HOUSTON’S THEATRE UNDER THE STARS POSTPONES SEASON UNTIL MAY 2021 DUE TO PROLONGED COVID-19 CRISIS
As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, Houston’s non-profit performing arts organizations contend with an uncertain timeline to return to the stage. When Theatre Under The Stars originally announced its 2020/2021 Season in January, the six-show series at the Hobby Center was set to launch yesterday with a pre-Broadway engagement of the musical 1776. In June, however, TUTS made the decision to postpone the first two shows of the season due to the growing coronavirus crisis.
Today, TUTS delayed its season once again. The musicals will remain the same, but only Come From Away retains its originally-scheduled dates, now launching the season in May. The newly-dubbed “Homecoming Season” runs through February of 2022, ending with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific. Here’s the full line-up:
Come From Away — May 18 through 30, 2021
Rock of Ages — Aug. 10 through 22, 2021
1776 (Direct from Broadway) — Sept. 28 through Oct. 10, 2021
Sister Act — Nov. 2 through 14, 2021
Disney’s The Little Mermaid — Dec. 7 through 24, 2021
South Pacific — Feb. 8 through 20, 2022
“The safety of our audiences, artists, staff and volunteers is our number one priority,” said Dan Knechtges, TUTS Artistic Director. “While we’re disappointed to once again delay our season launch, we’re excited that we can retain all six musicals for the Homecoming Season. We want to deliver our supportive subscribers the shows they have been anticipating.”
So far, over 8,600 season ticket holders have subscribed to the upcoming season, which is a lifeline to the non-profit theatre. For their commitment, subscribers get priority seating at discounted prices and additional benefits such as complimentary ticket exchanges.
“We are heartened that so many Houstonians have chosen to subscribe to TUTS in the midst of this crisis,” said TUTS Executive Director Hillary Hart. “Not being able to perform for an entire year is a substantial financial challenge for us, so it really makes a difference when supporters are willing to commit in advance.”
To date, TUTS has incurred close to $6 million in revenue loss due to the cancellation of performances and major fundraising events. Hart anticipates another $11 million in losses over the next 12 months. For the 52 year-old regional theatre, the losses are unprecedented, leading to layoffs of 10 percent of its staff, significant programmatic cuts, salary reductions and reduced benefits for all employees.
“Despite all of these challenges, TUTS remains focused on our mission to serve the community,” said Knechtges.
During this crisis, the non-profit has found new ways to extend its reach. In April, it moved the annual high school musical theatre celebration, the Tommy Tune Awards, to YouTube. The streaming event allowed students from across the city to participate from home. Additionally, TUTS awarded over $44,000 in college scholarships through the Tommy Tune Awards. This summer, TUTS moved all classes for its two theatre schools to digital platforms, allowing students to continue honing their skills and stay connected. This week, the theatre is launching both a podcast and a webcast series as part of its successful Spotlight initiative.
“We continue to do all we can even in the face of a pandemic,” said Hart. “The theatre is a place to gather and share a collective experience, and the world is yearning for that very human connection. When it’s safe to come back together, we’ll be ready.”