The Show will (Eventually) Go On

Houston Theater District suffers heavy damage, but arts groups keep their heads above water

Theater District suffers damage but arts groups keep heads above water

Houston, Hurricane Harvey, flood photos, The Wortham
Alley Theater, in foreground, and Wortham Theater Center, in background, both suffered water damage in parts of each building. Courtesy photo

In the midst of tragedy and heartbreak, many people find solace in art, but even our most beloved visual and performing arts institutions aren’t immune to the power that is still Harvey. A preliminary look at the Houston Theater District shows extensive water damage that at times rivals the destruction experienced when Tropical Storm Allison flooded the area 16 years ago.

While Harvey's wrath flooded virtually every major performing arts venue in the downtown district, the damage varies from building to building. All of the Theatre District parking garages are "completely unusable," officials said in a statement, but some stage areas in various venues are virtually untouched.

As the whole city begins to take stock of the devastation and that first step on the long, slogging road to rebuild, here's a check of some of the city's premier art spaces and organizations we’ll need in the coming months to bring us entertainment, beauty and hope.

Alley Theatre
The downstairs Neuhaus Theatre and lobby are filled with flood water and all the electric systems for the Alley are underwater, as well as the basement dressing rooms. In better news, the main lobby and Hubbard Theater have sustained no water damage.

The Alley has cancelled the remaining performances of Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps. Patrons with tickets should email the box office at boxoffice@alleytheatre.org for refunds and exchanges as electricity remains out in the building.

Hobby Center for the Performing Arts
The Zilkha Hall stage sustained water penetration as well as in the loading dock area of the foyer. But the larger Sarofim Hall seems to have escaped damage.

Wortham Theater Center
The basement of the building that houses productions of Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet is filled with flood water, but water has already receded from the front of the house and the Brown Theater stage. There is some damage to the surface of the Brown stage. The Cullen Theater also has sustained a little water damage.

In a just-released statement, the HGO notes that "staff members had the foresight to move valuable instruments and many costumes, including those for our opening productions of La traviata and Julius Caesar, to higher floors in advance of the storm.” 

Jones Hall
Jones Hall, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and is home to the Houston Symphony and Society for the Performing Arts, received significant water damage to the rehearsal room in the basement. But there is no discernible water damage to the stage and auditorium.

Much like the rest of Houston, the multiple Theater District performing arts organizations are accessing the damage and what it will mean to their coming fall seasons. All of these organizations and venues are closed for at least the next several days. Check in with the individual websites and CultureMap for updates.

Here's an update on other venues elsewhere in Houston:

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The MFAH has sustained a few manageable leaks at its main campus, but according to Mary Haus, head of marketing and communications, there has been no damage to the world-renowned collection.

“Fortunately, because of our longtime protocols for storm preparation, managed by our Hurricane Planning Group, our collections have not been impacted at all, and there have been only limited issues with our facilities. Advance planning — for sandbags, emergency water pumps, and the floodgates that are installed at various critical points around the campus — has largely mitigated potential issues,” Haus said.

The Gardens at Bayou Bend did flood, but both the Bayou Bend and Renzi houses and collections are secure.

The Menil Collection
Assistant director of communications Tommy Napier tells us that the Menil staff has maintained round-the-clock security and maintenance presence at all the buildings on the Menil Campus.

“We have done preventative sandbagging at buildings that require it. At this time, thankfully, our buildings have not been impacted by the storm. Our director, conservation, and registration departments, which includes art handling services, are receiving regular updates about building status,” he said.

Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston
The Blaffer was not damaged but remains closed through Monday, September 4, along with the University of Houston campus. Upcoming gallery talks have already been rescheduled for later in September.

Small to mid-size Houston theaters
The smaller and midsize theaters so far have weathered the storm fairly well.

A.D. Players has announced via social media that they are doing well and their production of Harvey (the classic play about an imaginary giant rabbit) that was planned months ago, will go on later in the season, hopefully bringing some much needed laughter to Houston.

Classical Theatre Company and their stage at Chelsea Market appears high and dry.

Shannon Emerick, director of communication at Main Street Theater, sends word that not only have they not sustained any damage so far at the Rice Village theater, and the MATCH, where they present is Theater for Youth lineup is also “holding steady.”

Chuck Stills, executive director of MATCH says they're good, but will be on the lookout for any leaks in the coming days.

Studio 101 at Spring Street, where both 4th Wall Theatre and Mildred’s Umbrella stage their seasons, at last check is also doing well. A real hurricane-strengthened blow to Houston theater, however, is that 4th Wall Theatre already announced they will be closing the company at the end of 2018. Mildred’s Umbrella will likely not be able to shoulder the space cost alone and the storm has disrupted their fundraising campaign.

Though their placement right off of Allen Parkway and Buffalo Bayou could have meant disaster, but I can report, having ridden by there yesterday, that Stages Theatre also remains high and dry.