It’s about contrast

Watertown Daily Times, By: Christina Brey June 17, 1999

Waterloo—Life is a series of contrasts.  It’s those contrasts that keep things interesting. Waterloo couple Jinx Davis and Andy Pizer invite contrast—they demand it.  An artistic pair involved in business, they have dovetailed their expansive view of the world with their life in a small city.

In the short time they have lived in Waterloo, the couple has brought back to life the spirit of a 1940s-era movie theater.  Although no longer used for films, it still remains a vehicle for communication between performers and their audiences The Mode Theater will begin the third year of performances in July.

The couple also operates a business, coaxing along a start-up company producing The Nailer, a small plastic gadget used for drywalling.

Yes, Pizer asserts sitting back in a bright teal canvas chair; it’s all about contrast.  A moth doesn’t fly into headlights in the daytime. Making their home in the upstairs of the theater—where Monroe Street ends in downtown Waterloo with sons Drew, 10; Anthony, 15; and Thane, 16.  They renovated the theater themselves, preserving the downstairs as a performance space and art gallery.

Now the family is working on another building renovation project, this time the old city hall on Madison Street, constructed in 1899.  Aided by longtime resident Kenny Hotmar, the building will be returned to its original state, when it was used by the city for various services, including the fire station and jail.  They are intent on restoring the character of the building down to the last details, including conducting a search for the old bell and bell tower that were removed and have since disappeared.

The building will house production of The Nailer, as well as a huge gallery and meeting space.  The Nailer, Pizer explains, is his patent-pending invention which ends the need for “deadwood” in the construction process when drywalling.  Made of recycled plastic, each member of the family gets involved in its production and packaging.

Speaking in a professional tone, Pizer explains the details and advantages of his invention.  But again the contrast seeps into the conversation.  He sits with his back to the original cream brick wall of the theater, covered with an eclectic collection of artwork.  A huge piece of driftwood fills a corner, bringing together the sunken living room space with the raised floor of the kitchen.

Their unique home is open to patrons who come to their shows and its every bit as comfortable and inviting as they are.  No matter what ventures they may enter as a family, Davis says, the theater is what provides them with human interaction.  “The theater we do for our social life and sanity,” she says, perched on a black leather couch.

Davis, whose one-woman dramas draw people from throughout the Midwest to her home, also features visual artists, musical performers and other actors in the performance space.  They are all people she met along the road of her life, she explains, they are all people who mean a great deal to her.

And they all keep coming back, bringing new patrons as the word spreads.  Many patrons who attend performances at the Mode are from Madison and Milwaukee.  More than half come from rural communities and there are a number who live in different states.

“Jinx’s style pushes the edge of the envelope,” Pizer says.  “They come for the edge.”

Davis says the encouragement she receives in her artistic adventures is comforting, inspiring her to keep the theater busy with activity.  The audience interaction with performers at The Mode makes the intimate theater one-of-a-kind.  In fact, Davis doesn’t know if anything quite like it exists elsewhere in the country.  Within the quiet backdrop of Waterloo, guests are welcome to roam the family’s upstairs living quarters.  They are free to argue debate and fully experience each performer.  And that draws a wide variety of patrons.

“We don’t get the normal theater-goer.  We get real people,” Davis says, pausing dramatically.  “Real people.  They know this is their space.”  Davis describes the typical theater audience as stuffy.  She grew up in academia, both parents were educators, and wanted nothing to do with “mainstream” theater.  When she stands comfortably under bright spotlights on her small, raised stage, she looks into the faces of friends and strangers seated in plastic chairs.  It’s not mainstream.  Not even close.

Davis relishes in the relationship.  She laughs warmly and deeply as she addresses her audience at a performance of “All Nets Have Holes,” her most recent work in which she portrays the sensitivity and humanity of a variety of women.  She offers no apologies for the characters whom she portrays, some with foul mouths and dim futures, and others with sweet naiveté and playful actions.   The audience gasps and giggles between bites of cheesecake throughout the performance.

Just as eager to visit The Mode as audiences, performers from throughout the United States and abroad contact the theater to schedule performances.  Davis says performers enjoy the freedom and intimacy.  “There are so few places to perform that have integrity,” Davis says.

“This is our home, and that’s the difference,” Pizer adds.

“Basically, I’m honored that they want to come here,” Davis continues.  “These aren’t people who need space to perform.”


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January 8, 2015