Pay What You Should: Beta Theater Moves On
Photo: Jeromy Barber
Anyone who has lived in Houston long enough can agree that there’s almost always something to do. Any artist who has lived in Houston long enough will agree with that sentiment, but will also argue that having a place to do some things at is harder than most would think. As a native Houstonian, I’ve actually lived in more major cities than most, and it’s always felt like Houston was lacking something….industry. Sure, we have plenty of places for comedy and improv, but finding those people with the experience, the connections, and the mindset to help with your career are pretty much nonexistent. That was ultimately true before Beta Theater opened. For the last year, the tiny black box theater inside the MECA facility has helped hundreds of artists hone their craft while hosting some amazing comedy and improv shows. Now, with factors beyond the theater’s control, they’re moving to a new space in which to offer their industry based services. The cost has forced them, for the first time, to ask for help from the community they’ve helped nurture.
When I first met Jeromy Barber, Beta’s creative director; he reminded me of all the guys I went to an art college with. Succinct and direct are definitely his forte, while having the goods to back himself up. A creative guy with a list of professional credits, Barber has helped Houstonians with their careers in comedy, improv, and in general with entertainment advice. I was, and actually still am, blown away with what he’s achieved inside a converted junior high classroom. The black box style theater has a professional lighting rig alongside professional sound and somehow, they still fit upwards of fifty seats inside. I’ve seen everything from stand-ups to improv, two person shows to movie screenings, and occasionally even a music performance inside the miniscule space. All of these shows were done with the highest level of professionalism that usually made me forget that I was in an old junior high school. When I went to watch local comedian Brian Zeolla record his debut comedy album, “Okay, You Got It!” I forgot that this wasn’t a comedy club I was at. I sat alongside complete strangers as well as comics and friends, and it never felt out of place. The same could be said about when I watched one of their Triple Header shows where three different comics perform three separate twenty minute sets on the same night. Whether it’s one of the “Feelings” shows with Antoine Culbreath and Amy Birkhead, any one of Mills McCoin’s shows, or a comedy performance; I’ve always appreciated the spot’s existence in our city.
However, after I spoke to comics who had attended the theater’s comedy workshop, I had a whole new appreciation for Beta and all that Jeromy is trying to achieve. The highest praise I’ve ever heard about a comedy workshop was what I would go on to hear. That’s saying so much for a workshop that’s not run by a comic who can get you on a show or you you strive to gain approval from. At the theater’s one year anniversary party, I met so many different people who had taken one of the many improvisation courses there. These were people from all different walks of life, from all different ages, demographics, and income levels who all said the same thing; I love this place. Over the course of one night, I would go on to hear stories of students who professed love for Barber and about how his courses had changed their lives. It was truly an amazing experience for someone who isn’t used to hearing so many nice things about anything in this town. All of this praise confirmed to me what I already knew, Houston needs a place like Beta Theater.
In the guise of finding a space that can be converted into something similar while staying close to town, Beta has gone to the act of “trading” for a new space. In a new video available on Beta’s website, Beta is attempting to trade a golden microphone for a larger space. While this is a noble effort that could possibly lead to a larger performance space, you can help by attending their final Triple Header show in their current space this Saturday. Instead of the usual two performances, there will actually be three and all carry their pay what you can price model. But, this is your chance to pay what they need, what they could use, and ultimately; what you should. If you’ve ever performed at Beta Theater, if you’ve ever taken a class, and even if you’ve just seen a show there, Saturday is your chance to help keep Beta in all of our lives.
The final Triple Header will utilize three great performers on Saturday night. Dusti Rhodes, the host of the Rudyard’s open mic will perform alongside the hilarious Barry Laminack, and the irreverently funny Chris Oddo. As always, the show is hosted by the funny and talented Bob Morrissey. You can pick up advance tickets and pay what you should here for either the 7:00, the 9:00, or the 11:00 performances. The show’s are all BYOB and there are beverages at the venue as well.