Houston Matters

Two Decades Of Tamarie: How A Houston Theatre Tradition Evolved

Houston Actor Tamarie Cooper talks about hosting her annual, full-scale musical comedy show, now it its 21st year.

The Tamarie Cooper Show cast members
Cast members from The Tamarie Cooper Show, a full-scale musical comedy show now in its 21st year.

When Houston actor Tamarie Cooper did her second original stage show, there was one very unusual thing about it: the show was held on board a moving, yellow school bus. The theme was a field trip, and each show sat only 30 people.

“It was a very small thing,” Cooper said. “But it was super cool and fun.”

These days, in her 21st year of hosting her annual, original, full-scale musical comedy show (now usually set in a less mobile, more traditional theater space), some audience members still yearn for the old days.

Tamarie Cooper - FieldTrip

“There are some people that were at that show as audience members who still sort of hold it up as this badge of honor,” Cooper said. “Like, ‘I was on the bus – I was back in the bus days.’”

Ever since, she’s been wanting to recreate that early show, and that was a possibility this year for a little while as she planned her latest, with The Catastrophic Theatre. But it just proved too challenging from a liability standpoint and financially.

“It just became more of a problem as a grownup now to have to try to do deal with,” she said.

So, she settled this year for taking audiences on a field trip – without ever leaving the theater.

“So, it is a trip in my brain – sort of Tamarie’s existential field trip,” Cooper said.

Her annual shows tend to pay homage to the grand ole days of MGM musicals while spoofing them at the same. They feature original music and a large cast of what she calls “crazy, zany actors willing to check all of their sense of dignity at the door and just go for it.”

Each show has plenty of self-deprecating humor, which she says keeps her from having to go to therapy.

“I charge people money to work out my problems, instead of having to go pay someone else,” Cooper said. “I do sort of like coping with the madness of the world or whatever is currently occupying my mind – personal stuff, nostalgic elements, teenage angst-ridden stories – and sort of reliving them and working through them through musical theatre.”

With 21 shows under her belt, does she ever worry about running out of material?

“I do somewhat…I have once said I was going to stop – I think after my tenth show I did,” she said. “And then I turned into Cher. I just kept retiring and coming back and retiring and coming back. I’ve stopped saying, ‘I’m not going to do them anymore’ because I think I just always will.”

In the audio above, Cooper tells Houston Public Media’s Ernie Manouse about how her shows have evolved over the years.

The Tamarie Cooper Show: Field Trip! runs through Aug. 12 at the MATCH.

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