Arts & Rec

Get Out: The Houston Ballet at Miller Outdoor Theater

A free ballet performance is just one reason to visit Hermann Park.

By Katharine Shilcutt May 5, 2016

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One of my most enduring memories is of singing along to the entirety of Stop Making Sense on the soft, grassy hill at Miller Outdoor Theatre as my friends and I took in a free screening of the Talking Heads documentary one summer night a few years back. We'd filled a picnic "basket" (really a backpack) with meats and cheeses from Phoenicia, grabbed the light rail to Hermann Park and spread out under the warm evening air to bask in that grand Houston tradition of free arts performances and cultural opportunities. (And also to drink slightly warm rosé out of a CamelBak; it was the best and worst of times.)

If the ballet is more your speed than David Byrne and his weird dance moves, it's an experience you can replicate tomorrow night as the Houston Ballet offers a free performance at Miller Outdoor Theatre beginning at 8 p.m. The evening's program, Season Selections, showcases the company's best works from this past year, including the third act of The Sleeping Beauty and artistic director Stanton Welch's own fast-paced Velocity. Open seating is available for free on the hill, while any of the 1,700 tickets that haven't been sold underneath the covered pavilion will be released to the public—also for free—from the box office tomorrow at 7 p.m.

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McGovern Centennial Gardens

I recommend getting there even earlier, not only to get in line for those tickets if you're not planning to chill on the hill, but also to take in the recent transformations that have been made to Hermann Park. Directly across the street from the Miller Outdoor Theatre are the stunning McGovern Centennial Gardens, featuring a 30-foot tall ziggurat that offers a sweeping view of the 15-acre formal gardens, lush and spectacular this time of year.

After a stroll through the rose gardens, take another quick walk over to the Japanese Garden that flanks the other side of the Miller Outdoor Theatre. There, you'll be able to take in the golden hour as the sun begins to set over lotus flower-filled ponds and sweetly-scented boughs of Japanese wisteria. Don't mind the construction in here; the park is just getting the Japanese Garden spiffed up for its 25th anniversary next year.

Don't linger too long, though, or you'll miss the chance to get a good center spot on the hill. For provisions, I recommend stopping at Phoenicia, the Spec's deli downtown on Smith Street, or Picnic in West U. Whatever you do, don't dump a perfectly good bottle of rosé in a CamelBak; cans of beer are just as welcome, and a colorful six-pack of crisp Saint Arnold Art Car IPA is just the thing to pair with an equally artistic night al fresco.

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