Wortham Center in Houston

Photo of Wortham Center in Houston, Texas
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
Photo of Wortham Center in Houston, Texas
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz

Wortham Center
Official name:The Gus S. Wortham Theater Center

550 Prairie Avenue, Houston, Texas, Downtown 77002
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The poster child for what is both right, and wrong with the performing arts in Houston. Houston has some of the most talented people working in the industry and their reputations are hard earned. However, the city does not return the favor to the performers by providing them with an adequate performance space. The Wortham Center is divided into two theaters: Brown and Cullen. Both are small, lacking in depth and breadth. In an effort to accommodate as many people as possible the upper seats are staged at an impossible angle reminiscent of a 1970's-era baseball stadium. Don't misunderstand – it's a splendid building with high ceilings and a multi-terraced Grand Foyer to promote the grandeur of the ballet, opera, or other performances happening inside. However, it evokes the feeling of a train station. And periodic recorded announcements about intermissions played over a barely-understandable echoing public address system make you wonder if the next announcement is going to start with, "Now arriving on platform four..." The city of Houston owes its arts community more than this. The opera, the ballet and the other arts should each have their own buildings suitable for both rehearsal and performance. The ballet should not be forced to rent space of West Gray to practice. And the symphony should not have to hold concerts at the University of Houston because Jones Hall is hosting some traveling show. Still, if you do go to the Wortham Center, be sure to take some time to wander into all of the little alcoves and look out each of the windows. They offer some spectacular views of downtown Houston, especially at night. You may also discover that the Grand Foyer is actually a bridge over Prairie Avenue.

Quick Facts
    >The acoustics in the theaters was designed by Christopher Jaffee.
    >The sculptures lining the escalator are by Albert Paley.
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