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Friday, October 20, 2017

City

Alley Theatre to perform at UH once again after Harvey damage


The Alley Theatre will perform the world premiere of “Describe the Night” at UH’s Quintero Theatre due to extensive flood damage from Harvey. | Courtesy of the Alley Theatre

After the Alley Theatre’s floor level Neuhaus Theatre was submerged in floodwater during Hurricane Harvey, the theater company will temporarily relocate its performances to the University of Houston’s Quintero Theatre.

Alley Managing Director Dean Gladden estimated Harvey caused about $15 million in damages, according to the New York Times.

“Gladden called me the day after the flooding… he said he needed help,” said Andrew Davis, the dean for the College of the Arts. “We understood the devastating situation they were in and were anxious to help out.”

The Alley will still perform the world premiere of 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist and playwright Rajiv Joseph’s “Describe the Night” on Sept. 15 at UH, despite extensive damage to the production’s sets.

The show will transfer to an Off-Broadway theater, Atlantic Company, in New York City after the Houston shows end on Oct. 15.

“Debuting here and transferring to New York added a sense of urgency to put the play in front of audiences before it transferred out,” said Robert Shimko, the director of the School of Theatre and Dance.

This is not the first time the Alley Theatre has temporarily resided at UH. During the 2014-15 season, the company moved into the Wortham Theatre while its main stage underwent a $46.5 million renovation that included the new electrical system.

That new system is now ruined, according to the New York Times.

Because the Alley has resided at UH before, Shimko said it has experience in figuring out the technicalities of performing away from home such as parking, design and technical sectors of the productions.

“This doesn’t happen if you don’t have the leadership that takes action instead of just waiting and seeing,” Shimko said.

Shimko said the Alley requested the Quintero Theatre, which happened to be unoccupied during its desired time. UH is simultaneously running the play “Man and Superman” by George Bernard Shaw in the nearby Wortham Theatre.

 

Both UH and Alley are excited about the opportunities that come from this temporary residency, Shimko said.

“It shows how determined the two institutions are to persevere in times of hardship,” said Chris Hutchinson, a resident actor for the Alley Theatre and acting professor at UH.

Hutchinson said that the Quintero Theatre, though smaller than Wortham, is a good fit for the “Describe the Night.”

“It’s much more intimate in these smaller spaces,” Hutchinson said. “A play that wants to be heard and is character driven like Rajiv’s is really well served in a small space. You want to be right there, seeing the actors in the eyes.”

During rehearsals and performances, actors from the Alley and students from the School of Theater and Dance will be sharing dressing room space, allowing professional and student actors to interact, Shimko said.

“I just love seeing new faces and how whenever we’re in a crisis,” said Trinity Nobles, a stage management sophomore. “We’re still able to come together. I think that continues the family aspect of theater, so I love sharing the space with the Alley.”

The playwright for “Describe the Night,” Rajiv Joseph, visited a class at the School of Theatre and Dance on Friday for an interview with Shimko and Q&A with students.

“He was going to come anyways, but it added a bit of loveliness to the fact that he was here, that he went through the hurricane with the rest of us,” Shimko said.

“Describe the Night” runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 in the Quintero Theatre, while “Man and Superman” runs Oct. 6 through 13.

Tickets for “Man and Superman” are available online at the School of Theatre of Dance’s website, and are $10 for students. “Describe the Night” tickets are sold through the Alley’s website.

“There will be a fast turnaround, but we can make it work. Theater people are used to the idea that the show must go on,” Shimko said.

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