2023 Critics’ Choice Gay Appreciation Award winner
On behalf of Tony Leggio and myself, I am delighted to announce that the winner of this year’s Critics’ Choice Gay Appreciation Award (GAA) is Where the Suga Still Sweet written by Brian Egland and produced by No Dream Deferred. The award was presented as part of the 33rd Gay Appreciation Awards at Oz New Orleans on Saturday, August 19.
Part teenage coming-of-age tale, part searing indictment of the Black Baptist church & small town closed-mindedness, and part Stephen King-ish horror story, Where the Suga Still Sweet was directed by Lauren Turner Hines and featured Donyae Asante, Atlantis Clay, Justin William Davis, Gwendolyn Foxworth, and Xel Simone in its cast. It was part of No Dream Deferred’s We Will Dream New Works Festival.
Unfortunately, when the Award was announced, Egland was in Oz’s balcony and wasn’t able to make it to the stage to receive his GAA award plaque. While we later presented it to him, here are the words he would’ve said at the ceremony–
When I wrote Where the Suga Still Sweet I felt happy and I felt free. More than I have ever felt. I am grateful beyond ways I can measure or express that the art that feeling created was seen and accepted.
Thank you to Lauren Turner Hines for bringing my play to life along with the amazing cast and crew of the production. Thank you to the National Black Theatre and SIPP Culture for being the places my art had a home to grow. Thank you to Ambush Magazine and the GAA Awards for awarding that feeling I felt that wrote the show. It’s encouragement to continue towards it and not run away.
Brian Egland and Brian Sands at the Gay Appreciation Awards; Egland holds his Critics’ Choice Award plaque forWhere the Suga Still Sweet
The Gay Appreciation Awards thank those individuals and businesses in the LGBTQ community who are often not recognized for the outstanding services they provide and contributions they make. Over 25 categories are voted on by Ambush Magazine readers. The Critics’ Choice Award, however, is selected by Ambush’s two culture vultures who see the vast majority of theater and performing arts events in the Greater New Orleans area.
While a few shows will be running during the rest of the month (Fat Squirrel’s Star-Crossed, A Midsummer Nightmare at Big Couch thru Aug. 24; 30 by Ninety’s Always A Bridesmaid in Mandeville thru Aug. 27; Slidell Little Theatre’s Beauty and the Beast thru Sept. 10), one of our city’s biggest cultural events comes to town over Labor Day Weekend. The extravaganza known as Southern Decadence returns to the streets of New Orleans with as diverse a cast of characters as one could imagine.
It’s difficult to choose among the weekend’s many offerings but NICK+ALEX Productions’ Decadence After Dark Party sounds like a winner. Their journey of sensory exploration and liberation will be at The Civic Theatre (510 O’Keefe Ave.) beginning on Saturday, September 2, at 10:00pm and going until 2:00am on Sunday, September 3. DJs Jerreth & Matt Suave promise to provide an intoxicating blend of irresistible rhythms. Uninhibited entertainment will be delivered by Nick Cranston (aka Officer Muscles), Anthony, Brady Marter, Josh Duran, and pole dancer extraordinaire Rusty Fawcett.
(clockwise from upper left: DJ Jerreth; DJ Matt Suave; Anthony; and Nick Cranston (aka Officer Muscles)
NICK+ALEX also host a Decadence Tea Dance and Parade Viewing Party at Bourbon Vieux (501 Bourbon St.) starting at 2:00pm on Sunday. Watch the Southern Decadence Parade as it strolls by while the DJs and sexy dancers return to entertain throughout the entire parade. Tickets for both parties are available at https://www.neworleansdecadence.com/
For more decadent fun after the parade, check out the 6th annual Bette Bathhouse and Beyond (Southern Decadence edition)on Sunday, September 3, beginning at 9:00pm at Café Istanbul (2372 St. Claude Ave.).
NYC impresario and part-time New Orleanian Daniel Nardicio brings Bette Bathhouse and Beyond back to New Orleans where singer/comedienne Amber Martin will recreate one of Bette Midler’s iconic shows done at NYC’s notorious gay bathhouse, the Continental Baths. The audience will be required to wear only towels, bathrobes, or underwear (bring your own towel, or rent one from the Bette staff for $2) to recreate the raunchfest vibe of the famed bathhouse.
Drew Brody and Amber Martin (photo by Koitz)
Special guest DJ Johnny Dynell will be playing “Bathhouse Disco” from the era between Amber’s sets, while Drew Brody performs as “Barry M.” on piano to accompany Amber’s Bette. Three 20-minute all-Bette song sets will feature the Continental go-go dancers–then all Bette’s are off! Tickets and more info at https://www.redeyetickets.com/bette-bathhouse-beyond-southern-decadence/?fbclid=IwAR09uqIMVotDS-jPR5nZLmXfkYWiXcn023p7uSKMV8bljRnkg7Rzrvnnxak
Post-Decadence brings a variety of offerings that will takes us into October. While Hollywood remains on strike, for those who like their entertainment live and in person, here are some of the shows that’ll be on the boards as summer gives way to fall.
The Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of New Orleans presents Spring Storm, a three-act play written by Williams when he was twenty-six years old, which did not receive its first production until 1995; an acclaimed staging followed in London in 2010.
In Spring Storm, small town gossip cuts deep. This stinging Mississippi Delta story depicts life and conflicted passions in a small town during the Great Depression as three women must make hard choices involving family, love, and self.
Directed by Salvatore Mannino, Spring Storm plays at Loyola’s Lower Depths Theatre, Sept. 8-23. More info and tickets at https://ci.ovationtix.com/35398/production/1146626
Jefferson Performing Arts Society (JPAS) opens its 46th Season with the New Orleans premiere of The View UpStairs by Max Vernon. This 2017 musical tells the story of a young fashion designer (Wes, portrayed by Donyae Asante) in present day New Orleans who buys an abandoned building in the French Quarter to transform into a retail store. When Wes time travels through a burned curtain to the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant 1970s gay bar, he embarks on a journey of self-exploration that spans two generations of queer history.
This year marked the 50th anniversary of the tragic UpStairs Lounge arson fire that resulted in the death of 32 gay men. While the show is set in this location, it is not “about” the fire, but about how gay culture has changed, evolved, moved forward and, interestingly, in some ways backwards, since the post-Stonewall/pre-AIDS era.
Director by Jack Lampert, The View UpStairs will be at the Jefferson Performing Arts Center (JPAC) for five shows, September 8-17. JPAS encourages patrons to come dressed in their favorite 1970s clothes to all performances. For ticket information and more, visit https://www.jpas.org/performance/the-view-upstairs/
JPAS is also presenting Steel Magnolias directed by Kiane D. Davis at their Westwego Cultural Center (Sept. 21-Oct. 1)(https://www.jpas.org/performance/steel-magnolias/) and on Sunday, September 24, at 2:00pm at JPAC, The Adventures of Tortoise and Hare, which promises to be “An Electrifying Experience of the Classic Aesop Fable”. For those who’ve ever wondered what happened after the race, Lightwire Theater continues the story which finds the two opponents 10 years down the road, now with children of their own and exploring modern day distractions. Expect Lightwire’s standard blend of dazzling visuals, poignant storytelling, and creative use of music from classical to pop. More info and tickets at https://www.jeffersonpac.com/events/detail/the-adventures-of-tortoise-hare-the-next-gen
Another view of gay life can be found in I Wrote A Song, a 2018 musical dramedy written and composed by Trey Ming which returns to the AllWays Lounge’s Twilight Room (2240 St. Claude Ave., Sept. 29-Oct. 9).
Based on countless true stories, I Wrote a Song is just your average boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-married, boy-looks-at-gay-porn-becomes-a-Baptist-preacher-sneaks-off-to-bathhouses-gets-outed-in-disgrace-tries-a-conversion-camp-comes-out-anyway story. And it’s set to music.
Trey Bien stars in this tale which is directed by Lola Van Ella. Gia Vaughna, Prince Octavian, La Reina, Reby Rae, Nicki Nicolai, Xena Zeit-Geist, Rebeckah Gordon-Kirk, Eros Sea and Danny Girl make up the rest of the cast. For tickets and more info, visit https://IWroteASongTheMusical.eventbrite.com
Another biographical tale will premiere on October 1 at the Saenger Theatre. A Wonderful World, A New Musical about the Life and Loves of Louis Armstrong, tells the story of Armstrong’s rise to stardom and singular musical career from the perspective of his four wives, who each had a unique impact on his life.
Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart (Aladdin) stars as Armstrong, but I’m especially looking forward to seeing NOCCA alum Renell Taylor; he’ll be in the ensemble but in 2019 was featured in NOCCA’s Guys and Dolls as Nicely Nicely Johnson and brought down the house with Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.
A Wonderful World plays at the Saenger October 1-8 before moving to the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago (October 11-29), and then, hopefully, on to Broadway. More info and tickets at https://www.louisarmstrongmusical.com/
It’s not as far north as Broadway, but Playmakers Theater in Covington presents Into the Breeches September 30-October 15. George Brant’s play takes place during World War II, when the Oberon Play House’s director and leading men are off at war. Determined to press on, the director’s wife sets out to produce an all-female version of Shakespeare’s Henriad (Richard II; Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2; and Henry V), assembling an increasingly unexpected team united in desire, if not actual theater experience. Together they deliver a celebration of collaboration and persistence. For tickets and more info, go to https://playmakers-theater-05.webself.net/
Also on the Northshore, 30 by Ninety Theatre is doing Jason Robert Brown’s 13 The Musical, which asks the question “After moving from big-city New York to podunk Appleton, Indiana, if Evan Goldman can’t get the coolest kids to come to his bar mitzvah, how is he going to survive the school year, not to mention, the rest of his life?” This mishigas runs September 8-17 (https://30byninety.com/shows/13-the-musical/)
For those wanting something a little more sophisticated, New Orleans Opera follows up last year’s The Barber of Seville with Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro which continues the lives and loves of Beaumarchais’ classic characters. Fun fact: The grandson of Librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte (who also provided the same for Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte) wound up in New Orleans and was one of the founders of Rex; Rosa Park, off St. Charles Avenue, is named after his wife, and his great-granddaughter lives in New Orleans and is a practicing attorney here.
Performances of Figaro are Friday, September 29, and Sunday, October 1, at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts. Tickets and more can be found at https://neworleansopera.org/the-marriage-of-figaro/
And for those wanting something a little more, er, unique, these last three events are for you.
The spectacular Night of 1000 Stevies New Orleans — the largest Stevie Nicks fan event in the world — returns for its 4th NOLA edition on October 7 to Howlin’ Wolf (907 South Peters). Neither a contest nor a karaoke show, NOTS promises the ultimate Stevie Nicks celebration, a profusion of shawls, lace, baby’s breath, twirling, tambourines and a wide range of interpretations of the goddess Nicks by performers from all over the country. More info and tickets at https://1000stevies.com/nots-new-orleans/
The next night, October 8, at Café Istanbul, Daniel Nardicio Productions presents Witch Perfect, a live-singing, comedy parody based on the cult-classic film, Hocus Pocus. This spooktacular features RuPaul’s Drag Race Emmy-winning veterans Tina Burner as Winifred, Scarlet Envy as Sara, and Alexis Michelle as Mary, and hits from such pop icons as Kylie Minogue, Madonna, and Cher, plus parodies of Disney classics and Broadway standards from Gypsy and Wicked, as well as the infamous showstopper “I Put a Spell on You.” (https://www.redeyetickets.com/witch-perfect-nola/)
And last but certainly not least, Aqua Mob, New Orleans’ first and only community-based water ballet ensemble, returns to The Drifter Hotel (3522 Tulane Ave.) with Carrie: Blood in the Water, a musical aquatic adaptation of the classic horror story about a young woman tormented both at school and at home. As her pain is channeled through her growing telekinetic power, there is one shining moment of joy offered to her at her senior prom.
Written and directed by William Holden, Carrie: Blood in the Water opens on September 28 and runs until October 7. Doors open at 7:30pm, and the show begins at 8:00pm. As I’ve learned, get there early for best seats! Tickets and more info at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/carrie-blood-in-the-water-tickets-698151829917
The cast of Carrie: Blood in the Water