All the Hill Country's a Stage
From Marble Falls to Uvalde and Wimberley to Kerrville, where the theatre is
By Robert Faires, Fri., May 9, 2003
In the Hill Country, just as you're never too far from a roadside stand hawking fresh-from-the-orchard peaches or a Wurstfest celebration or a river to tube down, you're never too far from a theatre. True, stages aren't nearly as numerous or as celebrated as other staples of the region; nevertheless, they dot the territory in such a way that no matter where in the Hill Country one is, it's just a stone's throw from some community chorus of "76 Trombones" or an Odd Couple with a Lone Star twang. Some Hill Country stages, such as Ingram's Point Theatre and New Braunfels' Circle Arts Theatre, have been serving up drama for decades, but the number of companies that have sprouted in the past dozen years reveals a new interest in theatre spreading across the region.
The fare you'll find at these theatres is, by and large, the comfort food of the stage: staples from the Golden Age of Broadway Musicals, urban comedies and domestic dramas by the likes of Neil Simon and Bernard Slade, and rip-roaring, hiss-the-villain mellerdrammers of the 19th century. But nestled among such familiar works are surprises, too, such as the Back Door Theatre staging Incorruptible, a play about 13th-century French monks selling bones from their cemetery as holy relics, or the EmilyAnn Theatre premiering Stars From the Hills, an original musical drama by Dorey Schmidt and Gordon Jones about settling Wimberley, or even improv comedy at the Point.
And while the thespians in these Hill Country productions are drawn from their respective communities, the scene also boasts theatre artists of extensive experience and talent, such as Elizabeth Elliott, who has been operating the Circle Arts Theatre in New Braunfels for 35 years and winning awards for her participation in the Texas Nonprofit Theatres' play competitions; Doug Balentine, who co-founded Fort Worth's infamous Hip Pocket Theatre and later Caravan of Dreams before returning to wife Susan's hometown of Kerrville and founding Playhouse 2000; and Jim Weisman, one of Austin's most acclaimed set-designers in the 1980s, who now serves as artistic director at the Point Theatre in Ingram.
So, when you're taking in the pleasures of the land west of Austin, consider washing down that bratwurst or peach with some homegrown Hill Country Lerner and Loewe. Here's a brief guide to the theatres of the area and what will be on the boards this summer.
Back Door Theatre (Boerne Community Theatre)
809 N. Main, Boerne; 830/249-9166; www.backdoortheatre.com
For the past dozen years, Back Door Theatre has been the nonprofit theatre of the community of Boerne. Its season consists of five productions a year, plus additional special events such as a new cabaret series and an annual drama camp for children. The Back Door also provides two $500 scholarships for theatrically inclined seniors in the Boerne ISD.
Steel Magnolias, through May 17
Squabbles, July 11-Aug. 7
Circle Arts Theatre
124 Elizabeth, New Braunfels; 830/609-3092; www.circleartstheatre.org
Elizabeth Elliott founded Circle Arts in 1968 and has kept it going strong ever since, staging four plays each season, including an original melodrama performed during October's Wurstfest celebration. Circle Arts also offers theatre classes for children ages 7-14 and, for middle school and high school students, the Inner Circle theatre company, directed by Elliott's daughter (and theatre technical director) Roberta.
Godspell, July 10-Aug. 3
Over the Tavern, Sept. 11-Oct. 4
1101 FM 2325, Wimberley; 512/847-6969; www.emilyann.org
This outdoor theatre is named in memory of Emily Ann Rolling, a former student at Wimberley High School who died in an automobile accident at the age of 16. Because Emily Ann was active in theatre at Wimberley High, her parents, Ann and Norm Rolling, founded the theatre as a space for the high school's "Shakespeare Under the Stars" program.
Star of the Hills, May 23-June 7
Fredericksburg Theater Company
306 E. Austin, Fredericksburg; 830/997-3588; www.fredericksburgtheater.org
For six seasons, the Fredericksburg Theater Company has been adding live stage work to the cultural amenities of this favorite Hill Country destination. Under the direction of Jeryl Hoover, the company stages up to six productions a season, two of them musicals, which are performed in either the Gillespie County Historical Society Center or the Fredericksburg High School Auditorium.
West Side Story, June 20-July 5
Hill Country Community Theatre
4003 FM 2147, Marble Falls; 830/798-8944; www.hcct.org
Founded in 1986 by GiGi Fischer and the late Phyl Holbert, Hill Country Community Theatre stages family-oriented theatre, with four nonmusical and two musical productions per season, with at least one summer production geared toward the involvement of kids as well as adults.
Same Time, Next Year, May 29-June 8
The King and I, July 31-Aug. 17
305 Washington, Kerrville; 830/896-9393; www.play2k.org
Theatre veterans Susan and Doug Balentine formed Playhouse 2000 in 1998, after six years with the Hill Country Arts Foundation in the early Nineties. They wanted their own year-round community theatre and performing-arts school, and they not only built that, they are also building, in partnership with the city of Kerrville, a modern performing-arts center out of the old Kerrville Municipal Auditorium.
The Honeymooners, June 12-28
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, July 24-Aug. 9
Pump Boys and Dinettes, Sept. 25-Oct. 11
Smith-Ritch Point Theatre
507 Hwy. 39 W., Ingram; 830/367-5122; www.hcaf.com
Part of the Hill Country Arts Foundation, the Point Theatre is in its 45th year of producing theatre on the banks of the Guadalupe River. During summer, the 722-seat outdoor amphitheatre offers theatre under the stars, while the rest of the year the indoor Pavilion Theatre, seating 140, provides an intimate space for drama, poetry, or improv from the Pointless Players.
On the Verge, or the Geography of Yearning, through May 10
The Pointless Players, May 23-24
Gigi, June 5-28
Love Rides the Rails, or Will the Guadalupe Rise Tonight?, July 10-26
Mame, Aug. 7-30
Krause House, 1300 Bulverde Rd., Bulverde; 830/438-2339
S.T.A.G.E. -- which stands for Spotlight Theatre & Arts Group Etc. -- has been developing public interest in theatre just north of San Antonio for 20 years. Activities include: four shows per season with one or two additional "director's choice specials," a contest-entry production for the American Association of Community Theatres festivals, and classes for children and adults.
Little Footsteps, May 1-18
No Time for Heaven, July 24-Aug. 10
Uvalde Arts Council
Janey Slaughter Briscoe Grand Opera House, 104 W. North, Uvalde; 830/278-4184; www.uvaldeoperahouse.com
Operating out of Uvalde's Grand Opera House, a magnificent structure built in 1891 and restored in 1982, the Uvalde Arts Council produces four to five community productions each season.
Send Me No Flowers, May 9-12
The Curious Savage, July 18-27
Greenhouse Theatre, 50 Marina Circle, Wimberley; 512/847-0575;www.wimberleyplayers.org
For more than two decades, the Wimberley Players have been mounting quality community theatre in the 77-seat converted greenhouse in the Woodcreek Resort and Conference Center. The company, which stages five shows per season, is currently undertaking the construction of a new performing-arts center.
The Trip to Bountiful, July 25-Aug. 10
The Music Man, Sept. 12-Oct. 5