Miranda Morris isn’t just the associate artistic director of Mildred’s Umbrella, she’s also a musician you can find playing with ‘60s psychedelic rock influenced outfit Lone Star Hippie. So, when it came time to plan a fundraiser for the theater company, one idea came pretty naturally – a concert, aptly titled “Women Rock.”
The concert boasts six women-driven acts and will serve as counterprogramming to the traditional gala which Morris believes people are tired of, adding that with Mildred’s being both women-centric and “a little bit out there, a little bit on the edge,” doing something outside of the regular gala just fit the company better.
“I said we should just host a concert that’s nothing but women musicians because that’s fun and it’s different,” says Morris. “I don’t think – I could be mistaken – but I don’t think there’s a women-only concert happening regularly in Houston.”
Morris contacted Lelia Rodgers, the owner of Rudyard’s, who graciously offered up a Saturday night at her pub, and Rebecca Ayres, Mildred’s managing director, reached out to legendary Houston punk band Mydolls.
“[Mydolls] were excited to hear our concept for the evening and actually came on board in helping us plan it,” says Morris, adding that they reached out to MIEARS (who jumped on board immediately) and recommended Lazer Kittenz, a youth punk band who will play a pre-show set.
“Linda [Younger] from Mydolls mentioned bringing in Lazer Kittenz [and] I was like, absolutely, that’s perfect, because that way we can show the future of punk rock ‘n’ roll,” says Morris. “We’re not just supporting the women artists of now but the women artists of tomorrow, and that’s part of why we have two youth bands who are playing with us.”
Pretty Vacant, the other group of fresh-faced rockers on the bill, is fronted by Rachel Roberts, the daughter of actress (and close friend of Mildred’s) Celeste Roberts, which made their inclusion a “no-brainer,” according to Morris. “[We] reached out to them first because they are like family to our theater.”
Rounding out the evening’s lineup are alt-rock trio Quinn the Brain, recommended by the Doomstress herself, Alexis Hollada, and solo acoustic artist Benita, who will play in between sets to keep the energy up.
Like a traditional gala, the evening will include raffle prizes and a silent auction, so Morris suggests bringing a little extra cash. They will also be inviting some of the organization’s previous partners (like the Houston Area Women’s Center, who worked with Mildred’s during their run of The Drowning Girls) to set up information tables.
The concert will kick off Mildred’s 2018-2019 season, which has already seen a big change with the company announcing in January that it would be leaving its longtime Spring Street residence for Montrose, where they will join the Classical Theatre Company in their Chelsea Market space. But both Morris and Mildred’s Artistic Director Jennifer Decker stress the necessity of the move.
Now free from “the Treadmill of constantly producing plays,” Decker says the company will be able to do projects that are not “necessarily traditionally theater, but are focused on hearing the voices of women in general,” such as staged readings of non-theatrical works of literature that incorporate women poets, dancers and musicians.
“It’s time to take the next step,” says Decker. “We’re focused on the work of women, but it doesn’t need to be just theatrical artists.” She adds that “Women Rock” is their first attempt at trying to open up their audience and, hopefully, unite all the women in town.
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“You can’t stay in a comfort zone and grow as a company, and that’s where Mildred’s right now is,” says Morris, “in a place where it seems on the surface that we’re scaling back, but ultimately what we’re really doing is scaling back in order to explode into something bigger very soon.”
Morris has one eye to the future, hoping that “Women Rock” will one day grow into an all-day festival that not only benefits Mildred’s Umbrella, but also raises awareness of the organizations in Houston that help women. But she also has an eye on March, when the curtain closes on their final Spring Street show.
“It’s going to be bittersweet, our last show there, [but] by 2019 I think you’re definitely going to see a bigger, stronger, possibly even more edgy Mildred’s Umbrella,” says Morris. “This concert is just the start.”
“Women Rock” will begin with a pre-show set at 8:30 p.m. with doors opening at 7:30 p.m. on February 10 at Rudyard’s British Pub, 2010 Waugh. For more information, call 832-463-0409 or visit mildredsumbrella.com. Pay what you can, with a minimum of $10 per person.