Houston’s Theater District
Houston is one of only five cities in the United States with permanent professional resident companies in all of the major performing arts disciplines of opera, ballet, music and theater. More than two million people visit the Houston Theater District annually to experience its magic and excitement. With 12,948 seats for live performances and 1,480 movie seats, the Houston Theater District ranks second behind New York City for the number of theater seats in a concentrated downtown area. Let us introduce you to the main performing art ensembles and venues.
The Alley was founded over sixty years ago as Houston’s theatre company. It offers a wide variety of work including new plays, classics, the re-discovered and the rarely-performed, and new musical theatre, with an emphasis on new American works – to provide the inspirational and the provocative – to make audiences think, feel, dream and be entertained. One of the few American Theatre companies that supports a company of actors, designers, artisans and craftspeople throughout the year. The productions are built and rehearsed in the Alley Theatre Center for Theatre Production – a 75,000 square foot facility adjacent to the theatres themselves (the 824 seat Hubbard Stage and the 310 seat Neuhaus Stage), one of the largest facilities of its kind anywhere. The Alley is also home to educational programs, such as From Stage to Page, HYPE (Houston Young Playwrights Exchange) and the Young Performers Studio. Throughout our history, Theatre has earned a national and international reputation for artistic achievement, including the Tony Award, and Alley artists have garnered praise from audiences across the country.
Da Camera of Houston, founded in 1987, was created with the intention to produce a series of thematically programmed concerts designed to attract new listeners to the concert hall. Members of the Houston Symphony and faculty of Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, University of Houston’s Moores School and others are often included in Da Camera programs, expanding the opportunities for locally based musicians of national acclaim and enriching our community by enhancing the musical life of artists who choose to live here. Under the artistic leadership of Sarah Rothenberg (an acclaimed pianist widely regarded for her innovative and thoughtful programs) since 1994, Da Camera maintains its commitment to this high caliber of musicianship brought together to perform in its Houston-based subscription series at the Wortham Theater Center and The Menil Collection; its extensive education and outreach activities; and its regional, national and international touring initiatives.
In 1995, Da Camera of Houston produced the first of its acclaimed “Music and the Literary Imagination” programs, conceived and directed by Ms. Rothenberg, launching the organization’s national profile as a leader in innovative concert programs with a series at New York’s Great Performers at Lincoln Center. Since the outstanding success of Marcel Proust's Paris (which debuted in Houston and went on to be performed a dozen times for nearly 5,000 people in three different languages) subsequent programs bringing together music with works of such writers as Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann and Anna Akhmatova have been performed across the country to sold-out houses and widespread critical acclaim.
In 1955, the founding members of Houston Ballet Foundation had a vision for dance in Houston: to create a resident ballet company and to start a school, which would train its dancers. Houston Ballet Academy was established that same year under the leadership of Tatiana Semenova, a former dancer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. In 1969, the professional company was founded, under the direction of Nina Popova, a former dancer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and American Ballet Theatre. Houston Ballet Foundation has seen the fulfillment of its goals: an internationally acclaimed ballet company which is now America’s fourth largest and an academy which supplies over 40 percent of the company's dancers. The New York Times has hailed Houston Ballet as "one of the nation’s best ballet companies." The company is comprised of 54 dancers, including artists who have won gold and silver medals at major international ballet competitions. In July 2003, the acclaimed Australian choreographer Stanton Welch assumed the leadership of Houston Ballet as artistic director. Mr. Welch, who has created ballets for many of the world's leading companies, has choreographed thirteen works especially for Houston Ballet. The Financial Times of London has praised his leadership of Houston Ballet, citing "a strong, invigorated company whose male contingent is particularly impressive, a well drilled corps and an enviable selection of soloists and principals."
Houston Grand Opera (HGO) was founded in 1955 through the joint efforts of Maestro Walter Herbert and Houston cultural leaders Mrs. Louis G. Lobit and Edward Bing. With a current annual operating budget of approximately $20 million, HGO has grown from a small regional company to become an internationally recognized industry leader in artistic excellence and innovation. Regarded as one of the world’s principal commissioners and producers of new works, HGO has introduced thirty-eight world premieres and six American premieres since 1973. HGO has received a Tony Award, two Grammy Awards, two Emmy Awards and a Grand Prix du Disques; it is the only opera company in the world to have won all four honors. HGO cultivates a varied repertoire that features traditional pieces, rarely performed masterworks, contemporary opera and new commissions.
HGO was among the first companies in the U.S. to embrace the use of supertitles: beginning in 1984, HGO used supertitles on all foreign language operas and now uses them for all operas, including those in English. Each year HGOco’s touring group, Opera to Go!, presents shortened versions of traditional and new repertoire for more than 50,000 children and families at schools and community centers throughout the greater Houston area.
Founded in 1913, the Houston Symphony is one of America's oldest performing arts organizations, with a rich history of musical excellence. The orchestra has experienced steady artistic growth under the direction of distinguished leaders. Maestro Hans Graf, who took the podium in September 2001, is the Houston Symphony's 15th music director. The Houston Symphony fills each busy season with more than 170 concerts attended by an estimated 350,000 people each year.
Society for the Performing Arts brings a broad selection of performing artists and companies from around the world to complement Houston's own theater, dance, and music offerings. The goal of the organization is to present a wide range of the highest quality national and international caliber of classical performing artists and companies, ranging from traditional to contemporary, large orchestras and dance companies to recitalists and solo performers, new artists and art forms to multi-cultural attractions. Additionally, Society for the Performing Arts seeks to provide a variety of learning experiences for adults and children and to develop bridges between the performing arts and other interests within the greater Houston community and throughout the state of Texas.
Founded in 1968, Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) is Houston’s acclaimed non-profit musical theatre company and is currently under the direction of President and CEO John C. Breckenridge. TUTS was the first theatrical organization in Houston to perform free to the public in 1968 at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park, and is the only Houston arts organization that has performed there free to the public every year since the building opened. Since its founding by Frank M. Young, TUTS has produced more than 300 musicals including many local, national and world premieres such as Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, as well as International tours including Debbie Reynolds in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Juliet Prowse in Mame, Robert Goulet in Man of La Mancha, the Tony Award-winning revival of Carousel and the Deaf West Theatre production of Big River.
Uniquely Houston ® is an innovative program established by the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts to provide a home venue for Houston’s smaller and mid-sized nonprofit performing arts organizations in the Theater District. This collaboration provides partner organizations with access to technical, marketing, public relations, and operational expertise in addition to assistance with the overall production quality of each presentation. A central element of Houston’s cultural landscape, Uniquely Houston® supports the region’s exceptional artistic talent with programs that appeal to diverse audiences. The Uniquely Houston® series represents a vital component of the Hobby Center’s founding vision and is the reason why Zilkha Hall was built.