Several hours before Bridget Everett, one of New York’s hottest cabaret stars and an Inside Amy Schumer frequent guest, took the stage at the MATCH, Kathryn Lott and Allison Lott, founders of Lott Entertainment Presents, were supervising the pre-show preparations of Matchbox 3, worrying over a string of light bulbs falling and a logo misprint in the programs. Of course, once showtime arrived and Everett entered singing songs of all-sized titty pride and using her own ample bra-less breasts as weapons of cabaret comedy terror, no one in the audience was paying much attention to the logos in the programs.
There’s a new performing arts presenting company in town and with Everett as their first show, beautifully bellowing for us all to “Fuck Some Shit Up” as a kind of rallying cry, the Lott partners are making it clear that this is definitely not your grandma’s performing arts series, unless Gammy is really into bizarre and sexual explicate cabaret and off, off Broadway innovated and interactive plays.
A Houston void?
I went to talk with Allison and Kathryn as they did their debut show preparations, and soon found their fill-the-void philosophy for bringing acts to Houston was more than a motto.
“Our goal is to be different and our goal in programming is to bring something that wouldn’t be here otherwise. That’s the first question we ask ourselves when we’re looking at shows,” explained Allison Lott.
No, they’re not related, but the women became friends while working at Society for the Performing Arts. They later left to start their own consulting and special events firm, but still their performing arts experience kept calling them to do something alongside Lott Entertainment. A trip to New York to see the off Broadway play The Other Mozart and to catch shows at the iconic Joe’s Pub nightclub at the Public Theater made them realize that Houston is missing out on some great performing art.
“We just couldn’t stop talking about how Houston doesn’t have this sort of thing,” described Allison Lott. After wondering why no one was bringing these kind of cutting-edge acts to Houston, they began to ask: Why not them? And so was born the non-profit offshoot of Lott Entertainment, Lott Entertainment Present.
They were first determined to bring the one-woman play The Other Mozart, the little known true story of musical prodigy Nannerl Mozart, the sister of Wolfgang Amadeus. But early on they also started talks with some of the people behind the programming of Joe’s Pub.
Opening their own pub
Joe’s Pub has brought so many international-know and up and coming singers and performing artists to its intimate stage, while cultivating new acts and helping them to develop their work, that its gained a reputation as THE showcase for new talent. What Joe’s Pub does has never been completely duplicated outside New York, but now Allison and Kathryn are ready to see if it could possibly be loosely franchised with their Joe’s Pub Series. They’ll bring in some of the venue’s staple artists within the Lott Entertainment Presents season.
“We started the conversation with Joe’s Pub thinking: No Way. But they actually bit really easily. They were really excited about it, and thought Houston was a great market,” explained Kathryn Lott, and adding “I think it’s going to a huge claim to our company and to our city to have the first Joe’s Pub outside from New York City.”
The new year will bring the rest of this debut season, starting with The Other Mozart on January 7 and continuing with two more from the Joe's Pub Series with Daniel Koren (Feburary 18-20) and Bridget Barkan (April 7). The Method Gun (May 26-28) rounds out the 2015-2016 lineup. The shows of this first season don’t have any striking themes in common, but Team Lott promises they’ll all be “high quality art.”
“The thought behind the first season is go really big and bold and show you what the brand is from the very first show, hoping you’ll trust me after that and you’ll have such a good time you’ll take even more risks with me,” said Kathryn Lott of her programming strategy.
A Texas Method to the Madness
They’ll end this inaugural season in May not looking to New York for inspiration but to some real Texas grown theater with the Austin based Rude Mechs and their joyous comedy The Method Gun, a work that’s part play, part dance and all weird tribute to acting and the volatile and inspirational student/teacher relationship. (I saw The Method Gun in Austin in 2014 and it was my favorite live performance of that year.) This last production will take place on the larger and more traditional Matchbox 4 stage.
The Lott not-sisters are pleased with their fit into the MATCH and how easily Matchbox 3 could be turned into a Joe’s Pub-inspired space. Of the MATCH Kathryn Lott finds, “It was new. We were knew. They had this space which was just perfect, and we knew we could turn it into Joe’s Pub.”
Still, the team is committed to “fluidity” in the future, explained Allison Lott. They want the freedom “to add and not be tied to that traditional model” of a set season like many performing arts organizations. Looking, hopefully, to coming years, they plan to explore putting shows in other venues around town.
“There are going to be times when you won’t know where we’re going to pop up next. There eventually will be a big element of surprise,” promises Kathryn Lott, the woman who has just brought Houston a brimming eye-full of the faux-leopard-skin panty covered crotch of Bridget Everett. Here’s to seeing what’s next.