Arts & EntertainmentStage

A Collaboration of Students and Pros

Zachary Lewis (l) and Jennifer Gilbert star in Rachel Axler’s “Smudge” at University of Houston-Downtown’s O’Kane Theatre.

Landing Theatre Company’s summer season offers thought-provoking line-up

by Donalevan Maines


High-quality productions for a summer audience, a variety of classic, modern and new American plays, and the opportunity for students to work with theater professionals are the goals of The Landing Theatre Company, says artistic director David Rainey.

Now in its third summer at the University of Houston-Downtown’s O’Kane Theatre, the group performs Rachel Axler’s Smudge beginning Friday, July 13, officially opening on Saturday, July 14, and continuing through July 28. The dark comedy is about a young couple who are disappointed when their baby arrives not as a healthy bundle of joy but “sort of like a jellyfish, sort of like something that’s been erased.”

“It is shocking and strange, but it’s actually a very funny story, too,” says Rainey, who is directing the play. “It’s about their journey of putting out their care for a child and getting nothing back from her. It’s about the value of life. What is life?”

In addition, The Landing Theatre Company presents the 2012 New American Voices Play Reading Series of four new works Thursday, July 5, through Sunday, July 8, in Robertson Auditorium on the third floor of the One Main Building at UHD. Readings begin at 7 p.m., except for Sunday, when the reading begins at 3 p.m.

Each reading is followed by a half-hour talkback with the actors, director, and playwright, including Austin’s Kevin Kautzman, author of Wolf Cry Wolf (July 5) and former Houstonian Reginald Edmund, who wrote White America (July 6).

The other plays in the free reading series are Exit 27 by Aleks Merilo (July 7) and Good by James McLindon (July 8).

The play reading series is a collaborative project with Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company and Wordsmyth Theater Company, Rainey explains. “The festival received 50 submissions of full-length plays from a national search, out of which a blind panel chose this year’s four finalists.”

Rainey says he created the company in the summer of 2010 to help “build bridges” between students and theater professionals. The cast includes Jennifer Gilbert, Zachary Lewis, and Chuck Hutchison. Lighting design by Riana Canetti-Rios and sound design by Travis Ammons are especially integral to the production.

“It’s an internship program,” he explains, “modeled after the Williamstown Theater Festival,” which won the 2002 Tony Award for outstanding regional theater.

“Students get to experience every aspect of production, such as acting onstage, working backstage, in the box office and marketing,” says Rainey, who has taught at UH-D since 2005. The New Mexico native graduated from The Julliard School with top honors and worked in New York and Los Angeles before becoming a resident company member at the Alley Theatre for the past 12 years.

Tickets to Smudge are $20, and are available for purchase online at or at the door. The July 13 preview performance is $15. Student rates are $10.

Additional information about The Landing Theatre Company is available at, or contact David Rainey at [email protected].

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.


Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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