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Home » Art, Theatre

Welcome to the United States of Tamarie

Submitted by Commandrea on July 6, 2011 – 3:21 pmNo Comment
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Tamarie Cooper out and about (photo by: George Hixson/courtsey Catastrophic Theatre)

By Alex Wukman

Summer in Houston means a few things: shorts, mosquitoes and musicals. From the big budget musicals of Theatre Under the Stars, who close out this season with Urban Cowboy, and Broadway Across America, who bring back the world famous Lion King, to smaller companies like Stages, reviving their smash production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical, summer in Houston is a time for musicals. In fact it was five years ago this summer that Catastrophic’s previous incarnation debuted what many consider to be their most well known play Speeding Motorcycle.

And this summer Catastrophic Theatre will offer the 14th installment of what has alternately been called Tamilalia and the Tamarie Cooper show. Any critic attempting to comment on this semi-annual event is faced with the question of how do you review an institution? How do you comment on something that has come to epitomize Houston’s summer musical theatre season?

Cooper has become a legend in Houston theatre circles based upon the strength of her musicals. They have drawn praise from critics and audiences throughout Houston both for their high energy music and highly original subject matter. As the Catastrophic theatre website states “over the years [Cooper] has taken on everything from love to camping, speakeasies, time travel, domesticity, neuroscience, and cocktail parties”

This year’s intallament, The United States of Tamarie: An All-American Revue (made in China), sees Cooper taking her unique vision and applying to the American political system. After almost a decade-and-a-half of summer shows the question of burn out is inevitable. And Cooper recognizes that which is why, after welcoming a new addition to her family in 2010, Cooper feels that balancing the demands of family and art has giver her a chance to recharge a little.

“I’d feel like I was getting pigeonholed by [the shows] if I had do to one every year,” says Cooper. Another way that Cooper keeps it fresh is to bring in new collaborators. Despite being filled with names well known in the Houston alt.-theatre scene, like Sarah Jo Dunstan and Jodi Bobrovsky, the United States of Tamarie marks the first collaboration between Cooper and musical director Miriam Daly.

Daly, a Houston local, is a renowned musical director who previously worked on the off-Broadway smash Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding and Death: The Musical. She’ll be joining Catastrophic regulars like Kirk Suddreath in the onstage band and combining her take with Cooper’s, admittedly, old-school outlook.

“I used to love those old school musicals [and] all of the shows have a bit of a send up of the old style musical numbers,” says Cooper. She goes to cite such icons of musical theatre as Guys and Dolls as one of her primary influences. Cooper goes on to explain that throughout the years she has been careful of ‘sequel creep.’ “There’s always this idea that it has to be ‘bigger, louder, faster and funnier;’ but I have this formula that works for me,” says Cooper.

Tamarie Cooper keepin it real...awkward (photo by George Hixson/courtsey Catastrophic Theatre)

Cooper explains that initially she drew heavily from her own experiences. “I used to joke that I take all the things that people pay money to tell a therapist, put them in a musical and charge people to come see it,” says Cooper. Another aspect that separates The United States of Tamarie from most other shows is the length of the run.

Unlike most alt-theatre performances, which often seem to close a week after they open, Cooper’s run is always at least six weeks long. She explains that the last Catastrophic show to receive such a lengthy treatment was Blue Finger. Cooper’s show, which runs from July 15-August 20, often marks the end of summer in spirit if not in temperature and has been known to help culture goers prepare for the onslaught of the new fall seasons. However, the announcement of another installment of the wildly popular Tamarie Cooper franchise has been overshadowed by news of an almost monumental proportion from the fringe performance community.

Culturemap has reported that Catastrophic Theatre is one of four organizations that is planning to relocate to the new $22 million Independent Arts Collaborative in midtown. When completed the facility will not only house Catastrophic but will also be the new home of Suchu Dance, Main Street Theatre and arts hot spot Diverseworks, whose warehouse has anchored the north downtown arts scene for years even though the air conditioning has to be turned off during performances.

Liocated a few blocks from the Continental Club, the Mink and the Ensemble the IAC will allow a sort of one-stop shopping for people who don’t want to risk getting their car burglarized in the mean streets of the East Downtown warehouse district; or who want to be able to grab a post performance cocktail without having to drive all the way back to midtown. However, despite the optimism in the initial announcement no projected completion date has been given which gives it at least one thing in common with the Tamarie Cooper franchise.

The United States of Tamarie: An All-American Revue (Made in China) premieres July 15 and runs until August 20 at Diverseworks, 1117 East Freeway, For more information and tickets call 713.522.2723 or go to catastrophictheatre.com.

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