We had the good fortune of connecting with Aaron Garrett and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aaron, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
For most of my life I wanted to pursue engineering or science, and I entered university with the intent of studying optical physics. Fairly quickly into my studies I realized that while I adept at getting the work done I wasn’t nearly as interested in it as my peers, and I feared that would ultimately lead to being unsatisfied with a career in that field. At the same time I was taking theater classes, which did not come naturally in the least, and I found myself engrossed in the challenge of it all. Discovering that I looked forward much more to my extracurriculars rather than what I was ostensibly there for I decided to change majors. Over the years the collaborative aspects of theater and the community around it have kept me from straying to other careers.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Pronoia Theater exists to create original alternative theater, usually sketch or improvisational comedy, two forms which I think are under-appreciated and underfed in our modern culture. Sketch Comedy has the dual misfortune of being short and funny, two traits which often lead to people undervaluing or overlooking work. I love sketch comedy because it is the only true pluralistic art form. A movie, play, or book often comes from one author, from one viewpoint, but a single sketch show can have infinite authors all expressing different opinions on the same subject. It almost lets you look at a theme from a cubist point of view. Because sketch has been dominated for so long by one pipeline (The Second City Training Center which leads to Saturday Night Live which leads everywhere else,) it’s led to everyone in the industry doing the same thing, and worse, the audience thinking that’s all sketch has to offer. I’m unique in that I try to bring real stakes, serious stories, deep characters, and careful construction and pack it into a sketch. Sketch can never have as much potential for deep story-telling as movies, that’s the trade-off for brevity, but that doesn’t mean it has to be any less affecting. We’ve been settling for so little from sketch from so long, that sometimes just a little bit of digging, to show what depth is possible, is enough to surprise people. We’re still growing as a company, even just in awareness among the theater community, so we still have a lot of work to do, but with each new show we put out there we get more people excited about what we’re doing, because it so unlike anything they’ve seen before, and yet still accessible, because it’s “just” telling human stories in a funny way. At the end of the day life is hard and there is nothing small or insignificant about wanting to lift people’s spirits, to “merely” entertain them, that’s what Pronoia is about, and continuing to bring new delights, and new challenges, is what excites us every day.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh boy. Sometimes the rough thing about working fifty hour weeks at a day job, then working another seven hours a day on the art job is you don’t have the money or time to explore and can get set in your ways. One of our performance locations is Eureka Heights Brew Co., so we have to start there. There’s always great new beer; great old beer; and fun, community-driven events going on there. My favorite place to get a cocktail is Anvil Bar & Refuge, the atmosphere is easy going, the drinks are good, and the bartenders are at the top of their craft. If I’ve got friends from out of town I’m going to make sure we go to Strange Bird Immersive (known for Man From Beyond,) and do whatever enthralling work they have going on, and then we can chat about it at any one of the many disc golf parks around the city (I usually go to T.C. Jester,) or by playing a board game at Tea & Victory. Houston is a food town, and pretty much anywhere you go you’re going to have a world-class dining experience, I’d hate to exclude anyone by naming my favorites, but I will say that whenever we can afford it my wife and I like to make a night of going to Nancy’s Hustle. Honestly the city is so vibrant and full of diverse opportunities that no matter what you want to experience, you can do it immaculately somewhere in Houston.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
! There are so many people on my artistic journey, and in fact we recently dedicated a whole episode of our podcast to answering this question as thoroughly as we could. Shyla Ray Hungerford was my first improv teacher and the leader of the theater where I began working independently in Houston, and so her impact on me is incalculable. Although I had many of the skills and sensibilities in place when I met her, it is her enthusiasm, candor, and generosity which inform my artistic philosophies and align my inner character. She is as true and challenging a friend and teacher as one could hope for. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also shoutout Christopher Simpson, Maggie Cady, Ashley Macamaux, and everyone at the Contemporary Theater Company of Wakefield, RI. In 2018 during a nadir of my artistic life their spirit and community helped reinvigorate me, and the relationship with them over the past two years has been nothing short of wonderful.