Anyone wondering just how riveting theater can be should have been in the audience for Anna Deavere Smith's Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, which finished a weeklong run at the Wortham last Sunday. It's unlikely that Houston will see anything else approaching its quality this year. The finale in a line of productions farmed in to give Alley artistic director Greg Boyd time to work on his epic production of ten Greek plays, Twilight was a welcome reminder of how cathartic and socially relevant a study of tragic events can be. And of all the nasty things there are to say about the Alley's middle-of-the-road selections this season, I didn't see anyone else (except, of course, for the co-sponsor, Society for the Performing Arts) coughing up money to help cover the $150,000 it takes to fund Smith's show for a week.
While Smith's one-woman show breathed vitality into the Wortham, something else highly unusual has been afoot in the Alley's auditorium during the past two weeks. Namely, there were black people in the audience. In fact, there were so many people of color in attendance at Having Our Say that one could only guess that the Alley had filched the Ensemble Theatre's subscriber mailing list. As it turns out, that's exactly what they did -- though not without the Ensemble's approval, and not without reciprocating by providing the Ensemble the Alley's own list. As a joint project called the Celebration Series, the two theaters offered their combined subscribers a four-play package for $70. Obviously, the appeal of the package is to let crowds familiar with one theater's offerings learn more about the other's. But while the Alley is after a more diversified audience, the Ensemble is after something else as well: a little extra funding. The hope is that an impressed Alley blue blood might leave behind a check or two after he or she hies to the Mid-Town Art Center in April for August Wilson's Two Trains Running and in June for George Hawkins's Who Killed Hazel Patton.
More Hair Troubles
Fallout from Michael Farrand's local production of Hair -- the problems with which were detailed in last week's issue -- continues to appear. One theater professional who was hired to work on the show when it was being cast out of New York called to report that the production photos Farrand included in his publicity packets (including the picture that accompanied our story) were more than a touch misleading. Why? Because they feature performers from a European tour, none of whom were actually in Farrand's show.
-- Megan Halverson