The Gus S. Wortham Theater Center was built at the height of the 1980's oil bust and funded entirely by the private sector. More than 3,500 donors contributed $66 million to build a new performing arts mecca amid a period of job losses and recession. It was a true community effort -- 2,200 individuals gave $100 or less.
What's more, the 437,500-square foot facility was completed four months ahead of schedule and $5 million under budget, a testament to Houston's trademark ability to get things done. At the time, Wortham Center was the first major opera house built in the U.S. in more than 25 years.
The building is the legacy of the late Gus S. Wortham, the founder of American General Insurance Company whose foundation contributed $20 million to the capital campaign. The Cullen Foundation and the Brown Foundation donated $7.5 million and $6 million, respectively, in a demonstration of the collective strength of Houston's philanthropic spirit.
Bold and beautiful, the Wortham is a facility like no other. It is a masterful, creative playground for performing artists and offers an array of public spaces, both monumental and intimate. Eugene Aubry of Morris Aubry Architects designed the Wortham Center.
The Wortham Center has two theaters, the Alice and George Brown Theater and the Lillie and Roy Cullen Theater.
At 2,405 seats, the Brown is the larger theater with a 17,000-square foot stage used primarily for major performances by our resident companies, Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera. Despite its size, no seat is more than 138 feet from the stage.
The 1,100-seat Cullen Theater hosts smaller opera and ballet productions and serves other arts groups, such as Da Camera of Houston, Mercury, and Society for the Performing Arts. Its intimate size is ideal for solo artists, chamber music, small touring shows and recitals.
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