Sunday, March 05, 2006

Tamarie Cooper Tackles Chekhov

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Charlie Scott in IBP's Uncle Vanya

Infernal Bridegroom Productions cut its early teeth on some mighty heady material. Keeping that in mind, Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya seems like a natural fit for this always bleeding-edge troupe. Houston’s favorite actor, director, choreographer, song and dance lady, vintage clothes maven, Tamarie Cooper, has a new challenge at hand. She’s directing Vanya, with a stellar cast of IBP veterans. Cooper fills us in on this new IBP production.

Tamarie, you have such a wild and ravishing stage persona. When I think of you, many words pop into mind. Chekhov is kind of far down the list. What put this baby on your lap?

I knew I wanted to direct another play, so I began reading all the plays in my house and at the office, and stumbled across Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. IBP had done The Cherry Orchard many years ago, and I remembered being crazy about that play as well. I think Uncle Vanya is simply a beautifully written play. People think Chekhov is just about boring, complaining people--not true. The characters may say they're bored, but inside they are suffering, aching, plotting, laughing, screaming, baiting, breaking, enduring, and living! What vitality! How wild and ravishing...

I know IBP has a long history having their way with classics. What's your stamp on Vanya?

TC: No stamp. We are approaching the material sincerely and honestly.

Usually you are on the other side of the stage. What challenges you about directing?

TC: I hope to create a safe, supportive environment for the actors and learn how to communicate with each actor. Many of our actors come from different training backgrounds and different approaches to acting. I’m looking for a common language.

This is a dance blog, and you are a dancer, therefore, I am obligated to inquire as to your approach to movement in the show?

TC: I think my dance background comes into play regarding staging. My sharpened spatial awareness helps to create stronger, interesting pictures.

When I read the cast list, it just seemed to be a perfect Chekhovian fit. Was it that way for you too?

TC: One of the main reasons I wanted to direct this play is because of the actors available to me. Charlie Scott leapt out of my mind and into the pages of Vanya. I firmly believe that a large part of directing is in the casting. This a great group of actors.

What about this piece that makes sense for today?

Everything. Living one's life can be terrifying at times. Heartbreak, feeling stuck, failure, loss, regret, shame, betrayal--all relevant.

What's next on your artistic burner?

I will most likely be performing in some of IBP's future productions, and I am creating a variety show, of sorts, to be performed in September. Yes, there will be dancing. As a matter of fact, I see this variety show as an opportunity to present some choreography that's been kicking around in my head for quite sometime, without a venue. Of course, Tamalalia was all about the choreography, but it was usually limited to a very silly, cartoon-like, 1950's grand musical style. This stuff may be a little weirder.

Uncle Vanya continues at IBP until March 25th, at the Axiom, 2425 McKinney. Call (713)522-8443 or visit