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Tamarie Cooper might've been born in a Chicago hospital, but the ‘born-again Texan' has long considered Houston home. The co-founder and artistic director of Catastrophic Theatre lived several places growing up, but settled in H-Town longer than anywhere else.
Here, she attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where she met best friend and Catastrophic Theatre co-founder Jason Nodler. The duo launched the fringe group in 2007, which brought together an ensemble of trained and untrained artists for productions that examine the human experience. Since its first production in 2008, the company has received two prestigious MAP Fund commissioning grants and been highlighted in several publications, including twice in American Theatre magazine's annual feature naming the most anticipated plays of the coming season.
Birthplace...I would say I'm a born again Texan. I was born in Chicago and lived a lot of places when I was a kid, but I ended up here at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and went off briefly for college in the Northwest and returned. I've been here longer than anywhere else.
Where I take out of town visitors...I would definitely want them to take advantage of, not only our fabulous museums like the Menil, but the crazy folk art that's around our town--Art Car Museum, Orange Show,Beer Can House, Flower Man's House. Then I would say, definitely get online and see what's going on--any night, there's going to be great plays, great dance. If they want to see something a little crazier--it's like Off Broadway--check us out [at Catastrophic Theatre]. Check out some of the smaller dance companies in town. And then eat. We have wonderful food. We have wonderful fine dining, but go to the taqueria, go to the taco truck and Vietnamese place and get the $2 sandwich. Certainly, take in an entire day that is overflowing with culture and not spend a lot of money.
Why Houston?...A lot of times we get people saying, ‘You're so great. Why don't you go to New York?' But Houston has been really supportive, not only of our larger, more institutional theater groups--the symphony and the ballet--but it's evolved, and now there's a thriving smaller and mid-sized theater community, as well. Which allows us to not only present things like A Christmas Carol, but also for a lot of experimental theater and original work to develop.
How Houston's art and culture stacks up to the rest of the country...People never really understand the level of culture in Houston. They think we're all just the rodeo, (not to knock the rodeo!). But we really do--we have one of the top ballet companies in the world, the symphony, visiting artists and facilities. Gorgeous theaters.
Eclectic arts...There is a lot of really unique, eclectic stuff that comes out of our city, too. Just look around the city--there's the Orange Show, Art Cars. We have a lot of really crazy, weird, passionate people that have made Houston their home. Do I think eclectic arts would be supported in other cities in the same way they are in Houston? I don't know. I kind of compare it with friends that go away, and they don't find the same level of community, not just in the arts, but in general. You never think that Houston has all these treasures, but it's chock full of them.
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