Arts / Performing Arts

Houston is Getting a Grand New Theatre Campus: $5 Million Gift From Oil Tycoon Sets Stage for $30.5 Million Arts Project

BY // 12.05.17

Thirty nine years since the curtain rose on Stages Repertory Theatre in the damp basement of a downtown brewery, the equity theater is poised for a sea change, thanks in no small part to a $5 million matching gift that was announced Tuesday night along with the reveal of a new three-theater campus.

A surprise to most of the Stages supporters attending the annual holiday party, the gift was announced by capital campaign co-chairs George Lancaster, Sally Edmundson and Jim Nicklos.  Making the contribution to the theater’s $30.5 million capital campaign, oilman and philanthropist Russell Gordy and his wife, Glenda, are continuing their long-time love affair with the theater.

“They are a great family and we are so honored to put their name on the campus,” says Lancaster, Stages board chair. “They have been seeing our shows for decades and that makes their extraordinary gift even more special. There are several other foundations and families that are also major investors in our future. It is very gratifying.”

The Gordys’ commitment is considered one of the largest individual gifts to any of the city’s mid-sized arts groups and that largesse has earned them naming rights to the new Stages campus. The Gordy, designed by Gensler with international theatre consultant Charcoalblue, will be located at 800 Rosine St., merely a block from the current Stages home in the historic Star Engraving Building. (The theater is in discussions with a buyer who plans to maintain the historic character of that building.)

Stages purchased the vast warehouse on Rosine from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 2016, originally for expanded parking but that dream and resources grew.

The Gordy

Three intimate performance spaces are planned for The Gordy — the 253-seat Thrust Stage, the 227-seat Arena Stage and the new Warehouse Stage with flexible seating for up to 138 people. The design includes rehearsal studios, production shops and administrative offices along with expanded space for the theater’s education and community engagement programs.

Elizabeth Anthony

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The new plan, Lancaster said, will include a multi-level parking garage, adding, “We are preserving the warehouse and adding a new wing that will house the two new state of the art theaters. The third new theatre, a warehouse stage, will be in the existing warehouse building.” Groundbreaking is expected to begin this summer with the new building targeted to open for the 2019-2020 season.

“We are staging quite a future,” Lancaster says.

The physical growth is a welcome advancement for the company which puts on performances year around, an average of 12 productions a year (totaling 375 performances) and an audience of more than 65,000 each season.

The Gordys were among early patrons of the theater and in the late ’70s joined their then-Kingwood neighborhoods in attending their first Stages production held in the original theater. Last fall, they celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary at a holiday musical.

“Stages has been a consistent part of our lives over the past four decades,” Russell Gordy said in a statement. “This gift is an investment in the future of Stages, in the development of emerging arts professionals, and in a neighborhood we care deeply about.”

The Gordys own several properties along Buffalo Bayou and consider the new theater a welcome addition to the innovative urban environment that they hope to inspire. Russell Gordy began his career as a roughneck in the oil and gas industry and succeeded in numerous endeavors and today is a successful energy and real estate investor.

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