Theater District Open House

Variety, Quality, And Access With SPA

A preview of Society for the Performing Arts’ upcoming season and their presence at Theater District Open House 2017.

For over two decades, the Theater District Open House has been Houston's way of kicking off the downtown performing arts season with an event that is part arts sampler, part street fair, and part family festival.

The annual Open House offers the public a chance to meet local arts groups and experience music, dance and theater through free performances, back-stage tours, and demonstrations, along with arts and crafts activities, special ticket offers, food trucks, and more – on the streets and inside the venues of Houston's theater district.

As part of our "Theater District Open House" series, we're profiling some of the arts organizations participating in the 24th Annual TransCanada Theater District Open House this Sunday, August 27.

In this installment, we feature the now-51-year-old Society for the Performing Arts, which presents a huge variety of different performances throughout their season. General Manager Lee Strickland told us a little about what to expect from the upcoming season and Theater District Open House:

Are there any thematic or unifying elements you looked at when picking performances for your season?

Society for the Performing Arts' season is divided into multiple series from theater and dance to music and speakers! We actively seek out shows that complete these series and artists that complement the diverse makeup of our community.

How would you describe your season in three words?

Variety. Quality. Access.

What considerations go into the selection process for your performances?

As a presenter, we work within the framework of available product that meets the requirements listed above. SPA puts significant effort into travelling to performances and conferences throughout the world and hand-selects artists to bring to Houston in support of our mission.

Are there performers/artists that you've featured in previous years that are returning?

Yes. We have a long-standing relationship with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who will be returning in March of 2018. We also feature SPA favorites, such as Momix, David Sedaris, and Adam Trent from the Illusionists among others.

What is something about SPA that a lot of people might not know?

SPA was founded by the Jones Family for the sole purpose of bringing world class artists to Jones Hall and Houston with the goal of establishing Houston as a cultural destination.

Are there any distinct challenges to bringing in so many different types of artists, as opposed to remaining the same medium like the other arts organizations in the district?

Yes. The variety of artists that we bring to Houston is exciting, but requires courting a different audience at many points during the season. Branding and marketing thus become very complex as we strive to communicate the diversity that we bring to our community.

Since we are a public radio station, we have an intrinsic connection with Ira Glass, whose voice regularly appears during our broadcasts. As he'll be featured by SPA in May, what's his show all about?

Ira Glass brings an all-new show to Houston! Go behind the scenes of the public radio broadcast, This American Life, with its incredibly talented host, Ira Glass. He is also the creative producer of the show, contributing much more than just his distinct and entirely unusual radio voice. Glass is returning to demonstrate the creative processes in making the show, dissecting raw materials such as monologues, interviews, and recorded events to craft compelling narratives with careful editing and music. Come and see the creative wonders behind the radio show that is heard each week by over 2.2 million listeners.

How are you opening the season?

We kick off the season with a revamped production of Momix's Opus Cactus in September. Our ‘Opening Night' celebration will be around our performance of Penn & Teller in Jones Hall on October 13th.

How are you closing the season?

We will be closing the season with the national Broadway tour of Sound of Music in Jones Hall.

How does this season "top" last season? Are you challenging yourself or trying anything new this season?

Last season was out 50th Anniversary season so we are building on the success of last year! This season offers four additional performances and we have made an effort to bolster our classical music offerings as well.

SPA specializes in bringing in a variety of artists that work in different media, from music to literature to theatre. Why is it important to showcase this kind of variety in a season?

SPA is unique in that we represent the full spectrum of arts and entertainment. We work to complement our other theater district colleagues by supporting the overall fabric of arts in our city.

What does Society for the Performance Arts have planned for the Theater District Open House?

We will be showcasing our dance and music offerings. The dance portion will be performed by local dance students who participated in our Ballet Hispanico Summer Dance Intensive. The music portion will be represented by Juno Award Winning Artist, Bria Skonberg; and 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition finalist, Fei Fei Dong.

Besides getting people to come to your events, what are your hopes for the 2017-18 season?

To continue to grow our profile as a leader in arts engagement and education in Houston.

The 24th Annual TransCanada Theater District Open House is Sunday, August 27 from 12 – 5pm at the Alley Theatre, the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Jones Hall, Revention Music Center and Wortham Theater Center.


Joshua Zinn

Joshua Zinn

Producer, Houston Matters

Joshua is a producer for Houston Matters on News 88.7 as well as the host of Encore Houston on HPM Classical. He joined Houston Public Media as a radio intern in 2014 and became a full-time announcer the following year. Now he prepares segments and occasionally records interviews for Houston...

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