July 25, 2007
Infernal Bridegroom shuts down

This is a shame.

Infernal Bridegroom Productions, Houston's foremost avant-garde theater company, has ceased operations because of "insurmountable financial difficulties."

The news was made public late Tuesday in an e-mail released by IBP board president Chet Farmer. The company's own phone line was disconnected.

Tamarie Cooper, a founding company member and IBP's acting artistic director, could not be reached for comment.

Founded in 1993, IBP specialized in Houston premieres of bold works by such cutting-edge playwrights as Richard Foreman, Maria Irene Fornes, Sarah Kane, Heiner Müller and Wallace Shawn, mixed with avant-garde classics by such masters as Samuel Becket, Bertolt Brecht, Jean Genet and Eugene Ionesco.

For its often rough-hewn yet usually potent renditions of daring fare -- as well as its troupe of original and idiosyncratic writer-performers -- IBP attracted a loyal following locally and, in recent years, increasing national attention.


Reached Tuesday afternoon, Farmer declined to share any details of the "financial difficulties" that killed IBP.

"I can't comment," he said, noting his occupation is "software guy" but that as board president, it had fallen to him to make the unhappy announcement.

"The decision was made by the organization, unanimously." Farmer added that key players like Cooper and Schulze would not discuss the details, either. "Nobody can comment on it. It's just a hard environment out there," he said, presumably meaning the financial climate for arts groups.


It's hard to believe that, if IBP's financial crisis were known, one or more of the city's arts benefactors would not have come to the company's rescue.

Though relatively small in size, IBP was large in content and impact. With its intriguing programming and flair for the unexpected, it filled a unique niche in a city whose theaters rarely stray from convention and predictability.

It had the vibe and the aesthetic of a troupe you'd fine in a funkier, more free-wheeling town -- say, Austin, or pre-Katrina New Orleans. Even with the occasional misfire, and there were a few, IBP was always interesting.

If it's really true that there's no way for the IBP gang to regroup and resurrect the company, then Houston has lost a crucial component of its cultural scene.

I have to agree with both aspects of that assessment. It's just about impossible for me to believe that someone wouldn't have been willing - eager, even - to set up a foundation of some kind to keep IBP rolling. In fact, I'll be more than a little surprised if people don't come forward now to make the offer. Maybe then we'll get a better idea of what the financial issues were. I hope - and I hate to say this, but reading between the lines, I've got a small nagging feeling - that it isn't the result of malfeasance of some kind. But whatever the case, if that's all she wrote for IBP, then this is a bad day for Houston. As with more tangible icons like the River Oaks Theater, once it's gone we'll never see its like again, and that's a big loss. Thanks to blogHouston for the link.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 25, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston