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Meet Dianne K. Webb of Next Iteration Theater Company in Midtown and Sawyer Heights

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dianne K. Webb.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Dianne. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Next Iteration Theater (NITC) was conceived of in 2014 on the drive home from an art show opening of my work in Boston. It was then that I developed the basic idea of Next Iteration Theater…a thought-provoking theater company that produced relevant, intercultural, new and diverse works that would be affordable and accessible to everyone. I see theater as something essential to both the personal and social conversation. Theater is living, breathing. Actors meet us in the flesh with their storytelling, with the potential of providing a mirror to our lives as we know them and to provide us with material to imaging something other.

I was also committed to the idea that actors deserve a living wage…rather than a few dollars for weeks and hours of work after their “day” jobs. Actors are artists. They create from the constant pursuit of the understanding of their own humanity and the humanity of others. Excellence in theater is a full time job. It was my goal to create a theater that paid living wages to all its creatives. I knew I could not begin that way. For a theater troupe of just 6 people and a director to be paid full time with a living wage, where they wouldn’t NEED another job would cost about $500,000 a year. We would have to build to that. But we pay all of our creatives for their time and efforts.

I really couldn’t have begun in earnest without the help of Tayyba Kanwal, who was for the first 18 months, our Managing Director. It was Tayyba who set up the systems and relationships that would become the foundations of the “business” for NITC. She allowed me to focus on the artistic relationships and programming that would define Next Iteration Theater. Tayyba still is our volunteer bookkeeper as I am the volunteer artistic director.

In two short years, we have produced two full length shows (one a world premiere, the other a workshop production), the first biennial ReadFest, two Intercultural Play Reading Series, introduced Next Iteration Conversations—a professional development forum for theater creatives, and are in the process of building a core company and the foundations for our own devised work..

Has it been a smooth road?
In many ways, the road has been wonderful. In other ways, there have been many challenges. Probably the most challenging is fundraising. As a theater company, we are dependent on the generosity of others. As a theater company that is committed to “pay-what-you-can” tickets, we are even more exposed. Building a base of support of people who are willing to help fund us, as a new company has been challenging and we are still working on this. But, in the same way that this has been challenging, support has also often been surprising and the generosity of those who have become our village always kind of takes my breath away.

The amount of time that must be spent on the business of Next Iteration can also feel challenging to the creative side of who I am. I thrive when working with actors, designers, writers. This creative space calls me and feeds me deeply. Balancing the business with the creative is always a struggle.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Next Iteration Theater Company – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Theater is action. It is dynamic, living, interactive, generative, and creative. In theater, what gets under the skin, what gnaws at the bones is the intimate storytelling, the breath, the voice, the body almost within reach enacting life—mine or yours, or someone else’s in a way that provokes, causes questions to form, challenges assumptions, dares us to see more, to understand anew. In the relative safe space of the theater we are free to uncover, uncork, unveil, and reveal all the nooks and crannies of our humanness. Who are we? Why are we? Do we mean it? What do we mean? Do you feel it? Are you hungry for it?

One thing that distinguishes Next Iteration Theater is the diversity of our board, our actors and all our creatives (including designers and crew) and even our audiences. We exist in the most diverse city in the U.S. and we want to truly look like that city on stage. We want to reach out to each group in the city and sooner or later make sure that they see themselves on the stage. Often theater represents a predominantly white male point of view. The playwright, the actors, the director, the boards. It’s not that we want to devalue that point of view, but at NITC we are interested in underrepresented voices, those points of view that are often left out of the conversation. We have produced work by various genders, orientations, nationalities, ethnicities, origins, and religions. Our creatives represent the same groupings. We are proud of this fact and we work diligently to continue it.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love the diversity of Houston. Truly. I love the challenge and opportunity of thinking about things differently, beyond my own imagining as I seek to understand and hear those around me. What a gift.

What do I like least? Everyone always says the traffic or the weather, but I think for me it is that there is no “walking city.” I live “in the loop” but a car is still necessary. I think it would be awesome to develop a “walking and light rail” city center inside the 610 loop.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Pin Lim

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