100 Creatives 2012: Rebecca Udden, Main Street Theater Artistic Director & Risk Taker
Rebecca "Becky" Udden knew she was risking a lot by mounting a production of Tom Stoppard's trilogy The Coast of Utopia with its length, its cast demands, its demanding subject matter. But she knew and loved the language in it, and she knew there were enough really good actors in Houston who could tackle a project like this.
Photo courtesy Main Street Theater Rebecca "Becky" Udden directed all three of the Coast of Utopia plays.
It was an incredible gamble that paid off for Main Street's executive artistic director. The theater was filled night after night; some shows were sold out; they even ran an encore marathon performance of all three plays in one day. It was a success both critically and financially.
The 1973 Rice graduate with a degree in French -- she's about to be honored by Rice on April 12 as one of four people receiving the 2012 Distinguished Alumnus Award -- founded and has worked with Main Street for more than 36 years. She started it out of a room in the Autry House at Rice, while working as a part-time secretary to the Episcopal priest who was the director of that Episcopal student center.
What she does: "As executive artistic director, I get to run both the business part and the artistic part of the theater. My main artistic assignment is the adult programming, because the people who run our education program and our theater for youth program know what they're doing. I pick the plays in consultation with the staff. And select the directors and help them cast and direct a few myself. And once in a while I'm in one."
What inspires her: "Talented people. Individuals who have a real gift. I just love working with creative people. The sum of everybody's contribution is bigger than one person's vision. That excites me."
"I love the people that I work with and I love the process. I love the problem-solving -- here are these words and how do we present them?"
If not this then what: "I honestly can't imagine. I went to school to study languages, to become a diplomat or a translator. But I don't know that I would have succeeded in that. I started grad school as a costume designer, but then I realized I wasn't really a designer, I could sew like the devil. There's been various times over the years I thought maybe I could be a teacher. But I'm not sure I'm suited for that. I just have no idea what I'd do.
If not here then where: "If I could transport my whole life back to East Tennessee, I'd do it in a minute. I do love that part of the country. I'd also love to live in New York City; my daughters are there. Both graduated, have jobs and are sharing an apartment in Manhattan, living the dream. "
What's next: "That is the $100,000 question for us. What do we do next? We started a capital campaign many years ago and then the economy tanked...to purchase and renovate our Times Boulevard space. I think that's going to be next year's focus -- really putting all of our energies into raising as much money as we can, doing as much as we can to that space to make it a little more comfortable, more audience-friendly and actor-friendly and stop the leaks, air-condition the back stage."
"I don't have any huge projects, à la Coast of Utopia. But I have a lot of new plays I'm interested in. I think next year may be a series of new work."
More Creatives for 2012
(In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer
Paul Fredric, author
John Sparagana, photographer
Damon Smith, musician and visual artist
Geoff Winningham, photographer
Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist
Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor
Katya Horner, photographer
Johnathan Felton, artist
Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer
Carol Simmons, hair stylist
Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet
Greg Carter, director
Kenn McLaughlin, theater director
Justin Whitney, musician
Antone Pham, tattoo artist
Susie Silbert, crafts
Lauralee Capelo, hair designer
Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer
Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ
ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director
J.J. Johnston, theater director
Mary Margaret Hansen, artist
Richard Tallent, photographer
Viswa Subbaraman, opera director
Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist
Sonja Roesch, gallery owner
Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor
Sandy Ewen, musician
Camella Clements, puppeteer
Wade Wilson, gallery owner
Magid Salmi, photographer
Carl Williams, playwright