Alley presence puts students under new spotlights

The Alley Theatre’s presence on campus has affected more than just student parking — School of Theatre and Dance students, whose performance spaces were already limited and tightly scheduled, have been booted out of the Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre and onto the stages of Houston.

Students will participate in performances by the Main Street Theater Company, Stages Repertory Theater, Stark Naked Theatre Company and the Alley Theatre, while some actors from the Alley will perform in the UH production of Moliere’s “The Miser,” which will open in April 2015.

Main Street Theater Artistic Director Rebecca Greene Udden is looking forward to working with students.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to tap into this rich talent pool… I love working with these bright, disciplined young actors,” Udden said in a press release.

Feeling the pressure

Acting performance junior Skyler Sinclair is participating in the current Main Street Theater production of “Peace in Our Time.” While she is excited for the opportunity to further her experience, Sinclair understands the importance of each student’s demeanor during these collaborative experiences.

“There’s a lot of pressure to represent UH in the best possible way because we’re all very grateful for this experience,” Sinclair said. “We want to show that by acting like professionals ourselves, a trait that (School of Theatre and Dance Director Jim Johnson) and the rest of the faculty at UH have instilled in us.”

Production students are also benefiting from opportunities through the School of Theatre and Dance’s new partnerships.

“There are quite a few intern positions that have been developed this year which bring students into the rehearsals and working alongside the Alley production folks,” Johnson said. “Some students have even been hired for various jobs with the Alley thus far.”

However, the added commitment of affiliating with a professional theater company may be a stress factor for some student actors.

“One challenge in all of the professional productions that our students are involved in this year is the simple logistics of making their way across town for rehearsals, whether it’s at the Alley, Main Street, Stages or Stark Naked Theatre,” Johnson said. “The hours can be longer and the rehearsal process can be more intense at times.”

Finding one’s place

Fitting into an established environment can be an added difficulty for any newcomer.

“The most challenging part of walking into a professional environment is figuring out the flow, figuring out how these people work and most importantly, figuring out my contribution to the ensemble of the work,” said acting junior Zachary Leonard.

Another challenge that these students are experiencing is working in a different space and getting acclimated to standard theater spaces.

“The Wortham Theatre stage is a luxury that not many people have the opportunity to perform on,” said Leonard. “Many professional theater companies all over the nation have ‘non-traditional’ spaces, just like the one at Main Street Theater.”

Looking ahead

Johnson hopes that these off-campus collaborations continue even after The Alley Theatre has returned to its home in downtown.

“We want our students to work in a variety of situations,” Johnson said. “It would be wonderful for us to add a couple of cooperative productions into the mix each year on an ongoing basis.”

An original version of this story misspelled the titles of some of the mentioned theater companies.

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