HOUSTON – Famed producer Stuart Ostrow (1776, Pippin, The Apple Tree) joined the University of Houston School of Theatre faculty in the fall of 1995 for two interrelated reasons: to develop new musicals in a safe haven outside New York, and to nurture the next generation of theater professionals in the process. The intent is a blend of the professional and the academic.
The School of Theatre is a formidable proving ground. Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Edward Albee teaches playwrighting each spring. Renowned director Jose Quintero is annually in residence. School of Theatre head Sidney Berger is also founder and producing director of the Houston Shakespeare Festival. Steppenwolf scenic designer Kevin Rigdon is the newest addition to the faculty.
Under Ostrow's guidance, each fall students participate in "gypsy run" productions of works-in-progress, by known and unknown creators, via a musical theater performance course he teaches. Said works-in-progress, one taken on per year by Ostrow, might or might not go on to bigger, better things. Students also begin to add to the musical theater repertoire by creating their own shows via a musical theater collaboration course he teaches, also in the fall. Ostrow pools budding composers, lyricists, book writers, directors, producers, choreographers, and designers into cohesive teams with the express purpose of engendering new properties.
But not just anyone can sign up for Ostrow's classes. Not only must participants be enrolled at the University of Houston during the given semester. But also submissions and auditions are required of them. Typically, 70 applicants vie for 20 or so slots available for the musical theater performance course. Upwards of 50 annually compete to become part of the three teams of seven that constitute the musical theater collaboration course.
Auditions for writers, directors, producers, choreographers, actors, singers and dancers are in April. The mailing address is: The University of Houston School of Theatre, Musical Theatre Lab, University of Houston, Houston TX 77204-5071. The phone number is (713) 743-3003 By Peter Szatmary