With a new year, it’s time to once again to head out to the theater as we at CultureMap continue our tryout of all the new performing arts spaces in town. While the many renovations have brought new theatrical life to some historical and acclaimed companies, 2016 brings in a whole new way to experience Houston’s multitude of artistic performances.
In fact, we might have just found our perfect performance space MATCH.
What’s a MATCH?
Though its website is a bit coy on the subject, MATCH stands for Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston, and in several ways that Mid in the name acts as a kind mission statement for the whole enterprise. Snug in Midtown, at 3400 Main Street right on the METRO rail line, midway between the theater and museum district, since its sleeper fall opening, the MATCH has become a new, comfortable-fit, mid-size home for many a mid to small arts organization.
Mid might also be the inspirational word for its development when several performing and visual art non-profit organizations informally came together in 2003 to think about building one, central space for dance, music and theater companies to perform.
More than a decade later, after talk led to actual organization, a board of directors, business plan and a 25 million dollar capital campaign, the MATCH is now set on Friday (January 15) to officially and grandly open its doors, or in this case its breezeway, for all of Houston to come and celebrate.
Inside the Spaces
Along with all its Mid-ness, diversity seems to lie at the philosophical core of the MATCH from the initial vision to the design by Lake/Flato and Studio Red, to the multitude of Houston art organizations and institutions set to and already using the facility. And with that diversity comes adaptability especially when it comes to the performance spaces.
The MATCH is really two building connected by a large breezeway. The South Building contains office space on the second floor, rehearsal studios on the first floor as well as 3000 feet of gallery space.
The North Building houses four performances spaces, numbered as Boxes 1-4, which range in size and audience capacity. Box 1 and 3 are blackbox spaces with seating risers that can be configured in many different ways according to the needs of the performance. Box 2, which is intended mostly for dance companies, is larger and contains a set, sprung stage floor for those dance performances.
Box 4 is the largest and most traditional theatrical space with a proscenium arch, wide stage, and permanent seating for 329.
During its soft opening last fall, I had the opportunity to see several shows, starting with a play reading during ReadFest in Box 3. A little later in the fall, I saw the multi-talented and rather terrifying Bridget Everett’s cabaret show. For that performance, Box 3 which worked well as utilitarian box space for play readings, became a darkened and moody nightclub with tables and chairs as part of the Lott Entertainment Presents Joe’s Pub Series.
Most recently, I came out for the Musiqa New Music from Near and Far II concert in Box 4. The one commonality I’ve found in all the performances I’ve sampled so far is a sense of intimacy. Even in the larger space of Box 4 where stage and audience are separated like they are in thousands of traditional proscenium arch theaters around the world, I found half the fun of listening to the beautiful Musiqa music was watching the very expressive faces of the musicians who seemed so close in front of me.
MATCH’s immediate future, January 15 and 17 to be precise, involves a really big party. On Friday, come on down to Midtown for the Light Up the Night Block Party. The ticketed event includes music by DJs Noey Lopez and Vanessa Styvër, food from Lemond Kitchen, Karaoke Cabaret, comedy from BETA Theater’s improv troupe, experimental cinema from the Art in Motion Film Festival and several art exhibitions, including What Shall We Do Next? from Diverse Works.
Sunday is the a free family day with more music, art, and performances by Main Street’s Theater for Youth.
As for the coming months and even years, I have a bit of a prediction. Because of the size of the facility and the number of organizations signing up to be a part of the place, I foresee going to the MATCH will be less like seeing a show at the Alley or Hobby Center and more like catching a movie at the cineplex, when it comes to the range of choices.
Feel like just winding the workday down by taking in some contemporary art? Diverse Works will likely have a show in the gallery space. Want to hear a reading by a Nobel Prize winning writer? Brazos Bookstore has already started programming some visiting authors into the MATCH. Feel like some avant garde theater? Catastrophic Theatre is getting set to move in as well.
There might come a time, quite soon, when we can decide at the spur-of-the-moment what kind of art we’re in the mood for–dance, music, drama or comedy — and know we can find it some time that week at the MATCH.