The Arts in Hyde Park – Hyde Park Theatre

Every weekend, around 8:00 pm, something unusual happens at the corner of 43rd and Guadalupe in Hyde Park.

At this location, a few years ago, a group of dysfunctional people in a filthy trailer park hired a hitman to murder a member of their family. More recently, at the same location, a preacher started a fight with his congregation and his wife over the existence of Hell. Then there was the weekend when an uncle could be found reconciling with his niece in a hut among the trees. And some weekends a man or woman will show up to tell the story of his or her life to anyone who will listen.

People from all over the state come to witness these events. If you want to share in these experiences, you need only walk over to the corner of 43rd and Guadalupe, pay a modest admission fee, and find a seat in the Hyde Park Theatre.

When I moved to Austin in the 1990s, I was surprised to learn that Austin had a much busier theatre scene than Houston did. A big reason for this is Ken Webster, the Artistic Director of Hyde Park Theatre. Hyde Park Theatre’s stage rarely goes dark, because, in addition to Mr. Webster’s own productions, the theatre features work from other acting companies and hosts an annual four week drama festival each winter. It is one of the busiest play houses in the city.

Hyde Park Theatre, originally built as a neighborhood post office (circa 1947), began a new life as a theatrical venue in 1982. It is small and unpretentious, with seating for only 70 to 85 patrons. No seat is more than 25 feet from the center stage, thereby creating an unusual intimacy between audience and performer. This intimacy, and the opportunities and challenges it presents, has caused some of Austin’s best actors, designers, and directors to want to produce plays there.

If you have not yet been inside the theatre, please come to our June Neighborhood Association meeting. You will not only get to see the theatre but you will also get to hear Ken Webster talk to us about Hyde Park Theatre’s past, present, and future. I hope you can make it to the meeting, and I hope you will eventually see some of the wonderful shows the theatre puts on throughout the year.

By Kevin Heyburn