Category Archives: Theater

Theater projects past and present.

The Father, trailer

Clara Ploux, Artistic Director of Luciole International Theatre Company, interviewed me and put together this trailer for our upcoming reading of The Father, by Florian Zeller. The event is part of the French Cultures Festival in Houston, sponsored by the French Embassy. The still photos used were publicity stills taken by Pin Lim of cast members Charles Bailey, Jennifer Doctorovich, and Rachel Ollagnon. The reading will be presented on Saturday, 3/24/18 at 8:00 pm at the MATCH.


The Father, a reading for Luciole

Luciole International Theatre has asked me to direct a reading of Florian Zeller’s The Father (translated by Christopher Hampton) as part of the French Culture Festival. The play is a lyrical, alternately sweet and scary play about Alzheimer’s, from the viewpoint of an older man suffering with it. His relationship with his daughter and other caretakers seems to be an ever changing and fluid roller coaster of emotion and perception.

As some of you may know, my own father suffered from dementia in the last couple of years of his life. It was a difficult and delicate situation and a daily challenge for those of us in his life.

I’m delighted that Charlie Bailey, Jennifer Doctorovich, Rachel Ollagnon, Jon Egging, and Heidi Hinkel have all agreed to do this lovely but challenging project. The above photo was taken by Pin Lim. Clara Ploux, the Artistic Director of Luciole, is designing projections and sound, so it will be a bit more ambitious than the average reading.

Hope those of you in town for the festival will make the effort to see this worthy show. It performs in Theater 1 at the MATCH, in mid-town Houston, on Saturday 3/24/18, at
8:00 pm.

For ticket information, please go to the MATCH website:


MST-The Big Do

Main Street Theater’s fundraiser, termed The Big Do! was held last Friday (2/2/2018) at the MATCH in mid-town Houston. The theater made use of one large gallery area, the midway, and one of the proscenium theater spaces, which kept people moving about, eating, drinking, and mingling with other participants. Overall, I’d say it was a huge success.

Ellen Sanborn (with me in the picture above) was the staff coordinator on this effort and really pulled a groundhog out of the proverbial hat on this one. Generally, everyone came in cocktail attire, but the range of fabulous and quirky hats made the event even more fun.

The event featured a silent auction with a host of wonderful items ranging from a child’s peddle-powered vehicle, to a long-weekend stay in a log-cabin condo in Tennessee, to custom boots.  There was also a fabulous basket of items for lovers of Jane Austen, which included an action figure. Alas, I did not win that auction item, but I did prevail on one of the designer handbags.

There was a wine lottery, where you could pay $20 and then draw for which of many bottles of intriguing wines you would take home.

The finger food and hors d’oeuvres were delicious and imaginative, including a desert table of donut holes and various toppings. The bar was open–need I say more.

Later in the evening, several fabulous vacations were auctioned off at what seemed actually reasonable rates.  Then the auctioneer got creative with some large and small ways to support the theater’s youth activities. When he opened the support auction (with no actual object to take home other than the knowledge that you’d done something significant for kids) the suggested opening bid of $15,000 was taken up by one incredibly generous woman. The bids went down incrementally from there and eventually everyone reached a level of giving with which they were comfortable. The fact that the first stalwart bidder met the entire fundraising goal for the event was not lost on anyone.

Local celebrity volunteers and members of the Theater for Youth company performed an original sketch that kept us laughing.

The event honored local Houston hero Jim ‘Mattress Mack’ McIngvale for his ongoing philanthropy in Houston, which was so vividly demonstrated during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Completely in keeping with his persona, Mack showed up to the gala event in khakis, polo shirt and red bomber jacket. The highlight of the evening may have been his brief and articulate speech about Hurricane Harvey and the joy he and his employees found in opening the doors of their superstores to flood refugees. Also, totally in keeping with his personality, he was the highest bidder on one of the luxury bedding items.

All in all, it was a delightful evening that paid suitable homage to a truly admirable Houstonian, gave us an excuse to celebrate ourselves and our theater, and made money to support the ongoing educational efforts of Main Street Theater. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night.



Miss Bennet Will Rise Again!

As many of you know, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley was a joy to work on, and I was justifiably proud of the product.  Most of the magazines and family-friendly publications that covered it have been glowing in their reports.  Unfortunately, the two major papers in town were not as liberal in their praise. [Everett Evans, why oh why did you retire?] But the patrons won out. Suffice it to say that there was a firestorm on Facebook about the reviews and the very different response of our loyal audience and new patrons brought to MST for the first time. I tried to stay out of it.

The run has been very successful, with sold out previews and a near capacity opening weekend. Subsequently, word-of-mouth was so good that the run quickly began to sell out. So performances were added. This week before Christmas has several additional performances, which sold out almost immediately.

But the best news reached me at the MST Christmas party.  Apparently, Rebecca Udden, MST’s Artistic Director tried to come back to see the show mid-run and could not get in, because even the house seats had been sold. It was the feather that finally pushed her to commit to reviving the show next year.

When we close this week-end, Ryan McGettigan’s lovely set will not be demolished. Instead, it will be dismantled and preserved as much as possible so that we can reuse the glorious window unit next year.

The cast is justifiably over-the-moon, as they have been told that they will all be invited to reprise their roles next year. Barring anyone being cast in a Broadway show, I think we will all be working together again in 2018.

It just goes to show you that Jane Austen can even conquer a mediocre review. Perhaps, they will send someone more in touch with the Houston audience next year.

Miss Bennet Opens at MST

Well, the show is open and I’m feeling withdrawal pains.

We had four virtually sold-out previews and an extra rehearsal to adjust the timing and secure the laughs in the final show. Then on Saturday, November 11, 2017 we opened to a lively sell-out audience. People on the waiting list got in because a few regular subscribers were unable to use their tickets.

Energy was high and responses were quick. That almost telekinetic connection between audience and performers was especially evident.  There were obvious Jane Austen fans in the crowd who chortled at every inside joke. At one especially sweet moment, there was an audible sigh from a group in the audience. That response and energy only fed the sharpness of the performances.

Three reviewers have now seen the show. Two reviews have been published and we expect one from the Houston Chronicle shortly.

The Houston Press gave a generally favorable, if slightly tepid review. The main objection being that like Jane Austen’s books and most romantic comedies the ending is a bit predictable. The girl gets the boy. Spoiler alert! That’s what we want.

On the other hand, Doni Wilson of Houstonia magazine loved the show.

We will let the ticket-buying public decide. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this could become a perennial favorite for Main Street Theater audiences.

The show runs through mid-December, so contact MST for tickets online at  Or call the box office at 713-524-6706.


Miss Bennet, Week 4-First Preview

This last week has been leading up to our first preview of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley and the introduction of audience to the recipe. It is that ingredient, like yeast, that will make our work ‘rise’, and elevate the rehearsal process to live theatre.

The set is receiving its final touch ups, we are still waiting for one chair that is currently starring in a production at another theater. Props are being adjusted and finalized. Decisions must be made about the exact amount of cranberry juice for color in the ginger ale punch bowl and how much light to throw on the Christmas tree without upstaging the actors. Do we use the incidental music to transition us from one scene to another, and does it end when the lights come up or fade as the actors enter? As the director, I am consulted and involved in all these decisions and processes.

But my primary focus is on the actors and their journey to bring these characters to life. The cast is as widely different in acting and work styles as the characters are different.  One actor is very free and able to commit to even extreme and presentational-performance styles. Another found the core of the character early on but is still trying to find the exact vocal balance. Still another actor must understand the psychological ramifications of every single gesture and inflection to the point of being crazy-making. Some seek me out for private conversations to rationalize a piece of blocking I’ve given. Others seem almost jealous to receive this information second-hand, so I have to reprise the conversation all over again. My detailed notes after each rehearsal are generally taken with eager and good humor, while occasionally there seems resistance to changing anything without extensive discussion. Once in a while, I have to remind a cast member that I’m the one sitting in the audience and seeing the stage picture, and I’m the one whose responsibility it is to fulfill the vision of the play, not just his or her character.

While highly professional, this is a very young cast. I find their willingness to be creative and collaborative exciting. But their equal eagerness to challenge every decision and offer their own insights as to what the play should be, sometimes takes valuable time out of the rehearsal process. A more mature actor would consider it impertinence. But then, I would not have the benefit of the occasional insight that leads to a solution. It is a balancing act.

Sunday marked our first preview. It was an almost full house, which is an advantage because it frees people to laugh. The first audience is so important to the process. It is during previews that we discover whether the humor is working. Do we need to take an extra beat before the next line so as not to ‘kill’ the laugh? Are there lines we forgot might be funny and so the laughter takes us by surprise? Even more gratifying is to discover you have actual Jane Austen fans in the audience who get the inside jokes from Pride and Prejudice. Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon have skillfully inserted such references without drawing attention to them.

During the preview, I sat with Artistic Director, Becky Udden, and Carrie Cavins, my lighting designer.

It was exciting to see the eager and attentive faces of our somewhat older audience members. The first preview invariably includes long-time patrons and senior citizens. Any concerns I had about volume of the actors were allayed quickly. Pacing seemed very good, but a few scenes seemed a trifle slow to me. A sign that the actors are still tentative about what they are doing. While pleased with the audience response, I saw all the little things that needed to be fixed.

Carrie, like me, saw only the places where the light was uneven, or an actor was standing just out of light. She can only do so much if the actor cannot feel the light on his/her face and seek it out.

Becky on the other hand, seemed delighted with the show and recognized that any small imperfections can be fixed this week in rehearsal and previews.

Audience response and the buzz in the lobby were very good.  I had a few interesting conversations with patrons.  Later, Shannon Emerick forwarded our first email response from an a longtime Rice University staffer in the audience, who wrote, “It was an absolute delight. Terrific way to begin the holiday season. Helen”

We’re off to a terrific start. The rest is in the details. Next rehearsal on Tuesday. Then three more previews before opening night.