After all, Catastrophic founders Jason Nodler and Tamarie Cooper were two of the creative minds behind the nationally acclaimed and recently departed Infernal Bridegroom Productions (IBP), one of Houston's top sources for cutting edge classics and commissioned contemporary works. Add to their artistic visions the rich talents from the UH School of Theatre & Dance, and local audiences will be treated to a cool collaboration between experienced innovators and energetic young actors.
Catastrophic Theatre makes its official debut with Mickey Birnbaum's "Big Death and Little Death," which is co-produced by UH. Directed by Nodler and starring both UH and Catastrophic actors, the dark comedy makes its Houston premiere at 8 p.m., April 4 in the Jose Quintero Theatre. It runs through April 20.
The union between seasoned theater pros and UH students has long been a staple of the School of Theatre & Dance. This kind of working relationship is crucial to the development of student actors, said Steven Wallace, the school's director.
"It's important that our students work with different theater companies around town, so they can understand what it's like in the professional world. They'll learn that not every director approaches a play in the same way. The same goes for the actors with whom they will share the stage," he said. "This is an invaluable experience for those students who are serious about pursuing stage careers."
Just as it's important for student actors to develop realistic expectations about professional theater, it's equally vital that expert directors and actors recognize the level of talent emerging from the university, Wallace added. Nodler, Catastrophic's artistic director, is no stranger to the university's talent pool. He has worked with many UH acting alums and feels that this launching pad for Catastrophic also will mark the beginning of a professional relationship with the university.
"This is the perfect opportunity for Catastrophic to get off the ground," Nodler said. "The performance space is perfect for this production, and we're working with a very strong cast. I anticipate that this will be the beginning of a strong and significant connection with UH."
Nodler's previous company IBP earned kudos from audiences and critics nationwide for taking on challenging and ambitious productions such as Sam Shepherd and Patti Smith's "Cowboy Mouth" and Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot." IBP also commissioned many new works including Nodler's post-apocalyptic rock opera "In the Under Thunderloo" (the company's first-ever production in 1993) and a musical staging of the Kink's concept album "A Soap Opera." The troupe's maverick approach to stage works helped win a devoted audience, but unfortunately, financial difficulties forced IBP to cease operations in 2007.
"Artists like Jason Nodler and Tamarie Cooper are role models for our students," Wallace said. "Years ago, they and other actors got together and made IBP happen. They're doing it again with Catastrophic. I am confident that their presence here on campus will be quite inspirational to our students."
The collaboration with Catastrophic Theatre is just one of many relationships that is being cultivated by UH. Earlier this year, the university formed a partnership with the Alley Theatre in which members of that company will work alongside graduate students in the School of Theatre & Dance.
"It's very important that we connect with the various artistic components of the city," Wallace said. "Building these relationships will ultimately benefit the School of Theatre & Dance and its students, but it also is helpful for the local arts scene. UH has many talented individuals, and I want to make sure that we are viewed as a resource for all of the city's theater companies."
Tickets for "Big Death and Little Death" are $15, $12 for UH faculty and staff and $10 for seniors and students. For reservations or additional information, contact 713-743-2929.
Following "Big Death and Little Death," Catastrophic Theatre will stage award-winning Houston playwright Troy Schulze's new production "Splasher" at DiverseWorks May 29 - June 14 and Cooper's "The Tamarie Cooper Show" at Stages June 19 - July 19.
The UH School of Theatre & Dance offers bachelor's and master's degrees in theater and teacher certifications in dance. Its graduate program consists of a master of arts in theater and masters of fine arts in theater with specializations in acting, directing and design. Each fall and spring, the school produces five plays performed in the Wortham Theatre and the Jose Quintero Theatre, two dance concerts, the Stuart Ostrow Musical Theatre Workshop, student productions, the New Play Festival, the Houston Shakespeare Festival and the Children's Theatre Festival. The school has benefitted from notable star faculty such as Edward Albee, Lanford Wilson, Sir Peter Hall and Jose Quintero. Among current faculty are Houston Shakespeare Festival founder Sidney Berger, Tony Award-winning playwright Mark Medoff and Tony Award-winning producer Stuart Ostrow.
For details on UH's School of Theatre & Dance, visit http://www.hfac.uh.edu/theatre/default.html.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.