Prestigious theatre shines spotlight on UH

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The Alley Theatre will be presenting its 2014-2015 season at UH as well as its future renovation plans to house productions, performers and visitors. | Courtesy of Alley Theatre

The prestigious Tony Award-winning Alley Theatre is packing up from its iconic home of 45 years and moving into UH this fall for the 2014-2015 production year, bringing with it grand renovation plans and a whole new audience to UH grounds, all in anticipation of bringing the spotlight to the new and improved main campus.

“There are a lot of people who I believe have a sense of not knowing what UH is, and they’re afraid that it’s this dangerous crime-induced campus,” said Jim Johnson, director of the School of Theatre & Dance.

“I think this is a door we’re opening to a lot of people who may have this pre-judgment from decades ago of our university as a whole, and this will get them to campus and they’ll be surprised to see that this is a great place to come. It will open a lot of doors to the university.”

Starting in early July, the Wortham Theatre will be under construction to accommodate the Alley Theatre as its landmark building goes under a $46 million makeover, forming an exciting partnership between these two institutions, an alliance in which Johnson has been central.

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Dressing rooms, stages, stage crew equipment and more will be renovated to improve productions at the new theatre. | Courtesy of Alley Theatre

“When the Alley Theatre comes in, they’re going to do some additional improvements to Wortham Theatre that will remain,” Johnson said.

“We’ll get this wonderfully improved space, but it’s also an opportunity for us to do improvements elsewhere in the building. Our costume shop has been expanded and upgraded. Our smaller theater got completely renovated over this past year. We’re still finishing up some details, but it’s almost complete, including a whole new state-of-the-art lighting system that has been installed. It’s been a significant improvement, absolutely.

“You look around and this campus is a completely different world from what it was when I started working here 12 years ago,” Johnson said, remembering UH’s reputation as “Cougar High” that it continues to work to prove wrong, a progression well on its way.

“We’ll be in a very small cramped apartment for a year,” he said. “It’s going to be a pain in the butt, but it’ll be fun.”

Theater sophomores Valentina Olarte and Mateo Mpinduzi-mott anticipate great opportunities for the following year.

“It’s great,” Mpinduzi-mott said. “It’ll be different seeing the actors up front, for us as aspiring artists. We get to see what’s behind the scenes, share the same green room and observe their preparation.”

Olarte said Alley Theater explained its plans to UH’s theater students to better assist them in the transition. She added that Alley actors came to work with the students as instructors during the year.

News has spread throughout campus, and it might gain the Alley Theatre new fans, such as business senior Jorge Benitez.

“I wouldn’t usually buy a ticket,” Benitez said, recalling how impossible it is to find parking downtown. “But now it’s in location, and this brings more light into campus and changes the way you look at our university, so I’ll definitely support it.”

Photos of the renovated center can be found here.

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  • The article doesn’t say anything about exactly which building on campus will be housing the Alley this fall. Can somebody tell me?

    • The Alley will be in the Wortham Theatre, located in the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, building 507.

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