Houston Area Community Theaters

Houston has more than it’s share of community theaters, ranging from small to loosely organized companies. These theater companies have no permanent space for established theater which routinely churns out big budget productions of professional, or near professional quality.

Theatre Suburbia, slightly north of the north loop at 1410 W 43rd St., succeeds at being both unpretentious and producing high quality work. Suburbia is an all-volunteer theater. This is somewhat rare-most local theaters have at least one or two paid employees (at artistic director, etc. Suburbia also charges less for admission than other local theaters and usually does a “benefit” performance for each show, with all the proceeds going to charity. And, anyone can work here. Show up someday and they will probably put you to work building sets, or anything else you are interested in doing, and invite you to audition.

However, this lack of revenue and apparent selectivity (or rather snobbery)is rarely evident in the quality of the productions. Although it must be said that while abundant effort and sufficient expenses are put into the productions themselves, the building is in a sketchy part of down in a building that ought to be condemned If you are new to Houston Community Theatre remember to wear a jacket in winter because most of the buildings are not heated.

Usually the theater companies try to use less familiar material: newer plays, local playwrights, and lesser know works by established playwrights. Sometimes the shows are better than the standards and it is rare if they do produce any real stinkers.

The Arena Theater at College of the Mainland (COM) in Texas City can be a treat for those willing to venture way out of the loop. They have a very different philosophy than at Suburbia than anywhere else in Texas. While Suburbia is an all volunteer organization, COM hires professional directors, stage managers, set designers, costumers, backstage workers, and others to run the technical aspects of each show. Everyone but the non-union actors is paid for their services. The local community theater companies produce plays of a professional or near-professional quality pretty consistently.

A little North of Texas City, you can find The Harbour Playhouse in Dickinson (3803 Hwy. 3/Dickinson). The Harbour Playhouse produces an enormous number of shows each season. The Harbour Playhouse in Dickinson has two stages and they try to always have a show running on one stage while they are preparing the next one on the other stage; like a repertory theater. The result is that there is a show being performed there nearly every weekend of the year. Sometimes the focus on quantity over quality is apparent at the Harbour Playhouse, and the quality of the shows varies widely. They have one of the more interesting venues around though. The theater is converted from an old movie house and features one of the few traditional proscenium stages found in Houston non-profit theaters.

The Country Playhouse (12802 Queensbury) is a misnomer. It is in the middle of the city of Houston, Texas. The Country Playhouse also produce shows of excellent quality and employs a fair number of theater professionals (and it is rumored, some professional actors). They have one of the nicer facilities and seem to appeal to a very upper-middle class audience. The Country Playhouse has been offering Texans and visitors quality entertainment since 1956.

The Pasadena Little Theatre at 4318 Allen Genoa Rd. in Pasadena, Texas is a fairly traditional community theater. It claims to be the oldest community theater in all of South Texas. They appear to have a very strongly knit community of supporters. The Pasadena Little Theater has been offering non-union actors work since 1955 and hopes to continue for many, many more years.

Theatre Southwest is another venue thrown together in a space that wasn’t meant to be a theater. Theatre Southwest was also founded during the late 1950s after many of the other theaters had already been established. Theatre Southwest is located at 8944 Clarkcrest Street in Houston, Texas. They do, amongst other things, a “Festival of Originals” every year, which consists of a series of short original plays-mostly by local playwrights.

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