Alley Theatre Announces Its 2014-15 Season in Its Home Away From Home at UH

Categories: Education, Stage

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Photo by Joan Marcus
Hallie Foote and Elizabeth Ashley, seen here in Dividing the Estate, will be back with another Horton Foote play in the Alley Theatre's 2014-15 season
A version of Dracula that hasn't been seen since the Broadway production in the 1970s , another Horton Foote play featuring Elizabeth Ashley and Hallie Foote, and the return of The Foreigner with company member Jeffrey Bean are all part of the seven-play season that Alley Theatre will be kicking off next August, Artistic Director Gregory Boyd said.

Today the Alley Theatre announced its next season with a line-up that they believe will keep their audience numbers high, even while the performances are moving to the theater at the University of Houston while the Alley undergoes some much-needed renovations.

"Instead of 13 plays in two theaters, we'll be doing seven plays in one," Boyd said. So there's been some reconfiguring of production schedules since the UH theater has 565 seats compared to the Hubbard Stage's 824. Another factor -- and one that Boyd looks forward to -- is that the UH theater boasts a proscenium stage which enables the Alley Company to do some things that would be much more difficult on its "thrust" stage, he says.

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Cold Sassy Tree Brings Carlisle Floyd Back to UH

Categories: Education, Opera

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Fourteen years ago, famed composer and librettist Carlisle Floyd premiered his then-latest opera Cold Sassy Tree at the Houston Grand Opera.

This week, it is returning to Houston, this time at the University of Houston's Moores Opera Center. All that Director Buck Ross needed, as it turns out, "was a very good couple of basses and a very strong tenor and soprano," Floyd said.

The opera, based on a 1984 book by Olive Ann Burns, tells the story of a couple in an arranged marriage WHEN that eventually becomes a true marriage between an older man and a younger woman.

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Rice Grad Student Translates a Roman Soldier's Letter From Centuries Ago

Categories: Education

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Photo courtesy of Rice University
Grad student Grant Adamson
Roman military recruit Aurelius Polion was homesick. We know this 1,800 years later because Rice University grad student Grant Adamson has deciphered a private letter Polion wrote in Greek to his family on papyrus.

According to a Rice University press release, Polion has written six unanswered letters to his mother, brother and sister. He's stationed in Europe, during a time of peace, but misses his Egyptian home and wants to hear from someone.

"I pray that you are in good health night and day, and I always make obeisance before all the gods on your behalf. I do not cease writing to you, but you do not have me in mind. But I do my part writing to you always and do not cease bearing you (in mind) and having you in my heart. But you never wrote to me concerning your health, how you are doing. I am worried about you because although you received letters from me often, you never wrote back to me so that I may know how you.
"I sent six letters to you. The moment you have(?) me in mind, I shall obtain leave from the consular (commander), and I shall come to you so that you may know that I am your brother. For I demanded(?) nothing from you for the army, but I fault you because although I write to you, none of you(?) ... has consideration. Look, your(?) neighbor ... I am your brother."
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Real Pirate Treasure Comes to Moody Gardens

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Photos by Lynda Rouner
Left: A recreation of the ship's bell, used to authenticate the wreck. Right: A recovered rifle
It was a weird fact to learn, but in all the history of nautical archeology there has been one, and only one, completely authenticated pirate ship wreck that has been discovered. It was the Whydah, which sank in 1717 but was discovered by Barry Cliffords in 1984. Now, the surviving artifacts from the ship are on display at the Moody Gardens Discovery Pyramid.

The Whydah started out as a slave ship. It was taken by Captain Sam Bellamy, a sailor turned pirate lord on a quest for the gold needed to marry the woman he loved. He took a fancy to the ship and made it his own personal vessel. Over the course of a year he plundered more than 50 ships using Whydah before deciding to return home with the loot and fulfill his promise to his beloved. A deadly storm made sure his promise was broken, and Bellamy was lost with his ship. Several men survived to bring the tale back to England, and only one escaped death to regale others of the magnificent Whydah.

The tale of Bellamy and his crew, including nine-year-old pirate John King, forms the background of the exhibit, with extremely well done recreations of life at sea in set pieces with mannequins serving as human reminders among the recovered bits of their life as pirates. Cannons, pistols, rifles, and real honest-to-goodness pirate treasure ate all on display along with dramatic audio descriptions narrated by their previous owners.

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UPDATED: Alley Theatre Gets Ready to Move to a New Home for One Season

Categories: Education, Stage

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The new for-a-season home of the Alley Theatre

Update: At 11 a.m. today, the Alley Theatre hosted a press conference to further discuss its one-season move. See the additional copy at the end of this post.

Next summer the Alley Theatre will pack its bags and head for an extended stay at the University of Houston's main campus while its own home at 615 Texas Avenue is extensively renovated, Alley officials announced today.

Managing Director Dean R. Gladden told Art Attack that the decision to move to UH's Wortham Theatre came after trying to find a home somewhere in the theater district with absolutely no success. "We couldn't even get a venue for one production," he said. "That led us to look for other locations."


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From Black Friday to Black Santa, It's Time for Our Annual Holiday Freakout

Categories: Education

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And coming up next, the airing of grievances.
There are good reasons to be annoyed during the holidays. Maybe you hate your family but feel obligated to stare blankly at them for a few hours every December. Maybe you have to work when everyone else is tweeting about how wonderful it is to have two weeks off for Christmas. Maybe you're just a lousy old grump who hasn't learned the meaning of Christmas from three ghosts that visit you in the night and a little kid with a messed up leg. Who knows your reasons, but you've got them and you're not alone.

It seems America's annual time to complain about everything from Christmas music to the crowds at the malls -- as if either are any different from last year -- is upon us, but there are some additional goings on that merit mentioning, either for their ridiculous nature or simply because WTF?

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10 Adult Toys that Aren't Full of Banned Toxic Compounds (sNSFW)

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Photo by The U.S. Army

Hey, so you know those adult toys you've got stashed away in your sock drawer? They might be full of toxic compounds that are banned for use in most items in the United States. Fo' real. It's time to start side-eying that vibrator.

You see, earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Customs confiscated 200,000 dolls that were shipped over from China, just in time for the holidays, because they contained high phthalate levels. Phthalates, or chemical plasticizers, had been used to soften the dolls' plastic outer materials, which would presumably make them more cuddly and all. But as helpful as those plastic-softening phthalates can be, they're equally as pesky on the toxic side. They aren't good for your health, especially when items that contain them are chewed on.

The FDA considers phthalates a "possible human carcinogen," and studies on lab animals have showed some nasty results, even in low doses. Exposure has even been linked to preterm birth in recent studies.

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Blood Wedding at UH Presents a Complex Frederico Garcia Lorca Work

Categories: Education, Stage

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Photo courtesy UH School of Theatre & Dance
Crash Buist as the Bridegroom and Lisa Wartenberg as the Bride
The set-up:

Frederico Garcia Gabriel Lorca was a Spanish playwright, poet, theater director, and artist, born near the city of Grenada in 1898, and arrested and executed in 1936. He combined several theatrical genres in his works, and the University of Houston, in the current adaptation, has paid homage to this by adding opening and closing bookends that bring Lorca himself on stage.

The execution:

This is a major production of Blood Wedding, with a cast of 23 actors, and the director Keith Byron Kirk marshals them adroitly in the series of vignettes that comprise the play. The opening introduces the playwright as he forms an acting troupe, in an amusing and witty passage, and occasionally a brief segment from a film of Blood Wedding is projected on a rear wall, reminding us of Lorca's enduring impact. Brendon Lara plays Lorca, and is quite good, capturing his probing intelligence and adding a note of narcissistic smugness.

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The Italian Straw Hat Kicks Off the 2013-14 UH Opera Season With a Farce

Categories: Education, Opera

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Photo courtesy of UH
Leah Bobbey as Anaide with Tyler Beck as Fadinard
Usually, soprano Leah Bobby says, she sings the ingenue role. But in The Italian Straw Hat she's Anaide who "has very questionable morals" and basically is responsible for the whole mess that ensues after "a horse eats my straw hat."

Moore's Opera Center at the University of Houston has mounted a four-performance production of a farce written by composer and Oscar winner Nino Rota who is better known for writing for the movies: The Godfather, Romeo and Juliet, and La Dolce Vita.

The plot concerns the ups and down of Fadinard, a bridgroom, who travels to Paris on his wedding day to make sure everything is squared away. He runs into Anaide, who is married and very much engaged in an extramarital affair. His horse eats her hat.

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Playwright Christopher Durang Will Be Artist in Residence at Texas State

Categories: Education, Stage

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Photo courtesy Texas State
John Augustine and Christopher Durang are the new playwrights in residence
Texas State University's theater program continues to score big hits, not the least of which is its recent announcement that the playwright who won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play for his Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike - Christopher Durang - will be one of two playwrights in residence for the 2013-14 year.

Durang's play also won Best Play from the New York Drama Critics Circle, the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle, the Drama League Award and the Off-Broadway Alliance Award.

John Augustine have been announced as the other playwright in residence as part of the Bowman Guest Artist Series. Besides writing several plays (peopleSpeak) that have been included in playwriting anthologies and produced in New York City theaters, he wrote for the TV show Titus and Encore!Encore! with Nathan Lane and Joan Plowright.

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