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The Catastrophic Theatre Finds a Place to Call Home


By: Erin Dyer

Functioning as a nomadic company for the past five years, Catastrophic Theatre now finally has a permanent spot to call home. Huzzah! After completion of minor construction, a bit of cleaning, and making the physical transition to the new place, the Catastrophic Theatre will soon take over the old DiverseWorks space (1117 East Texas Freeway, Houston, TX 77002).

Free Press Houston spoke with Jason Nodler, the Co-founder and Artistic Director of Catastrophic Theatre, about the exciting changes in store for his organization.

FPH: How are you feeling about the move? Stressed? Excited?

Jason Nodler: Our managing director, Kirk Markley, has had to endure the vast majority of the stress, as he has been guiding this surprisingly complicated process from the start. But I’m feeling all those kinds of ways and more. I’ve never really had a desktop picture, but now I do– it’s a picture of the space.  Mostly I am feeling very excited.

FPH: What type of construction needs to be done at the new place?

JN: That’s not really my area but, as I understand it, very little. We aren’t changing the purpose of the space in any way– the theatre is a theatre– so, while our expenses will go well up on a monthly basis as a result of the move, as it stands, any construction we might have to do will be manageable.  Mostly we will be constructing plays. Come see them.

FPH: What are the Catastrophic Theatre’s future plans at the new space?

JN: A lot of new work. Almost half of our plays are new works, world premieres, but now we will have the time and space to develop more new work. We will continue to present plays by the best in weird-ass playwrights, ones that most major cities know and love, that wouldn’t happen in Houston but for Catastrophic. And, because I love it and our audience does, we will continue to present the occasional avant-garde classic, such as last year’s Endgame by Samuel Beckett.

And we will continue to make rock and roll theatre like Bluefinger, with which Black Francis was involved, and Life is Happy and Sad, a portrait of Daniel Johnston’s struggles as an artist and as a lonely guy, performed by some of our favorite local musicians: Matt Brownlie (ex-Bring Back the Guns) and Roky Moon + BOLT. Bluefinger featured a lot of my personal music heroes from the 1990s Houston music scene such as Matt Kelly (Sprawl, middlefinger, Lick Lick), Michael Haaga (The Plus and Minus Show, deadhorse), and Scott Ayers (Pain Teens, Anarchitex). On Fleaven we got to work with Joe Folladori (nee Mathlete), Mlee Mains (Hearts of Animals), and Hoja Lopez.  Joe has been working on most of our shows for ten years or more.  And that’s in addition to our in-house band which features crackerjack players from various local groups including 2 Star Symphony.

Mostly it will allow us, as Beckett said, to “try again… fail again… fail better.”  I’m not interested in possible plays; I only like impossible ones.

FPH: Will the new space change any aspects of the Catastrophic Theatre?

JN: Imagine being in a band– always needing practice space, lugging equipment from one gig to the next, booking expensive time in recording studios. Now imagine that your band actually lived at a combination music venue/recording studio.  What would change for that band? Everything.

It will allow us great flexibility in our programming. In the past we’ve been at the mercy of the schedules of others. So we are no longer ‘tied’ to dates. We are able to extend our more popular productions — at our last show, Fleaven, we had to turn away about 40 people on closing night alone. That show could have gone on and on. The same is true of Tamarie’s shows, of Bluefinger, and of many of our plays.

It will also provide us with a room where we are able to rehearse anytime, day or night.

All of this will have a great impact on our work, and all to the better. We will also be free to book the occasional show that is a good match for our aesthetic when we have down time, though I don’t expect we’ll have a lot of that.

Most of all, it allows us to continue doing what we’ve been doing: freaky, funny, often depressing, sometimes devastating, always fucked-up theatre at whatever price each audience member can afford– as we are the only theatre in town offering pay-what-you-can ticketing for every single performance.  No one is turned away from a Catastrophic show for being short on funds. Ever. And we give away free beer and non-alcoholic drinks after every performance. If people stick around, and they usually do, it’s a post-show party every night. What else do you want? A massage?

Visit http://catastrophictheatre.com/ for more information about the company, and feel free to make a tax-deductable donation to Catastrophic Theatre while you’re there– after all, they couldn’t do it without your help.

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