Mx. Justin Vivian Bond opens the group's second season Oct. 20 & 21

When it launched last year, few could have imagined the effect Lott Entertainment Presents would have on Houston’s performing arts scene. In its first season, the avant garde theater presenter brought provocative entertainers such as Bridget Everett and Daniel Koren to the local stage, shocking and delighting audiences. In a well-established and respected theater scene that offers everything from drama to musicals, here was a new operator bringing some of the most outside-the-box shows ever to hit the Bayou City.

Lott Entertainment is the brainchild of friends Allison and Kathryn Lott (actually not related, go figure). The two met when they both worked at the Society for Performing Arts and later began strategizing something altogether new. This season Lott Entertainment will showcase performers from transgender Tony-nominee Justin Vivian Bond to musician Chase Padgett's premiere of his original work, 6 Guitars.

We chatted with Kathryn about the second season, a new collaboration with the Alley Theatre and the relationship with NYC-based Joe’s Pub.

Why did you guys decide to create this company?
We identified a huge artistic void that existed in Houston. This is such a world-class city but we weren’t seeing some of the more cutting-edge, boundary breaking artists in smaller, more intimate venues that we see in cities like New York, Montreal, Paris, Chicago or San Francisco. It’s an audience experience that we felt was missing in that cabaret setting. A lot of those shows are a little bawdy. You’ve got your cocktail with you and the whole experience feels risky and slightly dangerous, we wanted to bring that element to Houston.

In your first season, shows were performed at the MATCH theater complex in Midtown. But this season, it all moves to Alley Theatre Downtown. How did come about?

We had a huge amount of support from the arts community in our first season and I think about half of the staff from the Alley attended our performances. We were approached by the Alley about this opportunity and it totally made sense. You have this historic, magical feeling building [in the Alley]. We’re going to be performing on the Neuhaus stage, the blackbox downstairs. To sort of break the rules in a building like this, it’s even more exciting. And the Alley sees this as a complement to what they’re doing. They and the other theater companies are spending a lot of time investing in new audiences and how to attract them. This is definitely a non-traditional theater audience that we’re going to introduce to the Alley and the Theater District in a new way. 

We’re going to be doing performances in a “thrust” setting, with the audience on three sides of a stage and cabaret tables in the middle. For the first time at the Alley, there will actually be a bar inside the theater itself and patrons will be encouraged to go get cocktails during the show. 

Not long after you announced the creation of Lott Entertainment Presents last year, you guys also unveiled you were working with the famed Joe's Pub in New York City. Talk a little about that.

Houston was the first outpost of Joe’s Pub and we’re pretty proud of that. Joe’s is literally a pub attached to the Public Theater in Downtown New York. Late at night the entertainers from the show that was playing at the theater would sit around and do some of the fun, raucous acts that they loved but weren’t exactly making it to the stage. It became quite the show and a destination all itself. Now it’s a respected, programmed performing arts space. It has a magical history. In fact, it’s where Adele first performed when she came to the U.S. 

I was in love with Joe’s Pub because that was where we would go see showcases when I was at SPA. Allison introduced me to a lot of things in NYC and I got to introduce her to Joe’s. It was a bug that was put in our ear, “maybe there could be a Joe’s Pub in Houston.” Eventually, we approached them, started the conversation and the contract was done within a matter of weeks. In a way, it sort of validated what we were doing as presenters, it helped get things off the ground for us and helped both sides expand their brand. 

Do you worry that this brand of theater may be too much for local audiences?
I don’t see Houston as this conservative, uptight city. Not at all. We had the first lesbian mayor of a major city and we are a very forward thinking, provocative place. I think the arts should always be a true reflection of a community and this is part of it. It may not be for everyone, and that’s okay. But the response we've received has really been fantastic. 

What are you most excited about for this season?

All of it. But I think our opener is a really big deal. Justin Vivian Bond hasn’t been to Houston in more than a decade and yet she just came off of a Broadway tour where no tickets were available for months. This fits with the mission of what we do, presenting the type of provocative artist the community is looking for. 

I’m also excited about Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man. It’s the No. 1 comedic play off Broadway; it’s been touring and doing some amazing things. It’s a totally light and fun show, just a chance for audiences to let their hair down and have a great time. 

Check out the lineup for the second season of Lott Entertainment Presents and get tickets today.