10 best Houston plays and performances to catch in-person and online in May

We’re going live (and in-person) this May. Finally, along with plenty of streaming goodness, this month brings Houston a few performing arts shows on stage in front of an outdoor audience.

While we might not be quite ready to throw open all the doors of our many theaters and performing venues yet, Miller Outdoor Theater brings us back to the seats and the hill for the excitement of being an audience again.

And for those not quite ready to sit distant to their fellow humans again, Houston performing arts organizations bring us enough virtual and streaming content to fill every night in May.

Man From Beyond from Strange Bird Immersive (in person and ongoing)

The pandemic temporarily closed this long-running immersive show that merged the fun and challenge of escape rooms with the drama of a spooky theatrical ghost story.

But this month, Madame Daphne returns once again attempting to summon the spirit of Harry Houdini and sending her guests into a locked room that defies time and space.

Man From Beyond was always bubble-ready, since the show only works with a maximum audience of eight, and now required masks only add to the mysterious atmosphere.

New American Voices Play Festival from Landing Theatre (streaming now through May 30)

Though based locally, the Landing’s playwriting contest has become nationally renowned for finding and featuring some of the most promising emerging playwrights across the U.S.

Each year, the festival has brought some truly unique plays to Houston and gave theater-lovers a sneak peek at up and coming playwrights before everyone else discovers them.

The readings come alive thanks to some of our favorite local actors and a few intriguing new faces. Now these virtual realms give us an extended chance to view the reading productions, while also giving more audiences a chance to get an early glimpse of the future of American theater.

Apollo 8 from A.D. Players (streaming now through May 16)

Part of the company’s Metzler New Works Festival, this premiere play by Jayme McGhan blends the true story of the first NASA mission to successfully orbit the moon with fictional stories of characters inspired by our first journey to the moon.

McGhan uses history and imagination to give audiences a perceptive look at who we are and who we were made to be.

An Enemy of the People from Alley Theatre (steaming now through May 22)

Henrik Ibsen’s classic goes virtual with this new version from the Alley. One of the few full length plays on their free digital season roster, the nearly 150-year-old play couldn’t be more timely.

A doctor and politician, who are also brothers, clash over decisions involving a town’s public health. With added conflicts involving the local newspaper and the public’s right to know, the show should resonate with us all.

Pretty Fire from Ensemble Theatre (streaming May 7-30)

This new virtual production of two-time Obie Award winner, Charlayne Woodard’s, first solo play, tells the story of two sisters and three generations of family living in New York and Georgia.

With multilayered stories about how family and history connect and influence us all, the show paints an authentic portrait of contemporary African American life.

Reignited from Houston Ballet (live at Miller Outdoor Theater May 7 and 8)

The Houston ballet takes to the stage once more for their first live, in-person performance in over a year. The evening will showcase some of their most beguiling Pas de Deux pieces as well as some of the films they’ve created this year, including world premiere dances from artistic director Stanton Walsh.

The Houston Ballet orchestra is in the pit for live music, as well. The ticketed seats went fast, but Miller has created distant pods on the Miller hill that are first come, first served.

Favorite Things: Songs from The Sound of Music from Houston Grand Opera (live at TDECU Stadium May 8)

HGO is also back live and in-person with an extraordinary outdoor concert featuring the songs from one of the most beloved musicals of all times, The Sound of Music. The production will star Trinidadian soprano Jeanine De Bique as Maria and Houston favorite and baritone Michael Mayes as Captain von Trapp.

They’ll perform along with the HGO chorus and orchestra. Both opera greats were supposed to headline the full production originally scheduled to end the 2020-2021 season before the pandemic forced HGO to cancel.

Luckily, the company did the great remote pivot and created a wealth of digital content for the world. Yet there’s nothing like in-person opera, especially when we’ll be outdoors and spaced enough to sing along.

Marian’s Song from Houston Grand Opera (live at Miller Outdoor Theatre May 14 and 15)

If you didn’t have a chance to see the world premiere “Marian’s Song” back in March 2020, HGO releases a recorded performance April 30, but now they’re bringing ti back to in-person audiences at Miller.

Composed by Damien Sneed to a libretto by previous Houston poet laureate Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, the chamber opera recounts the life of famed contralto, Marian Anderson, who broke racial barriers throughout her acclaimed career becoming the first Black singer to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in 1955.

All the Devils Are Here: A Tempest in the Galapagos from Open Dance Project and Diverse Works (streaming live May 14 and 15)

Open Dance Project creates some of the most theatrical dance performances out there and then puts the audience in the middle of the action for an immersive experience.

For now, they have to go virtual with this world premiere new show, but live-streaming camera work should help us feel like we’re right amid the dancers.

This devilishly beautiful story merges Shakespeare’s The Tempest with true crime history. Follow the dance trail of a nihilist couple, a conservative family, a baroness and her two lovers as they try to create their own utopia in 1920s Galapagos. There will be murder.

Femfest Houston: Virus Edition from Mildred’s Umbrella (streaming May 24-June 24)

The annual reading series responds to our soul-trying times with three brand new plays by women, inspired by the pandemic.

With one starting point, the plays still manage to cover a multitude of themes and perspectives from online dating for the 60-plus crowd to startup CEOs who made millions on doomsday prepping to a dystopian future where human touch becomes taboo.

“This pandemic has changed how we move through the world. Just like anything in history, the hard things inspire art,” says Mildred’s artistic director, Jennifer Decker on the fest’s timely concept.

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