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UPDATED: Alley Theatre Reveals Shortened 2020-2021 season

The company announced plans to reduce from eight shows to five and restructure its entire organization in response to COVID-19 back in May.

By Emma Schkloven August 7, 2020

Updated 1:34 p.m. Aug 7

AFTER MONTHS OF anticipation,we finally know what the Alley Theatre's plans are for next season. And just as important: when it starts. The new, truncated season, which the company announced Friday afternoon, now begins in November with Doris Baizley’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol before resuming in the new year with five productions, which will run January through July. 

"Our 2020-21 season is small but mighty," artistic director Rob Melrose said in a statement. "It leans into the Alley’s strengths with our exceptionally talented Resident Acting Company as well as our many wonderful resident artists and artisans." 

Most of the shows, including the world premiere of Liz Duffy Adams's Shakespeare-Marlowe team-up, Born with Teeth, and Beckett classic Waiting for Godot, were announced as part of the original, fuller 2020-2021 season. The exception is Pulitzer Prize-winning play Sweat, a new addition to season's lineup, which will be associate-directed by Eileen J. Morris, artistic director of The Ensemble Theatre. 

According to the release, several of the shows originally planned for the 2020-21 season are being moved into future seasons. "The Alley remains committed to the world premieres of Noir with music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Kyle Jarrow, Amerikin by Chisa Hutchinson, and What-a-Christmas! by Isaac Gómez." As previously announced, there will also be no Alley All New Festival this season, though the company is continuing its El Zócalo programming, which caters to Houston’s "diverse Latin culture and artistic community." 

The season changes follow the company's May announcement that it had reduced its annual operating budget as well as its staff. As previously announced, all 2020-2021 productions will be performed in the larger Hubbard Theatre to ensure patrons can socially distance while watching. 

Alley Theatre Updated 2020–2021 Season
A Christmas Carol: Nov 20–Dec 27, 2020
Born With TeethJan 22–Feb 14, 2021 (World Premiere)
Waiting for Godot:
Mar 5–Mar 28 , 2021
Dead Man’s Cell PhoneApr 16–May 9, 2021
Sweat: May 28–June 20, 2021
High School Play: A Nostalgia FestJuly 9–Aug 1, 2021 (World Premiere)

Updated 10:46 a.m. May 22

In a surprise to Houston’s theater community, the Alley Theatre announced Friday morning that it is restructuring its operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, citing “ongoing economic repercussions” as the major factor behind the decision.

The Alley is reducing its previously announced 2020-2021 season from eight shows to five, plus its production of A Christmas Carol. There’s no news yet on which shows have been dropped from the season, but the changes will be announced by Artistic Director Rob Melrose at a later date, according to statement. The Alley has also cut its Alley All New Festival, and plans to replace it with a free reading series.

In addition to a smaller season, which will run from Oct. 2 2020 through July 4, 2021, the Alley will not use its 296-seat Neuhaus Theatre, opting instead to stage all productions in the larger Hubbard Theatre in order to meet social distancing requirements.

“The Alley is committed to producing a season even in this difficult time. With proper safety protocols and social distancing, we believe that our patrons will be ready to experience live theatre once again,” Managing Director Dean Gladden said in the release.

Changes amid COVID-19 aren’t just limited to the Alley’s upcoming productions— in a greater blow to the Bayou City’s performing arts prospects, the theatrical mainstay also announced a reduction of its annual operating budget, a 35-percent drop from $20 million to $13 million, and a reduction of its staff. These layoffs follow a previous staff cut in March that was reversed when the Alley received financial assistance through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Laid-off staffers will receive full compensation and health benefits through June while remaining staffers take pay reductions, according to the statement.

“The reduction in income requires the Alley to reduce its staff and cut operating expenses in order to balance its budget,” per the statement. “Laid-off staff members will receive severance pay that reflects their years of service.”

Published 3:24 p.m. Apr 10

It’s been a rough few weeks for the Houston theater community, but finally there’s a bit of good news. The Alley Theatre has announced its 2020-2021 season, and it will include some of this year’s cancelled productions and five world premieres overall.

Instead of offering its annual Summer Chills production, the new season will kick off in September with Clue, inspired by Hasbro’s whodunit board game. The season will also include the Alley’s holiday standard, A Christmas Carol, which returns for its 30th-anniversary production. And for those of you saddened by the shortening of this year’s theatrical offerings, the Alley has rescheduled the world premiere of Amerikin and comedy Dead Man’s Cell Phone.

Other standouts of the upcoming season include Noir, a brand-new musical from Tony Award-winner Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) and Kyle Jarrow (The Spongebob Musical); Liz Duffy Adams’ Born With Teeth, which reimagines the rivalry between literary greats William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and High School Play: A Nostalgia Fest, which is being co-produced with Dallas Theater Center.  

Alley Theatre 2020–2021 Season
Clue: Sept 18–Oct 25, 2020
Amerikin: Oct 9–Nov 8, 2020 (World Premiere)
A Christmas CarolA Ghost Story of Christmas: Nov 19–Dec 30, 2020
What-A-Christmas!: Dec 1–27, 2020 (World Premiere)
Noir: Jan 21–Feb 21, 2021 (World Premiere)
Baskerville: A Sherlock Homes Mystery: Mar 12–Apr 4, 2021
Born With Teeth: Apr 2–May 2, 2021 (World Premiere)
Dead Man’s Cell Phone: Apr 30–May 23, 2021
Waiting for Godot: May 21–June 20, 2021
High School Play: A Nostalgia Fest: June 11–July 4, 2021 (World Premiere)
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