Theatre Under The Stars Mourns Founder Frank M. Young

Theatre Under The Stars Mourns Founder Frank M. Young

Frank M. Young, founder of Theatre Under The Stars, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, September 20.

A native Houstonian, Frank had a lifelong love of musical theatre. When he was growing up in Pasadena, he performed in productions at Johnny George's legendary Theatre Inc. in Houston. After moving to California, and earning his BA in Psychology at UCLA, he came back to Pasadena, and used his life savings to produce his first show, a production of The Boy Friend, in 1964 and won rave reviews.

Frank went on to form several theatrical endeavors beginning with Trio Productions, which produced shows that toured the southwest United States and Mexico including a production of West Side Story that starred Chita Rivera. From there he created Theatre IV in Houston - so named because Houston already had three major theatres at the time -- the Alley, the Playhouse, and Theatre Inc.

In 1968, Frank was offered the opportunity to produce a musical for the new Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park. He established a nonprofit company to produce this show and called it Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS). That show, Bells Are Ringing, began a tradition of TUTS performing two shows at Miller every summer. The production was lauded by critics and audiences alike. TUTS grew from that first performance to gain a national reputation as a go-to for quality musical theatre. Stars like Patrick Swayze, Debbie Allen, Tony Randall, Cathy Rigby, Tommy Tune, Debbie Reynolds, and many more came to perform in productions at TUTS. In 1993, TUTS collaborated with Walt Disney Theatrical Productions on the world premiere of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Forty-nine years later, TUTS has produced over 300 productions.

"He was a visionary leader that created musical theatre for and by the Houston community that influenced the national musical theatre landscape. Frank's love of his family, his love of artists and most of all his love of Houston, inspired him to create our first show 49 years ago at Miller Outdoor Theatre as a gift for all Houstonians," said Dan Knechtges, Artistic Director for Theatre Under The Stars.

In 1989, Frank founded The 5th Avenue Theatre Association, a nonprofit association that was under his artistic management from 1989-2000. Under his leadership, the 5th Avenue Theatre became a place that not only presented musicals, but that also produced world class musical theatre. There were many collaborations between TUTS and the 5th Avenue Theatre during his time there, including JEKYLL & HYDE, which was a co-production between The Alley Theatre in Houston, TUTS and 5th Avenue.

"My life was changed immeasurably when Frank hired me to direct The Secret Garden at The 5th Avenue Theatre in 1999. One year later I was back in Seattle as The 5th's first full time Artistic Director. Today I am honored to be re-staging a new 5th Avenue/STC production of The Secret Garden at Houston's Theatre Under The Stars -- the theater company that Frank founded," said David Armstrong, Executive Producer and Artistic Director of the 5th Avenue Theatre. We all have Frank Young stories but there is no denying that he had a tremendous impact on so many people in the musical theater. And the 5th Avenue Theatre would not be what it is today without his vision and abilities."

Frank also created the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) in April of 1985 when the directors of 43 theatres and operas came together at TUTS to discuss the state of musical theatre in America. Later on the same year, the group met again in New York and where the organization was incorporated as a nonprofit trade association. Today, the organization has 160 member organizations and 40 individual members.

Frank truly devoted his life to musical theatre and was integral in shaping the face of regional musical theatre in America today.

For those wishing to honor Frank's memory, you can help us continue building his dream by purchasing tickets to The Secret Garden, or by making a contribution to the TUTS Annual Fund or to the Frank M. Young Scholarship Fund for students in TUTS Humphreys School of Musical Theatre.

THEATRE UNDER THE STARS ("TUTS") - (Dan Knechtges, Artistic Director; Hillary J Hart, Executive Director) - was founded by Frank M. Young in 1968 and is Houston's leading musical theatre company for performance, arts education and professional theatrical training; ranging from the classics to new work development. As a 501c3 performing arts organization, TUTS is dedicated to breaking down barriers to access by focusing on inclusivity, education, and community engagement through a commitment to artistic excellence, programs in the community, technique-based curriculum at the Humphreys School of Musical Theatre, and explorative, creative life-skills at The River Performing and Visual Arts Center. For more information, visit

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