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Lone Star College, Stageworks partnership brings large-scale plays to Cy-Fair

October 9, 2018

Stageworks Theatre has past members who have gone on to appear in both television and Broadway shows — and now the local theater company has partnered with Lone Star College - Cy-Fair to bring large-scale productions to the northwest Houston area.

With a set of volunteer actors and a self-motivated crew, Stageworks Theatre delivers professional-quality plays for family outings, or date night.

Stageworks Theatre, founded in 2005, is a Cy-Fair-area nonprofit theater company operated by volunteers. Artistic director Michael Montgomery describes Stageworks Theatre as a company run by individuals with a love for theater.

“It was a group of people who got together, literally wrote checks there and said, ‘Let’s start a theater,’” Montgomery said. “They geared it toward family theater. That’s a general term but that’s the best way to describe it. …They just decided to pursue this because they thought that northwest Houston was lacking that at the time.”

Montgomery became Stageworks’ artistic director in 2015 after initially joining to aid his children in pursuing theater. Since 2005, Stageworks has undergone changes to provide more options for plays and artistic creativity. Montgomery said there was a large shift with the name change from Houston Family Arts Center to Stageworks Theatre in 2016.

Montgomery said Stageworks had to evolve their mission with Cy-Fair around 2013.

“Businesses were moving in and [Cy-Fair] was no longer just the suburban bedroom community, it was a thriving community,” he said. “We ended up changing some of the programming a little bit to be more inclusive of the demographic. Instead of having straight old, right-down-the-middle family plays, we added different types of options.”

As a result, Stageworks has continued to present family-oriented plays, such as “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast,” but the theater company has branched out to more mature plays like “12 Angry Men” and “Les Miserables.”

Montgomery said one of the goals for Stageworks is to bring an experience comparable to, if not better than, a theater performance downtown while expanding the company’s audience. After choosing to take on more varied shows, Stageworks saw its audience, and cast, expand.

“We started looking at shows that were destination shows for actors and designers,” he said. “We kind of prided ourselves in taking shows that were traditionally large, expensive and risky shows. …We’ve gone after those shows. We just went out there and started producing those shows.”

Past members of Stageworks have gone on to attend professional acting schools in the country and have become touring cast members of Broadway musicals and other productions, Montgomery said. Sadie Sink, a former actor for Stageworks Theater, played Max in the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”

Stageworks also has a children’s academy, where participants will star in plays while learning how to act.

“Most people don’t know that, attached to our theater, there is a group that focuses on teaching acting, confidence building, picking out young performers. …It’s amazing to hear some of the stories,” Montgomery said.

Earlier this year, Stageworks Theatre and Lone Star College-CyFair announced a co-production partnership, according to a LSC-CyFair press release.

The two entities are combining their theater production crews, including actors and technician crews, and co-producing plays at the LSC-CyFair campus. The first play, “A Christmas Carol, The Musical,” is set to be on stage from Nov. 23 to Dec. 16 and “Mama Mia,” is planned to debut next summer.

LSC-CyFair theatre technician Benjamin Mason, who previously designed sets for Stageworks, said the partnership will give Stageworks a chance to expand their audience while allowing LSC-CyFair to showcase their quality plays. At the moment, LSC-CyFair and Stageworks plan to produce two plays together yearly.

“Large musicals are extraordinarily challenging to continually produce financially, logistically, and artistically, but combining resources allows us to keep at it, despite limited resources,” Mason said.

Kelly Gernhart, dean of arts, humanities and social sciences at LSC-CyFair, said the partnership is mutually beneficial.

“Acting onstage with such high-caliber talent will not only enhance our [theater] program, but including Stageworks Theatre in our students’ portfolios will be a quality addition to their resumes,” Gernhart said in a LSC-CyFair press release.

Montgomery said the company’s cast and their love for theater make Stageworks a unique and a quality experience. He said the company is not about finding the best actors, but building the skills of current and future cast members.

“We listen to our patrons, we listen to our subscribers, we listen to people who aren’t our subscribers,” Montgomery said. “We want people to be passionate about live theater.”

chevall.pryce@chron.com

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