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Color the Alley Theatre gold like the pot at the end of the rainbow and you’ll get some idea of how Houstonians view their new cultural acquisition. \(This drawing from the Houston Post Houston’s New Castle of Culture Houston The Alley is a Cinderella of a theater. But its transformation from a zealous crew of volunteers working in a renovated fan factory to a nationally respected professional company with a glistening castle playhouse took more than the touch of a magic wand. The Alley’s long-suffering godmother, Nina Vance, explains that she had to “claw it out of the ground.” Mrs. Vance and the Houstonians she gathered around her devoted two decades to creating a vehicle and an audience receptive to good theater. The Alley Theare opened its first 80seat playhouse in 1947. Houstonians, who before had access only to the froth of commercial touring companies and an occasional drama at the Little Theatre, were exposed to important modern plays never before produced below the Mason-Dixon line. Most of the performances were received by grateful audiences, but some of Mrs. Vance’s offerings, although never exceedingly daring, were too bold for the Houston psyche. A notable contingent of viewers walked out on Brendan Behan’s The Hostage. Beckett’s Waiting for Godcit and Miller’s Death of a Salesman also ruffled the community’s plumage. Houstonians ‘ found many great moments among the 194 plays done before the Alley moved into its magnificent new home last month. Hubert Roussel], the Houston Post’s retired drama critic, lists among the Alley’s most memorable plays three by Shakespeare, four by O’Neil], three by Williams, five by Giraudoux as McMurtry On Houston In his recently printed book of essays, In a Narrow Grave, Larry McMurtry has this to say about Houston’s cultural climate: “There arts are stolidly but dutifully supported, and there is the usual self-congratulatory talk about what a cultural. center we have raised on the once-barren plain. The middle class are allowed to participate in the fantasies of the richa privilege they pay for eagerlyand the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed, as the poet said.” well as offerings by Shaw, Anouilh, Hellman, Pirandello, Moliere, Chekhov, Miller, Wilder, Inge, Beckett, Euripides, O’Casey and Albee. Most Alley goers, including Tennessee Williams, will remember the theater’s tiny arena stage for its comfortable intimacy. Williams once dropped by the Berry Avenue address while his play, The Rose Tattoo, was in rehearsal. He looked at the small set, draped with Spanish moss, and exclaimed, “This is what I meant.” Members of the audience were so close to the performers on Berry Avenue that sometimes they forgot they were watching a play. One evening a leading lady was having trouble getting her lighter to work when a gentleman in the front row gallantly reached up and lit the cigarette for her. The actress took a drag and continued on without dropping a line. S THE ALLEY got better and better, it acquired a national reputation as one of the first and best of the regional treaters. In the mid-fifties, the Alley abandoned its non-professional status to become a full actor’s equity company. With the help of Nina Vance’s skillful salesmanship, Houstonians began to realize that they had something special in their ambitious little theater. Even in the fan factory where the floors creaked and an audience once had to be evacuated because the rafters had begun to sag and groan, the openings became a social event somewhere above the fat stock show and below the symphony and opera. Houston’s elite would get out their tuxedos December 13, 1968 11