The Society for the Performing Arts Houston becomes Performing Arts Houston
Performers at the Society of Performing Arts 50th Anniversary Gala on Saturday April 1, 2017 at the Wortham Center (Annie Mulligan/Freelance) Photo: Annie Mulligan/Freelance
The Society for the Performing Arts Houston has enjoyed more than half a century with this name, but the name could cause problems at times. The abbreviation SPAH invited all sorts of confusion with health and beauty establishments. And if one typed in SPAH.org rather than SPAHouston.org, one would not get listings for a season of performing arts, but rather the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica. I can attest: I made this mistake once in a story.
Today, such problems have been resolved: Performing Arts Houston has presented itself as a renamed version of the now retired Society for the Performing Arts Houston. With the new name also comes a new season. The inaugural season of Performing Arts Houston with the kind of programming that has distinguished SPAH for decades. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Nigella Lawson, STOMP, Vuyani Dance Theater by Gregory Maqoma. Nearly twenty events are on the program to date. Meg Booth, CEO of Performing Arts Houston, said more are likely to be added.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused epic disruption to SPAH’s preexisting programming in 2020 and 2021, Booth — in his third year with the organization — says time has hardly been wasted.
“We haven’t let a minute of this pandemic go by without using it 100%,” she says. “The pandemic slowed programming, but we focused on our strategic plan, and our name change was a pillar of that plan.
“We’re just erasing the word ‘society’.”
Booth says the plan for Performing Arts Houston is continuing, however. “SPA was founded 55 years ago with a focus on diversity and welcoming all Houstonians,” she says. “The original charter materials focus on high-quality performance artists introduced to all Houstonians. From there, it’s just about making sure we’re relevant and up-to-date.”
A recent development has been the launch of NEW/NOW: The Houston Arts Commissioning Project. The initiative is open to artists and groups of artists in the Houston area. They can submit proposals on the Performing Arts Houston site here. A selection of new pieces will be presented on February 24 and 25, 2023.
“We never really focused on Houston artists,” Booth says. “But I came here three years ago, and one of the things that drew me in was how great, how broad, and diverse the cultural fabric of the city of Houston is. And that’s not still not announced. But as a city, I think we’ve learned how to recognize the strength of our cultural assets that place them in line with the city’s medical center and as an energy center. There’s an incredible artistic core here in Houston.
As Performing Arts Houston celebrates the new name and new season, Booth also wants to keep the spotlight on the rest of the former SPA 2021/22 lineup, which includes appearances from Tig Notaro, David Sedaris, Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred. Snitzer Orchestra, Black Violin and Neil Gaiman, among others.
“We just had ‘Swing Out,’ and it was euphoric,” says Booth. “So many people on stage and in the lower pit, jamming and doing Lindy Hop. It was one of those times when you realize the arts can really help heal and unify and bring the kind of joy that brings us back to life. We feel better when we come together and celebrate the human spirit.
2022/23 Houston Performing Arts Season:
“My Name Isn’t Mom”: September 9-10
Taiwan’s Cloud Gate Dance Theater, “13 Tongues”: October 1
Tom Papa: Family Reunion Tour: October 7
DIAVOLO: 14-15 Oct.
“Cuando Mexico Canta”, Mariachi Herencia de Mexico with Lupita Infante: October 16
2022 Cliburn Gold Medalist: October 18
Mutts Gone Nuts!: October 23
Tenebrae, “The Passage of the Year”: November 13
Matthew Whitaker: November 18
An Evening with Nigella Lawson: November 27
Blind Boys of Alabama Christmas Show: December 4
Circus Dreams Holidaze: December 23-24
Gazillion Bubble Show: January 28, 2023
Harlem Dance Theater: February 3-4, 2023
NEW/NOW, the Houston Art Commissioning Project: February 24-25, 2023
Mnozil Brass: Gold: February 26, 2023
Ragamala Dance Company, “The Fires of Varanasi”: March 10, 2023
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, “60th Anniversary Celebration”: March 14, 2023
Randall Goosby: March 15, 2023
Our planet in concert: March 22, 2023
STOMP: March 23-26, 2023
Vuyani Dance Theater by Gregory Maqoma, “Cion: Reqiuem du boléro de Ravel”: April 21, 2023
“Metamorphosis”: Third Coast Percussion: May 5, 2023