open house is back

The ultimate guide to the Theater District Open House: Pop-up plays, dazzling dance, and sweet sounds

The ultimate guide to Houston's can't-miss Theater District Open House

TUTS Oklahoma
TUTS will partner with the Houston Ballet for their production of Oklahoma in September.  TUTS Courtesy Photo
Broadway at Hobby Center-Les Misérables
Join the revolution as Mischer Neurosciences Broadway at the Hobby Center season brings Les Misérables to town in September.  Photo by Matthew Murphy
88 Keys Houston
The new public art installation 88 Keys Houston can be seen and "played" at outside Jones Hall at Open House.  Photo by Morris Malakoff, The CKP Group
SPA: Terk Waters of the Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Terk Waters of the Complexions Contemporary Ballet presented by Society for the Performing Arts.  Photo by Rachel Neville
Nozomi Iijima in the Houston Ballet's production of Marie. Photo courtesy of Houston Ballet
TUTS Oklahoma
Broadway at Hobby Center-Les Misérables
88 Keys Houston
SPA: Terk Waters of the Complexions Contemporary Ballet

It’s Houston’s annual time to dream of cool evenings and even cooler fall performing arts to bring a little drama, comedy and music to our nights. The Houston Theater District knows what we want and every year gives us a sneak peek of the performing arts to come, wrapping that preview up into a city blocks-sized party, aka Theater District Open House.

On Sunday, August 26, 2018, from noon to 5 pm we have even greater reasons to celebrate as Open House turns 25. And after Harvey’s cancellation of last year’s festivities, the performing arts preview stands as just more proof how art continues to survive and thrive in Houston.

There’s a whole day of performances, events and, best of all, deals to explore, so check out our CultureMap cheat-sheet of all to see and do.

Welcome back to the Wortham
While it won’t officially open to audiences until September, Sunday, August 26 will bring the public’s first chance to see inside the Wortham Center, which sustained the longest lasting damage from flood waters last year.

Let’s all ascend the grand escalators to our beloved Wortham Grand Foyer, where we’ll have a chance to meet characters from Houston Ballet’s Nutcracker and Houston Grand Opera’s La Bohème and also enjoy performances from Houston Grand Opera Studio artists and Kinder HSPVA Musical Theatre artists. In the Brown Theater Alcove look for HGOco Storybook Opera performances and in the Cullen Theater Alcove take part in Houston Ballet mini classes.

Sunday will be a somewhat limited viewing of the restored Wortham, as the curtains won’t rise on the the Brown Theater until HGO's Plácido Domingo concert on September 26 and Da Camera's Richard Goode concert on September 29 for the Cullen Theater.

Grand performances
As always Open House brings a almost-fall cornucopia of live dance, music, and theater throughout the day, culminating with a free concert at Jones Hall by the Houston Symphony, under the direction of HS associate conductor Robert Franz. The concert will feature music by Mozart, Rossini, Stravinsky, and John Williams. (Bring some tissues for “Suite from Star Wars, Princess Leia’s Theme.”)

Before the big concert at Jones, don’t miss some stellar presentations from Society for the Performing Arts, including Bruce Manners Comedy Juggler, Ballet Hispanico Summer Residency Student Performance, “Dorrance Dance” Elizabeth Burke, and music from pianist Kenny Broberg.

Over at the Hobby Center don’t miss selections from classic Broadway musicals from Theatre Under the Stars, as well as Houston’s own cabaret darlings Music Box Theater performing selections from 2018-2019 Mischer Neurosciences Broadway at the Hobby Center season.

The Hobby Center’s Zilkha Hall will also be the place to perhaps discover some mid-sized hometown performing organizations that might be new to you. At Zilkha, we can check out performances by Musiqa, Hope Stone Dance, Karen Stokes Dance, Virtuosi, Texas Medical Center Orchestra, NobleMotion Dance, and METdance. Even Midtown’s Ensemble Theatre will make an appearance.

For a joyous journey between venues, look for pop up performances and food trucks along the route. A partial lane closure of streets in the Theater District allows festival-goers to walk freely. To get floating view of the District, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership will provide free boat rides on the Bayou from Fish Plaza at the Wortham Theater Center.

Audience participation
Don’t just watch and listen, join in on the fun and art-making throughout the day. Besides those Houston Ballet mini classes at the Wortham, the Houston Symphony lets kids get up close to the instruments at their instrument petting zoo. Jones and the Alley Theatre will also feature interactive activities and a photo booth. The Alley will also offer a backstage Harvey Recovery Tour. Top it off with a Saint Arnold root beer tasting.

Art everywhere
The Cadence Bank Stage at Jones Plaza becomes the new, hot and perhaps most eclectic venue this year with performances from TUTS Humphreys and River School, Kinder HSPVA (Mariachi Spotlight and Jazz Ensemble), the Texas Mile Band and two performances from the jazz trio Mike Moreno, Burniss Travis, and Kendrick Scott presented by Da Camera.

Strut on this key installation
And as another dazzling addition to Downtown Houston’s plethora of public art, the Theater District presents the temporary art installation “88 Keys” by Houston artist Joan Dodd. This 236-feet long by 91-inches wide image of piano keys is made from premium grade, temporary and easily removable pavement marking tape that doesn't damage the existing pavers. Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts students helped with the installation of Dodd's “88 Keys Houston” and the piece will be re-sited to HSVPA's new Downtown Houston campus in the future. 

Dodd encourages people to play on the art work in any creatively constructive way the muses call to them. Walk, skip, or even dance on the keys and sing along to the music in your mind.

Big deals
The Open House lasts but a day, yet many of the arts organizations offer subscription and ticketing specials that give you the gift of performing arts for the entirety of the 2018-2019 seasons. Check out the sizzling deals from the Alley, SPA, Houston Symphony, TUTS, Houston Ballet, Da Camera, Broadway at the Hobby Center, HGO, and Revention. Some of these ticket specials are only available in-person during Open House, so don’t miss them.