Monday, August 03, 2009

Tamarie Cooper gives us a look inside her brain

George Hixson: Tamarie Cooper as Old and Bitter Tamarie with Kyle Sturdivant.

George Hixson: Richard Lyders, Tamarie Cooper, and Christian Holmes from "Sex Me Up Gilligan."

Catastrophic Theatre's associate director Tamarie Cooper is back at it, concocting another summer musical extravaganza. Her newest opus, The Tamarie Cooper Show: Journey to the Center of my Brain (In 3D!), plumbs the depth of her gray matter. It's a big and complicated place, so she's enlisted the help of a small army of actors, composers and musicians. Cooper gives us a sneak peek inside her musical making brain.

George Hixson: Tamarie Cooper as Old and Bitter Tamarie with Kyle Sturdivant.

29-95: What's in that noggin' of yours? Any surprises?

Tamarie Cooper: Not for me, it's my head. The audience can expect brain farts, neurotransmitters, a signing and dancing super ego and endorphins, which are played by cheerleaders.

29-95: Why cheerleaders?

TC: My scientific knowledge is limited to 8th grade science and endorphins seemed like positive people who yell “yippee” while waving pom poms.

29-95: Any regulars in the cast?

TC: Several. Walt Zipprian, who has done a ton of shows with us, plays Dopamine. He's dressed as a surfer along the lines of Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused.

29-95: You don't like typical musical theater types do you?

TC: No, we are a much more motley crew. It's such a thrill to watch regular people burst into song and dance.

29-95: The show isn't just about the brain, but also spends a good deal of its time on the psychology of mind.

TC: Yes, it quickly veers into self-discovery, especially love.

29-95: How so?

TC: Gilligan (from Gilligan's Island) was my first crush, so there's this rousing R & B number called “Sex me up Gillian.” Then the id ego and super ego show up as well.

29-95: People may not know that you are a former member of my tribe. Do you use these summer musicals as a way to reclaim your dancer life?

TC: Absolutely. I was a former bunhead, and then I discovered modern dance at HSPVA. Even though I wasn't majoring in dance at UH, I spent most of my time in the dance department. I'm glad to hold on to those dance roots. Plus, I love choreographing for actors.

29-95: Why?

TC: Actors may not be so limber and technical, but they willingly throw themselves into things. I use a lot of pedestrian and pop culture movement so it works.

29-95: Is there a story in this piece?

TC: From the get-go I am looking for my one true self on the premise of a self-hypnosis made easy CD. It's not linear but that's what takes us muddling through this mess.

29-95: Any particular musical genre you are revisiting?

TC: This one runs the gamut; there's standard musical theater numbers, hip-hop, and when the characters from Pride and Prejudice show up there's some harpsichord action.

29-95: Is it not summer for you unless you are putting on a musical?

TC: You would think so. This is my 13th summer musical.

29-95: What's the most amazing thing about your run so far as Houston's reigning goddess of the wacky musical?

TC: That I have this group of designers, composers, actors and musicians willing to put in this work for me every year to create an original musical.

29-95: You are preggers, so technically there are two brains up there.

TC: True, but one is still forming.

The Catastrophic Theater presents The Tamarie Cooper Show: Journey To The Center Of My Brain (In 3D!), Thursdays-Saturdays July 30-August 29, at Stages Repertory Theatre.

All tickets to are pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation of $25. For tickets, call the box office at 713-527-8243 or visit

Reprinted from