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Why Everyone Should Visit Miller Outdoor Theatre

A brief history of Houston's favorite outdoor performance venue, plus our list of upcoming events to see there this fall

By DeVaughn Douglas and Alexia Partouche

Miller Outdoor Theatre is a Houston performing arts gem. 

Image: Visit Houston

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. But throughout the year, Miller offers free, ticketed performances in music, theater, dance, and film, all of which resumed this past April after an agonizing two years on hiatus. 

Miller is intertwined with Houston because it has grown with the city. William Ward Watkin, the founder of Rice University’s architecture department, designed the century-old amphitheater. In the 1940s, the dirt excavated from the Fannin Street construction project was used to build Miller’s Hill, the landscape that now overlooks the amphitheater and provides extended lines of sight. 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 has been able to 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 nearby museums. At the height of 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 events being held at the park over the next few months.  

Incredible India: A Cultural Kaleidoscope

August 13

Indian Performing Arts Samskriti invites local Houstonians on a cultural journey through India. The performance mixes classical and folk dance from different regions in India and aims to showcase the country’s vibrant mix of cultures. With colorful dance costumes, expressive storytelling, and choreography by Anisha Rajesh, Anita Menon, Aparupa Chatterjee, Ekta Popat, Soma Dasgupta, and Rathna Kumar, the performance promises to convey the beauty of Indian dance.

Miller Summer Mixtape

August 24–26

One of Miller Outdoor Theatre’s newest traditions, the Miller Summer Mixtape is a three-day independent music showcase featuring local artists across genres and produced by marketing agency Rukaz Kultura. Drop by each day for new performances in each genre; expect rock and folk on the 24th, indie pop on the 25th, and hip-hop and soul on the 26th. And look out for performances from fan favorites like Texacajun Mexican-American rock band Shame On Me, indie-pop trio Camera Cult, and alternative soul band Tony Badd.

Arooj Aftab

September 2

Asia Society Texas Center is bringing Pakistan’s first Grammy Awardwinning singer and songwriter, Arooj Aftab, to Houston. Aftab’s music is a blend of traditional meditative vocals, jazz, and indie pop, with lyrics inspired by Asian poets like Rumi and Mirza Ghalib. Her concert will feature songs from her newest album, Vulture Prince, and audiences can look forward to hearing her lyrical storytelling and breathtaking vocals live.

The Houston Jazz Festival

September 17

Jazz aficionados, unite! The Houston Jazz Festival is bringing the best in jazz to Bayou City. The star of the festival is critically acclaimed hard bop band The Cookers, made up of jazz icons Billy Harper, Billy Hart, David Weiss, George Cables, Eddie Henderson, Cecil McBee, and Donald Harrison. Opening for the band is New York Citybased musician and vocalist Nellie McKay, who will be performing from her album Sister Orchid. Finally, keep an eye out for the artwork of National Medal of Arts winner Jack Whitten, who was inspired by jazz music and musicians and will be featured on the stage during the performances.

Treasure Island

October 17

The Panto Company USA, known for delivering the best in children’s theater, is coming to the Miller Outdoor Theatre stage this fall with a performance of Treasure Island. This family-friendly show, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, is sure to keep audience members of all ages entertained with its timeless, adventure-packed story, full of pirate mutinies, perilous sea journeys, and buried treasure.

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