So Happy Together
What’s a seven-letter word for collaboration?
Ka-HOOTZ Theatre Company is the brainchild of playwrights Lou Clark and Clareann Despain. After graduating with MFAs from UNM, they realized that the opportunity to have their work staged locally was less than abundant. Clark wanted to create a space for the work she loved, work that was seeing the stage in other cities but was going unproduced here. “How can I make that happen?” she asked. “I'd produced over a hundred new plays in the past five or six years, so I thought if I can do it for all these other people, I can do it for me and I can do it for my friends. Help other like-minded people.” So in 2007, Ka-HOOTZ was born with the mission to “focus on new work by living writers.”
Wait—no Tennessee Williams? No Aristophanes? No Bard?
Nope. New work, world premieres. It’s a difficult challenge and one not yet completely realized, but a goal Clark found she had common company in pursuing. Soon after starting Ka-HOOTZ, she met Becca Holmes, a director Clark describes as “truly passionate about new plays. I met her at a time when I was really fragile as a playwright.” Holmes quelled Clark’s nervousness and concerns simply by saying—it’s OK, it’s your play. From that point, Clark knew she had found another collaborator, and they’ve been adding cohorts ever since.
Holmes is a New Mexico native who has taught directing at UNM, but both she and Clark had previously been part of Seattle’s fringe theater movement, which Holmes describes as “intense” and a model for what their group is trying to bring to Albuquerque.
Clark agrees. “We want to do something different than community theater … Free theater, that can really make room for experimentation.”
Ka-HOOTZ’s first production, The 49 Sins, was certainly unconventional, debuting 49 short plays as part of one show at the N4th Art Center. However, the group didn’t yet have a permanent home. Enter Eli Browning, founder of Aux Dog Theatre. Both Clark and Holmes had directed plays at Aux Dog and the three kept in touch. Browning proposed the idea that Ka-HOOTZ join his own troupe, Good Pasture Productions, and become one of the theater’s companies-in-residence. So, one theater, two companies.
Actually, make that three. Sol Arts has also joined the party.
The goal is to have each ensemble produce three mainstage shows a year, and Browning would like to see even more than that. “I don’t want to close the doors. If we can start opening them up weeknights, all the time, that would be fantastic.” He refers to a concept that was key in the founding of Aux Dog: creating an arts incubator, a “center for artists.” He sees the collaboration with Ka-HOOTZ as stemming naturally from this, and all involved are optimistic about public response. “If you are innovative and risk-taking with your concept, people will respond to that.”