We had the good fortune of connecting with Tamarie Cooper and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tamarie, how do you think about risk?
I would say that I am far less of a risk taker in my personal life versus my career. I’m not jumping out of planes or playing the ponies-I’m a mom to an 11 year old. I go to bed early. I take my vitamins. Risk, however, has always been part of The Catastrophic Theatre’s DNA. When Jason Nodler and I started making theatre with our first company, Infernal Bridegroom Productions, we didn’t have an instruction manual, so we just winged it. We weren’t concerned that we might go over budget because we had no budget! We chose to present plays to which we were deeply and personally connected, ignoring any concern over how they would be received or how many tickets we would sell. Now, almost 30 years later, (and with significant institutional structure) we still produce work of a deeply personal nature. It can be perceived as risky to produce work where revenue is not the driving force in our play selections. It is this risk however that allows much greater artistic freedom. I have also taken great risk as creator of original work, presenting musicals based on my real life experiences, personal thoughts and opinions. I “let it all hang out”, sharing real life stories that could be seen as terribly embarrassing and sometimes outright tragic, but filtered through a musical comedy lens. By being completely honest in my work, a connection is made between the artist and the audience. Honesty can be risky but the shared experience is worth it.Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a homegrown Houston artist. I am an actor, director, choreographer, and occasional writer. My formal training is in dance although most of my skills as an artist have been “learned by doing”. I am probably most proud of maintaining a vital presence in Houston’s artistic community for 30 years through my two companies, Infernal Bridegroom Productions and The Catastrophic Theatre. It has required patience, great friendships, a bit of luck, and a great deal of hard work. Jason and I, along with a company of tremendously talented artists have created a body of work that is funny, sad, dark, hilarious, confusing, confounding, mysterious, and ultimately healing.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Shameless promotion: I would take them to see a show by The Catastrophic Theatre! Currently we are housed at MATCH which is a multi-venue performance space and a great place to see all kinds of performing arts. Assuming this week of fun is post-covid, I would take my dear friend to oh so many restaurants: Teotihuacan for Tex-Mex, Jenni’s Noodle House for some Vietnamese deliciousness, Coltivare, La Lucha, Gatlin’s ( I’m a Heights Gal). Then a little bar hopping including Double Trouble, Rudyards Pub, Better Luck Tomorrow and flaming tiki drinks at Lei Low. I would make sure to show off our incredible museums like The Menil Collection and The National Museum of Funeral History, along with folk art gems like The Orange Show and Smither Park and The Art Car Museum. Add to the itinerary the Turrell Twilight skyspace, the Buffalo Bayou cistern, a shopping trip on 19th street, dancing to 80’s tunes at Numbers on Friday nights, maybe a live show at White Oak Music Hall, a stroll through Discovery Green and some smaller galleries like Redbud and Hardy & Nance Studios. For now, I’ll happily order delivery and Zoom with my besties.Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Jason Nodler and I are Co-Artistic Directors of The Catastrophic Theatre. We have been friends since high school, way back in the 80’s, at HSPVA. He has supported and championed my work from the very beginning and I would not have the career I have today were it not for him. I feel incredibly lucky to be on this journey with him. In addition to running a theatre company together we have also worked as bartenders at a punk rock club, been delegates for Jerry Brown in 1992, dated each other’s best friends in high school, drank way too much at way too many bars, and listened to a ton of Bob Dylan.
Performance photos by Anthony Rathbun Photo with Jason Nodler by George Hixson