Culture / Newsy

Houston’s Downtown Theater Flood Damage is Even Worse Than Feared: 270 Million Gallons of Water in Garages Alone Leave Arts Groups Scrambling

BY // 09.08.17

Houston Grand Opera is the latest performing arts group to announce a change of venue due to the extensive water damage, compliments of Tropical Storm Harvey, to Wortham Theater Center.

The company has announced that because of the degree of damage to Wortham Theater Center the season’s first two operas — La Traviata and Julius Caesar — will be presented as planned, but not at the company’s Theater District home. The new location has yet to be announced.

“We must unfortunately report that our beloved Wortham Theater Center is more damaged than previously thought,” HGO managing director Perryn Leech and artistic and music director Patrick Summers wrote in a joint message to the HGO family of patrons and friends. That message is posted on the HGO website along with other information regarding productions and ticketing. A relocation for the productions has not been confirmed and the opening night gala is still under consideration.

Houston Ballet had earlier announced that its first two productions, “Mayerling” and “Poetry in Motion,” would be moved to the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.

“Although some repair work has begun at Wortham, we are still assessing damages, so we don’t have a realistic time frame or cost estimate,” says Carolyn Campbell, communications director for Houston First which manages the theater. “What we can tell you right now is that the power is still out at the Wortham and the building continues to dry out.

“Before we can reopen the Wortham to our staff and the performing arts groups, the building will have to pass air quality and structural tests, as well as meet all city codes. We don’t expect that to happen before October.”

Water is still being pumped from the Wortham’s lower level and the theater’s rehearsal room. Flood waters not only completely submerged the basement but also reached the stage floor of the Brown Theater, where HGO and Houston Ballet perform. Thus, all Wortham events have been canceled at that venue through October 15.

Brilliant Lecture Series

The October 19 discussion between former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright has been canceled as has the evening with Sally Field, which had been scheduled for October 26. Brilliant series founder Scott Brogan says that both programs will be scheduled for a later date. Ticket holders will be informed via email on how to proceed.

Da Camera

The organization’s diverse repertoire of concerts, scheduled for performances in Cullen Theater, are being relocated with announcement of the new venue pending. (Check here for updates.) That includes the September 23 presentation of the Harlem Quartet and the October 6 Robert Glasper Experiment. Hopes are that the Tiempo Libre concert set for November 10 will take place in the refurbished downtown theater.


While major concerts are typically held in the Wortham’s Cullen Theater, the musical group’s first concert of the season takes place September 17 at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Executive director Brian Ritter reports that the program “will be reorganized a bit to celebrate Houston’s resilience after the storm” and that donations will be accepted for the mayor’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

The Brahams & Mendelssohn concert scheduled for October 7 at the Wortham has been moved to the Shepherd School of Music Stude Concert Hall on the Rice University campus. Ritter says that details on the change will be sent to subscribers and ticket holders.

Russian Grand Ballet

The company’s October 19 production of Swan Lake in the Cullen Theater remains on both the theaters’ event website and that of the company. However, that may change as a more definitive date on completion of the restoration becomes evident.

Moving offices & parking

Houston First Theater District offices have been temporarily relocated to Partnership Tower while recovery work is being done at Jones Hall, Wortham Center and the adjacent underground garages. Theater District garages received more than 270 million gallons of water

While most of that water has been pumped out, Houston First notes that it will take severals weeks to get them fully operational. Those garages are closed until further notice.

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