PaperCity Magazine

February 2020- Houston

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Page 39 of 103

38 R ome wasn't built in a day. In the case of Stages Repertory Theatre — a Houston thespian institution that began in 1978 in a subterranean space rimming Buffalo Bayou — it's been 41 years since the first actor said his lines. The year 1985 brought a move to the historic Spanish- style Star Engraving Building along Allen Parkway, where the mid-sized theater's ensuing decades played out through the 2019 season — years that saw renown for regionally applauded and even nationally and internationally known productions, from Always ... Patsy Cline, Full Gallop, and I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change to The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Black Pearl Sings, and The Marvelous Wonderettes. In 2020, there's a new game in town for Stages, and it's The Gordy — a transformative space with architectural swagger, arising within sight of the old. It's a fresh era for Stages, thanks to the largesse of $5 million donors Glenda and Russell Gordy; their pals Lester and Sue Smith, whose surprise $2.5 million gift gives moniker to a stage; Isla and Tommy Reckling, whose family foundation names a second stage; and Rochelle and Max Levit, making the third, black-box stage possible. The new 66,850-square-foot theater campus stands a block from its THE CURTAIN RISES ON previous home, created out of a prosaic 40,000-square-foot warehouse that was formerly the conservation lab for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Acquiring the MFAH building, selling the theater's former digs to preservation- minded developer Radom Capital, and undertaking a $35 million capital campaign required the stars to align. And they did. Gensler deftly transformed the undistinguished, serviceable warehouse into a state-of-the-art performance center, both intimate and inspiring. Adding 26,000 square feet to the existing warehouse space has resulted in a building that feels important, community minded, and considered, with its trio of theaters brought forth by the British theater-design firm Charcoalblue. The Gordy opened last month under the aegis of George Lancaster, a Hines senior VP, who set the stage for Stages' new home. In the roles of patron, double- decade board member, and current chairman of Stages, Lancaster knows more than most about the inner workings and the making of The Gordy — and may have had a say about its private wine room. Yet the honor of the Lancaster Lounge being named after him was a grand surprise … but fitting. As The Gordy spreads its wings, we chat with Lancaster about all things theatrical. What, when, and who was involved with your first encounter at Stages. One of the first plays I saw at Stages was Dirty Blonde, and I remember having seen it both off and on Broadway and thinking the Stages production was even better. When I moved to Houston to take the corporate job at Hines, Sis Johnson [wife of Hines vice chair Hasty Johnson] introduced me to actor Sally Edmundson, and the rest is history. We were a much smaller organization then, and the board was definitely a "working board" — and I'm talking things like stuffing envelopes. We've come a long way, baby! On stepping aboard the Stages board. I joined in the early 2000s and have been, at various times over the past two decades, a board member, executive committee member, president, and, currently, chairman. I wanted to stay in this role at least through The Gordy opening to make sure all the real estate details got done. We have a large, capable board, with so many great leaders in the mix. On high-profile parties. I chaired The Silver Ball on the occasion of Stages' 25th anniversary [2004]. Our galas became next-level when [in 2003] Becca Cason Thrash brought in Anna Wintour and hosted the gala in her home in conjunction with our Diana Vreeland one-woman show, Full Gallop, which starred Sally Edmundson as Diana. Most thrilling thing you've done as a board member. Duh …The Gordy! We are all still in awe as we walk through the building. Theater- BY CATHERINE D. ANSPON. PORTRAIT LAUREN WITHROW. THE GORDY Stages at The Gordy COURTESY STAGES (continued on page 40)

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