Je'Caryous Johnson Wants to Make Houston the New Hollywood

Since we last spoke with local playwright Je'Caryous Johnson back in 2007 his company I'm Ready Productions has been very, very busy.

"Things have been going great. We've had a lot of progress. We're venturing into film-and-television land. We've been blessed."

I'm Ready's flagship star, Vivica A. Fox, who appeared in Johnson's Whatever She Wants, is currently on tour in Johnson's Cheaper to Keep Her. And the playwright's new show Marriage Material, a spin-off of Cheaper, is currently running at the Hobby Center.

I'm Ready Productions has had a show on the road, sometimes two at the same time, since 2002. (Johnson predicts that by March of next year, he'll have three shows on the road.) "The audiences have grown and are becoming stronger and stronger, so we're excited to go to the next level with the film and television, and know that the audiences that have basically made us on the play circuit will be the foundation that will fuel the fire, so we can soar above and beyond in the film world." Johnson plans to make Houston his home base for all production, as well. "I'm still on my quest to make Houston the new Hollywood," he says. "If we could get a couple more tax incentives, it'd be a little easier." Johnson feels a film industry presence will go a long way toward making Houston the destination city it deserves to be.

"Film dictates a culture," says Johnson. "It exposes the world to what's happening now. And it can positively or negatively impact the people. Our talent keeps leaving Houston and moving to other places, because they don't see the opportunity here." Johnson has already developed an acting school to train performers for his own productions and whatever else an industry-enhanced Houston may offer. "I'm hoping to create the blueprint of how to discover somebody, taking them from an amateur to a professional and being able to craft every part of their career."

Marketplace growth and a larger appetite for Johnson's urban theater experience have definitely brought competition, but according to Johnson, the upstarts lack the ammunition to actually compete. "This is the era where only the strong-and-skilled survive. Skill is certainly the thing that's allowing I'm Ready Productions to stay above the fray. The bar has been raised so high, that everybody can't just jump in here."

Check out I'm Ready's snazzy ad for Marriage Material, featuring former TLC member T-Boz:

In Marriage Material, feisty female lawyer Koren, having burned down her cheating boyfriend's house in Cheaper to Keep Her, meets new man Joey who convinces Koren to attend a couples' retreat. Things heat up when Koren's ex arrives at the retreat, engaged to her best friend. You can expect a ready-and-raucous crowd for this one. Our experience of Johnson's Whatever She Wants at the Verizon in 2007 was one of the most unique we can remember.

(Marriage Material runs through November 7 at the Hobby Center. Tickets here.)

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