After months of Harvey recovery followed by a slew of shocking backstage revelations, the Alley Theatre has gotten back to the (show) business of putting all of its best drama and comedy on stage as they continued with their 2017-2018 season. Now Houston’s oldest theater company is making news again, but this time with a hopeful look to the future as they announce their 2018-2019 season.
In a statement revealing the new season, James Black, interim artistic director, who has been an actor and director with the company for 30 years, somewhat alluded to the trials and struggles the Alley has gone through recently with his praise of a lineup that perhaps reflects the spirit, if not the specifics, of the trying times the company and Houston audiences have traversed.
“In times of transition, we all are drawn to the familiar, traditional, productions - the timeless classics,” described Black, but went on to note “Yet, the upcoming season also asks audiences to go beyond the more recognizable titles and engage with work that represents the population around us. The characters on stage experience a span of emotions from heartbreak to fulfillment, so similar to what we as a community have recently experienced.”
Black also sees the season containing themes of connection and community, values that the organization will likely look to as they continue to makes changes behind the scenes.
“The productions truly center on the inter-connectivity we all share, the idea of family and what makes up a family. I hope to hold a mirror up to the community and utilize not only the exceptionally talented Alley Resident Company but also engage local artists on both sides of the footlights,” described Black.
After taking a look at the lineup, we can certainly see that balance between new, innovative and familiar. In fact, while it might be too early to know what shows will keep Alley supporters in their reserved seats and which will lure new audiences the the theater, we definitely see a balance of traditional, fresh and the intriguing with the coming season. Here’s our sneak peek.
The beginning, middle and end of this lineup are very familiar Alley-type selections that will likely feel comfortable to long-time subscribers.
Over the years, the annual Summer Chills offering has helped Houstonians sweat out the summer heat in the comfort of a good ole air-conditioned murder, usually conceived by the twisty mind of Agatha Christie. This summer will be no different as the company sets the Christie classic The Mousetrap (August 10).
We also tend to expect a Shakespeare production, which was once a Boyd specialty, to pop up at least every other year, so mounting the glorious Twelfth Night to open the season for the Hubbard stage (October 5) isn’t much of a surprise. Jonathan Moscone, who has directed several comedies at the Alley, will bring his imagining of the cross-dressing, gender-bending comedy to the stage.
The holidays, of course, bring A Christmas Carol (November 16), once more directed by James Black.
Family comes center stage with Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize winning Crimes of the Heart (April 17, 2019). The contemporary classic will be directed by Theresa Rebeck who’s had several of her own plays produced at the Alley. And the 2018-2019 will close with a family-friendly, tale retold by an Alley favored playwright, Ken Ludwig, with his adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers (May 31, 2019).
The new (to Houston, at least)
The company continues to use their annual January Alley All New Festival play reading and workshop series as a kind of rehearsal for their next season. Two alumni from previous Festivals usher in 2019, including Houston playwright Robert Askins’s mistaken identity dark comedy, The Carpenter (January 18), and Eliza Clark’s comedy Quack (February 8), about the fall of a celebrity health guru.
Another company tradition is picking up a new major Tony-winning play as soon as it becomes available and this year that play will be Stephen Karam’s The Humans, which won the 2016 best play Tony. This homegrown production is a bit of a nice surprise because the play is still on a national tour run. Long-time artistic associate, who has also been assistant director on many an Alley production, Brandon Weinbrenner, steps up to direct.
The downstairs Neuhaus stage season begins and ends with two shows we’re most anticipating. First up, is acclaimed American playwright and executive story editor on the Showtime series Shameless, Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew (August 31, 2018), the final work in her trilogy Detroit Projects cycle.
Dating meets string theory and quantum mechanics in British playwright, Nick Payne’s Constellations (May 8, 2019) a cerebral and emotional critical hit in New York and London. Leslie Swackhamer, who Houston theater-lovers will likely recognize for some of her phenomenal directorial work at Stages Theatre will helm Constellations.
Visit the Alley Theatre site for the full season list and dates.