Catastrophic Theatre’s Jason Nodler Doubles Down on Loneliness in Song About Himself

Tamarie Cooper and Jovan Jackson

Tamarie Cooper and Jovan Jackson
Photo courtesy of George Hixson

“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that.” These wise words, coined by English theater genius Samuel Beckett, are said again by Houston theater's Jason Nodler, describing his new directorial effort, Song About Himself.

The Mickle Maher play runs at Catastrophic through December 3. “The fact that play is about loneliness and runs through the holiday season is not for nothing,” Nodler says. “The holidays are a time when some become so lonely, there’s already a disorder [for] it: seasonal affective disorder. Suicides spike, and people tend to feel alone in a room full of family. We think about those who feel alienated by the holidays.”

“I’m in love with the playwright, obviously” says star and Catastrophic Theatre Associate Director Tamarie Cooper. “He’s a fav of the theater, and actually, I think the play of his that we did twice, There Is a Happiness That Morning Is, I think that goes in my top five theater viewing experiences, that’s how much he got me. So I was thrilled to read this script and just as excited when Jason said he wanted me for the part of Carol.

“It’s beautiful. It has ten different layers of things happening where one person can come in with a literary, scholarly viewpoint [full of] references to Walt Whitman," Cooper says. "And of course, all of [Maher’s] plays about life, love, death and this one particularly is about loneliness.”

Beyond the script, which Nodler refers to as “much grander than anything [the playwright] has previously attempted,” Song About Himself also serves as a bit of a homecoming for Cooper and the theater. “I haven't done as much with [Nodler] or Catastrophic in a while now since I’ve had a child.” The big exception for Cooper has been the annual original musical she writes, produces and stars in to help raise funds for Catastrophic’s entire season — next year's Tamarie's Merry Evening of Mistakes and Regrets offers a much-needed reason to survive until June.

When asked, Nodler reveals that he feels a unique kinship with those who brave his theatrical undertakings. “We receive an unusual amount of letters, emails and other such notes,” the director says. “And more often than not, they tell us that our plays for them are more than plays; they are almost spiritual experiences.” In fact, Nodler shares, the predecessor to Catastrophic Theatre was almost not a theater at all. “My original [group], Infernal Bridegroom, we considered forming as a church! [That] would have been how we got our nonprofit status. And we honestly had a long debate about it.”

 “The fact that we do dark work…” Nodler says, cutting himself off. “Well, people call it dark work; I don’t consider it dark. For me, it’s really just an expression of how I feel about things and my experience of life.”

The NYU graduate compares working on this project to a quote by (most would consider) melancholy songwriter Leonard Cohen, and it returns to this theme of loneliness. “I keep going back to this quote where he says, ‘Let’s be alone together – let’s see if we’re that strong.’ And I feel like filling a theater with a lot of lonely people, who get to be lonely together in the dark, in this intimate setting, I think people leave feeling less alone. And the laughs are magical because of that.”

Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. on November 11 through Decenber 3 at 3400 Main, #285. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit Pay-What-You-Can.