Politicians may sometimes have to get their hands dirty to get elected, but not many will air out their most loyal constituents’ soiled laundry while talking to a journalist. Yet letting the public see everything seems to be the strategy for hometown presidential candidate Tamarie Cooper because she’s not running an ordinary campaign but a singing, dancing one with lots of smutty bits.
When I recently went down to Cooper election headquarters at the MATCH to see if I could discover the real woman behind that poised face on her posters, I caught her trying to clean up all the sweaty evidence of her latest political catastrophe, literally, as she was spending several hours washing the entire casts’ costumes for her new musical Tamarie for President (Greatest Hits Vol 2).
Yes, Tamarie Cooper, writer, actor, director, choreographer and co-founder of Catastrophic Theatre, is running for president and has written her latest annual summer extravaganza about that attempted rise to Midtown political prominence. No, she’s not running for President of the United States but for a vastly more coveted position, president over the Theater Arts Independent Network Tribunal (of Midtown Drama Department).
A Tainted Election
Candidate Cooper has been revealing intimate and bizarre personal details within the hallowed halls of musical theater spaces for decades, so as she neared her sort of (she skipped a year to have a baby) 20th anniversary, she thought another greatest hits show would be the winning message to bring in the votes (in the form of tickets sales). With 2016 being an election year, the story seemed perfect for allowing her to revisit some of her favorite songs and moments from previous shows.
“The idea of a presidential campaign to tie them all together seemed like synchronicity,” she explained to me, in between washing cycles. “It was an easy way, because how were you going to tie it all together? Well, things like scandal and sexism in politics and agism lent itself so easily to some of these other themes that I’ve had.”
From sex to Texas patriotism to growing older to embarrassing family members, many of her previous shows had already tackled those scandals and issues that can bring the strongest political contender down. So collaborating with Ronnie Blaine, who also stepped into the onstage role of her campaign manager, and bringing in Joe Folladori to write two new songs for the musical’s opening and finale, Cooper began to put together a show that would chronicle her ruthless quest for Midtown T.A.I.N.T. power.
Nearly Naked Ambition
How hungry is she for that power? Well, she freely admits that at least one member of her campaign staff, a.k.a her cast, has accused her of trying to kill them. Most of the Tamarie for President actors have been with Cooper for many a summer show and some of them are not exactly in the 20s anymore, so with 11 big numbers, dancing, tapping, singing, a food fight ballet, and sometimes multiple costume changes in the same number, it’s understandable some are calling this a (cast) killer election.
“I like to think it’s good for us. It’s keeping us young. All the physical activity, because we’re not doing it on our own. We’d be sitting at home watching Naked and Afraid or something,” was Cooper non-denial denial.
A District Change
Cooper has only recently become eligible to run for this important Midtown theatrical office. Catastrophic Theatre left its previous space in Houston’s Warehouse District to find a new home at the MATCH, and Cooper feels it’s a good fit for this show and for Catastrophic’s future. Playing in MATCH Box 2 gives her a “larger venue” to indulge “the pageant side” of her personality and create one of her largest summer shows ever.
“Because I knew I had the big space it allowed me to have a ton of people in the show this year, and I could have a formidable set as well,” she said.
Over the years, Catastrophic garnered a reputation as being one of the coolest and edgiest theater companies in Houston, and had warehouse space shows cred to prove it. But Cooper believes moving into the new, state-of-the-art MATCH facility will not change who they are as a company.
“I still feel the MATCH has a very urban and casual aesthetic. I don’t feel like we’ve moved into a stately, formal performance venue. It felt like we didn’t have to sacrifice our brand,” she explained recounting how this was something she and Catastrophic’s artistic director Jason Nodler thought about before making the venue change.
“It was important that we didn’t feel like that by relocating here we were losing our identity.”
While Cooper wouldn’t get too specific with her election promises, only that Catastrophic will be announcing its full season in August, she did think having a black box space to perform had opened up some theatrical possibilities for them. For example, one of the plays they would like to do in the coming season is set in the round, something that they wouldn’t have been able to do in their last space.
“If anything this just gives us more permission to take on anything because we will have superior technical ability here,” she says of the future.
It will be up to voters, or theater goers, whichever, to elect Tamarie into a TAINT presidency and work towards a brighter theatrical tomorrow, for Midtown and beyond.
Tamarie for President (Greatest Hits Vol 2) runs at the MATCH until August 6.