NOLA’s Theater Scene
I really, really, really, really wish I could tell you that curtains will momentarily be going up around town. But that would be fake news and there’s enough of that out there already (Hydroxychloroquine or bleach anybody?)
Instead, if you’d like to see local entertainers, there are a number of opportunities online. Here are some of them:
—Summer Lyric Theatre at Tulane University (SLT) will be offering its annual GiveNOLA Day Cabaret “Virtually On the Air” streaming live on Tuesday, June 2, at 2:00 pm (Youtube Live) and 7:00 pm (Facebook Live).
SLT – Virtually On the Air will feature a multitude of performers including Liz Argus, Rich Arnold, Trina Beck, Leslie Castay, Keith & Leslie Claverie, Cade Garafola, Liam Gillen, Ken Goode Jr., Charis Gullage, John Michael Haas, David Hoover, Sydney Jack, Amelia Jacquat, Polanco Jones Jr., Chase Kamata, Rachel Looney, Shangobunmi McAlpine, Sarah Jane McMahon, Jessica Mixon, Whitney Mixon, Kevin Murphy, Meredith Owens, Sean Patterson, Dody Piper, Amy Primmer, Hannah Rachal, Leonard Raybon, Aaron Richert, Mandy Ridgdell, Josiah Rogers, Adam Seagrave, Renell Taylor, Jessie Terrebonne Thompson, Jefferson Turner, Mandy Zirkenbach and many more.
Though I wouldn’t swear to it, if you miss the June 2 broadcast but make a significant donation to SLT, I suspect you’ll be able to view it at your leisure. [Note: Turns out you can watch it via the link above even without a significant donation, though I’m sure any support you care to give SLT would be appreciated.]
–That wonderful adventurous troupe Mondo Bizarro has just released an 18-minute documentary about Cry You One (Watch on Youtube), its site-responsive performance and multimedia “environmental odyssey” project about the disappearance of coastal Louisiana, the people who live there, and what is being done to save their homes.
If you couldn’t participate in this “outdoor processional performance”, as Mondo Bizarro’s Co-Artistic Director Nick Slie describes it, this film, with its magnificent cinematography and stirring Cajun music, is the next best thing.
—Petit Pranks, Le Petit Theatre’s newest installment in its radio play series, premieres Friday, June 12, at 7:30 pm. This half-hour medley of comedy classics will feature Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First?, selections from George Burns and Gracie Allen’s almost absurdist routines, game show spoof It Pays to be Ignorant, and more.
There are two viewing options: via a watch party on Facebook Live (www.facebook.com/LePetitNOLA), or streaming the show on Le Petit’s website (www.lepetittheatre.com). Sounds like fun, something we can all use these days.
—LOUD’s queer youth theater ensemble has written a new play called The Scarlet Rebellion, about queer and trans youth of color who attempt to overthrow an abusive government and build community while learning the challenges of creating a new society that cares for all. The play’s immersive visual world promises to include some ethereal beings and visits to the Astral Plane.
The Scarlet Rebellion will be performed via a live stream on Facebook on Friday, June 12, at 7:00 pm. Tickets for this extravaganza are free for youth and sliding scale for adults, starting at $5.
–The performers may not be local but producer Mark Cortale is and he’s announced that Seth Rudetsky’s Broadway concert series will debut as a weekly virtual show entitled The Seth Concert Series. Similar to Broadway@NOCCA, these up-close-and-personal weekly cabaret/interviews will feature Broadway stars in a mix of intimate behind-the-scenes stories prompted by Rudetsky’s probing questions and songs from each headliner’s show biz career.
Hosted by musical director Rudetsky, unfortunately, the first event, featuring Tony Award-winner Kelli O’Hara, took place already on May 31. But you can still catch stage and screen favorites Jeremy Jordan and Jessie Mueller on June 14 and June 21, respectively. Reviewing Jordan when he was here last year, I wrote that he “delivered an endearingly marvelous show” and “proved to be both cheeky and completely down-to-earth. And very cute.”
Each weekly show will premiere Sunday nights at 8:00 pm EDT/7:00 pm CDT with a second showing Mondays at 3:00 pm EDT/2:00 pm CDT. Tickets are available at www.thesethconcertseries.com for $20 (early bird)/$25 each.
–For The Radical Buffoons, check out Jon Greene’s PAST PRESENT FUTURE article below. In addition, for GiveNOLA Day, the Buffoons are presenting their “First-Annual-Last-Ever Alone-a-thon” from midnight till 11:59 pm on June 2 where every hour-on-the-hour they’ll serve up aural entertainment from favorite artists. Each installment will then be shared every 5-past-the-following-hour on Instagram and their webpage. They’re also promising “all kinds of special online surprises throughout the day!” [Note: The “First-Annual-Last-Ever Alone-a-thon” was postponed; check The Radical Buffoons’ website (below) for news of its rescheduling.]
And, finally, I’d like to add the following shows to the list in our previous issue of those productions that, sadly, had to be canceled, or that were postponed and which we can still look forward to seeing eventually.
A Chorus Line, Playmakers of Covington
Escape to Margaritaville (return engagement), Saenger
Summer and Smoke, Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of N.O., rescheduled for Summer 2021
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, 30 by Ninety Theatre
Little Shop of Horrors, Slidell Little Theatre
Let’s hope that the talents of everyone involved in these productions will soon be seen again.
PAST PRESENT FUTURE II
With no shows to critique or even help publicize, I wanted to offer this column to Artistic Directors of New Orleans’ theater companies to let us know what was going on when things shut down, what they’re doing now, and what plans they have for the future.
For the second installment of PAST PRESENT FUTURE, Jon Greene of The Radical Buffoons shares his thoughts with us. Reviewing 2015’s Faustus, I wrote “Greene, making a noteworthy New Orleans directorial debut, provides a visually & aurally stunning mise en scène.” Describing The NOLA Project’s The Spider Queen in 2017, I thought “Greene’s direction is worthy of an epic.” I also greatly admired his performance in 2018’s Balloonacy and co-direction (with Torey Hayward) of Barbecue last year.
The Radical Buffoons (TRB) was one-third of the way through our 3rd, and most ambitious season when the stay-at-home order took effect in New Orleans (how apropos).
The season began with parties – A Season Announcement in July and As The World Burns, our anti-gala, in October – to help us grow and connect with the communities that support our work. In December, we produced our second Young Audiences Track production, Rap Unzel. Directed by Torey Hayward, who worked closely with Austin-based playwright Jeremy Rashad Brown, it was a joyous NOLA-centric music and dance experience for families and forged our connection with several local elementary schools.
By the time 2020 rolled in we were picking up steam.
We’d started workshop/explorations with 5 collaborative NOLA artists for our LAB Track Dreams project (set to premiere in June), and green-screen-filmed a series of virtual reality segments for our April Main Stage Track co-production with Delgado Community College of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which had begun rehearsing March 2.
Organizationally we had hired two new amazing staff members, Torey Hayward and AshleyRose Bailey in the positions of Associate Artistic Director and Managing Director, respectively. We’d moved into an office space, grew our Board, honed what membership in our collective can and could mean, and ensured that our newly enlarged season budget prioritized the artists we were working with.
But alas, what started with a bang, ended with a whimper (for now).
Though we’re an ambitious organization that dreams extra-big (just look at our mission statement), we are actually still quite small. This has given us a unique ability to bend – without breaking – to the current state of the world.
Obviously, some difficult choices were unavoidable. We had to immediately halt our rehearsals for R and G and plan a postponed presentation in Season 4 (more on that below). We also had to cancel our June LAB production of Dreams.
While these decisions meant that our third season would end in abrupt disappointment, there was a silver lining. Participating artists were included in every discussion so that their health and safety as well as their artistic integrity played a part in the decisions we made together. It was a profound reminder to me – who had been so deeply head down in the ‘business of theater’ – that, in the end, no matter which track or what show, our work is only successful if the humans we work with take precedent. Taking this lesson to heart, we’ve been using our forced sabbatical to focus inward and assess who we want to be when we get to the other side, whatever that may look like.
In our recent announcement of the Dreams cancellation, I wrote that for the time being the only certainty is uncertainty. Luckily, a lot of theatrical work – and especially the comically dark kind – thrives on a sense of ambiguity. To move forward, we’re trying to strike a balance between making plans (but not too many) and letting go lightly in the event of…well, you know.
Our fourth season will start July 1 (which feels both like tomorrow and a century away).
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern has been postponed to August 26-31, essentially making it the first production of the season. We’ve been discussing a variety of options for the show because we clearly don’t know what rules for public gatherings will be like then. But as before, we’ll ensure that the entire producing, production, and performance teams are involved in making the decision as to how we can possibly move forward.
Beyond that, production-wise, there isn’t too much to say yet. We have selected some really wild plays for our Main Stage and YA track, and we’re very hopeful that we will be able to share them. Until then, we’re working alongside many other companies in New Orleans to assess the future and create innovative ways to address the necessary changes to how, for now, we assemble publicly and present our work.
Meanwhile, we’re going to invest time and thought into continuing to grow our LAB Track – our home for new work, wild ideas, and experimentation. We have two exciting projects in the early stages that we’ll be cultivating. We’ve also been asking ourselves the question of what a theater company can be during a time when it perhaps can’t present content. Our answers (and more questions) have been exciting and focused us on some really great community-building initiatives that we hope to roll out over the summer months.
We have GiveNOLA Day coming up June 2 and we’ll be fundraising then. Follow and like us on social media @theradbuffs on Instagram and Twitter, on Facebook (facebook.com/theradbuffs), and visit our webpage (www.radicalbuffoons.com) to join our mailing list and stay up to date on what’s coming down the pike!
On a personal note, I had considered changing the epigraph we use at the bottom of our company emails because, as we’ve grown, it felt like shifting the tone might be appropriate. The quote is from Mel Brooks and reads, “Humor is just another defense against the universe.” So it is, especially now.
Jon Greene is the Artistic Director of The Radical Buffoons. An award-winning director, his productions have been nominated for 11 Big Easy Awards, selected for “Top Ten Plays of the Year” in NOLA.com, and seen by over 3000 theatergoers. Outside of New Orleans, he has developed, directed, and performed theatrical work in Boston, Minneapolis, Deadwood, SD, Chicago, Indianapolis, Singapore, Argentina, Italy, and Prague. He holds a BFA from Boston University, is a Kennedy Center Directing Fellow, and a Teaching Artist for Young Audiences of Louisiana.