In sad Friday news going into the Memorial Day Weekend, the Alley Theatre has announced that because of COVID-19 financial repercussions, it is reducing its upcoming eight play season to five and none of the remaining plays will be performed in the smaller, 296-seat Neuhaus Theatre.
Specifics on the plays dropped and those remaining will be announced by Artistic Director Rob Melrose at a later date, the Alley said in a statement. The season is now set to begin October 2, 2020 and continue through July 4, 2021.
The Alley also announced that because of the reduction in its income, the Alley will lay off staff members and those remaining will see their pay cut. Laid off staff will be offered paid health benefits through June 30 and the amount of severance pay will be tied to their years with the Alley.
"The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing requirements has greatly reduced the Alley’s overall potential earned and contributed income. In order to protect the future of the organization, the Theatre’s annual operating budget of $20 million must be reduced by 35 percent to $13 million," the Alley statement said.
The Alley All New Festival — a way of giving playwrights a chance to workshop new scripts — will not happen this coming season and instead will be replaced with a free reading series.
The reason that none of the plays will be produced downstairs in the Neuhaus Theatre is that given the social distancing requirements, it isn't practical to put on shows there, the Alley says. All plays will be performed upstairs in the 774-seat Hubbard Theatre.
“The Alley is committed to producing a season even in this difficult time. With proper safety protocols and social distancing, we believe that our patrons will be ready to experience live theater once again,” said Managing Director Dean R. Gladden.
The Alley's services to area schools and the Houston Public Library will be continued.