12-4 p.m. Sunday
Your cheat sheet to Theater District Open House
How artsy is Houston? With 12,948 theater seats — plus 200 if you count the new $47-million Houston Center for Dance — the 17-block area home to the Bayou City's theater district is bustling.
As one of the handful of American cities that supports professional companies in all four classical performing arts disciplines — symphony, ballet, opera and theater — it's evident that Houston's identity goes beyond black gold, cowboy boots and steak and potatoes.
Do you take advantage of what all these companies have to offer? I have been guilty of experiencing a city's art scene only when on vacation. But that's about to end.
On Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., the 18th Capital One Bank Theater District Open House is an opportunity to be a tourist in the Bayou City and get a taste of this year's artsy happenings. Cultural speed dating perhaps, the affair opens the doors to four venues showcasing the opus of Houston Symphony, Da Camera of Houston, Gexa Energy Broadway at The Hobby Center, Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, Houston Symphony, Society for the Performing Arts and Theater Under the Stars.
Uniquely Houston aims to support small and mid-size nonprofits and local talent by giving them an in to perform at Hobby Center. That means that in addition to the Texas-sized arts powerhouses, groups like Masquerade Theatre, The Apollo Chamber Players, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, Houston Ebony Opera, Karen Stokes Dance and Musiqa will make appearances at Theater District Open House.
That's a lot and you can experience as much as you like in one day, for free, and get exclusive opportunities to purchase the best ticket deals of the year — like buy-one-get-one free for Houston Ballet's upcoming production of Giselle, six Houston Symphony concerts for the price of three, $50 off a subscription package from Theater Under the Stars or a three-concert package for $70 from Da Camera.
There's more (click here for deals), though you have to be there on Sunday to get them.
With many simultaneous performances going on in five theaters (full schedule here) time is of the essence. Use the Theater District Open House's new website to peruse the day's complete schedule, sign in and create your own personal itinerary. It's easy, simple and helpful.
Find parking near one of the venues — Hobby Center for Performing Arts, Wortham Theater Center, Jones Hall or Alley Theatre — and hop on the free trolley between them.
Geo-savvy social techies don't forget to check-in on Gowalla. Be cyber-seen on Sunday in all four buildings and you'll be entered to win prizes for many of the 2011-12 season performances.
For families, there will be plenty of activities for the kiddos. At the Alley Theatre, bring your little ones to see a stage combat demo, take a backstage tour, partake in theater games with the Young Performers Studio, do face painting and dig through a costume trunk. At Jones Hall, interactive stations will host arts and crafts and an instrument petting zoo.
If you need to cool off a bit, your ticket into Capital One and Cadillac VIP Chill Zone in Wortham Theater's green room is to take a quick Cadillac test drive. You can lounge comfortably and nibble on light bites and beverages. Easy enough.
What should you not miss? Here's my schedule.
- TUTS Season Musical Revue at 12:30 p.m. (also at 2:30 p.m.) at Hobby Center's Sarofim Hall. It's the whole year in 30 minutes, and everyone needs to feel jazz hands every now and then.
- Apollo Chamber Players at 1:05 p.m. at Hobby Center's Zilkha Hall. They may not be a large ensemble, but they pack in a lot of energy with music that always makes people smile.
- Dominic Walsh Dance Theater at 1:55 p.m. at Zilkha. Because the ensemble is Houston's definition of a contemporary ballet aesthetic.
- Society for the Performing Arts' The Flying Karamazov Brothers at 2:30 p.m. (also at 12:15, 1 and 1:45 p.m.) at Jones Hall. It's not everyday that an act mixes comedy, music, acrobatics, dancing and juggling. Worth checking out.
- Da Camera Jazz at 3:15 p.m. Wortham Theater Center. Da Camera always puts a skip in my step, and when it organizes jazz concerts, I can't help but finger snap.
- Houston Symphony Concert at 4 p.m. at Jones Hall. End the day with a bang.
Will we see you at Theater District Open House?