best summer theater
8 best Houston plays and performances to catch in-person and online this summer
As Houston theater companies and audiences look to the fall for new full seasons of live, in-person performing arts on stage, July and August still hold some cool summer drama, comedy, and musical surprises.
From live Shakespeare featuring Houston’s up-and-coming student thespians, to filmed Afrofuturist sci-fi, to divine divas, there’s a show for everyone. All this, and Catastrophic's queen diva, Tamarie Cooper, throws the ultimate birthday show.
30 Ways to Get Freepresented byCatastrophic Theatre (streaming now through July 25)
Few Houston actors and stage artists have created more new work during the pandemic shutdown than Candice D’Meza, who seems to have found an additional calling merging theater with film. Stages and Houston Cinema Arts featured her interdisciplinary one-woman show Fatherland.
Now, Catastrophic presents 30 Ways to Get Free, the latest in her series of Afrofuturist micro-films that seek to remove “Black liberation from the confines of white supremacy, and installs it in the worlds of spontaneous combusters, mermaids, trans-dimensional cell phones from Harriet Tubman, comic book-style vigilantes, and alien abductions.”
Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill atStages (extended to August 8)
We highlighted this show when it opened last month. But it feels so great to get back inside a theater, we want to give show’s extension a shoutout. Now, even more audiences can be transported back to 1959 and a run-down South Philadelphia bar, where the great Billie Holiday is about to give one of her last performances.
Houston’s own DeQuina Moore lives and breathes Holiday in a phenomenal performance each night.
As You Like It from 4th Wall Theatre (live, in person at Studio 101 July 22-25)
The company’s inaugural Summer Shakes program gives students a chance to work with professional designers and artists, while giving Houston audiences the opportunity to see some possible stage stars of tomorrow.
Directed by 4th Wall’s co-founder Philip Lehl, the comedy classic will feature Juilliard Drama School students Aaron Gonner and Arianna Stucki and the inaugural class of Summer Shakes Houston-area high school students.
The production will be that culmination of this theatre education program that integrates the core participants of this program: local high school students, advanced conservatory students, a master teacher, and professional designers.
18 Birthdays fromA.D. Players (streaming July 23-August 6)
Company favorites Jennifer and Kevin Dean star in a story about marriage and lost and gained possibilities written by playwright Jayme McGhan, who wrote Apollo 8, the commissioned world premiere scheduled for their just announced 2021-22 new season.
This play follows one evening with Ben and Viv, a married couple waiting to adopt and processing through the "what might have been's." The work explores the complexity of marriage, loss, love, redemption, and God's ability to bring hope to broken places.
Lady Grey (in ever lower light)fromMildred’s Umbrella (streaming August 5-13)
Will Eno — and especially Will Eno’s monologue plays — have given Houston theaters some powerful, if sometimes thought-puzzling, production over the years.
Now, Mildred’s gets into the Eno game with another monologue play that explores life, memory, and that weird relationship between storyteller and audience. A veteran of Eno productions at Catastrophic, Greg Dean directs with Sally Burtenshaw for this special production filmed on stage by a professional crew for streaming.
Tamarie Cooper's Golden Jubilee fromCatastrophic Theatre (streaming August 13-mid-September)
Not even a pandemic could stop this show half a century in the making.
That’s right, Houston’s queen of the stage turns 50, and the whole singing/dancing Catastrophic gang are convening (virtually) to celebrate.
Cooper tells CultureMap this show “won’t be no AARP commercial,” but instead a riff on all wonderful things 50, including “this comedy crone's 50-year-old ass,” and some of the best of the worst in her collection of 50 bad dates. Look for new original songs, scenes, dance numbers, and adorable pet appearances. C
atastrophic is even planning to keep the birthday party going with a few outdoor screenings of the show.
After Dinner Affair atA.D. Players (live August 21)
Theater galas go back into the theater for the annual A.D.Players fundraiser. The affair to remember, which is also presented by CultureMap, will feature a night full of good food, good friends, and yes the live, in-person and indoors stage entertainment featuring some of the best performers from Houston, Nashville, Broadway, and beyond.
The dinner will take place in The George lobby, followed by a show inside the theater.
Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Storyfrom Texas Repertory Theatre Company (live at MATCH August 26-September 4)
Theater and audiences will come back to the MATCH with this bio-musical offering a new perspective on the singer, stage, and screen giant.
The show traces her childhood in Kentucky to her Hollywood rise as a golden girl songstress in the '50s. Starring husband-and-wife team Julia and Mark X Laskowski, this musical tribute to Clooney and her story features many of her major hits, including “Hey There (You with the Stars in your Eyes),” “Tenderly,” and “Come On-A My House.”