Summer Stages: BWW's Top Summer Theatre Picks - Houston

Another summer, another year of looking for excuses to stay indoors. Luckily for you, the Houston theatre scene's got you covered. From new works to wholesome classics, swing dancing to demented puppets, there's something for everyone this year. So make plans to stay inside and consider some of the BWW Houston editors' picks for the upcoming summer season.

Summer Stages: BWW's Top Summer Theatre Picks - HoustonFADE TO BLACK PLAY FESTIVAL

"I feel like FADE TO BLACK is the artistic revolution of the up-and-coming African American artist," says Jabari Collins, Technical Director and Stage Manager of the FADE TO BLACK PLAY FESTIVAL. Founded by Denise O'Neal, the playwriting festival is Houston's first and the only national play festival to showcase new works from African American playwrights. Each year, after a nationwide call for plays written by African American artists, FADE TO BLACK debuts a line-up of ten new, short plays. "They are very bold," says Collins. "They are very edgy. They are very cutting edge." And at least seven of the playwrights will be in attendance at the three day festival, with a talk-back following the Friday night show and the grand prize winner announced on Saturday.

Collins has an ultimate vision for FADE TO BLACK - that not only will folks from all walks of life come out to support aspiring black artists, but that they will leave with some ideas of their own. "I hope that other cultures start to do the same thing, because you need to have a strength in every individual culture to enhance the culture of America as a whole, and then America is a better country, and the world is a better [place]."

The FADE TO BLACK PLAY FESTIVAL runs from June 16 to June 18 at The Queensbury Theatre, 12777 Queensbury Ln, Houston, 77024. For more information please visit http://www.fadetoblackfest.com.

Summer Stages: BWW's Top Summer Theatre Picks - HoustonTREASURE ISLAND (Company OnStage)

Ahoy there, theatre-goer. If you're in the mood for a swashbuckling good time, consider TREASURE ISLAND, the summer production from Company OnStage. With TREASURE ISLAND, Company OnStage returns to McPhail Hall in St. John's Presbyterian Church, the location where it all started almost 40 years ago. Based on the classic novel by Robert Louis Stevenson and adapted by Toby Hulse, this adaptation sees a young girl's dream come alive as she takes on the role of Jim Hawkins and encounters Long John Silver in the quest for buried treasure. It's fun for the whole family. And who doesn't like pirates?

TREASURE ISLAND runs from June 17 to July 16 at St. John's Presbyterian Church, 5020 West Bellfort, Houston, 77035. For more information, please visit http://www.companyonstage.org or call 713-726-1219.

Summer Stages: BWW's Top Summer Theatre Picks - HoustonTHE ALL NIGHT STRUT (The Texas Repertory Theatre Company)

Everything old is new again in Fran Charnas' THE ALL NIGHT STRUT, opening this July at The Texas Repertory Theatre. Directed by Steven Fenley, the musical revue will travel through the 1930s and 1940s, from quiet, somber numbers like the Depression-era standard "Bother, Can You Spare a Dime?" to toe-tapping, jitterbugging hits from artists like Cab Calloway and Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. You can also expect to hear George and Ira Gershwin and Duke Ellington, and songs like "As Time Goes By," "White Cliffs of Dover" and "Lullaby of Broadway" without any pesky narrative getting in the way. For fans of the Great American Songbook or just a unique and fascinating time in U.S. (music) history, THE ALL NIGHT STRUT is not to be missed.

THE ALL NIGHT STRUT runs from July 7 to July 31 at The Texas Repertory Theatre, 14243 Stuebner Airline Road, Houston, 77069. For more information, visit http://www.texreptheatre.org or call 281-583-7573.

Summer Stages: BWW's Top Summer Theatre Picks - HoustonHAND TO GOD (THE ALLEY THEATRE)

What has more range than a sock puppet? If you tune in to PBS, a puppet can teach you life lessons before school; or, if you sneak out of your room late at night to catch a 3:00am showing of PUPPET MASTER, it can be the star of your childhood nightmares - which, unfortunately for the protagonist of Robert Askins' HAND TO GOD coming to the Alley in August, is exactly what hand puppet Tyrone is. Inspired by his mother's Christian puppet ministry, Askins' comedy centers around Jason, a teenager who (to date) has lived by the rules of the Bible, who suddenly finds his puppet companion determined to get him and everyone around them to give in to their basest of urges and desires with all the malice and determination of Talking Tina. Set in nearby Cypress, Texas, this one is for mature audiences only.

HAND TO GOD runs August 19 to September 18 on the Neuhaus Stage at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Avenue, Houston, 77002. For more information, please visit http://www.alleytheatre.org.

Summer Stages: BWW's Top Summer Theatre Picks - HoustonSMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN (A.D. Players)

This August, you're invited to join the flock at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church for a little fellowship, some great tunes, and a lot of laughs. The second to last production on the A.D. Players' Grace Theater stage will be the musical comedy SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN, a celebration of family and a quintessentially American genre - bluegrass. Conceived by Alan Bailey and written by Connie Ray, SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN introduces us to the Sanders family, a traveling, 1930s musical group making their return to the church of Pastor Oglethorpe for the first time in five years. Together they testify and sing traditional gospel songs like "I'll Fly Away" and "No Tears in Heaven" to a backing band complete with fiddle, banjo and harmonica. And don't worry, at the Saturday Night Gospel Sing, the lingering effects of the Great Depression aren't invited.

SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN runs August 24 to September 25 at the A.D. Players' Grace Theater at 710 West Alabama Street, Houston, 77098. For more information, please visit http://www.adplayers.org.

Katricia Lang contributed to this article

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