With 2013 officially underway, the Houston Theatre Scene is working hard to bring audiences theatrical delights to rival what we saw in 2012. Colton Berry, Artistic Director of Bayou City Theatrics, made a splash when his team opened an 80s Pop-Punk ROCKY HORROR SHOW. That was followed by their highly successful concert of RENT on New Year's Eve. Now, Colton Berry is putting his unique spin on a production of the Stephen Sondheim's classic piece INTO THE WOODS. Keeping a busy, frenetic schedule, Colton Berry spent a few minutes talking to me about his career, Bayou City Theatrics, Houston's Theatre Scene and his upcoming production of INTO THE WOODS.
Me: How did you get started in theatre?
Colton Berry: Oh wow. Actually, I did a play in the first grade with my first grade class. I was just kind of randomly picked out of the group of kids to play a role in it, and I fell in love. The next year, in second grade, I started taking classes with a local theatre company on the East Coast, where I grew up. And by the next year, I was doing their all youth productions. And by the seventh grade, I owned and operated an outdoor theatre company in the same area. So, I just kind of jumped in really young and that's all I did. [Laughs]
Me: When did you know that you wanted to be involved in theatre as a profession?
Colton Berry: I would say I knew that I would be an actor, director, or somehow involved in theatre by the time I was out of elementary school. I would say, by the end of fifth grade I knew that there was nothing else in the world that I wanted to do.
Me: How did you decide to create Bayou City Theatrics?
Colton Berry: Well, I was a company member at Masquerade Theatre for a season, and, you know, Masquerade Theatre unfortunately had to close their doors last year. And all of my friends who worked there and the great things that were coming out of there were no more, shall we say. It kind of sparked a fire under me to do what I had always wanted to do, which was open a theatre company in a city like Houston. And because I call Houston my home now, I thought, "this is a great opportunity and perfect timing to start pursing my dream."
Me: Bayou City Theatrics has a very exciting and ambitious season planned. How did you program your inaugural season?
Colton Berry: Well, it's a combination of a couple of things. Some of the titles were titles that I had just always loved and always wanted to do and were kind of just like dream productions. I thought, "If this was my dream company, I should start with my dream shows." Other choices were made because of factors like other theatres doing a production, so we decided to take one off, or we found a perfect actor to do this role in an audition, so we thought, "you know, this is a great show for this person." It's kind of really organic and there's even some alterations to that that are happening now that the New Year has begun. So, we've got some exciting new things that we were hoping to get, and we just got approved. So, yeah, it was an organic process, but I'm really happy with what we have and the exciting things we're going to announce here within the week.
Me: How did you specifically decide to program INTO THE WOODS?
Colton Berry: INTO THE WOODS has always been one of my favorite musicals. You know, people either love or hate Sondheim, and INTO THE WOODS has always intrigued me. It's one of my favorite Sondheim pieces, and I directed it, oh geez, in 2000-I don't know. It was about four or five years ago. And, [Pauses] I loved it. I loved every second of it. I thought after seeing the brand new production that was on the West End and transferred over to Broadway earlier last year, I thought, "Wow! This new translation is so innovative and so [Pauses] just artistic! And it's taking something that is well known and re-envisioning it." I thought, "That's exactly what we're trying to do here at Bayou City [Theatrics]. And it's kind of the perfect piece, and I love it." So, I think it kind of fell into place that that would be our opening show.
Me: Your ROCKY HORROR SHOW was infused with an 80s Pop-Punk vibe. Can audiences expect an interesting twist on your production of INTO THE WOODS?
Colton Berry: Absolutely, and we're making it our own. At every single [Bayou City Theatrics'] show that you see, you'll be able to recognize the show and be able to sing along to your favorite songs, and all the things that you love about the show and you knew about the show before, but we're always going to bring a new, interesting twist, vibe, or concept to the show. Our INTO THE WOODS is definitely like no other INTO THE WOODS you've ever seen. It's set at the turn-of-the-century, around the Steam Punk era. It's also involving-the concept, or the design at least, involves a lot of natural elements; things that you would find in the woods. Our narrator is a young child, and [Pauses] you'll see. But basically our narrator runs into the woods to run away from his father, and in order to calm him down when he gets scared when he's alone, he retells the story that his father has told him for many years, and the woods around him becomes the story that he's telling. So, characters like the witch, her costume is made of tree bark and moss, and things like that, [represent that] these trees come to life and create the story that he's telling.