Standing Ovation

Here Are Houston’s Top Independent Theaters to Support This Year

See a show at any of these theatrical locales.

By Alexia Partouche

Founded in 1976, The Ensemble Theatre is among several local independent theaters gearing up for an exciting fall season. 

Here in Bayou City, we’re well-acquainted with the art of theater—our theatre district spans 17 blocks Downtown and includes nearly 13,000 seats for live performances that are filled by the two million people who visit the district every year. But don’t be afraid to venture out of center city to catch a show. Houston is brimming with theaters that save their art for the neighborhood community. Local artists and stories keep the spotlight in these productions, so much so that even you can audition at some of these theaters, no experience is needed. Whether you stick to the audience or take the stage, these theaters will have you covered with engrossing stories, phenomenal performances, and stunning productions. 

So without further ado, here’s our guide to Houston’s independent theaters:

Clear Creek Community Theatre

Founded in 1965 to bring theater to Houston’s Bay Area, Clear Creek Community Theatre is a hub for any performance type your heart desires—comedies, musicals, classics, dramas, original works, it has it all. Clear Creek’s performance season is starting off strong with the musical comedy 9 to 5 from September 30 to October 9, but the rest of this year’s line-up is still under wraps. If you want to be the first to know about what else is coming, head down to Kemah for the theatre’s season launch event at Landry’s Seafood House on the boardwalk on September 7 from 6:30-9 p.m. 

Main Street Theatre

Back in February of 2021, Main Street Theatre’s virtual production of “The Book of Magdalene” received glowing reviews from The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. And now that in-person performances have returned, the theatre’s shows have been elevated to an “absolutely cannot-miss” status. This season includes the regional premieres of “Trouble in Mind,” “The Oldest Boy,” and “The Best of Everything.” While you’re in the area, drop by the Midtown Arts & Theatre Center Houston to watch one of the theatre’s Theatre for Youth programs, which features professional performances of family-friendly productions.

Playhouse 1960

Contrary to the name, Playhouse 1960 was established in 1973, meaning that its 2022-23 season also happens to be its 50th anniversary. The northwest Houston non-profit theatre has over 500 performances under its belt and is adding 12 more this season, all put on and performed by volunteers. Audiences can look forward to a whole host of comedies from the main stage, including Nunsense from September 2-18 and The Importance of Being Earnest from October 21 to November 6. And make sure to grab tickets for the young actor's performances, which include beloved musicals from the young actor's stage, like The Music Man, Jr. from August 27 to September 11 and Oliver! Jr from October 15-30.

Queensbury Theatre

While Queensbury Theatre might be best known for its connection to the Tribble School and its excellent youth performances, you absolutely can not discount the theatre’s professional performances. It’s the only one of its kind in West Houston and a go-to for stellar productions across all genres, from family-friendly comedies like Elf: The Musical to uplifting dramas like Violet. And don’t underscore the youth productions either—there’s a reason the school boasts so many successful alumni. This fall, youth productions include Seussical Jr. and 9 to 5.

Stages

Local artists, craftsmen, and theatre aficionados have found a home at Stages, the largest nonprofit performing arts producer outside of Downtown's theater district and one of the region’s leading artistic employers. With an average of 12 shows a year, there’s always an opportunity to support the community and emerging artists. Plus, Stages occasionally invites guest artists from around the world to perform, so keep an eye out for fresh talents, like composer and singer Gabriel Kahane, who will be performing on September 9 in his concert Magnificent Bird. Audiences can also look forward to the dance-spoken word-theater combo Plumshuga: The Rise of Lauren Anderson, which will be on view from October 7 to November 13.

Stageworks Theatre

While we’ve previously shouted out Stageworks Theatre for its fun Young Artist Performances, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the theatre’s mainstage productions. Led by a professional artistic staff of directors and choreographers, each production put on by the theatre is practiced to perfection before its debut. Currently, you can get tickets to two of its exceptional shows: The Addams Family - A New Musical, running October 7-20 and Holiday Follies 2022, running December 9-18.

Theatre Suburbia

Northwest Houston’s longest-running all-volunteer playhouse, Theatre Suburbia, is the place to be if you want to connect with the community while watching an excellent show. Auditions are open to the public, and the theatre invites anyone interested in helping build sets and operate lights and sound. So when you’re seated in the audience, you’ll watch your community members' hard work come to life. And who knows? Next time, you might be the one on the stage. Until then, make sure you tune in to the theatre’s 2022-23 season, which features comedy The Glitter Girls from September 16 to October 15 and murder mystery Drop Dead from November 4 to December 3.

The Catastrophic Theatre

The Catastrophic Theatre places an emphasis on bringing new, unique works to Houston. The theatre commissions and produces original works, so many of its shows are world premieres. The experimental nature of its work is supported by its tight-knit ensemble cast; most of the actors have spent their entire careers working together. The trust between them translates into phenomenal, deeply emotional performances that leave audiences to reflect on what they’ve seen long after the show is over. The theatre hasn’t announced its 2022-23 season yet, but for now, you can watch the musical comedy Tamarie Cooper’s Sticky Sweet Summer Show online until September 12

 

The Ensemble Theatre

The Ensemble Theatre has been wowing audiences with performances about the African American experience since 1976, when Houstonian George Hawkins founded it to provide more diverse roles to Black artists. Today, this Midtown theatre has grown into the largest professional African American theatre in the Southwest. Audiences can look forward to a 2022-23 season of six contemporary and classical works by local and national artists and playwrights, including musical soap-opera Love and Southern Discomfort and family-friendly holiday celebration A Motown Christmas. As for prospective actors, they should look to the theatre’s many workshops, including its fifth annual Bold Masterclass coming this fall.

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