Brendon Duran — a.k.a. "The Fool" — in Horse Head Theatre's The Judgment of Fools by Bernardo Cubria.
Brendon Duran — a.k.a. "The Fool" — in Horse Head Theatre's The Judgment of Fools by Bernardo Cubria.
David Tong

MasterMinds 2016 One Year Later: Horse Head Theatre Company

Jacey Little had recently finished some grant paperwork for the Houston Arts Alliance when she spoke to the Houston Press. Her mind was still decompressing from business mode.

Which is good when an organization is trying to grow from toddler to infant (and eventually to grown-up). Little, artistic director for Horse Head Theatre Company, is doing everything that’s needed – including the dreaded paperwork – to grow the modest performing arts organization whose home is migratory into a theater company with its own box office.

“It was a huge step for us to become a truly sustaining organization,” says Little about Horse Head’s acceptance into HAA’s resident incubator program, a three-year City of Houston program that helps small arts businesses take the leap from a $50,000 to $200,00 budget to something larger.

Horse Head Theatre, one of the Press’s winners of the 2016 MasterMind Awards, became known to many through The Whale: or, Moby-Dick, the at first very confusing, and then later tactile multimedia theater experience featuring Philip Hays – who acted as if he were about to be swallowed by the whale – guiding the audience through the immersive production.

Little recalls, “That came about when I sat down with Philip over a beer and asked him, ‘What do you want to do that you’ve always wanted to do and that everybody is going to be afraid of?’”

Philip Hays in The Whale: or, Moby-Dick
Philip Hays in The Whale: or, Moby-Dick
Brooks Cruzen/Blueprint Films

This year Horse Head presented another program of offbeat performance theater. First, there was the “harsh political theater” of Lidless, written by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, followed by the comedy The Judgment of Fools, a “debauched vaudevillian social experiment” that incorporated the divide over the 2016 United States Presidential election.

“One of our goals in season planning is giving the audience an experience that’s not just sitting in a dark theater and then going away and forgetting about it,” says Little.

Little says that Horse Head is in the midst of planning the 2017 season – she’s currently in talks with The Heritage Society and plans to meet with another theater company and a dance troupe about a collaborative project. She also hopes to stir the public into the mix.

“We want to expose our process more,” adds Little. “One of the reasons I think that The Whale was successful is because we created a dialogue with the public. We really want to engage our audiences in a new and exciting way.”

See who wins the 2017 MasterMind Awards at the Houston Press Artopia party starting at 8 p.m. Saturday, January 28, 2017. Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter Street. For more information, visit houstonpressartopia.com. General admission tickets range from $45 to $60. VIP admission tickets range from $75 to $100.

MasterMind Award winners 2009 Patrick Medrano and Katy Anderson, Hightower High School's Broadcast Academy, Nova Arts Project

MasterMind Award winners 2010 Reginald Adams and the Museum of Cultural Arts, Houston, Opera Vista, SoReal Cru

MasterMind Award winners 2011 Foodways Texas, Catastrophic Theatre, Nameless Sound

MasterMind Award winners 2012 The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, Alex "Pr!mo" Luster, The Pilot Light Restaurant Group

MasterMind Award winners 2013 Opera in the Heights, Karen Stokes Dance, Stark Naked Theatre

MasterMind Award winners 2014 Chuy Benitez, jhon r. stronks, Apollo Chamber Players

MasterMind Award winners 2015 Patrick Renner, Jefferson Davis High School Mariachi Pantera, Houston Arts and Media founder Mike Vance

MasterMind Award winners 2016 University of Houston's Moores Opera Center, Horse Head Theatre Co., Houston Independent School District’s EMERGE program

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