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Houston Texas flooding Hurricane Harvey Win McNamee, Getty Images
A Houston resident walks through waist deep water while evacuating her home after severe flooding following Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey Hits Houston Theatres Hard

Tropical Storm Harvey’s record-breaking rainfall of 51.88'' has caused flood-related deaths of at least 20 people, with thousands more rescued from flooded homes and buildings. According to The New York Times, Houston Police Department has rescued more than 3,500 people, while the fire department has performed more than 400 rescues. After six days, the storm is still not over, making its second landfall in Louisiana early this morning.

Houston’s art district has sustained substantial flooding and damage, impeding the fall performance season that was set to begin next week.

On Monday, Dean Gladden, managing director of The Alley Theatre, discovered water up to the ceiling in the theatre’s second stage, the Neuhaus Theatre, with its dressing rooms and basement completely submerged, according to American Theatre. While the Mitchell Lobby also experienced flooding, The Hubbard Theatre and the Long Lobby have been undamaged. The water has already past the high water mark of the flooding from the 2001 Tropical Storm Allison, which required a $4 million renovation, reports The Houston Chronicle. The Alley Theatre completed a $46.5 million renovation just two years ago.

With the power supply for the whole building submerged under floodwaters, Gladden told The Houston Chronicle, “We're completely out of commission.” The Alley cancelled its remaining performances of The 39 Steps, which was set to run through September 3, and is trying to find alternative venues for two other shows.

The Wortham Theatre Center, home to Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera, has a flooded scene dock and basement, water filling the dressing rooms, HGO costume shop, and storage areas. The costumes for the upcoming productions of La traviata and Julius Caesar had been moved on Friday in preparation for the storm. An inch of water soaked the venue’s Brown Theatre stage, which will need to be resurfaced. HGO has closed its offices through Labor Day, but plans to provide an update on Thursday afternoon.

The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and Jones Hall, which houses the Houston Symphony, has been also affected by flooding, with water reaching the Zilka Hall via the loading dock and foyer, according to The Houston Chronicle. The Houston Ballet’s $48 million Center for Dance also reported flooding in its lobby and first floor dance studio.

Stages Repertory Theatre has remained dry, but its offices are closed through today and performances through September 3 have been cancelled. “It is not whether or not we can run, it is, can anyone get to us?” Stages artistic director Kenn McLaughlin told American Theatre. Cast members for Woody Sez are stuck in a hotel surrounded by water, while Friday’s set load-in for Xanadu was cancelled in anticipation for the storm. Additionally, the Theatre District garage is completely flooded and will need to be closed for repairs. Stages’ production of Always…Patsy Cline will resume performances on September 6.

“We are a company, and we are here for each other,” Houston Grand Opera managing director Perryn Leech and artistic and music director Patrick Summers wrote in a statement. “We will recover and deliver a fantastic season to our patrons, giving them the art they need to heal from this calamity.”

The theatre community is working together to bring about such healing. IATSE has donated $10,000 to the Walsh/DiTolla/Spivak Foundation, which provides financial assistance to affected members and their families. IATSE also provides information on how to help and how to get help, from The Actors Fund to Union Plus.

American Theatre also provides a list of affected theatre companies with ways to donate to their causes.

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