Playwright Ike Holter sent Matt Hune, his college roommate, a copy of Exit Strategy while it was in its early phases.
“I fell in love with it,” says Hune, Rec Room's artistic director, of the script, “and I thought it was such a great piece for Houston.”
The story of a failing public school in Chicago, Exit Strategy is about what happens to the students, faculty, staff, and the community when the school board announces the place will be shuttered for good at the end of the school year. The play premiered in Chicago with Jackalope Theatre in 2014, and in New York at Cherry Lane Theater in 2016. Hune said the play’s searing look at what it means to have a school close, and how that impacts the community as a whole was timely, and something he felt was very much in current events.
“We’re having conversations like this in HISD,” he says. “The idea that schools are facing budget cuts, a handful are facing potential closure, that they happen to be mostly in areas that serve predominately black and brown students, that many schools receive little community support—these are all timely issues, and they’re happening here in Houston.”
This isn’t The Rec Room’s first Ike Holter production, either. Last season, the organization presented Sender, about how technology and social media have changed our existence. The show was well-received, along with the rest of Rec Room’s theater season, leading the Chronicle to declare the company an important new player willing to do new shows by emerging writers, as well as presenting theater in new ways.
Rec Room seeks to continue that reputation with Exit Strategy, its season opener, as it delves into what it means to deliver education, what we expect of our schools, and what we ask of ourselves. The cast features Susan Koozin, Greg Dean, Gabe Regojo, Michelle Magallon, Melanie Burke, and Matthew Jamison. The New York Times called the play “pointed” in its review; the Chicago Tribune used the adjectives “poetic, political, sad, funny…complex and compassionate.”
“Ike calls it comic theater,” Hune says. “And there are definitely funny moments, as well as those where you’re at the edge of your seat. And these [seven] characters are so specific, it’s fantastic seeing them all in a room together. They’re all fighting for what they think is right, and doing it in very different ways.”
Sept. 26–Oct. 13. Tickets $30. Rec Room, 100 Jackson St. 713-344-1291. More info and tickets at recroomarts.org.