Overground, underground and behind the scenes

Sorry that I’ve been a bit quiet for the last few weeks, I didn’t even manage to publish one of the ‘reserve’ posts I wrote while travelling in England to fill gaps in weeks in which I didn’t have time to write.  I have now submitted my Art for Fashion project and my Place Description essay for marking, so am lifting my head a bit from school work.

Main stage

This Friday, the Introduction to Fashion class I’m in went on a behind the scenes tour of the Alley Theatre, the third largest non-profit theatre in the US.  It has two stages one of which is set in the round and tends to show more avant garde plays whereas the main one is a more usual modified thrust design and shows more mainstream productions.  They are currently preparing the main stage for a Few Good Men and we saw the set designers in hard hats discussing how the set would work and be set up.

The Alley Theatre has a rather peculiar back-stage layout, in that the costume and set shops are on floors 14 – 18 of the parking garage building next door to the actual theatre building rather than in the basement of the theatre building.  This is because when they had been in the basement, they were flooded ruining much of the stored costumes and sets.  As the parking building hadn’t been fully completed yet, it was decided to turn the floors on the top of it into workspaces safe from any future flooding incidents (which occur more often here than in say London as result of occasional hurricanes or tropical storms that his Houston).  This is the set shop on the 14th floor viewed from a storage gallery on the 15th floor:

Set shop

In the costume shop we saw some costumes under construction with padding in various places so that actors can appear larger on stage than they actually are.  Unfortunately there were fittings going on, so we didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the costume team, which has a number of full time staff including tailors, milliners and wig makers.  They also have internships and when the time comes, I may apply for one to get a chance to learn about stage costumes, not just street costumes.

After the tour, Tori kindly guided some of us into the Tunnels.  Houston has a network of tunnels underneath the downtown business district connecting many of the buildings and shops.  They are air conditioned making them a far more pleasant place to be in the hot summer months than walking at street level.  In concept not dissimilar to the Canary Wharf mall beneath and connecting the buildings, but more geared towards providing lunch options to the people working in the buildings than shopping options.  I know CW has lots of food outlets, they are liberally interspersed with LK Bennett, Tiffany’s, Jones the Bootmaker, two Boots stores, a Hobbs, The Gap and Dorothy Perkins though.  I didn’t see as many shops in the part that we went through.


We had lunch in the Tunnels and I was introduced to Texas staple – Whataburger.  I have seen these around, but hadn’t eaten in one.  It is essentially a burger joint, although with a souther hospitality twist: Your food order is not given to you by the person at the counter you order from, but someone comes out from the back with the order, either on a tray or in a carry-out bag as well as a tray of condiments, napkins and salt & pepper sachets.  I enjoyed  Grilled Chicken Burger meal.

The mohawk which Dexter was so timid about cutting in the first instance, still stands on many days and gets lots of positive feedback from Houstonians on the street.  Walking home from the metro train station the day of the Theatre visit someone called out from a coffee shop I walked past ‘Great hair!’.  At first I found this conversation in the street a little scary – if someone talks to you on a London or New York street, you ignore them and carry on because they are probably going to try an mug you.  Here in Houston people start conversations about the weather or just compliment you on how you look, right there on the street as you walk past.  It has taken a little getting used to, but now I smile and nod and say ‘thank you!’ when people pass these comments.


1 Comment

  1. Sounds like you are having a hair raising time. Sorry, you are probably sick of that one by now, but I could not resist!

    Uncle Tom

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