We're finally done with our Best of 2014 lists (we promise), which means it's time to turn our attention to handicapping 2015 in the arts. And although most performing arts companies won't announce their 2015–16 seasons until early summer, there's still plenty left in the current season. Here's what we're most looking forward to.  

1. The Alley Returns Downtown 

Image: Studio RED

Houston’s premier theater company decamped to the UH campus for the 2014–15 season while its downtown home was undergoing a yearlong, $73 renovation. Although UH’s Wortham Theatre has proven a solid pinch-hitter, there’s no place like home, so we’re looking forward to watching the 2015–16 season in the Alley’s redesigned digs. A story in The Architect’s Newspaper recently revealed that the renovations will be more extensive than previously thought, with local architecture firm Studio RED has released renderings of a 45-foot-high, zinc panel–clad fly loft that will rise above the building’s concrete turrets, disrupting Ulrich Franzen’s brutalist architecture and enraging many local preservationists. The renovation also includes enlarged restrooms, a redesign of the 824-seat Hubbard Stage to bring the audience closer to the action, and a spruced-up lobby.

September. alleytheatre.org

2. The Ring cycle Continues

Last spring the Houston Grand Opera launched its first-ever production of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle with the first opera in the four-part epic, Das Rheingold. The high-tech, experimental production by Spain’s La Fura dels Baus was a popular and critical smash, whetting appetites for the rest of the cycle, which will be produced by the same company. In April the HGO will roll out Die Walküre, perhaps the best-known opera in the cycle thanks to the pop culture ubiquity of “The Ride of the Valkyries.” How will the Fura dels Baus wizards render the horseback riding scenes? The ring of fire that Wotan draws around Brünnhilde? We can’t wait to find out.

April 18–May 3. houstongrandopera.org

3. Mel Chin Gets A Retrospective

The Funk & Wag Fropm A to Z (Installation View), 2012; Excised printed pages from The Universal Standard Encyclopedia, 1953–56, by Wilfred Funk Inc., archival water-based glue, paper, 524 collages

Few Houston-born artists have made a bigger impact on the art world than Mel Chin. Born in the Fifth Ward to Chinese immigrant parents, Chin became one of the most inventive and politically engaged conceptual artists of his generation. His works range from the whimsical (the metal palm tree behind the Contemporary Art Museum) to the intensely abstract (his “social practice” works include Revival Field and Operation Paydirt, which both address the problem of contaminated soil.) Organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art—Chin spent a great deal of time in the Big Easy after Hurricane Katrina—this major retrospective of his work will sprawl across multiple Houston venues, including the CAMH, the Blaffer Art Museum, and the Asia Society Texas Center.

January–April. Multiple venues. 

4. Completion of the Hermann Park Master Plan

2014 was a great centennial year for Hermann Park, with a new master plan finally coming to fruition after decades of work. Completed projects included the McGovern Centennial Gardens, new landscaping, and several major new works of public art. Unfortunately, the final piece of the master plan, a new grand gateway to the park, was delayed and won’t open until sometime this year. Imagined in the original plans for the park, this formal, landscaped entrance road will lead Mecom Fountain to the Sam Houston Monument, improving accessibility and beautifying the space.

hermannpark.org

5. Manor of Speaking Goes National

In October, Ernie Manouse won a second straight Lone Star Emmy Award for producing Manor of Speaking, the Downton Abbey talkback show he hosts on Channel 8. The show, with its revolving cast of guests, is the most popular locally produced series in Channel 8 history, with even the New York Times taking note. When the fifth season of Downton Abbey premieres on January 4, Manouse’s show will also return, but it will no longer be confined to Houston—it’s been picked up by several PBS stations around the country.

Jan 4 at 9 on Channel 8. manorofspeaking.org

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