A Brief History of The Company OnStage Theater
The Company OnStage Theater was founded in 1977 by former Alley Theatre associate director Joyce Randall McNally and her husband Hank McNally. Joyce was a long time actress and associate director at the Alley Theatre under its founder Nina Vance. At the Alley, Joyce was a mainstay on and off the stage, receiving accolades for her performance as Josie in Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten, and in the director's seat she was noted for The Winslow Boy, A Majority of One, The Ponder Heart, Life With Father, and An Inspector Calls.
In 1977, Joyce began offering acting classes for children and adults at St. John's Presbyterian Church in the Westbury area of southwest Houston. Later, a small discotheque in Westbury Square was rented on Saturdays, and in spring 1978, the Company presented its first season of two children's shows, The Wizard of Oz and Aladdin and His Magic Lamp. The Company was composed of Joyce McNally as its artistic director, Hank McNally as technical director and students from the first acting classes, along with recruited volunteers in the community. Scenery was fabricated in garages at the actors' homes and the rented disco was transformed each Saturday into a children's theater. The following three seasons of children's productions were held in a meeting room at St. John's Church, where The Company presented 14 shows for children.
In 1982, The Company moved to its longtime location in Westbury Square and transformed space that had been used as a lamp store into a community theater. The children's productions were expanded to five per season, and The Company began offering productions for adults. At that time, the theater was operated as a sole proprietorship by its founders, Joyce McNally and her husband, Hank McNally. In 1986, The Company was organized as a Texas non-profit corporation and a board of directors was formed. Mrs. McNally served as the theater's artistic director until her death in January of 2002 and was succeeded by Mrs. Patti Lindloff, one of the theater's founding members. In 2014, Ms. Lindloff stepped down as artistic director and Stacy A. Bakri, a longtime volunteer with the theater, was appointed to the position. COS remained at Westbury Square for close to 35 years, when, in the summer of 2015, deteriorating conditions of the property and the imminent sale of the property forced a move to COS's original home at St. John's Presbyterian Church. Two seasons of our Young Audience series were staged at St. John's.
Joyce Randall-McNally, painted by Martha Culpepper-Schlott, hanging above Joyce's seat from our former Westbury Square location.
In January 2017, an opportunity presented itself at Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, just down the street, when the Family Life Center, a gymnasium, was made available for rent. A capital campaign was launched, and during the summer, numerous volunteers worked tirelessly to convert the gym into a new theater space. Unfortunately, on August 28th, along with much of the surrounding area, Company OnStage suffered the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey when 15 inches of water flooded the newly renovated space. But thanks to the Herculean efforts of numerous volunteers, community members, friends, and strangers alike, Company OnStage was able to make a swift return to normal operations, and opened its inaugural season in its new home only two weeks later than originally planned. A full season of seventeen productions consisting of new works, classics, productions for young audiences, and a newly formed Local Author's Series was staged.
Company OnStage's current programming includes a variety of classics, dramas, comedies, mysteries and thrillers, fantasies, adventures, and fairy tales, as well as world premieres and works by local authors. We work closely with directors and actors to ensure artistic integrity and quality is maintained, and that interpretation is in keeping with authors' intentions.
The Company operates solely through the efforts of volunteers under the guidance of its board of directors and resident staff. Over the years, the theater has presented anywhere from five to seven Evening Series Productions, and five to seven Young Audience Series productions. Auditions are held six to seven times per year and are open to all members of the public regardless of experience. Every aspect of the theater, from set construction to publicity, is handled by volunteers. More than 150 volunteers per season actively participate in COS's operations and productions.
The Company OnStage is funded by ticket sales, donations from patrons, season ticket sales, donations from corporations and private individuals, and through special fundraising events.
The Company OnStage storefront window overlooking Westbury Square.