Best Fall Arts Events

10 can't-miss fall arts events: Rothko art, flying dancers, grand openings, Barefoot Contessa — and more

10 don't-miss fall arts events, from Rothko art to flying dancers

Mark Rothko, Red and Pink on Pink
Mark Rothko, Red and Pink on Pink, c. 1953, tempera on paper mounted on board with acrylic, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, bequest of Caroline Wiess Law. Courtesy of MFAH courtesy photo
Theater District Open House 2015-Broadway Pippin
Broadway at the Hobby Center brings Pippin to Houston in October.  Courtesy photo
Susan Graham
Susan Graham helps Mercury celebrate their anniversary.  Photo courtesy of Mercury Houston
Cast of Matilda the Musical
School days are fun in the Tony Award winning Matilda the Musical. Photo by Joan Marcus
Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa
 Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa, plans a Houston appearance in November. Photo courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art
Mark Rothko, Red and Pink on Pink
Theater District Open House 2015-Broadway Pippin
Susan Graham
Cast of Matilda the Musical
Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa

In Houston, we might not get much in the way spectacular autumn foliage but September does bring a beautiful seasonal change to the city’s art landscape. Whether you have a passion for photography, dance, music, theater or even food drama, there’s a colorful array of new visual and performing arts blooming in the fall.

There’s almost too much to choose from, so we’re sharing our own must-see list. Here’s 10 events and shows we’re looking forward to this fall, a mix of those big art blockbusters with a few lovely little flowers you might have missed. Pick and choose what you will, and let’s all have a very artful autumn.

Mercury turns 15 and gives Houston the present of Mezzo star Susan Graham, September 19

Let’s begin with one heavenly voice as America’s favorite mezzo, (according to Gramophone magazine) and Texas native, Susan Graham comes to Houston to join Mercury for their anniversary concert, an evening of opera arias at the Wortham Center’s Cullen Theater.

Under the baton of artistic director Antoine Plante, this Mercury concert features performances of Haydn’s Symphony No. 85 “The Queen”, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 33, K. 319. Arias will include “When I’m laid in earth” from Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas and “Ombra ai fu” from Handel’s Serse. 

Mark Rothko at the MFAH, September 20, 2015-January 24, 2016

While Houston art lover might immediately think Menil when the name Rothko is mentioned, this September it will be the Museum of Fine Arts bringing to Houston Mark Rothko: A Retrospective, a more than 60 painting show spanning the career of this master of Abstract Expressionism.

The MFAH, one of the organizers, will be the sole U.S. venue to present the exhibition from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C, the primary recipient of the paintings Rothko held in his own collection at his death. Over the decades, many Houstonians have found a deep spiritual connection to his Rothko Chapel paintings, and now this retrospective might help us gain a deeper understanding of the depth and breadth of his work.

Houston Grand Opera travels into space, September 23 and 24

Yes, opera lovers won’t want to miss Tosca and Eugene Onegin coming in late October, but our NASA loving hearts are beating to see and hear this world premiere chamber opera, O Columbia, that celebrates human exploration from Sir Walter Raleigh’s journey to the New World to race to break through Earth’s bonds and journey into space. Composer Gregory Spears and librettist Royce Vavrek took inspiration from NASA astronauts, scientists, and engineers to bring the story of exploration from the past into the future.

The Alley Theatre Company heads back into the Alley on October  2

After a year long theatrical field trip to UH during the $46.5 million renovation of the Hubbard Theatre, backstage area, and public spaces of the Alley Theatre building, the company settles back home with the West End and Broadway hit and critical sensation One Man, Two Guvnors.

Look for some pre-season celebrations as well, including a grand opening/ribbon cutting ceremony on September 26 that’s free and open to the public.

The Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH) melodically opens its doors in October

Houston has a lot of performing and visual artists so it’s no wonder we have to keep building and renovating more places to give them that room to create. Though the big celebrations for this 59,000 square foot facility, with a fixed-seat theater and multi box theaters and gallery spaces, won’t happen until the official opening early next year, many music, dance and theater organizations will be dancing, acting and moving in early this fall.

Watch for Uptown Dance, Apollo Chamber Players, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra and Musiqa performances early in October. Main Street Theater’s youth season begins October 11. I’m especially looking forward to the first adult theater event, ReadFest Houston on October 23 and 24, a new play reading series that will feature an intriguing mix of new and old favorite local companies including: Ensemble Theatre, Landing Theater, Hune Co., Wordsmyth, Black Lab and Next Iteration Theatre Company.

Matilda the Musical for all the weird kids of all ages, October 6-18

Some of the best musicals come from the strangest subject matter. Case in point, Matilda the Musical because who wouldn’t want to see Ronald Dahl’s fantastical tale about a telekinetic little girl with negligent parents set to music and given big dance numbers. Matilda is one our must-see shows of the Theatre Under the Stars 2015 season. (Weird fun fact: Matilda the Musical began its kid life as a production of the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon.)

Photographic talent as big as Texas, October 8 - November 15

We’re always on the lookout to look at Texas art, so after getting our design on at the CAM’s Texas Design Now exhibition this late summer (until November 29), we can’t wait for The Houston Center for Photography and FotoFest’s annual Talent in Texas Series. This year’s exhibition on view at the HCP and FotoFest Silver Street Studios goes, This Side of Paradise: New Photographic Work by Texas Artists. Curated by Catherine Anspon, the show will feature 17 artists from across the state.

Pippin Flies into the Hobby, October 20-25

The backstage crew at the Hobby Center have barely enough time to sweep the Sarofim Hall stage floor before Pippin replaces Matilda. Director Diane Paulus’s athletic and acrobatic revival of the Bob Fosse classic about a boy prince’s journey through life won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical Revival. Tumble quickly to get your tickets because it’s only in Houston for six days and eight performances.

Elizabeth Streb’s Extreme Action Company defies the Forces of gravity, October 30 and 31

Elizabeth Streb’s Extreme Action Company dancers routinely run into plexiglass walls, dodge swinging steel I-beams, fly through their Whizzing Gizmo and once, for the 2012 Olympics, even danced suspended in midair from the London Eye ferris wheel.

It seems appropriate that for this rare show in Houston, Forces, they’ll be performing their extreme dance feats on Halloween weekend. Even better they’ll be hitting, probably literally, the stage of Miller Outdoor Theatre, so both performances are free.

Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) cooks up some foodie tales at Jones Hall, November 4

While the words “culinary” and “art” have gone together for centuries, it seems like only recently that the act of cooking and telling food preparation stories has become its own kind of performance art form we all want to watch. A pioneer of that particular form is Ina Garten.

When she comes to Houston as a part of the Society for the Performing Arts 2015-2016 season, she’ll share stories from the making of her television show and the making of her favorite dishes, entertaining tips and maybe even some recipes. She’s also be taking questions from the audience, so you’ll have the chance to get gastronomically wisdom from this foodie royal.