Texas' 10 Best Live Theater Venues!
The Lone Star State is home to a vibrant theater scene. Whether you’re hitting up the big cities for a Broadway-caliber show or a cozy suburban theatre for a top-notch local show, Texas has it. Here are the 10 best places for live theater in the state!
Grapevine's Runway Theatre has been in operation for the last 35 years now, and that's no mean feat given the changes that have taken place in that time. A largely volunteer operation, the Runway started life as the base of operations for the End of the Runway Players, originally rehearsing out of a garage. Soon, the group formed its own not-for-profit organization and established the theater as its own, which has been running ever since.
Kerrville's Playhouse 2000 was the brain child of theater, technical and musical directors—along with a scenic designer and graphic artist—who wanted to bring the performing arts to the area as well as provide a venue for at-risk youth to learn something of stagecraft and live acting beyond YouTube videos and whatever was playing that week from Hollywood. The end result is a theater that's put on some impressive works, ranging from “Carousel” to “Making God Laugh.”
The Crighton Theatre in Conroe got its start when the mayor decided to go hunting for oil in 1934. He succeeded, and with his newfound wealth decided that Conroe needed a venue for live theater. Intending to produce a structure similar to Houston's Majestic Theatre using native stone like the capitol building did in Austin, the end result was the Crighton. Since then, a host of shows have come and gone in air-conditioned comfort—always a plus in Texas—and the place still hosts theater today.
The Steve W. Shepherd Theater in Fredericksburg—described as “an intimate and comfortable venue with 250 individual seats”—is the home turf of the Fredericksburg Theater Company. Offering a wide array of shows including some specials for the holidays as well as some of the biggest in Broadway like Neil Simon's “Barefoot in the Park,” the Steve W. Shepherd offers plenty of theater for all. And we mean “for all,” because there's even a set specifically for the younger kids.
In Hurst—right between Dallas and Fort Worth—sits the Artisan Center Theater, a theater that's home to a variety of stage productions, covering the gamut from country-western gospel to Broadway hits. It's also got a fairly extensive children's theater group, featuring some of the biggest features ever like “Les Miserables” performed entirely by students. There are even refreshments and handicap seating available just to round out the experience.
It's really not Texas if something isn't named after the state, and in Palestine, that honor—likely one of several—goes to the Texas Theatre. Regarded as “the crown jewel of downtown Palestine,” it's also a survivor. Built in 1930, and originally designed as a movie palace in the style of the time, it survived fires on two different occasions, and was regularly closed and reopened by new owners taking up the gauntlet. Now, it handles a wide array of theatrical presentations, and is the official home of Palestine Community Theatre.
If Theater Arlington in Arlington looks like it might well have once served as a Blockbuster Video or similar location, that's not so far out of line. Originally, Theatre Arlington got its start in a high school, run by the Potluck Players, so named for their meeting place, the Potluck Room of Miss Persis Dance Studio. Eventually, raising money by charging everyone involved with a show from cast to crew to ushers $10 to be involved, the group moved to its permanent location, a 134-seat venue. From there, the group went on to deliver some of the biggest names in theater, leading off its new venue in 1981 with “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
The Georgetown Palace Theatre, in Georgetown, recently celebrated its 90th anniversary, so for those looking for a slice of history with their theater, this is a fine place to start. It too got its house as a movie palace back in the days of silent film, before progressing to the “talkies” and ultimately ending its film run in 1989. Through renovations and changes, the theater eventually became one of the leaders in the area's drama scene, as well as offering plenty of programs for the next generation of stage actors.
The Granbury Theatre Company represents quite a bit of Granbury history. Headquartered in the Granbury Opera House—itself recipient of a $3.5 million renovation in 2012—it presents not only Broadway shows, but also tribute concerts and other events. It even occasionally hosts movies.
Cleburne's Plaza Theatre is home to its eponymous theatre company. Said company delivers a wide array of shows—most recently it handled “Always, Patsy Cline”—and also offers a wide range of theater from the younger set. One novel feature about this theater, though, is that it shows you the availability of tickets for most any show for almost a month running. Four green bars mean tickets are still available, while one red bar means nearly sold out. Three green and two yellow bars serve as intermediary signs, a noteworthy addition.