For this blog post I want to deviate a bit from the Improv theme and talk about what I think is the most exciting development in the Houston arts scene since I moved here in 1996: the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH). This facility is an arts complex designed specifically for mid-sized and emerging arts organizations in Houston to showcase their work. I attended the groundbreaking this Spring, and more recently a meeting with one of the potential candidates for Executive Director of this new facility. The more I learn about this project, the more excited I become about it’s potential.
I moved to Houston in 1996 to join the AD Players theater company and in relatively short order married into the Houston theater community. My wife, Shondra Marie, has been a freelance actress in this community since she left the AD Players in 2000. Several of our friends from that time period have gone on to play key roles in the theater community, including Rebecca Dahl of the Music Box Theater, and Beth Lazarou, a frequent star in productions all over town.
During that time I’ve seen a theater community of several rag tag theaters grow into a burgeoning arts movement that is bursting at the seams. There are performance venues all over this town – hole in the wall bars like Rudyards and Avant Garden, converted warehouses like FrenetiCore and Catastrophic, and converted strip center spaces like Obsidian Art Space and Main Street Theater. These make up an ad hoc network of experimental spaces perfect for launching new arts groups. Where Houston has come up short is in providing consistent, high quality venues for small and established organizations to expand. Enter the MATCH.
As a show producer, I can tell you first hand that one thing you can count on with the ad hoc venues in town is inconsistency. Some have stage lighting, some don’t. Some have Audio/Visual, some don’t. In some cases you even need to provide your own toiletries. Young energetic start ups take that in stride. As an organization grows, however, it begins to get old. Efforts devoted to shoe horn productions into ill-equipped or poorly-maintained venues distract from the work of creating impactful and high quality art.
The MATCH will provide 4 separate, professionally equipped venues all under one roof. And that in itself is exciting! On any given night 4 different arts groups could be showcasing their work – great opportunities to cross-pollenate a variety of art forms. As an example, at the meeting I mentioned above, I met the director of a dance company in town. As we introduced ourselves we discovered some overlap between our art forms – improvisational dance and improvisational theater. It got our juices flowing about how to combine the art forms to create something unique and new. My greatest hope for the MATCH is that it becomes a catalyst for explosive collaboration and innovation in the Houston arts scene. I believe it has that potential and I’m glad to have been included in the process so far.