The Alley Theatre brings Houston performing arts lovers some hopeful news with the just-announced 2020-2021 season, revealing Houston’s oldest theater ready to take some innovative onstage risks while working to keep audiences safe.
With a lineup that offers five world premiere works, many with development ties to the Alley All New Festival and Reading Series, the company has also made the decision to begin the new season in September, instead of trying to come back this summer with a Summer Chills production.
For those still saddened by the cutting of short of the spring and summer offerings, well, look for some rescheduling with the world premiere Amerikin and comedy Dead Man’s Cell Phone finding a home in the new season.
“After the cancellation of the latter half of the current season, due to safety precautions surrounding COVID-19, I’m happy to bring back two of those productions for this upcoming season,” said artistic director Rob Melrose in a statement about the scheduling changes. “Sadly, we’re forgoing producing a Summer Chills production out of an abundance of caution. But I hope Houstonians will be glad to finally get to see two productions we were so sad to lose this season. I'm also proud that the Alley is presenting five world premiere productions as well as a wide range of offerings featuring our Resident Acting Company. In spite of all obstacles, it is going to be a wonderful new season!"
So without further theatrical ado, here’s a preview of what’s to come in happier performing arts times.
Clue (September 18-October 25)
Originally announced as the fun Summer Chills play for a cool late-summer treat, the Alley has decided to make this new comedy the opening star of the 20-21 lineup. Yes, it’s based on the ’80s farcical mystery movie that was based on the board game that asked players to discover who murdered Mr. Boddy. Whether the play will have multiple endings like the original film is still a mystery but we’re rolling the dice on a fun night to get us back into the live theater spirit.
Amerikin (October 9-November 8 in the Neuhaus Theatre)
The first of the two works from this season that the Alley is determined the show must go on (later). The company originally harvested this work from its All New Festival, play reading series, to produce it as a world premiere a year or two later. In this play by Chisa Hutchinson, a new father desperate for community, casually follows his buddy’s advice and tries to join a white supremacist group, but the results of his ancestry test prove surprising.
A Christmas Carol–A Ghost Story of Christmas (November 19-December 30)
The Alley sings a spooky yet celebratory song as this will be the 30th-anniversary production of this Michael Wilson thrills, chills and eventual good cheer adaptation of the Dickens classic.
What-A-Christmas (December 1-27 in the Neuhaus Theatre)
Scrooge has some Texas-styled humbug competition this year in this world premiere one-woman show commissioned by the Alley. Texan playwright Isaac Gómez sets this Tejana Carol at a very familiar What-A-fast-food joint as millennial Margot spends Christmas Eve confronting some ghosts of her past, present, and future. Will she discover Houston Christmas spirit by sunrise?
Noir (January 21-February 21, 2021)
A new year rings in the third of the Alley world premiere, and a rarity in most Alley season lineup, a musical. Though inspired by classic film noir and radio plays, the story will likely resonate in a very 2020 timely way. An isolated man who never leaves his apartment, becomes obsessed with the lives of his new neighbors. The musical intrigue comes from some major Broadway players with music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening), book and lyrics by Kyle Jarrow (The SpongeBob Musical). Darko Tresnjak (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) directs the production.
Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery (March 12-April 4, 2021)
Last year, the Alley had a double hit with two Ken Ludwig adaptations of classics, The Three Musketeers and Murder on the Orient Express, so it’s not too surprising they’ll go deer stalking with Ludwig once more for a decidedly different take on one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous Holmes adventures. You might deduce already there will be a twist. In this theatrical case, five actors will take on the roles of more than 40 characters all together. Expect lots of costume and accent comic quick-changes before the villain is revealed.
Born With Teeth (April 2-May 2, 2021 in the Neuhaus Theatre)
This fourth world premiere of the season and another work the Alley gave some early development help with a reading last fall offers a tale of intrigue, jealousy, and lots of unresolved sexual and artistic tension. Liz Duffy Adams’s historical what-if story imagines young writers and rivals Bill and Kit (that’s William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe to you and me) collaborating on one of the Henry VI plays amid the deadly political conspiracies of Elizabethan England.
Dead Man’s Cell Phone (April 30-May 23, 2021)
The second of the shows from this 2019-20 season that gets pushed into the next, this work from one of contemporary theaters most unique voices, Sarah Ruhl, will open almost a year exactly from one it was originally slated. In this comedy, a woman forced to confront her own assumptions about morality, redemption, and the need to connect in a technologically obsessed world.
Waiting for Godot (May 21-June 20 in the Neuhaus Theatre)
Samuel Becket’s absurdist masterpiece about two men waiting for something, anything, or perhaps nothing at all might take on a whole new perspective after our global time in limbo. So far in his Alley tenure as AD when Melrose chooses to direct, he seems to make a practice of tackling brand new work or putting new spins on classics. We’re curious what visions will appear when he directs Godot in the intimate Neuhaus space.
High School Play: A Nostalgia Fest (June 11-July 4, 2021)
The end of the season and last of the world premieres gets Texas squared — as the Alley partners with Dallas Theatre Center to bring this new work by Texas native Vichet Chum to the stage. Take a deep dive into the world of Texas high school theater competitions, which, as any debate and theater kid in Texas cities large and small can tell us, is a very real (competitive and dramatic) thing. In this coming of age comedy when two coaches make a controversial pick for one-act play competition, the small town community takes issue while the kids fight to theater-on.