Since 1923, Miller Outdoor Theatre has provided Houstonians with entertainment and community. It’s the signature structure within Hermann Park, and one of its biggest offerings is its summer concert season. Throughout the year, Miller offers free, ticketed performances in the areas of music, theater, dance and film. After two years of closure, the park’s theater resumed programming in April.
Miller is intertwined with Houston because it has grown with the city. The famous, century-old amphitheater was designed by William Ward Watkin, founder of Rice University’s Architecture Department. The dirt excavated from the Fannin Street construction project in the 1940s was used to build Miller’s Hill, the landscape that overlooks the amphitheater. When the park needed renovation in the 1960s and again in the ’90s, the city joined forces with the Hermann Park Conservatory to improve the theater and add restrooms. The more the city contributes, the more the park is able to grow and increase its offerings, adding gardens, a railroad and pedal boats.
Hermann Park is often filled with people exercising on the hill, picnicking under trees, strolling along its many pathways, or taking a break in the open air after visiting the zoo or one of the nearby museums. As we approach summer, you can catch more and more Houstonians bringing baskets, bags and coolers full of food and drinks along with blankets, umbrellas and portable chairs to set up camp on the sloping lawn overlooking the 1,700-seat open theater. During some of the larger events, almost 5,000 people surround the stage, protected by the amphitheater's tent-like structure.
If you’re looking to get the kids out of the house, have a date in the park or just get some fresh air, here are a few of the events being held at the park over the next few months.
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and the Japan-America Society of Houston is celebrating the month with a performance showcasing the indigenous sounds of northern Japan. OKI, a Japanese musician versed in dub, reggae, and Afrobeat, is well-known for teaching himself the tonkori, a plucked string instrument played by the Ainu people of Hokkaido, and is now one of the most prominent performers of the instrument in the world. His concert will feature work from his new album, Tonkori in the Moonlight, which will have the artist performing solo work as well as contemporary works alongside his band, OKI DUB AINU Band.
One of the highlights of the concert season is the annual Motown performance. Produced by Bacement Foundation for the Arts, this year’s performances are dedicated to celebrating the life of Detria Ward, Houston’s own “Queen of Theater,” who passed away in 2019 at the age of 57. Tickets for this show are limited to four per person, and even though the show is still free, get there early to make sure that you can get a good seat. The Motown performances tend to fill up the park with Houstonians jamming to a variety of entertainers jamming to funk and soul music backed by the Bacement Band.
Aperio, Music of the Americas is a Houston-based ensemble that puts on performances displaying unique chamber music from contemporary composers. The group examines the art of music from North and South America, with a focus on musical contributions from indigenous and foreign cultures. This show will highlight solo work from jazz clarinetist Ernesto Vega and feature music from Rapsodia Cubana, Huapango, Danzas de Panamá and Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.
July 1-2, 8-9
If you haven't had the chance to see the Houston Symphony in person or you’re new to classical music, take the opportunity to watch a free performance from the historical organization in the park. For two weekends in July, the symphony will be showcasing local, national and international soloists and conductors, along with the orchestra.
July 28-Aug 6
The Houston Shakespeare Festival began in 1975 under the direction of Dr. Sidney Berger. The show is the product of a collaboration between the city and the University of Houston. This season, the group is putting on a series of showings of King Lear, one of Shakespeare’s better-known tragedies, and Cymbeline, a romance set in ancient Britain.