Community theater groups in Cy-Fair bounce back following COVID-19 restrictions

The "Moon Over Buffalo" cast wore masks during April performances. (Courtesy Playhouse 1960)
The "Moon Over Buffalo" cast wore masks during April performances. (Courtesy Playhouse 1960)

The "Moon Over Buffalo" cast wore masks during April performances. (Courtesy Playhouse 1960)

Playhouse 1960 bustled with dozens of children enjoying mask-optional camps this June—a much different site compared to last year’s summer camps, which followed strict safety guidelines, said Sammy Green, president of the theater’s board of directors.

“It’s just good to have life here again,” she said.

The profits from 2020 summer camps were just enough to get by while shows were put on hold, Green said. Playhouse 1960 is run completely by volunteers and typically puts on nine main stage shows and four youth performances each season.

But when COVID-19 arrived in Harris County, the remaining shows that season were canceled or postponed. A showing of “The Sound of Music” in December could only accommodate about 50 audience members in a theater of 159 seats. Those audience members were required to wear masks along with the actors, Green said.

As restrictions across the state were gradually loosened, Playhouse 1960 followed suit while prioritizing the comfort of their cast members.

"Mama's Boy" was presented to a socially-distanced audience this spring. (Courtesy Stageworks Theatre)Now that the COVID-19 vaccine has been accessible for a few months, the theater no longer requires masks. Green said she feels people are ready to return to the theater—to laugh, cry and empathize with characters who may be different than them.

While she likes to include one or two thought-provoking shows that challenge audiences each season, Green said she has several “feel-good” shows planned for the coming season to get people excited about theater again.

“I just want people to come back to the arts, whatever it is—dance and music, museums and galleries—where people can just experience art because things have been too ugly for too long,” she said. “I think the arts is always that area the brings people together in a positive light.”

Stageworks Theatre also closed its curtains for about six months during the pandemic. Artistic Director Michael Montgomery said the theater typically hosts 12,000-15,000 audience members annually.

The theater went from selling out shows to seeing revenue streams dry up instantly, but rent payments, utility bills, insurance costs and other operational expenses did not go away.

Montgomery said board members, corporate sponsors, virtual fundraising and a monthly patron program covered some expenses, but Stageworks also took out a federal loan and reduced its rented space by 45%.

“What the pandemic showed us was ... we rely on people attending our shows and buying tickets so much that we have no room for error,” he said.

The board consulted with medical and legal advisers to create safety guidelines and reopened in late 2020 with 25% capacity, temperature checks, social distancing and masks.

He also said he believes the theater will eventually expand again—whether it stays at the current Grant Road site or officials build their own space.

While restrictions have loosened, Montgomery estimates it will be another six to 12 months before community theaters see prepandemic levels of attendance again.

“Demand’s picked back up, but ... I think there’s people who subconsciously just have changed their habits,” he said. “They don’t think, ‘Oh, let’s go to a play on a Friday night.’ They stay home and watch movies.”

Stageworks Theatre

Founded in: 2005

Upcoming main stage production: “Handbagged”

10760 Grant Road, Houston. 281-587-6100.

Playhouse 1960

Founded in: 1973

Upcoming main stage production: “9 to 5: The Musical”

6814 Gant Road, Houston. 281-587-8243.
By Danica Lloyd

Editor, Cy-Fair

Danica joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in 2016. As editor, she continues to cover local government, education, health care, real estate, development, business and transportation in Cy-Fair. Her experience prior to CI includes studying at the Washington Journalism Center and interning at a startup incubator in D.C., serving as editor-in-chief of Union University's student magazine and online newspaper, reporting for The Jackson Sun and freelancing for other publications in Arkansas and Tennessee.


School supplies will be exempt from the 8.25% sales tax Aug. 6-8. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
What to know before the statewide tax-free weekend Aug. 6-8

Customers will not have to pay the standard 8.25% sales tax on select clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks under $100.

Louetta Automotive Sports Complex will host students from the PSAT academy. (Courtesy Pexels)
Prep Student Athlete Training Academy launching soon in Cy-Fair

The academy educates student-athletes and helps prepare them for their post-graduate careers.

Main Chick Hot Chicken opened its first brick-and-mortar location July 23 in Sugar Land. (Courtesy Main Chick Hot Chicken)
Main Chick Hot Chicken opens in Sugar Land; Urban Bird Hot Chicken coming to Cy-Fair and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news for the Houston area, including two new chicken restaurants.

The meals will be available at no cost for all students with zero requirements for qualification. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Harmony Public Schools to offer free meals to all students

The meals will be available at no cost for all students with zero requirements for qualification.

Shop Texas Boutique is opening its first storefront July 31. (Courtesy Shop Texas Boutique)
Shop Texas Boutique to hold Cy-Fair grand opening

The "Christmas in July"-themed grand opening is scheduled for this weekend.

Houston-area residents will be able to apply online for a one-time payment of $1,500 from July 28-Aug. 11. (File photo)
$30M COVID Relief Fund opens for Harris County residents as eviction moratorium ends

Sourced by funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, eligible residents will receive a one-time payment of $1,500 to support urgent needs.

The Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve will break ground on a new expansion project in September. (Emily Jaroszewski/Community Impact Newspaper)
Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve in Harris County breaking ground on new project in September

Construction of new pedestrian trails is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2022.

Pride Houston Parade
Pride Houston fall parade and festival canceled due to COVID-19 concerns

The downtown annual parade and festival, scheduled for Sept. 25, will be replaced by a Montrose block party and other events, organizers announced July 25.

The CDC reversed its masking guidance for fully vaccinated individuals in response to the transmissibility of the delta variant of COVID-19 in a press conference July 27. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
NEW CDC GUIDANCE: All individuals should wear masks in K-12 schools, including those who are fully vaccinated

The new CDC guidance, announced July 27, also recommends people in areas with "high" or "substantial" levels of transmission wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

Urban Bird Hot Chicken is coming soon to the Cy-Fair area. (Courtesy Urban Bird Hot Chicken)
Urban Bird Hot Chicken adding new location in Cy-Fair

The restaurant serves Nashville-style hot chicken in sandwiches, tenders and fries.

Bel Furniture has purchased the former location of Star Furniture. (Courtesy Baker Katz)
Bel Furniture buys former Star Furniture property in Willowbrook area

The 60,935-square-foot store sits on 2.38 acres near Willowbrook Mall.

Raising Cane's is opening two new locations in the Cy-Fair area by the end of the year. (Courtesy Raising Cane's)
Raising Cane's opening two locations in Cy-Fair area

Raising Cane's is opening two new locations in the Cy-Fair area by the end of the year.