To find out ways to donate to affected theatres in Texas, you can go directly to the list at the end of the story, which has been continually updated (the story itself has not).
On Sunday Aug. 27, as Houston was being hammered by Tropical Storm Harvey, playwright Rajiv Joseph posted a video on Facebook of the Alley Theatre, where his newest play, Describe the Night, has been rehearsing. Brown flood water covered the theatre up to the front doors.
By Monday afternoon, the Alley’s managing director Dean Gladden posted a message on his personal Facebook page, reporting that the theatre’s second stage, the Neuhaus Theatre, was flooded, with “water almost as high as the ceiling” and “the basement level with Neuhaus dressing rooms is completely underwater.” Gladden predicted that the theatre would be closed until Wednesday at least.
Over the weekend, more than 30 inches of rain fell in southeast Texas, with another 15-25 more forecast for this week; parts of Louisiana have also been experiencing heavy downpours. Eight people have died and a dozen have been injured, with thousands trapped within flooded homes.
Amid the damage to homes and property, theatres have not spared: In downtown Houston, not only the Alley but the Wortham Theater Center, which houses Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera, has flood waters on its mainstages and in its basement. The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and Jones Hall, home to the Houston Symphony, has reported flooding as well.
It’s not the first time these institutions have been hit with heavy storm impact. In 2001, during Tropical Storm Allison, the Wortham, the Alley, and Jones Hall , sustained flooding in their underground spaces. Damage to the Alley’s costume, scene, and props departments, and its Neuhaus Arena Stage, numbered $6.5 million at the time. Currently, though, the Alley is holding significantly more flood water than it did during Allison.
Other Houston-area theatres may not be as hard hit directly, but as they’re still run by Houstonians, the impact of Harvey is being felt. Jennifer Decker, artistic director of Mildred’s Umbrella Theatre Company, who has lived in Houston since 1982, called this “the worst storm that’s ever happened to our city. Most people aren’t venturing out of their neighborhoods, because you’ll start driving and you immediately start hitting floodwaters and you won’t be able to see it. We have elevated freeways that were underwater last night, all the way up to the signs above the freeway—they barely peeked above the water.”
Luckily for Decker, she lives in a part of town untouched by flooding, and the space rented by Mildred’s Umbrella, she predicted, won’t be directly damaged. “It’s elevated, so the space is probably okay,” she said. Still, just to be sure, she said, some company members “will be checking on it later this afternoon.”
Many theatres in the region, flooded and otherwise, have scotched performances and other events. The Alley has cancelled its remaining performances of The 39 Steps, which had been scheduled to run through Sept. 3. For its part Mildred’s Umbrella was in the middle of an IndieGogo fundraiser when the storm hit. “I really don’t even feel right about pushing it right now, so we might just let it go for the moment,” said Decker. “Locally, we cannot ask anybody to help us with something like that when they’re dealing with their own tragedies.”
Instead of fundraising, when the weather clears, Mildred’s Umbrella plans to host a food and clothing drive. “Hopefully if it dries out a little in the next day or two, we’ll be able to do that and take some supplies to the shelter,” Decker says.
Classical Theatre Company also has an Indiegogo campaign going, set up last month after computers were stolen from its facility. The campaign, which has an end date of Sept. 15, has gone quiet the past few days, though possible flood damage may add to the theatre’s critical needs. “I am hopeful that due to the facility’s geographic situation that it will avoid any flooding, though we are expecting to have a fair amount of water damage from leaks,” said Classical executive director John Johnston. He can’t be sure yet, though: No one on staff has been able to get to the theatre to assess the situation.
Meanwhile A.D. Players’ facility, located in uptown Houston, has fared comparatively well. “Fortunately the situation is better for us than a lot of other theatres,” said executive director Jake Speck. “As far as we know, everything is fine besides some minor leaks.” Speck, who just finished his first week on the job, noted that considerations made in the construction of the company’s six-month-old home have paid off. They hope to turn their good fortune into a benefit for others, though, said Speck: “We are hoping we can be partners with some of the other theatres in the city and help in any way that we can.”
One hitch: The theatre’s 2017-18 season, set to open on Sept. 8, entirely coincidentally, with the comic chestnut Harvey, will instead start preview performances on Sept. 13, with proceeds going toward flood relief.
Stages Repertory Theatre is on a bayou, which is 30-40 feet high with water at its banks, but the theatre itself sits high enough that is dry.
“What you’re seeing on the news is just the tip of the iceberg of what we’re experiencing; it is really quite shocking to those of us who are seeing it up close,” said Stages artistic director Kenn McLaughlin. “It is going to be a very, very rough year in Houston for all of us to recover.”
McLaughlin, who lives three blocks from the theatre, said he checked on the facility throughout the weekend. “We have 22 staff members, and one of them had their house ruined,” he said. “The rest of us are okay, which is remarkable.” The fate of the theatre’s upcoming production of Xanadu is up in the air, with last Friday’s set load-in at the Miller Outdoor Theatre cancelled as the storm approached. Cast members for the current production of Woody Sez are currently stuck in a hotel surrounded by water. Performances of Always…Patsy Cline are stalled.
“Looking out the window, I don’t expect that we are going to be back,” said McLaughlin. “It is not whether or not we can run, it is, can anyone get to us? That is the big question in the city—we just can’t get anywhere.”
For those interested in how to help, we recommend donating to theatre companies who have reported flood damage and are seeking donations (complete list below). Theatre Communications Group encourages affected theatres and arts organizations to look here for applicable resources; the Actors Fund has similar resources.
WAYS TO GIVE
• ALLEY THEATRE – Houston, TX
Massive flooding and damage
To donate to the theatre’s recovery, click here or text ALLEY to 41444
To donate to displaced staff members, click here to text ALLEYSTAFF to 41444
• COMPANY ONSTAGE – Houston, TX
Some flooding reported
Requested: Online donations (Click here to donate)
• ISLAND ETC – Galveston, Texas
Requested: Online donations (Click here to donate)
This list will be updated throughout. If your theatre is in need, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be included.
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