February may be the shortest month of the year, but Houston theater and performing arts companies plan to keep us busy this month with a winter’s worth of world premieres, new take on classics, and music galore to stream at home.
Love is certainly in the air for some theaters. Black History Month brings us some new visions of the past. And we even have some cool outdoor, live cabaret on the lineup. Here are your best bets for February theater in Houston.
DJ Spooky’s Rebirth of a Nation from Society for the Performing Arts (live streaming February 6)
Award winning composer, multimedia artist and writer Paul D. Miller, a.k.a DJ Spooky, turns his artistic prowess onto D.W. Griffith’s 1915 silent film Birth of a Nation, a cinematic technical advance that also contributed to devastating cultural and civil rights damage that linger into the 21st century. According to SPA, Miller “recontextualizes Griffith’s achievement and places the original film in a moral framework, drawing striking parallels between socio-political conflicts in America during Giffith’s era and today.” Kronos Quartet joins the ride, recording the original Spooky score.
I, Too, Am America from Ensemble Theatre (streaming February 7-28)
Directed by Ensemble artistic director Eileen J. Morris, this new “jazz-infused journey” by Ekundayo Bandele celebrates Black Americans cultural contributions through music and storytelling. The Ensemble cast weave history and song together, recounting pivotal moments and movements of the American tale, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, playwright Douglas Turner Ward’s Day of Absence, the musical dialogue of slaves through call-and-response, and Mahalia Jackson partnering with Martin Luther King Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement.
Spotlight: Jennifer Holliday from Theatre Under the Stars (webcast February 10)
While we wait in theatrical anticipation for grand musicals to once more grace the stage of the Hobby Center, TUTS has delivered some fascinating looks at the creative process behind musical, as well as special interviews with the biggest Broadway stars with their Spotlight webcasts. Next up, TUTS give viewers an audience with a true queen of Broadway, Tony and Grammy Award-winning Jennifer Holliday. The woman who originated the Broadway role of Effie White in Dreamgirls will surely tell a star tale when she talks with TUTS artistic director Dan Knechtges.
The Book of Magdalene from Main Street Theater (streaming February 11-21)
A rarity these COVID days, MST, mounts a world premiere play on their Rice Village stage for audiences to stream at home. In some bleak future, another woman named Magdalene, a phone companionship worker, contemplates loneliness, faith, love, grace and magic in uncertain times. Award winning playwright Caridad Svich says she wrote “Book of Magdalene” in the midst of the pandemic to “explore the spiritual concept of grace and how it exists in the modern world.”
Love Notes from Music Box Theater (live outdoor show February 12-14)
Just in time for Valentines Day, the cabaret quintet at Music Box offers up a live outdoor show in the backyard of the Queensbury Theatre. Tables will be socially distanced and for safety purposes will seat a maximum of four people in a party. Celebrate love with the Music Box crew as they sing romantic favs from Paul Simon, Sir Elton John, Sam Cooke, Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt, Jason Mraz, and more.
A Speck-Tacular Evening of Stories and Songs from A.D. Players (streaming February 12-28)
Audience favorites Emily and Jake Speck bring personal tales of their lives, love, family, and Broadway careers to at-home audiences. They’ll even reveal their journeys that first brought them to Houston. Backed by a three-piece-band, those stories will likely segue into crowd-pleasing standards and some of the greatest musical theatre songs ever written.
The Man with the Flower in His Mouth from Alley Theatre (streaming February 12-March 14)
This short play by Nobel Prize-winning playwright Luigi Pirandello tells the story of two strangers meeting at a train station in the middle of the night. At first, their concerns seem only the petty worries of the everyday, but as the two men get to know each other better, the subject turns to life, death, and the meaning of existence. See the play that inspired Edward Albee’s masterpiece, The Zoo Story.
Sin Muros Festival from Stages (streaming February 18-28)
For their fourth annual Latinx Festival celebrating Texas playwrights and artists, Stages offers Zoom readings of four new plays: Borderline by Andrew Siañez De La O, (trans)formada by Virginia Grise, Inner View by Christina Granados, and Franklin Ave by Darrel Alejandro Holnes. This year, the fest will also showcase two digital projects, Candice D’Meza’s world premiere Fatherland and a special offering for younger audiences, Yana Wana's Legend of the Bluebonnet. The event schedule also features community talkbacks and the opening night event and Premio Puente award presentation.
Some of these streaming shows are free and others ticketed, but many performing arts organizations 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.