Update: At 11 a.m. today, the Alley Theatre hosted a press conference to further discuss its one-season move. See the additional copy at the end of this post. Next summer the Alley Theatre will pack its bags and head for an extended stay at the University of Houston's main campus while its own home at 615 Texas Avenue is extensively renovated, Alley officials announced today.
Managing Director Dean R. Gladden told Art Attack that the decision to move to UH's Wortham Theatre came after trying to find a home somewhere in the theater district with absolutely no success. "We couldn't even get a venue for one production," he said. "That led us to look for other locations."
According to the Alley press release:
"On Monday, July 14, 2014, the Alley Theatre will begin extensive renovations of its facilities that will continue through the summer of 2015, with the grand opening of the renovated Alley Theatre scheduled for fall 2015.
"All Alley performances during the 2014-2015 season will be staged on UH's Wortham Theatre, a 565-seat venue whose proscenium opening and stage area closely resembles most Broadway and many LORT (League of Resident Theatres) theatres."
And what, you might ask, happens to all those UH thespians as in where will their performances take place? According to the same release:
"While the Alley Theatre is in residence at UH, the University of Houston's School of Theatre & Dance will continue to produce their own shows and perform in the Quintero Theatre in the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts building."
Gladden said he doesn't anticipate any difficulties. "The University of Houston, we have a great relationship with them. Students from them who intern with us and we hire a number of people at UH." The advantage of relocating there for the year is that audiences will have to learn just one place to go and as an added incentive, the parking is free, he said.
"This is an outstanding opportunity for our theater students to directly engage with the Alley's working professionals," said UH President Renu Khator. "In addition to specific internships, simply sharing the hallways is a wonderful chance for our students to make connections and gain insight from the Alley's experienced and talented actors and staff. I know they'll experience the energy of our students as well."
And Jim Johnson, director of the School of Theatre & Dance at UH, seemed equally pleased, saying: "I'm excited to share our facilities with some Alley patrons who may not have visited the UH campus before. We've been going through some renovations to prepare the theatre for the Alley, in addition to some improvements to parking and a major transformation of the park space in the midst of UH's Arts campus."
The Alley has raised enough money - a $40.3 million milestone --in its Extended Engagement Capital Campaign to go all in on the $46.5 million renovation and move. Another $10 million is set aside for artistic enhancement, and $16.5 million for the endowment and cash reserves.
The renovation is funded by private and public contributions to the Alley through the Extended Engagement Capital Campaign, co-chaired by Meredith Long and Roger Plank. The $46.5 million renovation will include fully modernizing the existing building, including the Hubbard Stage and lobbies, the cleaning of the concrete building exterior, and improvements in infrastructure that will result in a more energy efficient building.
Or as Gladden put it: "We're basically doing massive reconstruction of the interior spaces. Everybody's excited. It hasn't had a major facelift since 1968 when it was built. This is one of the most exciting things to happen in Houston."
"The reception from the Houston community towards the Alley campaign has been excellent. We have raised $40.3 million to date and are eager to begin construction on the 1968 Alley Theatre building," Roger Plank announced.
Update: At the press conference led by Dean Gladden, Roger Plank thanked UH President Renu Khator "for enabling us to take our show on the road."
Khator said "I've already booked my calendar to see every single play." She also said she expects people who haven't been to the main campus in a while to be surprised at the transformation it's undergone.
Artistic Director Gregory Boyd said the resident Alley Theatre Company was "looking forward to not only becoming part of the campus but inspiring students as well."
The Programming for the 68th Alley Theatre season at UH will be announced next week. The Wortham Theatre is located just off Cullen Boulevard on UH's main campus inside the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts building (also called building 507 on a UH campus map), which also houses the UH School of Theatre & Dance. Free designated parking for Alley patrons will be actively monitored and patrolled by campus security for all performances and is located at campus entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard, just across the street from the theater building.