The year may have turned, but Houston theater and performing arts remain in a remote world at least until spring. Yet, local companies prove determined to stream on, offering new programming and some classic shows to continue to bring drama, comedy, and music to audiences as they distance at home.
The stages may have moved to our televisions and laptops, but theater plays on in January. Once again, some of these shows are free and others ticketed, but most of these organizations and theater companies have been offering free performances and entertainment since having to close last year, so please remember to give back as they continue to give to Houston.
Tamarie Cooper’s Holiday Super Show! from Catastrophic Theatre (now through January 31)
While we might have careened into 2021, Houston’s grand dame of the avant guard, Tamarie Cooper is still celebrating the holidays. In a bit of 2020 new abnormal, Catastrophic, which usually counter-programs absurdist or experimental plays for the December season, decided to counter, counter-program, and create an original musical, warm-hearted, but satirical (it’s Catastrophic after all) Christmas show. If you could use some holiday cheer in January, the Cat gang’s all remotely here to offer up joy tidings until the end of the month.
The Drowning Girls from Mildred’s Umbrella (Streaming through February 6)
Mildred releases a filmed recording from 2015 of one of the company’s most haunting — and acclaimed — productions. This dark, true tale of the murdered wives of bigamist George Joseph Smith silences the killer while giving the women voice to tell their own stories. The show also reminds audiences what wonders local acting talent like Patricia Duran, Courtney Lomelo, and Miranda Herbert and direction from Jon Harvey and his design arts can create — with a bit of stage floor and three water-filled bathtubs.
The Stronger from Alley Theatre (Streaming January 15 – February 7)
The Alley begins its free digital season, a mix of classics and brand new plays with the first of three works by Swedish master playwright, August Strindberg. In this one-act about two rival actresses who meet and have a war of words, one stays silent. Alley company members Elizabeth Bunch and Melissa Pritchett battle it out as the strong actresses.
Random Acts from 4th Wall Theatre (Streaming January 20 – February 7)
Fourth Wall has a tradition of bringing in other innovative acting companies and projects for local audiences to experience, and they’ll continue with this one-woman show written and performed by Renata Hinrichs and directed by Jessi D. Hill. Hinrichs recounts true stories from her childhood as a minister’s daughter on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement in the South Side of Chicago. Viewers will also have the opportunity to interact directly with the creatives behind show on January 14 during 4th Wall’s interview series, “Beyond the 4th Wall.”
A Half-Sheet of Paper from Alley Theatre (Streaming January 22-February 14)
In another short work from Strindberg, as translated by Melrose, company member Chris Hutchison plays a man moving from his apartment. In a last sweep before he goes, he finds that paper from the title that triggers a tide of memory to carry him into the past and a love swept away.
Ann from Stages (Streaming January 26 - February 7)
Holland Taylor’s tribute to the great Ann Richards debuted in Galveston before finding audience and critical success in Washington D.C, New York, and around the nation. It quickly became a beloved show for Texas audiences in local theaters. Stages favorite Sally Edmundson gave Ann a down-home, regal air in the 2018 production of the show. Last year, she reprised the role for TheatreSquared in Arkansas. The pandemic closed the production early, but they managed to film Ann, so now audiences can invite the good governor into their homes for a special steaming visit.
Giving Voice: Lawrence Brownlee and Friends Sing Opera, Gospel, and Standards from Houston Grand Opera (Streaming January 22)
One part of the great pandemic performing arts pivot has created a rise in remote concerts, especially for opera and musical performing arts. With its HGO digital programming, the opera company has quickly become a forerunner in remote concert making. This month, international star tenor Lawrence Brownlee returns to the stage, joining HGO Studio alumna, and frequent HGO collaborator Nicole Heaston. The pair brings in an all-Black group of opera stars for a new digital installment of this celebration of diverse voices.
Evil Dead: With Live Commentary from Bruce Campbell from Society for the Performing Arts (Livestream January 23 and on demand for a limited time)
Sure we’re stretching our theater definitions with this one, but come on, we can’t get much more theatrical than living legend Bruce Campbell offering live commentary while watching Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead with a nationwide, live audience. During the show, Campbell will share memories, stories, and anecdotes from the classic 1981 film that changed the nature of horror films. For a few lucky viewers, Campbell will even answer questions from the chat.