Mr. Speaker, the Miller Outdoor Theatre is celebrating 95 years in Herman Park. The Miller Outdoor Theatre got its start in 1923, and continues to be one of Houston’s most treasured venues. Located right in the heart of the City of Houston, it provides folks a place to enjoy the performing arts. And it is always free.
Miller is a unique treasure to Houstonians and it is dedicated to bringing the arts alive for audiences for over 95 years: classical music, jazz, ethnic music and dance, ballet, Shakespeare, musical theatre, popular concert artists, films and more.
The theatre has boasted the Summer Symphony Series, Shakespeare Festival, Theatre Under the Stars ‘‘Bells are Ringing’’, and even presidential candidate Richard Nixon campaigned on stage.
The original theatre was an open amphitheater surrounded by twenty Corinthian-style limestone columns built on land that was given and sold by the Miller estate. Cotton broker and mining engineer, Jesse Wright Miller, originally left the land to the City in 1919. Mayor Oscar Holcombe and his council members should be commended for their vision towards this project.
In the 1960s, the City of Houston built a new theatre that consisted of three triangular plates of Corten steel and an air condition to cool the stage. Did I mention it is hot in Texas! The original 1920s columns were moved to the Mecom-Rockwell Colonnade Fountain between Fannin and San Jacinto at Hermann Drive.
The Miller received another face lift in the late 1990s. A 6 million dollar expansion and renovation planned and funded by the City of Houston and Friends of Hermann Park. A new roof, additional restrooms and office areas were added. They built a small stage at the east end of the facility. The refurbished theatre reopened in 1998.
The Miller’s newest upgrades and additions occurred through the 2000s. New seating, lighting, and landscaping greatly enhance the educational and outreach capacities of the theatre. The Miller can accommodate about 6,200 spectators, with over 1,705 seats and over 4,500 on the grassy hill.
While so much has grown and changed over the years, I still remember my children visiting the Miller Outdoor Theatre on school field trips. It was very popular with the Poe kids. The day always included a musical production or play, a picnic lunch, and a roll down Miller’s ‘‘hill’’. By the way, Miller’s ‘‘hill’’ was created with dirt from Fannin Street excavations. In 2008, the iconic hill was regraded and raised.
There is a plaque that was erected at the theatre’s dedication that read: ‘‘To the Arts of Music, Poetry, Drama and Oratory, by which the striving spirit of man seeks to interpret the words of God. This theatre of the City of Houston is permanently dedicated.’’ These words still ring true today.
Through its mission statement and commitment to the arts in Houston, the Miller Outdoor Theatre has proven to be a pillar to the citizens of Houston. I congratulate them on their 95th season and commend them for continuing to contribute to Houston’s vibrant arts community.
And that’s just the way it is.