The first time Tamarie Cooper, the associate director of the ever-avant garde Catastrophic Theatre, decided to take audiences on a field trip, she rented a school bus, stuck an audience of 38 in it and rolled around Houston, offering unscripted observations and the occasional song.
“It was wild and fun,” she says, in that voice where you realize what was wild and fun 20 years ago doesn’t exactly fit your current definition of wild and fun.
But that’s not stopping her from taking audiences on a wild ride. The Tamarie Cooper Show: Field Trip promises to be the kind of crazy, campy, creative romp audiences have come to love from Cooper, even if there is no actual bus.
“You know, you become a grown up,” she says of planning the show. “And when I thought about using a bus again, I thought about grown-up stuff: What if the AC goes out? What if we get in an accident? How many people will fit on the bus? And my creative bus dream came crashing down around me.”
When she called her friend—and the show’s book writer—Patrick Reynolds, he mentioned wryly that it sounded like Cooper was having an existential crisis.
“And that’s going in the show,” she decided. “So, this is a field trip through my existential crisis.”
For the uninitiated who’ve not experienced a Tamarie Cooper show, Field Trip follows the actress’ journey as she discovers the meaning of life, unpacks personal baggage, voyages to a land of discarded ideas, and plays $100,000 pyramid with Friedrich Nietzsche. Throw original songs and tap-dancing into the mix—plus impotent rage, Gwyneth Paltrow, vodka, ennui, leftover seafood nachos, a rocking band, and a cast of crazies.
“There’s tap dancing,” she says. “Just ridiculous-ass clowning. The cast is a mixture of people you would totally see around Houston in musical theater – and also people you would absolutely not see in that setting. I don’t know. Is it vaudeville? Is it sketch comedy? Yes. It’s Forbidden Broadway, but homegrown and unique to Houston. Forbidden Broadway spoofs the musical. We spoof the whole world.”
Field Trip is Cooper’s 21st installment of the wildly popular Tamarie Cooper Show which, for the last two decades, has been a near-yearly presentation of hilarious, satirical, no holds barred musical theater. Offering observations about politics, life and what it means to be a functioning person in society, Cooper’s shows have always been raucous, but she’s noticing lately that they’ve become more lewd as she gets older. (Last year's incarnation was enough to make the Houston Chronicle blush.)
“Yeah. I can’t explain what happened with that,” she says about the progression. “But, I’ve definitely added more autobiographical elements to the shows, and I’ve become much more shameless.”
Don’t let that ebullient riffing fool you, though. Field Trip has a book, and song and dance numbers. In other words: It’s legit theatre. And no one is more delighted than Cooper that she gets to do this.
“I am so very grateful I get to do this kind of work, and that this kind of work is my legacy. I mean, my great-grandchildren will be like, ‘Yeah, Grandma was crazy!’ And I just love that Houston supports something like this. The level of talent in this cast is fantastic.”
Thru August 12. Tickets pay-what-you-can ($40 suggested). MATCH, 3400 Main St. 713-521-4533. More info and tickets at catastophictheatre.com.