Friendswood’s Purple Box Theater provides creative outlet for community
The practice room at the Purple Box Theater could barely contain the Broadway-bound voices and boundless energy teenage performers put into a rehearsal of “Shrek the Musical Jr.”
Fingers spread wide as voices burst out of the building at 1309 W. Parkwood Ave. in Friendswood, where Purple Box Theater operates a performance school for children and runs a community theater for adults.
“Theater is important,” instructor Victoria Reyes said. “You are able to get away from life and stress. It takes you out of the world. As an actor, I get to do that for somebody.”
Reyes portrayed the title character in the theater’s November production of the Tennessee Williams Southern Gothic classic, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
A couple of audience members told Reyes later that they argued about her character’s flaws. Was she good or bad? Why doesn’t he love her? It’s those discussions that make live theater exciting, Reyes said.
“Once it happens, once it’s done, it only lives on in your imagination,” Reyes said. “You have to be present.”
About 180 children and teenagers attend acting, dance and voice classes at Purple Box Theater. Cathy Holbrook, the owner, opened her school and theater in 2010. During the 1980s and 1990s, she taught performance classes, then she moved to California. When she came back to Texas, she opened Purple Box Theater.
“It’s a business,” Holbrook said. The school business makes the community theater side possible, she said.
But it also has been a source of solace.
“When my dad died, it was my saving grace,” Holbrook said.
Then her mother died in 2017, and Holbrook turned to her theater and its production of the play “Sordid Lives,” a dark comedy about a Texas family.
“Comedy kept me laughing,” Holbrook said. “‘Sordid Lives’ had a message about love and acceptance.”
She decided when she opened the school that purple was the right color to convey the mood and tone she wanted.
“I wanted a black-box feel, but something special,” Holbrook said. “I chose purple, a royal color.”
Holbrook recently remodeled the theater, widening the stage and expanding some practice areas.
Attorneys, doctors, accountants and NASA engineers audition for roles and perform on stage.
“They need a creative outlet,” Reyes said. “They have got to fulfill that creative side of the soul.”
And they send their children to Purple Box Theater for lessons.
Some students come with talent, and some struggle with lessons. Reyes and Holbrook get to watch them grow out of their shells, both said.
“Classes are important for kids to have a place to belong with other kids who follow the same passion,” Reyes said.
She has a letter from a former student who nominated her for a teaching award.
“You inspired me to be a much better person, a better writer and a better performer with every class being so full of love and passion,” the letter said. “You help me go the distance and push beyond my limits.”
A group of Purple Box Theater students will get to perform at Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida this summer. They’ll also have an opportunity to take workshops with working actors there.
Meanwhile, Holbrook anticipates adult auditions for “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the community theater’s upcoming production.
“We’re always looking for things that are not typical,” Holbrook said.