Bruce Lumpkin, New Artistic Director at TUTS, Is Ready to Partner Up

Bruce Lumpkin, the new artistic director at Theatre Under the Stars, was both enthusiastic about what TUTS has achieved in the past and full of plans on how it can stay on top of things in the ever changing world of theater in a recent interview with Art Attack.

Lumpkin has a distinctive theater pedigree. He worked with Tommy Tune for 15 years. "He's been a major influence in my life." Earlier this month he was nominated for a Barrymore Award in Philadelphia for his direction of A Grand Night for Singing at the Walnut Street Theatre. The show has also been nominated as Best Musical Production.

He's a hometown boy, too. He started out at TUTS' Humphreys School of Musical Theatre as the resident director. And came back to do White Christmas and Miss Saigon.

While applauding TUTS for its mixture of touring shows and locally produced musicals, he predicted a future in which there will not only be co-productions with entities like Gexa Energy Broadway (as it did with Billy Elliot) but with other local companies and companies from other regions in the country who'd share the costs and casts of a production.

"The face of regional theater is changing drastically," he said. The plan on touring shows would be to send essentially the same actors out to other cities, who'd performed here. Another route might be to partner with other companies in Houston and put on shows in alternate venues -- allowing them to "offer shows at lower ticket prices."

It may also be possible to offer some shows in the smaller Zilkha theater at the Hobby Center, he said.

What TUTS has always had to balance, he said, is meeting the needs of audience members who've lived in the Houston area for a long time with new people moving into the area. Other factors: Is the big-name star you're bringing in going to justify his cost? As well as knowing, "The wrong star for a show doesn't really help you."

And some shows, like Flashdance, he said, don't need a star as much as terrific dancing.

In recent years, an increasing number of touring shows have had one-week stands, not two. Lumpkin acknowledged this, pointing out: "If you can fill the theater for a week, it's better than half theater for two weeks," he added.

He is still encouraged that people will attend theater. "Even in the Depression era, people needed that escape. It fills so much in our lives. I can't imagine a world without it. "

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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