Houston 2018/19 Season In Review by William Duell
The number of world premieres has increased yearly in Houston, and last season included a wonderfully diverse selection of new full-length plays and musicals. An added plus is that many of these premieres are by Dramatists Guild members.
In Shakin’ the Blue Flamingo, DG member Gwen Flager’s comedy produced at Queensbury Theatre, female friends and lovers reveal secrets and unspoken dreams as they plan the first LGBT prom in their town. Also premiering at Queensbury were For Tonight, a musical by DG members Spencer Williams and Shenelle Salcido (both for book, music and lyrics), and Whitney Rhodes (for book), about three orphan children in their Welsh village discovering the importance of home and human connection; and DG member Patricia Barry Rumble’s comedy, Breaking Out of Sunset Place, about three feisty women who escape a senior living community.
Stages Theatre premiered Replica by Mickey Fisher, a noted television series creator, about a terminally ill wife and mother who allows a replica of herself to be created to replace her in her own family. Stages also produced the children’s play Panto Star Force, by Ryan Schabach and our DG Houston Ambassador Elizabeth A.M. Keel, in which a farm boy from another planet joins a motley band to stop evil forces from taking over the galaxy. Stages also hosted Sin Muros, a Latinx festival that premiered Josh Inocéncio’s Purple Eyes, in which machismo meets acceptance as the playwright explores his heritage as a queer Chicano.
Alley Theatre produced The Carpenter by Texas native Robert Askins, who described the comedy as a “play about people pretending to be other people and dealing with imposter syndrome” when the stakes are high. Main Street Theater premiered The Witlings, an eighteenth-century comedy of manners by Frances Burney (1752-1840), best known for her novels Evelina and Camilla.
My word count limit prevents me from including all of the smaller theatres and production companies that mounted premieres, but here’s a nice sample: we had a number of new productions at the four-stage Midtown Arts and Theatre Center (MATCH), including Catastrophic Theatre’s productions of Chana Porter’s First Suburb, about life in the suburbs as experienced by four tweeners, and Toast, a collectively-realized raucous journey through Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell. Vincent Victoria’s play Hattie’s Big Night, about the first African American to be nominated for an Academy Award and to attend the awards ceremony—at a segregated restaurant—was such a hit at MATCH it will be performed again in May. Cone Man Running Productions premiered The Importance of Eating Ernest by Ben Popper, in which the audience wonders who among the rich will get eaten first. Obsidian Theater produced Wanda, Daisy and the Great Rapture by DG dramatist Alexis Schaetzle, about step-sisters struggling to get along while the father of one of them obsesses about the coming rapture. Regarding longer one acts, Scriptwriters/Houston and Driven Theater co-produced the Museum Plays, site-specific plays in the Contemporary Arts Museum by DG playwrights Rachel Dickson, Donna Latham, and John Meiners, while The Landing Theatre produced the site-specific Uncharted by DG member Brendan Bourque-Sheil in an Airbnb living room in the Heights neighborhood.
All this rich theatre, and already our current season promises even more.