Theater District Open House

Insider's Guide to Theater District Open House: Free performances, sizzling deals, don't-miss events

Insider's Guide to Theater District Open House, with sizzling deals

Theater District Open House 2016-Houston Ballet
The artists of Houston Ballet in La Bayadere. Photo by Amitava Sarkar
Theater District Open House 2016-SPA
Society for the Performing Arts presents Pilobolus: Shadowland during the 2016-2017 season.  Photo by Ian Douglas
Theater District Open House 2016-Houston Symphony
Andrés Orozco-Estrada and the Houston Symphony. Photo by Wilson Parish
An American in Paris broadway TUTS
Theatre Under the Stars brings An American in Paris to the Hobby Center during their 2016-2017 season.  Photo by Matthew Murphy
Theater District Open House 2016 (backstage 2015)
Get a look behind the scenes during backstage tours at the Theater District Open House.  Photo by Daniel Ortiz
Theater District Open House 2016-Houston Ballet
Theater District Open House 2016-SPA
Theater District Open House 2016-Houston Symphony
An American in Paris broadway TUTS
Theater District Open House 2016 (backstage 2015)

Pity us poor Houstonians in late August. Vacations are over; everyone is back to school and work, but we’ve still got months more of muggy Houston heat. Yet, it’s not all bad because while late August might not blow in a gentle fall breeze it does deliver some very cool performing arts in the form of the 23rd Annual TransCanada Theater District Open House on Sunday, August 28.

One look at the expansive schedule this year, and it’s easy to see we’re in for quite a show.

The Theater District has always packed a huge amount of drama, dance, comedy, concerts, musical theater and opera in a few downtown blocks, and every year the District’s Open House packs a concentrated sampling of the coming arts season in one afternoon.

With five venues —  The Alley Theatre, Hobby Center, Jones Hall, Wortham Center and Revention Music Center — all opening their doors and only five hours to explore them all, there’s almost too much to do and see. To help you navigate your day, here’s a preview of some of the not-to-miss events.

All Star Performances

One of the things the Open House does best every year is give performing art lovers the opportunity to get a live-and-up-close view of highlights from the coming seasons. Head over to the Hobby Center to get some of those sneak peeks into what Theatre Under the Stars and BBVA Compass Broadway at the Hobby Center have in store for musical theater lovers.

The two presenters will have alternating shows onstage in Sarofim Hall with some additional treats throughout the day. Broadway has called in local cabaret favorite, the Music Box Theater songsters, to perform snippets from the upcoming shows. And while I won’t reveal spoilers, I will forewarn everyone to be on the lookout for some special TUTS musical surprises when you least expect them.

Don’t forget to give some of Houston’s smaller performing arts organizations some love and appreciation in the Hobby Center’s Zilkha Hall for the Spotlight on Uniquely Houston performances. You could actually just plant yourself there all day and chillax with nine different music and dance performances from the likes of Ars Lyrica, Wind Sync, Hopestone Dance and Musiqa. 

As the afternoon winds down, you might want to get to Jones Hall a little early for the closing concert from the Houston Symphony because it fills up fast. Look forward to an eclectic taste of their future concerts with music of Beethoven, Rossini and even hits from James Bond movies.

New and Old Favorite Interactive Experiences

The Theater District Open House has always taken something of a hands-on approach (for both little and big hands) to its entertainment with lots of opportunities to get up close to the artists and action, like the Houston Symphony’s instrument petting zoo, arts and craft stations, face painting at the Alley Theatre, and backstage tours of the Hobby Center, Alley and Wortham Center. This year there’s more chances than ever to try your own hand and especially feet at the performing arts.

The Houston Ballet is offering introductory ballet classes throughout the day in Cullen Theater Alcove. If ballet isn't quite your dance speed, how about a tango lesson at 12:30 in the Brown Theater Alcove.

Learn that conducting entails more than just waving a pointy stick around during the Conducting 101 class on the mezzanine level of Jones Hall with Houston Symphony musicians and Community-Embedded Musicians hosting. Inspire a Houston poet over at the Alley Theatre as the Inprint Poetry Buskers will compose a poem based on (most) any theme or image you can give them.

Head on back to the Wortham at 4 pm when the Houston Ballet will present both an onstage class with floor exercises and the chance to observe a run-through of a pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty. This Houston Ballet event will be a great alternative for anyone who can’t get into the Houston Symphony’s big concert.

Sizzling Deals for an Artfully Cool Fall and Spring

If you haven’t renewed that subscription or if you’re wanting to fill your nights and weekends for the next year with some amazing performing arts, the Open House offers some of the best deals on season subscriptions and packages you’ll likely see. An amazing array of performers and productions are scheduled to come to the Theater District during the 2016-2017 season, from Elvis Costello to The Book of Mormon to Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Nixon in China, and maybe even a vampire or two. The Open House gives some of the best prices and discount ways to see all your favorites. 

Just Have Fun

While every minute in all five venues is programmed with maximum entertainment, there’s also the option of pitching the schedule and just take the afternoon to meander and discover on your own. With trolley rides, food trucks and even free boat rides along Buffalo Bayou starting from Fish Plaza at the Wortham Center, there’s also the option of slowing down to enjoy where the day takes you and gain a new perspective on downtown and the Theater District.