Theatre Under the Stars

When my daughter, Jessica, was less than a year old, life dealt us a tough hand—diagnoses of cancer and a rare chromosomal deletion. The perfect life I envisioned for her shattered as doctors predicted she’d never walk, talk, or escape profound disability.

That December, as I watched kids in festive outfits, singing carols and waiting to meet Santa, the realization hit hard—Jessie might miss these simple joys, including the opportunity to be seen or have a voice.

Through years of therapy, Jessie began to walk and talk but we didn’t have access to the medical, educational, and support resources that she needed to thrive. Relocating to Houston brought some improvements, yet much still seemed out of reach.

In 2010, our lives changed once again, but in a place and way I never could have imagined – on-stage at Theatre Under The Stars!

By chance, I was invited to a TUTS Gala that included an inclusive group of students from HSMT and The River. I saw kids with walkers, wheelchairs and other disabilities performing on a very large stage for everyone to see. They were side-by-side with their peers, sharing their joy and passion with the world!

Tears began to roll down my cheeks and I KNEW I had to find this place and enroll Jessie. 

At The River, Jessie found her voice in music, dance, acting, and art. TUTS wasn’t just a place to learn; it became our family and home. joined the TUTS Performance Troupe and started participating in the Inclusive Arts Showcase year after year. And I didn’t even know the best was yet to come…

In 2018, an opportunity I could never have dreamed of that first Christmas came to Jessie. She was asked to audition for the teen ensemble of Beauty and the Beast during the TUTS 50th Anniversary Season. And that December, she was on the main stage of Sarofim Hall performing next to her friends, local artists, and Broadway professionals.

Can you believe it? From the prognosis of never walking or talking, there she was, shining on Sarofim Hall’s main stage alongside local artists and Broadway pros.

She was truly included in the cast, not in the back row, not as window dressing but finding her way across the stage. 

Since we have been at TUTS, Jessie has been in four more mainstage TUTS shows (including Cinderella), plus two productions at Miller Outdoor Theatre and two Education summer productions. She’s even performed with Tony-Award winners like Andre De Shields and Alex Newell at TUTS Galas, just like the one where I first encountered The River and Theatre Under The Stars.

TUTS is truly special and unique. It’s not just about the performances; it’s the incredible community that listens, adapts, and makes sure everyone, no matter their abilities, can thrive. TUTS didn’t just give us a happily-ever-after; it gave Jessie a chance to shine and be herself, something I could not have fathomed during that tough December years ago.

I hope you’ll consider supporting this magical place – Houston’s home not just for musical theatre, but also for accessibility and equity and joy.

Thank you!

Martha, Jessie’s mom