5 cutting-edge new plays showcase Houston actors' innovative stories

5 cutting-edge new plays showcase Houston actors' innovative stories

Houston Equity Festival-The Effect, Callina Anderson, Dain Geist
The first production of the Houston Equity Festival, The Effect featuring Callina Anderson and festival founder, Dain Geist. Photo by Pin Lim / Forest Photography
Houston Equity Festival-The Effect, Carolyn Johnson, Timothy Eric
Carolyn Johnson and Timothy Eric in The Effect Photo by Pin Lim / Forest Photography
Houston Equity Festival artists
The artist/presenters of the Houston Equity Festival: Patty Tuel Bailey, Dain Geist, Jeff Wax, Pamela Vogel and Shannon Emerick.  Photo by Pin Lim / Forest Photography
Houston Equity Festival: The Effect, Callina Anderson and Dain Geist.
Is it love or is it brain chemisty? Callina Anderson and Dain Geist in The Effect Photo by Pin Lim / Forest Photography
Houston Equity Festival-The Effect, Callina Anderson, Dain Geist
Houston Equity Festival-The Effect, Carolyn Johnson, Timothy Eric
Houston Equity Festival artists
Houston Equity Festival: The Effect, Callina Anderson and Dain Geist.

Houston actors will do double duty this summer and fall, playing a role onstage and producer behind the scenes for an innovative new theater project, the Houston Equity Festival.

The brain (theater) child of Houstonian actor Dain Geist, the Equity Festival will feature five plays all selected and produced by local members of the union Actors’ Equity Association.

“Actors in Houston have feast and famine years. Sometimes they're doing four or five shows a year, sometimes they only get one,” Geist tells CultureMap, explaining how he got the initial idea for the Equity Festival. “I personally really enjoy the work, no matter the size of the production or the venue. So after a particularly famine year, I decided to put this thing and motion. I found a piece that spoke to me, found a worthy director, collected a cast, and jumped off the deep end.”

Geist explains he wanted to do more than an one and done production and so set out to find “co-conspirators.”

“I needed other artists who were willing to jump off the deep end with me, and mount their own shows under a collective umbrella. To that end it is my sincerest hope that this festival takes off, becoming an annual event and a great opportunity for local artists.”

“It’s quite an undertaking to put up your own money and take the very public risk of putting on a piece,” describes one of these co-conspirators, actor Shannon Emerick who presents and performs Every Brilliant Thing in the early fall. “When a play speaks to you so deeply that you just know you’ve got to put it out into the world, you take a deep breath and go for it.”

All the presenters will abide by the Equity Members Project Code, working under union rules and funding and producing the project from start to finish. But as part of a festival, they won’t have to go it alone as they meet regularly to offer support for each other’s productions and foster the mission of the festival.

Yet theater-lovers will likely be the ones to reap the dramatic rewards, so don’t miss this lineup of shows set to showcase some of our best Houston stage artists. 

The Effect presented by Dain Geist at The MATCH (now until May 19)
Lucy Prebble’s examination of love and neurology as two strangers in a drug trial study wonder if attraction and romance is all a state of brain chemistry. Strong, humorous-to-heartbreaking performances give great emotional depth to a story that questions what part of us really loves. Is it our body, brain, or soul?

Hidden in my Heart presented by Patty Tuel Bailey at Saint Street Studio (May 23-26)
An A.D. Players favorite, Patty Tuel Bailey takes on the most saintly of roles, Mary, mother of Jesus, in this inspirational work by Ken Bailey.

Death and the Maiden presented by Jeff Wax at Spring Street Studios (August 17-September 1)
This Olivier Award-winning, intense and harrowing work from Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman gives no easy answers about what is justice and what revenge when a woman who survived years as political prisoner thinks she’s found her former jailer and torturer in the guise of seemingly benign doctor. 

Wit presented by Pamela Vogel at the MATCH (September 5-15)
Another award winner, this time of the Pulitzer Prize for drama, Margaret Edson’s acclaimed play chronicles the an English professor’s embrace of life and poetry even as she struggles to maintain her dignity and autonomy while battling cancer.

Every Brilliant Thing presented by Shannon Emerick at Main Street Theater (September 18-October 6)
Directed by Main Street Theater artistic director Rebecca Greene Udden, Emerick will take the role of narrator and perhaps audience wrangler as some gentle audience participation is said to be required in this story about a child’s relationship with a suicidal parent. Expect laughter through tears from this unique theatrical experience.