100 Creatives 2012: Jason Nodler, Artistic Director, Playwright, Director

"If I'm awake in one way or another, I'm working because everything I experience in the world influences the work that I do, and that's the unique thing about being an artist. Anything that you see or hear or feel may not become a part of your work consciously, but it's always getting in there unconsciously and the unconscious mind is so much more powerful a tool in self-expression and the making of art than the conscious mind, we're always trying to access that."

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What he does:
Jason Nodler had tried a lot of things before ending up as the artistic director of Catastrophic Theatre. He ran a campaign office at one point, worked at a coffee shop, as a booking agent, a computer network administrator and technical writer. A native of Houston, Nodler went to the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, majoring in Theater. Shortly after graduating, he moved away to New York City to attend NYU, where he studied playwriting. Eventually he made his way back to Houston and would wind up the artistic director of Infernal Bridegroom Productions for the next ten years.

After leaving Infernal Bridegroom, he spent the next few years freelance directing plays around the country, in such cities as Atlanta, Providence, Austin, New York City and Pittsburgh. When Infernal Bridegroom folded, he was asked by artists and friends of the company to come back to Houston to start up a new theater company and so along with fellow artist Tamarie Cooper, he founded Catastrophic Theatre in 2007.

Since being at Catastrophic, he's directed a number of plays such as EndgameBluefingerand American Falls and written Life Is Happy and Sad and Bluefinger: The Fall and Rise of Herman Brood. In August, he was named a finalist for Best Director and Best Artistic Director in the Houston Theater Awards sponsored by the Houston Press, and Catastrophic Theatre won Best Season, Best Supporting Actor (Troy Schulze) and Miki Johnson won Best Playwright for American Falls. Catastrophic was also named in the Houston Press MasterMinds Awards in 2011.

 

American Falls.jpg
American Falls Photo by Anthony Rathbun

Why he likes it:
He says there's a lot to being artistic director. "It's my full-time job." But like most artists, he thinks of his work as an avocation, not a vocation.

"If I'm awake in one way or another, I'm working because everything I experience in the world influences the work that I do, and that's the unique thing about being an artist. Anything that you see or hear or feel may not become a part of your work consciously, but it's always getting in there unconsciously and the unconscious mind is so much more powerful a tool in self-expression and the making of art than the conscious mind, we're always trying to access that."

What inspires him:
He's inspired by greats such as Martin Luther King Jr., Elliott Smith and Abraham Lincoln.

"I'm inspired by deeply emotional people who are maybe too sensitive and who struggle and who touch people somehow in spite of that or maybe more often because of that."

He's also inspired by people that are still here. "Because it's hard to be here and that's what my work is about, is that life is hard." More than anything, though, he is inspired by the artists that he works with and calls them his greatest inspiration "for going out there and baring their emotions and souls. They are the bravest people I know."

If not this, then what:
He's very interested in politics, basketball and superhero comics, but doesn't see that happening.

"I don't think I could really be a politician or a basketball player or a superhero...I guess I could be a hobo."

If not here, then where:
He says the island on the TV show Lost. Why there?

"You have to every day fight for survival and figure out what is going on in this weird island. You have this very apparent and urgent mission to protect yourself and the people around you and to find food, and also to figure these very bizarre mysteries. Next to that island...living anywhere seems rather banal."

What's next:
In the longer term, he says he's working on a new play about a metaphysical battle to the death between two strangers. He'll also soon be directing a new Miki Johnson play, Fleaven, which he says is a "crazy," whimsical play about a world entirely populated by disco professionals.

"It rhymes, it sings and dances. I think that people are going to see it and laugh straight through the whole thing and then walk out into the real world and not know where they are anymore."

Performances will begin on November 2 and run through the 17th at Frenetic Theater. All of the shows are always pay-what-you-can. "We want people to pay what they can truly afford, and for some people 100 dollars is a stretch and for some 5 dollars is a stretch...If you reserve your tickets and let us know you're coming even if you don't have any money at all, we'll have a seat for you."