Alley Theatre Offers an Enterprising New Season

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With two new company members and a lineup of new shows to be performed on both the upstairs and downstairs stages — including a very different take on A Christmas Carol — the Alley Theatre has announced itself ready to resume its in-person performance obligations in fall 2021 with enthusiasm.

Equally wonderful and encouraging to see is that in addition to his own directing duties and those of the much respected James Black and Brandon Weinbrenner,  Alley Artistic Director Rob Melrose has planned a season with a diverse group of playwrights and directors, giving the nod to three female directors, seven female playwrights and five artists of color in both categories.

And, in a case of serendipity, the Alley will be doing all this as it reopens its doors for its 75th Anniversary season.

“I couldn’t be more excited to get back into the Theatre with this fabulous line-up including a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, a world-premiere musical, and three world premieres,” an exuberant Melrose announced in a press release.

“Our 75th Season boasts the most world premieres of any of our 74 previous seasons! When founder Nina Vance started this Theatre in 1947, she sent out 214 penny postcards and stated ‘It’s beginning! Houston, this is your Theatre.’ For the 75 Anniversary and beyond, we are committed to being a Theatre for all Houstonians. I’m thrilled to usher in the 75th Anniversary Season. I’m also excited to announce two new members of our Resident Acting Company!”

Melissa Molano and Christopher Salazar are the actors being added to the resident company. They have appeared as guest artists in such Alley shows as Murder on the Orient Express, The Humans, and The Winter’s Tale.

In 2017, Houston Press theater critic Jessica Goldman selected Molano as one of seven young Houston actors to watch, citing her standout work in Stages theater, A.D. Players and Obsidian Theater. The year before, Molano won the Best Breakthrough Performance in the Houston Theater Awards.

Christopher Salazar last appeared at the Alley Theatre as Captain Horster in An Enemy of the People, Cleomenes/Archidamus/Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale, and Richard Saad in The Humans. In reviewing The Winter’s Tale in 2019, Houston Press theater critic D.L. Groover wrote of Salazar’s performance: “Salazar eats up Shakespeare’s indelible Autolycus like a pile of baby back ribs. He brings this lovable rogue to full-rounded life, singing his ditties and showing off his worn wares like the incomparable snake oil salesman he is.”

The Alley will start its season with the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Sweat by Lynn Nottage. Of special note is that this is being produced in collaboration with The Ensemble Theatre whose Artistic Director Eileen J. Morris, will be the associate director on the production, working with Melrose as director.

The play 72 Miles to Go… by Hilary Bettis is next  in the Neuhaus Theatre, directed by José Zayas. This play was developed in part in the 2019 Alley All New Festival and had its world premiere Off-Broadway at Roundabout Theatre Company.

Another play developed in the Alley All New Festival — this one in 2020 — is High School Play: A Nostalgia Fest by Texan playwright Vichet Chum. It will have its world premiere early in the new year and will be directed by Houston native Tiffany Nichole Greene.

The world premiere of Amerikin by Chisa Hutchinson will be directed by James Black and will start its run in February. And yes this is another alumnus of the 2019 Alley All New Festival.

An adaptation of Sense and Sensibility by Kate Hamill (based on Jane Austen’s classic novel), directed by Adriana Baer will open in early March.

The comedy Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl will start in mi-April with Associate Producer & Casting Director Brandon Weinbrenner directing.

Next, Born with Teeth by Liz Duffy Adams, also developed in the Alley Reading Series will have its world premiere with Melrose directing (This will start right after the run of another of Adams’ play Dog Act at Houston’s  Main Street Theater).

The world premiere of new musical, Noir with music by Tony Award®-winner Duncan Sheik, book by Tony Award nominee Kyle Jarrow, and lyrics by Kyle Jarrow and Duncan Sheik will run from June until early July.

Doris Baizley’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol will be the winter holiday offering directed by Associate Producer & Casting Director Brandon Weinbrenner and will run November 19 – December 29, 2021. Audience members who either look forward to or are exceedingly weary of the more  traditional approach the Alley has trotted out every year, will instead be greeted with a story about a troupe of traveling actors trying to stage the show — and well, then everything pretty much goes in unexpected ways.

The Alley All New Festival will take place from June 15 – 26, 2022. Learn more about the Alley All New initiative at alleytheatre.org/allnew.

As far as any possible continuing coronavirus-inspired rules, the Alley says it will continue to monitor the situation and will keep audience members updated on its safety protocols.

The Alley Theatre 2021-22 Season

HUBBARD STAGE

Pulitzer Prize Winner
SWEAT
By Lynn Nottage
Directed by Rob Melrose
Associate Directed by Eileen J. Morris
Produced in collaboration with The Ensemble Theatre
October 1 – 24, 2021

Filled with humor and tremendous heart, Sweat tells the story of three women who have spent their lives sharing drinks, secrets, and laughs while working together on the factory floor. But when layoffs and picket lines begin to chip away at their trust, they find themselves pitted against each other in a heart-wrenching fight to stay afloat.

World Premiere Comedy
HIGH SCHOOL PLAY: A NOSTALGIA FEST
By Vichet Chum
Directed by Tiffany Nichole Greene
January 21 – February 13, 2022

It’s senior year in Carrollton, Texas, and Riverside High School’s competitive theatre troupe is climbing back to the top from last year’s unprecedented loss. Dara is trying to rally his teammates, while new kid Paul disrupts Dara’s complete understanding of himself and his small-town suburban life. When coaches Dirkson and Blow make a bold choice for the one-act play competition and the community takes issue, friends and rivals duke it out and find themselves in this uniquely Texan and thoroughly universal coming of age comedy by Texan playwright Vichet Chum, directed by Houston native Tiffany Nichole Greene. Developed in the 2020 Alley All New Festival.

Classic Romantic Favorite
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
By Kate Hamill
Based on the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Adriana Baer
March 4 – 27, 2022

A playful new adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel follows the fortunes (and misfortunes) of the Dashwood sisters—sensible Elinor and hypersensitive Marianne—after their father’s sudden death leaves them financially destitute and socially vulnerable. Set in gossipy late 18th-century England, with a fresh female voice, the play is full of humor, emotional depth, and bold theatricality. Sense and Sensibilityexamines our reactions, both reasonable and ridiculous, to societal pressures. When reputation is everything, how do you follow your heart?

Off-the-Wall Comedy
DEAD MAN’S CELL PHONE
By Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Brandon Weinbrenner
April 15 – May 8, 2022

An incessantly ringing cell phone in a quiet café. A stranger at the next table who has had enough. And a dead man. So begins Dead Man’s Cell Phone, a wildly imaginative comedy by MacArthur “Genius” Sarah Ruhl (The Clean House). An off-the-wall play about the odyssey of a woman forced to confront her own assumptions about morality, redemption, and the need to connect in a technologically obsessed world.

World Premiere Musical
NOIR
A new musical
Music by Duncan Sheik
Book by Kyle Jarrow
Lyrics by Kyle Jarrow and Duncan Sheik
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
By Special Arrangement with Robert Cole, Mary Beth O’Connor, Carl Moellenberg, and LuckyGodot LLC
June 2 – July 3, 2022

A heartbroken man never leaves his apartment, finding his only solace in the music on the radio. Then a couple moves in next door. Eavesdropping becomes his new entertainment — and his new obsession. Soon he finds himself drawn into a web of love, lies, deceit, and danger. Inspired by early radio plays and classic film noir, this new musical is written by Broadway artists Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) and Kyle Jarrow (SpongeBob SquarePants) and directed by Darko Tresnjak (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder).

NEUHAUS STAGE

Gripping Family Drama
72 MILES TO GO…
By Hilary Bettis
Directed by José Zayas
October 15 – November 14, 2021

72 miles. It’s the distance between Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico—and the distance between a recently deported mother and her American-born husband and children. 72 Miles to Go… follows one family over a decade as they grow up, fall in love, fight in wars, and fight for each other. This play by Hilary Bettis (The Americans) returns to the Alley following development in the 2019 Alley All New Festival and its world premiere Off-Broadway.

World Premiere Play
AMERIKIN
By Chisa Hutchinson
Directed by James Black
February 11 – March 13, 2022

Developed as part of the 2019 Alley All New Festival. Jeff Browning, a new father desperate for community, casually follows his buddy’s advice and tries to join a white supremacist group…but the results of his ancestry test prove surprising. Amerikin follows Jeff as serious consequences come knocking and the line between “us” and “them” gets incredibly blurry.

World Premiere Play
BORN WITH TEETH
By Liz Duffy Adams
Directed by Rob Melrose
May 6 – June 5, 2022

An aging authoritarian ruler, a violent police state, a restless polarized people seething with paranoia: it’s a dangerous time for poets. Two of them—the great Kit Marlowe and the up-and-comer Will Shakespeare—meet in the back room of a pub to collaborate on a history play cycle, navigate the perils of art under a totalitarian regime, and flirt like young men with everything to lose. One of them may well be the death of the other. Developed in the Alley All New Reading Series.

HOLIDAY

Charles Dickens’
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Adapted by Doris Baizley
Directed by Brandon Weinbrenner
November 19 – December 29, 2021

A highly inventive adaptation of the Dickens classic pared down to its essential elements. A resident company of actors assemble to perform a new production of the heartwarming Christmas story. When two of the troupe’s actors can’t arrive in time for the performance, others step in to create a magical world of holiday make-believe. It will be A Christmas Carol like no other.

ALLEY ALL NEW FESTIVAL
June 15 – 26, 2022

New plays in development from some of the most exciting voices in contemporary theatre. All readings and workshops are free and open to the public.

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