Main Street’s Part of the Art

21 Aug

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“We no longer live in a world where we can just do great theater and expect that people will come.” Shannon Emerick, Main Street Theater’s director of marketing and development, leaned forward earnestly, warming to her topic. “We live in a world with entirely different expectations of how people want to experience what we do.”

This was an echo of a sentiment I’d heard nearly six years ago, working as publicity manager for Houston Grand Opera. Only there, it was then-General Director Anthony Freud saying it, as HGO unveiled its HGOCo initiative, a collaboration between the opera company and the community that was dedicated to outreach, education and helping tell the stories that made Houston what it was.

Main Street’s new Part of the Art endeavor is no less ambitious. It’s designed to bring more people –both regular theatergoers and novices alike – into the process of what it takes to create a live performance. Each Main Street production this season will have Part of the Art components, whether inviting audiences in for the very first read-through of a play or coming to a dress rehearsal, even joining cast and designers for discussion before opening night.

“There has to be a way into what we do for people,” said Emerick. “And because art is about our human connection to one another, why wouldn’t look for avenues to help people find and experience us?”

To that end, Main Street’s first Part of the Art program was a read-through and design presentation of its season opener, Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing (Sept. 5 – 29). It provided an opportunity for audiences to listen to Main Street’s artistic director (and director of The Real Thing) Rebecca Greene Udden, costumer design Macy Lyne and set designer Jac Jones discuss their vision for costumes and the sets, as well as hear the cast read through the whole play.

“The response we got when we first offered this was so big, we realized we needed to cap the attendance at it,” says Udden. “Nobody’s done this before that we know of.”

Not that Main Street has ever let that stop them. The theater company born from a group of renegades at Rice University looking to stage more modern productions has evolved into a company known for presenting regional premieres from contemporary playwrights, as well as revisiting storied classics. Its current capital campaign seeks to improve its Times Boulevard space, while steadfastly maintaining its community roots. And that community so far seems to have embraced this new level of engagement from the company.

“It turned out to be wonderful!” said Emerick of the first Part of the Art read-through.  “Our guests were ‘with us’ all the way through, laughing, engaged…  At the break, people were remarking how they’d been attending theater for years but had never been to a read-through of the script.  Actors and audiences alike seemed energized.”

If you’re thinking that being part of the art sounds fun, there are multiple opportunities available for The Real Thing, including:
August 25: Mimosas (and costume parade): See what the costume designer has in mind for the actors and watch the actors show off that vision. $20 per person. To purchase tickets, call 713-524-6706 or visit

September 5: Pre-show discussion with the designers of The Real Thing at 6:45 p.m., prior to the opening night performance (The discussion is free; those with tickets for opening night may attend the pre-show discussion as well as the champagne reception following the performance.)

September 15: Lunch with Director Rebecca Green Udden at 1:00 p.m. at Solteno. $50 per person

September 22: Dinner with the actors ($50 per person), in partnership with El Meson restaurant

To RSVP or purchase tickets for lunch or dinner, email Shannon Emerick at

For upcoming Part of the Art events during other Main Street Theater 2013-2014 main stage performances, visit

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