VORTEX Repertory Co. A Neighborhood Landmark

By Jim Reed
Originally published in the May 2018 issue of The Flea

The VORTEX Repertory Co. was the first theatre to establish a home on Austin’s historically underserved Eastside, laying the foundations for a blossoming arts and entertainment district. In 2011, The VORTEX Café was transformed into The Butterfly Bar. In 2013, we obtained a full mixed beverage license, and Patrizi’s Italian food truck joined our compound, providing a long-awaited addition of food. In 2016, Sno.Co began serving shaved ice in our parking lot. Open seven nights a week in East Austin, The VORTEX continues to anchor a cultural hub, a butterfly sanctuary, dynamic theatrical productions, and a comfortable environment for deepening conversations.

In 1989, The VORTEX produced its first season at Mexic-Arte Museum in downtown Austin. After several devised, political plays, and performance art works, we had tremendous success with our adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and Václav Havel’s Temptation, and we decided to continue our experiments. In January 1990, The VORTEX opened its own venue in an enormous movie triplex on East Ben White Blvd. It became an official 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt theater in 1991. The VORTEX operated a thriving compound with three theaters and spacious lobby until 1994, when the property was torn down for redevelopment.

The VORTEX moved to an abandoned warehouse on Manor Road and began a heroic transformation of the dilapidated space into Planet Theatre, a grand vision of the multi-use artistic harbor desired for the space that opened in October 1994.

In 1999, after five years of progress and improvements to the venue, a family LLC purchased the property, and changed the venue’s name. Today The VORTEX is widely recognized as the pioneering leader in Austin’s alternative theatre scene, and helped change the palate of possibility in Austin’s theater scene.

Vortex Repertory Co.


Jennifer Potter-Miller

About Jennifer Potter-Miller

Chair, Friends of Patterson Park, Social Media Chair, Maplewood Elementary School PTA, and Content Editor, Flea newsletter

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