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The George R. Brown Convention Center, right, is ready to welcome USITT visitors next March as the site for the 2008 Annual Conference & Stage Expo. The skyline view of the theatre district, below, will be very familiar to those traveling to Houston, Texas March 19 to 22, 2008.

Photos/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Ahead to Houston!

Janet Harreld
Houston Promotions Coordinator

Urban cowboys with big Stetsons and pointy toed snake skin boots, George Bush the Elder, six wheel pick ‘em up trucks driven by everyone including little old ladies, big oil companies in every high rise, the mess that was known as Enron, men wearing vivid orange space suits and speaking "engineerese" -- are those the things you think of when you hear the name Houston? The Bayou City (Houston is laced with bayous) honestly is that, but it is also very much more.

Houston is a cosmopolitan city that boasts three professional opera companies, 27 dance companies, and a plethora of live local theatre in addition to the Alley. Surprised?

The fourth largest city in the United States doesn't possess the history of a New Orleans or a Boston or a Chicago, but Houston makes up for that in the sheer volume of fine and performing arts it has to offer and the amount of leisure activities in which to indulge. It is a great place for USITT's Annual Conference & Stage Expo, March 19 to 22, 2008

  • There are 16 different institutions that make up Houston's Museum district including Bayou Bend that houses a 5,000 piece American decorative arts collection with pieces ranging circa 1620 to 1876. The Museum of Natural Science always has something intriguing happening in addition to its fabulous Smith Gem Vault and Egyptian antiquity collection.
  • Houston has a world class symphony that performs in the magnificent Jones Hall. The Houston Symphony offers a wonderful eclectic mix of classical and pop music performances with over 170 concerts produced annually.
  • The Houston Grand Opera, performing in the Wortham Theater Center, is renowned for innovative approaches to staging (Maurice Sendak's The Magic Flute, Jonathan Miller's Mikado featuring Eric Idle as Ko-Ko, and Basil Twist's recent Hansel and Grethel with life size puppets) and for the premieres of such pieces as Nixon in China directed by Peter Sellars and Carlisle Floyd's Cold Sassy Tree.
  • Local theatre runs the gamut from Stages Repertory, which focuses on new works, to one of the largest professional African-American companies in the country, Ensemble Theater. And, of course, there's the Alley which is often engaged in developing pieces for Broadway production.
  • Houston Ballet, performing at the Wortham, is hailed as one of the nation's best companies. Their premiere productions include Ben Stevens Dracula and Stanton Welch's exquisite Madame Butterfly.

Houstonians are crazy for golf. If you are too, there are two courses -- Hermann Park and Memorial Park -- that are reasonably convenient to the George R. Brown Convention Center, host to most USITT sessions and Stage Expo. Just across the street from the course in Herman Park is the Houston Zoo. The Zoo boasts more than 3,100 exotic animals and is the eighth most visited zoo in the country.

Those who want to come to town a few days early can experience the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. This high energy event runs for more than two weeks and offers rodeo in Reliant Stadium, live music from artists like Sheryl Crow, Hannah Montana, and Los Lonely Boys; mule pulls in six weight classes no less; and famed Texas barbeque.

Shopping in the Galleria, Rice Village, or the Houston Heights is a terrific treat. While the Galleria is filled to overflowing with well known designer shops that are centered about an ice rink, Rice Village is one of the city's most beloved shopping districts packed with trendy stores and unique boutiques along with fabulous bars and clubs. Houston Heights is for the vintage and antique lover or for the Victorian architecture fanatic.

As I haven't lived in Houston all that long, I'm quite excited about spending time discovering more of what the Bayou City has and letting you know all about my adopted home town. This gracious community opened its arms not only to me but to hundreds of thousands in an instant; you'll feel right at home here, too!

Janet Harreld was Promotions Coordinator for the 2002 Annual Conference & Stage Expo in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has since relocated to Houston and will serve in that role again in 2008 when USITT heads to Texas.

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