2001 was a bad year for Houston's Alley Theatre—flooding from Tropical Storm Allison forced the theatre to cancel two productions, move another (The Carpetbagger's Children, which eventually arrived Off-Broadway) and caused millions of dollars worth of damage to the costume and set shops and to the Neuhaus Stage.
The year 2002, on the other hand, has been a banner one for the Tony Award-winning Houston company, as they unveiled a completely refurbished and expanded Neuhaus Stage in January and are now opening the Alley Theatre Center for Theatre Production.
Perched atop a fourteen floor parking garage, the five-story space houses over 75,000 square feet for a scene shop, prop and costume storage, rehearsal space, a script library and archive room, offices and a boardroom. A former warehouse, the Center for Theatre Production was originally meant to be a "Theatre in the Sky," a plan nixed by the mid-80's oil bust. Throughout the 1990's, the space was used for storage, but in 1999, it was decided that the company invest in transforming the warehouse into a sophisticated production center.
In a released statement, Alley artistic director Gregory Boyd said he saw the new center as a chance to further improve the quality of the theatre's productions. "This space provides for our research and development. It serves as an incubator for not only new, but neglected plays. The laboratory setting allows the theatre to keep many projects in various states of readiness and gives longer gestation for plays, which results in better productions," he said.
Some luminaries, including musical theatre composer Frank Wildhorn, TV's Dixie Carter, Hal Holbrook and Corin Redgrave (currently starring in the Alley's The General From America), will get a special preview Nov. 4 with a media tour set for Nov. 7. The Alley Theatre Center for Theatre Production will be opened for the public Nov. 9 from 1-3 PM. The public event will feature comedy improv from the Alley's resident company, a theatrical fight demonstration and a performance of the traveling show, Barbara Jordan: Texas Treasure. The opening of the Alley Theatre Center for Theatre Production is the second tier in a three step plan for Alley renovation (the first was the improvements to the Neuhaus Stage). The third and final step will be the further renovation of the Alley theatre space, which will include the addition of a 125-seat cabaret theatre, a cafe and a performing arts bookstore. The whole plan, which will cost some $30 million, is expected to be completed in fall, 2005.
The Alley Theatre is located at 615 Texas Avenue. For further information, call (713) 228-8421 or (800) 259-ALLE. The Alley Theatre is on the web at http://www.alleytheatre.com.
— By Christine Ehren