Have you ever wondered how Miller Outdoor Theatre can provide Houston with the arts for free? Whether it’s the Symphony, Shakespeare, a musical or a Ballet, you can take your family and sit on the hill and enjoy culture and arts at Miller Outdoor Theatre and not pay a thing. We don’t know about you, but J-Vibe Online Magazine always thought it was just magic, until we sat down with Cissy Segall Davis, the woman behind the scenes who is in charge of making that magic happen for all of us to enjoy.
Miller Outdoor Theatre
Miller Outdoor Theatre has been a Houston staple for the past 92 years. Located in Hermann Park, the theatre has seating for 1,705 people along with 20 wheelchair spaces, plus a sloping lawn that accommodates approximately 4,500 more on blankets or lawn chairs. The theatre itself has a 64 x 41 foot stage, 54 line sets for hanging lights, curtains and scenery, an orchestra pit which can be raised and lowered, dressing rooms and offices, a full complement of theatrical equipment and a 110-ton air conditioning system that cools the performance area. Most importantly, Miller Outdoor Theatre brings an 8-month season of diverse and professional arts for free to an audience of 400,000 – 500,000 people in the city of Houston every year.
We live diversity, the audience reflects it and everyone is enjoying the same thing.
Although the city of Houston owns the Miller Outdoor Theatre, it is managed by Houston First, who also manages all of the city owned theaters, parking garages, George R. Brown Convention Center, Jones Plaza and the Greater Houston Center.
Bringing the Arts to Houston
It’s no easy feat to bring the arts to Houston for free and the moving parts that happen behind the scenes to make it happen at Miller Outdoor Theatre are tremendous. When you stay in a hotel, either as a visitor to the city or because you want a night away from the kids, you are charged a hotel tax by the city. That tax, the Hotel Occupancy Tax, is what helps support Miller Outdoor Theatre! The Theatre receives from the city of Houston a portion of the hotel occupancy tax funds to support the performances that are brought to the audience for free. There are also grants that need to be applied for by the non-profits that want to have their shows on the Miller Outdoor Theatre stage. There are certain criteria that need to be met and the process is rigorous, because the end result is to bring a diversity in the arts to Houston.
The reach and the scope of these productions that Miller Outdoor Theatre produces is phenomenal. Some of the caliber of shows you will be able to attend for free are performed by:
Cissy Segall Davis – #MarvelousMaven
The woman that makes all of this happen is Cissy Segall Davis. Cissy has a long history in Houston and has always had a love of performing and putting together performances. As a camp counselor at Westwood Country Club and with her involvement in TEFTY as a teen, she often put on shows with the children and end of camp performances. Even back then, she instilled in those kids a love of the arts. Her love of performing and putting on shows continued at SDT at University of Texas in Austin and she soon found herself working at Pace Entertainment, where she wore a variety of hats for many years. Cissy has worked for Theatre Under the Stars, had her own PR and marketing firm, where Miller Outdoor Theatre was her first client, and then when she found out that they were looking to hire a new manager and director for the Community Arts Program, Cissy applied for the job and got it in 2008, where she has been ever since. She describes it best, and probably in the most apropos way, being from the theater with a line from “A Chorus Line”,
What I did for love
Or, in her case, what she does for love, because Cissy Segall Davis is truly a remarkable woman. Not only has she had the career of a lifetime; she run, manages, coordinates, lives, breathes and eats Miller Outdoor Theatre, and she loves it. She has a warmth and openness about her that makes her easy to talk to and you can see the love she has for the arts by the way she speaks about her job with boundless energy and enthusiasm. But Cissy is more than that. She is connected to her Judaism in a way that J-Vibe connected to her. It was like finding a long lost soul sister. She lives her Judaism every day by being humble and grateful for all that she can do and has done and tells us how she feels that being a reform Jew has truly helped her, not only in her career but in her everyday life,
I now find out our differences aren’t nearly as large as our similarities. My Reform background taught me to be tolerant, open and accepting and to care about more than just myself.
Cissy Segall Davis, the city of Houston thanks you for all of your hard work and what you do for all us! Without you, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy the arts and culture that you are providing and you are truly a #marvelousmaven!