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Theatre Under the Stars Finds Revival through Houston’s Rich Diversity

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By Josh Watkins

There are certain goals that every theater keeps in mind: to provide enlightenment for the community, to provide a connection to the community, and to provide reflection for the community.

Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) has made the decision to take these goals to the next step. TUTS announced a series of exciting changes on Tuesday. With a desire to engage, inspire, and entertain, TUTS has brought on new artistic advisor Sheldon Epps.

Inspired by the experience that Epps holds, TUTS hopes to deliver more of what the audience wants—specifically by making the theater experience as a whole more friendly for the audience. Upon Epps arrival to TUTS, he has been instrumental in promising “more theater for more people.”

“Houston is a very vibrant city,” Epps says. “A growth city that’s changing dynamically and ethnically. I sense an electricity here that’s good for an arts organization. It’s a city with possibilities.”

Originally from Los Angeles, Epps graduated from Carnegie Mellon University and immediately moved to Houston to start his career in theater.

TUTS announced Tuesday that they will be revamping the upcoming 2016–17 season. They will be cutting certain shows that have been in circulation for years. These titles include Shrek, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Grease. By offering a more diverse lineup, TUTS hopes to bring communities into the theater that wouldn’t otherwise be there.

Expressing his excitement for TUTS’ preparedness to move forward into change, Epps hopes that the diversity of shows will connect with the diversity of Houston’s community. He hopes to see Latino communities, gay communities, and black communities coming to TUTS. “People come to the theater because they want to see themselves reflected on the stage,” Epps says. “There are far more opportunities for that reflection in the current selection of shows.”

“I think there can be a real kind of marriage between the diversity of the city and the diversity of the arts,” Epps adds.

Two touring shows will stay in place:

An American In Paris, February 21–March 5, 2017

Fun Home, May 16–28, 2017

TUTS is proud to be the only theater in Houston that presents both national tours of Broadway productions and self-produced regional renditions. TUTS is also proud to act as an emerging force in molding future generations of audiences and performers through community engagement and educational offerings.

The season will open with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights on September 13, 2016. Miranda is well known as the creator of Broadway hit and musical superpower Hamilton.

There will be three other TUTS-produced shows:

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, October 25–November 16, 2016

Into the Woods, December 6–18, 2016

Dreamgirls, April 4–16, 2017

Stressing the need to mirror the diversity of Houston on the TUTS stage, Epps offers a humbling comparison of shows to traveling. “Each of the new shows in place provide very different journeys from one another,” he says. “Coming to the theater begins to feel like a different trip with each show.”

TUTS will be announcing further programming for the 2016–2017 season on Friday, July 8.

Subscriptions to TUTS’ 2016–2017 main-stage season are available at 713.558.TUTS, at TUTS.com, or at the TUTS box office, located at 800 Bagby St. in downtown Houston.

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Joshua Watkins

Joshua Watkins is a frequent contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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