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Unveiling the New Stages at The Gordy Theater for Houston Audiences

The new Stages at The Gordy theater has been completed; Photo credit: Stages

HOUSTON – (Realty News Report) – Vision, scope creep, kismet and the philanthropic support of generous arts patrons, many of them first-timers,  has yielded a new, three-stage facility for Houston audiences to experience.

Stages at The Gordy has opened its fully funded $38.5 million campus just west of downtown – and across the street from the performing arts organization’s long-term previous home in the historic Star Engraving Building fronting Allen Parkway.

At a recent public preview of the new facilities, project leadership spoke of the many roles the campus will play in both Houston’s “cultural ecosystem” and in the surrounding neighborhood along Waugh Drive near Buffalo Bayou that has attracted much redevelopment interest.

The new facility, fully loaded for producing a range of shows, brings quality performance space and technical resources to the city’s middle tier theater scene, said Stages Managing Director Mark Folkes.

Other facilities completed in the past few years that target smaller and emerging organizations include The MATCH (Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston), A.D. Players at The George and Main Street Theater’s renovation. Meanwhile, the new Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts also raised the bar in terms of quality training grounds – and expectations.

Staging a Project

Stages at The Gordy took a former mid-century warehouse – the one vacated by Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s conservation department, which relocated into its new center as part of MFAH’s campus development– and re-imagined the space.

As re-jiggered, the warehouse and an addition, totaling 66,850 square feet, accommodates three performance halls (with thrust stage, arena stage and black box stage), production shops for costume, scenery and props,  common areas inside and out for use throughout the week, administrative and collaborative space for local gatherings, programs and events, a 300-unit parking structure — and 56 bathroom stalls.

Role playing

The project team was led by Gensler’s Houston office, with theater consultants Charcoalblue, Forney Construction and Walter P. Moore, engineering.

Seating Stages at the Gordy. Photo credit: Stages

A design challenge, one of scale and proportion, was to retain the signature intimacy of the organization’s previous space while increasing capacity for more robust productions, Gensler sources said. Toward that, in two of the three new stages, second-level seating keeps the connection between audience and actors. The height and width also boost the impact of scenery supporting shows.

The smallest theater, meanwhile, has a flexible floorplan accommodating more than a dozen possible seating configurations.

Folkes said the project’s funding was remarkable because it drew significant from many first time arts patrons. Lead donors include Russell and Glenda Gordy, for whom the facility is named; Sterling-Turner Foundation/Bert Winston and T.R. Reckling Families; Lester and Sue Smith; Rochelle and Max Levit, with The Brown Foundation Inc., Wortham Foundation Inc. and Houston Endowment.

George Lancaster, board chairman, said speed and determination on the project by the board demonstrated leadership’s commitment to deliver a new “curb-to-curtain experience” to Houston performing artists and audiences.

Meanwhile, the campus, located at 800 Rosine Street, is redefining how a theater might interact with its adjacent community to boost quality of life, he said.

As part of the new campus rollout, Stages simplified its name from its 1978 moniker, Stages Repertory Theatre. The Equity organization typically produces a dozen shows a year. The new venue’s inaugural production, “The Fantastiks,” held its first performances last weekend.

Jan. 28, 2020 Realty News Report  Copyright 2020

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