The Austin Chronicle

Austin Playhouse

Once more with feeling: The theatre creates yet another temporary space for its new season

By Robert Faires, December 7, 2012, Arts

So Austin Playhouse is about to open a temporary theatre facility while its new permanent theatre is under construction.

Feeling a sudden flash of déjà vu? It wouldn't be surprising since the same announcement was made by Artistic Director Don Toner a year ago, when the Playhouse erected a $24,000, 55-by-60-foot tent on land adjacent to the site of its planned new home in the Mueller development. But after producing five shows in it, the company disassembled that tent, confident that the permanent structure would be built and open in a matter of months.

Well, after more months of delays in obtaining construction permits – owing to a backlog at the city – Toner asked his subscribers which they'd prefer: to wait several extra months until the new theatre was finished to see the next Playhouse production, or to see shows sooner in yet another temporary space. His fans voted for the latter, so Toner began scouting for options. He saw possibilities in a vacant storefront in Highland Mall and struck a deal with mall management and Austin Community College. Just after Thanksgiving, Playhouse company members began transforming the spot into a theatre – one with the tiered seating of the tent theatre, an even larger stage, and, not insignificantly, indoor plumbing (something greatly missed last season). (For images, see

Now, Austin Playhouse will begin its 13th season – lucky 13th! – on Dec. 13 in the east end of Highland Mall's lower level, across from Express and by what was Macy's. The first show, a new comic mystery by Ken Ludwig of Lend Me a Tenor fame, imagines the American actor William Gillette, famed for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on the stage, playing detective for real when a guest at his castle is murdered. Following the five-week run of The Game's Afoot (or Holmes for the Holidays) will be the Austin premiere of recent Broadway hit and Pulitzer finalist Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz (The Substance of Fire), running Jan. 25-Feb. 24.

The Game's Afoot (or Holmes for the Holidays) runs Dec. 13–Jan. 13, Thursday–Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 5pm, at Austin Playhouse at Highland Mall, 6001 Airport Blvd. For more information, call 476-0084 or visit

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