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Theatre Under the Stars Needs More Space, Invites Public to Help With Funding

Plans are underway for an expansion, but they still have $5 million to go.



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Priscilla Dixon
Margaret Alkek Williams with the rendering of Theatre Under the Stars’ new Margaret Alkek Williams Center for Arts and Education
Rendering of the new Margaret Alkek Williams Center for Arts and Education
Pete Ed Garrett, Studio Red Architects
Rendering of the new Margaret Alkek Williams Center for Arts and Education, set to open in the fall of 2018.

There have been advantages and disadvantages to the growth of Theatre Under the Stars' Humphreys School. "Over the past several years, we've had to turn students away because we didn't have enough classrooms to accommodate the number of students that wanted classes here," says Carol Thornburg, Chief Development Officer at TUTS. The group runs the Humphreys School of Musical Theatre, which grooms more than 1,000 kids every year in acting, singing, and dancing.

But they've outgrown their home at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts downtown. "We have had to rent other space that's not in our own facilities here because we just didn't have enough rehearsal space for two productions going at one time," Thornburg explains.

Now, they're trying to raise money for a new building. It'll extend from the west end of the current arts and education building along Walker Street, where a small surface parking lot sits right now. The three-story, 20,000 sq. ft. structure will include a black box theater and additional studio and classroom space.

More than $10 million have been raised from foundations and private donors in a campaign led by TUTS Board Chair Amy Pierce. That includes $4 million from Houston philanthropist Margaret Alkek Williams, who will have the building named after her. Now they're opening up the campaign to the public to raise the remaining $5 million. "We will be offering opportunities to have your name on a chair in the black box studio or to have your name on a music note on a wall display that we're doing," Thornburg says.

Part of the money will also go towards bringing in high profile talent to help develop new works as part of their Artistic Excellence Fund. Construction is set to begin next June with hopes of completion by the fall of 2018.