflict and chaos. The father, John Sr., is a political prisoner and a hero to his people. John Jr. just wants to get by or get rich. Younger son Simon is a firebrand revolutionary bent on bringing his people to power. When daughter Beth falls in love with an idealist from the other side, Mom struggles to keep the family together. In a conflict where everyone is fighting for their home, how can anyone win?”
The Scoop:
This will be my first experience with Big Head Productions, but after hearing so many good things, I’m looking forward to checking out their first offering of the season.  While I anticipate and hope for an off-beat play that (please?) borders on satire, I’m also primed for a nice juicy metaphor.  “Ethnic conflict… chaos… revolutionary…”  While I haven’t been following the real-world news as closely as I should this summer, I sense that Republic Day will have as much to say about all of us as it does about its fictional characters.

Ether Dome – Alley Theatre
The Specs:
By Elizabeth Egloff
Directed by Michael Wilson
The Site:
The Alley Theatre
Neuhaus Stage
Previews start September 9, 2011
September 14 – October 9, 2011
The Sell:
“About love, deception and betrayal, Ether Dome tells the story of the discovery of anesthesia and focuses on the relationship between two of the greatest medical innovators in Western history, Horace Wells and his student, William Morton.  Highlighting the inherent contradiction of profiting from people’s illnesses, Ether Dome challenges our understanding of God, pain and what it means to be truly human.”
The Scoop:
For the great masses out there that have trouble staying awake through a night at the theatre, a play about anesthesia may pose a challenge.  But I suggest we defer to Alley Artistic Director Gregory Boyd’s brilliance on this one.  My guess is that playwright Elizabeth Egloff isn’t winning Oppenheimer Awards for nothing.  My other can’t-miss offering from the Alley is Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris.  By.  David.  Sedaris.  Enough said.

Texas Contemporary Dance Weekend – Dance Source Houston
The Specs:
Produced by Dance Source Houston
Featuring Ad Deum Dance Company, Earthen Vessels/Sandra Organ Dance Company, HIStory, Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, iMEE, Psophonia Dance Company, Vault, and independent choreographer Ashley Horn.
The Site:
Miller Outdoor Theatre
September 23 – 24, 2011
The Sell:
“Gone are the days of just dancing on a bare floor.  Through doorways, on screen, and up walls, Weekend of Texas Contemporary Dance brings to life dance as an artistic expression for 21st century humanity. Framed by Texas’ top performing companies, Weekend is a mixture of athleticism, technology, and imagination rolled into one evening.”
The Scoop:
Contemporary:  A style rich in deceptive simplicity, stripped bare of stiff tulle and fairytale plot lines.  Dance:  My childhood dream before my knees, hips, ankles, and will to starve gave out.  So really, this is a no-brainer for me.

There Is a Happiness That Morning Is – Catastrophic Theatre
The Specs:
By Mickle Maher
Directed by Jason Nodler
The Site:
The Catastrophic Office
September 24 – October 15, 2011
The Sell:
“In There is a Happiness That Morning Is, Maher is focused on how differently two people can view even the most intimate shared experience and the impact that difference might have on their lives.”
The Scoop:
Two professors share more than a love of poet William Blake, as their lives collide in a very public way. There is a Happiness that Morning Is will be delivered as two lectures, and entirely in rhymed verse.  One of the highlights of recent years in Houston theatre for me was the Catastrophic Theatre production of Hunter Gatherers.  This company respects contemporary material in a way that very few can, and I’m itching to see their next effort.

Spring Awakening – Aeon Theatrix
The Specs:
Book and Lyrics by Steven Sater
Music by Duncan Sheik
Directed by Chris Patton
Music Direction by Luke Kirkwood
The Site:
Obsidian Art Space
October 13 – 29, 2011
The Sell:
“Winner of 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Spring Awakening celebrates the unforgettable journey from youth to adulthood with a power, poignancy, and passion that you will never forget.  The mystery of love, the power of friendship, and the discovery of the person you’ve become, set to a modern rock score.  Come and know the wonder…of purple summer.”
The Scoop:
I was fortunate enough to be present at the Aeon Theatrix launch party some months ago, where they introduced themselves to Houston’s artistic community and announced their ambitious first season.  They immediately endeared themselves to me with their commitment to utilizing Houston’s local talent and their debut production of Spring Awakening went on my calendar that very afternoon. Spring Awakening swept the Tony Awards in its debut year – who knew that Duncan Sheik (think 90’s hit – “I am barely breathing, I can’t find the air…”  yeah, that guy) had a hit Broadway musical in him?  Also on my list from Aeon is Glory Days, a musical that scaled all the way to an Off-Broadway production, only to be overlooked by the ever-distracted New York theatre world.  Here’s hoping that the big apple’s loss is H-town’s gain.

Museum of Dysfunction IV – Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company
The Specs:
By ???
Produced by the talented company members
The Site:
Obsidian Art Space
December 1 – 10, 2011
The Sell:
Showcase of original short plays by local writers
The Scoop:
Mildred’s Umbrella Theater has no problem with challenging the safe norm that occasionally settles over our city’s theatre realm.  Their Museum of Dysfunction event gives local playwrights the opportunity to have their work produced by a passionate group of artists who embrace the good, the weird, and the weirder.

Uncle Vanya – Classical Theatre Company
The Specs:
By Anton Chekhov
Adapted for the Classical Theatre Company by John Houchin and Martine Kei Green
Directed by John Houchin
The Site:
TBH Center
January 5 – 22, 2012
The Sell:
“This collision of desires culminates in a flurry of conflict, gunplay, suicide attempts, and finally, in true Chekhovian fashion, more questions than resolutions.”
The Scoop:
I am such a sucker for Chekhov, and it’s probably best to forgo any attempt to psychoanalyze my own motivations on this front.  At least, not in such a public forum.  But feel free to shoot me an email with any theories on why I can’t get enough of Chekhov and Russian writers, in general.  Seriously, this may be my cry for help.  In the meantime, let me just say that no one is better equipped to handle Uncle Vanya than the gifted folks at the Classical Theatre Company.  They consistently make classics accessible and fun again with their firm grasp of the material they tackle.

2012 New Play Reading Series – Country Playhouse
The Specs:
By Talented Houston Writers (Could be you… they’re still accepting submissions!)
The Site:
Country Playhouse
March 4 – April 8, 2012
The Sell:
“Country Playhouse’s New Play Reading Series is comprised of six Sunday nights of concert readings of new plays written by Houston-area residents. The readings are rehearsed, and the public is invited. Since 1993, more than 100 new works have been presented in the Series. Of these plays, we know that almost half have gone forward with a production, publication, or recognition in a national competition.”
The Scoop:
This series comes with the right price tag (free!) and a great opportunity to see the work of some up-and-coming playwrights in the area.  Just keep in mind that this is a reading series, so if you go expecting a full-blown production, you’re sure to be disappointed.  This series is as stripped down as they come – actors seated on stage, reading from fresh-off-the-presses scripts.  The focus is truly on the dialogue, and the Q & A sessions with the playwrights that follow the readings are invaluable to anyone interested in the methods of successful scripting.  I’m also awaiting the County Playhouse production of Speed the Plow.  Fun fact: this is the Mamet play that led to Jeremy Piven’s fishy exodus from Broadway and from the hearts of theatre lovers, everywhere.

Rock, Roll and Tutus – Houston Ballet
The Specs:
World Premiere
Choreography: Stanton Welch
Rooster
Music: The Rolling Stones
Choreography: Christopher Bruce
Divergence
Music: Georges Bizet
Choreography: Stanton Welch
The Site:
Wortham Theatre
7:30 PM on March 8, 10, 16, 17, 2012
2:00 PM on March 11, 18, 2012
The Sell:
“Contemporary ballet has come of age, and it’s looking better than ever. At 20 years old, Christopher Bruce’s Rooster is still rocking audiences around the world. It’s a fast-paced romp of machismo and nostalgia set to eight classic tracks by The Rolling Stones. Also on the program are two ballets by artistic director Stanton Welch: a world premiere choreographed to highlight the talents of Houston Ballet dancers, and Divergence, the explosive ballet that put him on the international map.”
The Scoop:
Finally, some leverage in the struggle to get the husband to the ballet.  He may merely tolerate tutus, but he’s sure to jump right in when The Stones are involved.

Dog Act – Main Street Theatre New/Now Series
The Specs:
By Liz Duffy Adams
Directed by Andrew Ruthven
The Site:
Main Street Theatre – Rice Village
July 13 – 29, 2012
The Sell:
“A theatrical, post-apocalyptic dark comedy, Dog Act follows Zetta Stone, a traveling performer, and her
companion Dog (a young man undergoing a voluntary species demotion) as they walk through the wilderness of the former U.S.A. with their vaudeville troupe. They are heading toward a gig in China, if they can find it…”
The Scoop:
I know this play is nearly a year out, but I just can’t help but flutter at the thought of Main Street Theatre once again taking on Liz Duffy Adams.  Last year, their brilliant production of her award winning Or provided the high point of my entire theatre-going season.  So what we have next July is a playwright who has mastered the fine art of wordplay, combined with one of the most seasoned theatre companies in town… not to mention a “species demotion” plot line.  This promises to be good, oh-so-very good.  Another good one (or three) coming up at MST: The Coast of Utopia Trilogy


Have I missed anything?  Let me know where you’ll be this season…

— Kerri

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