100 Creatives 2012: Rebecca Udden, Main Street Theater Artistic Director & Risk Taker

Rebecca "Becky" Udden directed all three of the Coast of Utopia plays.
Rebecca "Becky" Udden directed all three of the Coast of Utopia plays.
Photo courtesy Main Street Theater

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.

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.

She followed this up with a production of Richard III, this time not directing, but appearing in the role of Queen Margaret, the half-crazed "bag lady" who used to be in power.

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 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

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