G&G 2020

Gayest & Greatest 2020: Arts and Auto

Despite COVID-19, the future of Theatre Under The Stars is bright.

Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) is the winner of this year’s Best Local Equity Theatre Award. Photographed is TUTS artistic director Dan Knechtges (photo by Jenn Duncan)

The curtain will rise again! That’s the motto for Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) right now as the venerable musical theater organization postpones its season, reduces staffing and salaries, and deals with a $17 million budget shortfall.

But in spite of the trauma, OutSmart readers still gave TUTS the Best Local Equity Theater award this year.

“It is an incredible honor because Houston’s other theaters also have a devotion to their craft that is incredible,” says TUTS Artistic Director Dan Knechtges. “I personally try to go see everything [at the other theaters], so it’s humbling to be singled out.”

And while the theater is currently dark, the future of TUTS’ upcoming season appears bright.

“Plans for 2022–23 are in full swing,” Knechtges says. “We’ve got a full list of shows that got canceled or delayed, along with new producers wanting to bring shows here. It’s going to be exciting!”

Although TUTS’ prospects are looking up, the theater needs to get through the rest of this year and 2021 to carry out its plans for 2022–23, and that remains uncertain.

“Trying to predict what will happen in the pandemic is very difficult, and it changes daily,” Knechtges admits. “However, we do know the protocols for the show starting in May will be dictated by the tour producers of Come From Away.”

According to Knechtges, the producers will have stringent protocols in regard to the actors and musicians. For instance, to keep audiences safe while they are in the building, shows will no longer feature intermissions, and proper social distancing and masks will be required. But should things improve, Knechtges says the theater organization will evaluate what it will do next.

“Our first self-produced show in the Hobby Center is Rock of Ages next August, and I’m hopeful we will be closer to normal at that time,” he says. “Should we still need more safety procedures in August, we will take what we learned from Come From Away and put that into place for Rock of Ages.

While the TUTS stages are bare at the moment, that doesn’t mean the 52-year-old theater company isn’t still producing art.

“I think Winston Churchill once said, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste,’” Knechtges notes.

TUTS just launched a podcast and a webcast based on its popular Spotlight Series, an originally free in-person event that gave audiences the chance to meet the cast and creative teams responsible for TUTS’ productions. The podcast and webcast offer fans the chance to go behind the scenes and connect with musical theater in a more meaningful way. Knechtges recently hosted a Spotlight webcast in which he spoke with other performing-arts leaders about the current state of affairs and how they’re staying connected to the community during this unprecedented era. The Spotlight podcast also explores cast albums, from well-known hits to the really obscure.

“[The podcast and webcast are] both great ways for musical-theater fans to stay plugged in to the community while we are unable to gather,” Knechtges says.

Like its Spotlight Series, TUTS could not host a production at the Miller Outdoor Theatre this year, due to the pandemic. So, the theater organization is working to continue both its schools and in-community programming for its Public Works Houston program online. As they say, the show must go on.

For more information on TUTS, visit tuts.com.


Best Art Gallery/Place to Buy Artwork

Archway Gallery
Finalists: Hardy & Nance Studios, John Palmer Art Space Montrose

Best Regional Theater

Alley Theatre (tie), Theatre Under The Stars (tie)

Best Community Theater

Catastrophic Theatre
Finalist: Ensemble Theatre

Best Local Equity Theater 

Stages Repertory Theatre

Best Performing Arts Company

Houston Grand Opera
Finalists: Bayou City Performing Arts, Pilot Dance Project

Favorite Houston Museum

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (tie), Menil Collection (tie)
Finalists: Holocaust Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston Museum of Natural Science

Favorite Local Female Actor

Tamarie Cooper
Finalists: Lydia Meadows, Holland Vavra, Pamela Vogel

Favorite Local Male Actor

Dylan Godwin
Finalists: Mark Ivy, Charles Swan, Wesley Whitson

Favorite Local Female Fine Artist

Crystal Murley
Finalists: Letitia Garcia, Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee

Favorite Local Male Fine Artist

Hugo Perez
Finalists: Robin Baker, Edgar Medina, Wes Holloway

Favorite Local NonBinary Fine Artist

L’Quesha K. Monet


Best Auto Body Shop

RMS Auto Care
Finalist: Ryan Automotive

Best Auto Mechanic

Tech Auto Maintenance
Finalists: Montrose Car Care, RMS Auto Care

Best Car Wash/Auto Detailing

Aqua Hand Car Wash
Finalists: CARisma Wash, Mister Car Wash

Best Domestic Auto Dealership

Central Houston Cadillac
Finalists: Helfman Dodge Chrysler Jeep, Planet Lincoln 

Best Import Auto Dealership

Fred Haas Toyota
Finalists: Advantage BMW, Jaguar Houston Central

This article appears in the October 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.
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