Art in Ruin is a new personal photography project by Laura Bergerol. It is timed to be ready by 8/29/14 (the ninth anniversary of Katrina making land in New Orleans.) My inspiration for this project began with a house that I noticed several weeks ago on Earhart Expressway, that was colorful and cheerful. When I went back to investigate, I realized that though the house was decaying, someone had painted wonderful things on it; and it looked as if it was ready to dance on Mardi Gras day. After I noticed the first house, I did more research and realized that there are many houses and buildings in New Orleans, that have also been “made beautiful” both by human hands, and by nature. When I went to photograph them, I realized that there was a “strong chance” that many of these houses will disappear into dust (some sooner than others) as their structures are less than stable, so the need to document them became more urgent. I suspect that this project may eventually expand to other cities, other than New Orleans, but for now, New Orleans gets my attention. I plan to offer a book of the photos, and all profits after cost will go to Animal Rescue New Orleans (www.animalrescueneworleans.org) who have been rescuing and finding homes for the dogs and cats of New Orleans since Katrina. Eventually, there will be a website (http://artinruin.org) but for now the photos live on my photography site; Art in Ruin and on the Art in Ruin Facebook page; Facebook page.
Southern Rep Theater, in conjunction with the CAC presents now through April 14 the latest play by John Biguenet in his Rising Water trilogy, Mold. His previous two installments, Rising Waters and Shotgun received critical acclaim, and this third installment also rises to the occasion. Be informed, there are spoilers to follow.
I knew this would be a difficult play to watch, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be until I walked into the theater, saw the stage and then felt the wounds of Katrina reopening inside. The set evoked a visceral reaction: the screen door wide open, the furniture looked as if it had been agitated in a washing machine, the buckled floor and warped ceiling fan blades drooping from gravity’s pull and the splattered walls of Katrina patina that looks like a speckled yard egg. When Emile Guidry (played by Trey Burvant) and his wife Marie (played by Kerry Cahill) pushed open the swollen front door, the audience could then see the orange Katrina X-code: 9/21 – CA7 – 0 – 2 dead.
In the first act, Emile and Marie are in his parents home 1 year after the storm waiting to meet the insurance adjuster. It took them a long time to return and the shock of the condition inside as they push the front door open is overwhelming. The third character, Mrs. Delachaise (played by Carol Sutton) a volunteer with the City of New Orleans shows up first, and is tasked with condemning properties and marking homes for demolition, the Guidry home included. Emile is beside himself dealing with the grief of destruction as he meets the coldness of bureaucracy embodied by Mrs. Delachaise, but as he sulks off, Marie and Mrs. Delachaise bond on the porch with Mrs. Delachaise reliving her experiences going through Hurricane Betsy and then astutely diagnosing Marie expecting a child. It was one of those bonding experiences we all know during a storm: with the power out and no electronic gadgets to distract us, we turn to the old ways of conversation and story telling and bonding with strangers while sharing the experience going through the disaster.
The second act opens with the fourth character Mr. Bernard the adjuster (played by Randy Maggiore). He introduces Emile to the 5th kingdom of mold, and the battle that everyone endures fighting for insurance payouts to become whole again. The arguing sets off Mr. Bernard, who angrily relives rescuing people with his boat in the aftermath of the flood, pointing out that Emile was far away, sipping coffee in Houston. Turns out after all the discussion, Emile’s parents don’t have flood insurance, and the grand total of the settlement comes to a measly $1200. It is after Mr. Bernard leaves that the struggle ensues between Emile wanting to remain in New Orleans, the proud mantra that “I’m a New Orleanian and anything is possible” clashing with Marie’s realistic view that there is no money to rebuild, nowhere to live if they did decide to do it themselves and no point in living amongst the ghosts of what New Orleans was and will never be again. Then she reveals to her husband that she is pregnant…
In the brief Q&A that followed the play, Biguenet informed the audience how he had stitched together all the vignettes from countless Katrina stories into the script of Mold. He indicated that Mold was written for all the New Orleanians caught up in the diaspora who remain in exile, as much as for those mold rooted, tenacious New Orleanians that were able to return and rebuild. One audience member wanted Biguenet to add more stories to his trilogy, but others said it was complete. I believe he has covered the experience of enduring Katrina. Mold ends with the couple holding onto each other, the future unknown, the collective experience of discovering the extent of destruction in the immediate aftermath having passed and coming to terms with the loss of loved ones and possessions. The rest of the story has yet to be written with the next step down the path different for everyone as life moves on, and that is where the trilogy ends, for now.
Thanks to Southern Rep for extending the invitation to attend. Experience Mold for yourself, its an entertaining and thought provoking journey to traverse. I hope that this trilogy makes it to the New York stage: in the aftermath of Sandy there will be a whole new audience that can appreciate the relevance and profound message Biguenet’s stories portray.
If you are ever in the mood for a day trip away from New Orleans, I highly recommend the laid back, scenic road trip to Gulfport-Biloxi via Highway 90.
Destroyed by Katrina’s storm surge,. Highway 90 is back in business and looking pretty good, although it still has a long way to go in some places.
For 30 miles along the coast local artists Marlin Miller and Dayton Scoggins have made lemonade from the lemons handed to them in 2005. I am referring the sculptures created from live oaks that were destroyed by the storm’s waters.
Here are a few examples
click on pictures for larger versions
Not all live oaks were killed in the storm. There are places that are still beautiful, such as this picture
In Bay St. Louis,
Dayle Lewis, a professional chain-saw artist from Richmond, Indiana gave an old oak tree wings when he carved a pair of angels into a tree near the beach in Bay St. Louis.
“It became the Guardian Angel Tree,” said Lewis.
The story goes that 100 years ago a member of the DeMontluzin family kept the tree from being cut when the road was built, said Douglas Niolet.
“I guess she saved it for us,” Niolet said, because he and two others found their way to the oak and hung onto it for more than three hours during Hurricane Katrina. The tree died after the storm and the survivors asked Lewis to carve it into the angels that watched over them.
Lewis said many people have told him how much joy and spirit the tree has brought to Bay St. Louis.
Right around the corner from the angel tree is the Mockingbird Cafe where you will find a menu that should suit anyone’s appetite.
The Mockingbird is located in a very old structure that has been restored beautifully inside and it is home to The Serious Bakery and all of their sandwiches are made with the bread from this bakery. The best bread I’ve ever eaten.
If you ate too much at “The Bird”, you can take a walk over the Bay Bridge and check out the awesome artwork along the bridge’s
walkway. Click on the link below for the slideshow.
Each piece of artwork on the bridge was cast in bronze that was recovered from the Bay St. Louis Bridge that was destroyed by that biatch Katrina. The roundtrip hike over the bridge is about 4 miles. Bring a camera along because the scenes from up high into the Bay can be stunning. If you’d like a closer look at the artwork on the Bridge, I have a picture of each piece at this website.
If you’re not too tired after the trek over the Bridge, Bay St. Louis offers several dozens of shops in the area of the Mockingbird. Or you can continue your route towards Gulfport – Biloxi and check out the additional tree sculptures along the coast. All in all, I consider this to be the perfect daytrip on a warm day.
Southern Rep Partners with Junebug Productions, Ashé Cultural Arts Center, and Tulane University
for the Regional Premiere of Ameriville by Universes, which runs February 24 – March 7, 2010.
In AMERIVILLE, the critically acclaimed Bronx-based ensemble group gives an emotionally riveting performance that is not only about Katrina, but also about the struggles and heartbreaks that happened in New Orleans. With the unbelievable power and passion that Universes brings to the stage, stories, facts, and memories are brought back through a mixture of poetry, hip-hop, jazz, and theatre.
Created by Universes, AMERIVILLE gives new insight and urgency to our national re-examination of what it means to be American – with heart, impassioned stomps, and incandescent harmonies. It’s a jubilant cry to rebuild America itself. Universes has created their own brand of high-energy performance, rooted in hip-hop but drawing on a global multitude of lyrical and musical influences and performance styles.
AMERIVILLE will be directed by Chay Yew, who is both a director and award-winning playwright, currently living in New York City. He has directed countless shows and is a recipient of the Dramalogue and OBIE Awards for Direction. As an alumnus of New Dramatists, he currently serves on the Executive Board of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. Yew is a graduate from Boston University.
Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, Gamal Abdel Chasten, and Ninja make up Universes. All four actors are the founders of the company. Steven Sapp, a graduate from Bard College, is a playwright/actor. Mildred Ruiz-Sapp is part of this group as a playwright/actress/vocalist. Gamal A. Chasten is a songwriter/poet/screenwriter whose work has toured in over 25 U.S. cities and 5 countries. Ninja (William Ruiz) is a playwright/director and also a graduate of Bard College. Universes is a National / International ensemble Company of multi-disciplined writers and performers who fuse Poetry, Theater, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Politics, Down Home Blues and Spanish Boleros to create moving, challenging and entertaining theatrical works. The group breaks the bounds of traditional theater to create their own brand, inviting old and new generations of theater crafters as well as the theater goers and new comers to reshape the face of American Theater.
Southern Rep Artistic Director Aimée Hayes was drawn to this wide-reaching partnership out of a shared belief in the power of Universes’ production. “When I saw AMERIVILLE in last year’s Humana Festival, I jumped to my feet along with the rest of the audience to applaud before the lights came down at the end of the show. After seeing a production that spoke to my hometown in such a ground-breaking and inspirational way, I knew we had to find a way to bring it here to share with our friends and neighbors.”
Southern Rep is proud to be part of this expansive partnership project with Junebug Productions, Ashé Cultural Arts Center, and Tulane University Department of Theatre and Dance that brings together such a diverse group of stakeholders, including school principals, teachers, members of the media, church and business leaders, as well as organizations’ board members to ensure the widest possible impact of Universes’ work in New Orleans. Thanks to the support of the National Endowment for the Arts, Louisiana Division of the Arts, Arts Council of New Orleans, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, and the National Performance Network, Southern Rep sees AMERIVILLE and Universes’ residency as fruitful and productive endeavor to benefit the New Orleans community at large.
Junebug Productions (JPI,) a professional African American arts organization located in New Orleans, Louisiana, produces, tours and presents high quality theater, dance and music that encourages and supports African Americans in the Black Belt South who are working to improve the quality of life available to themselves and others who are similarly oppressed and exploited. For the past 29 years, the company has toured the U.S. and performed internationally with John O’Neal, Junebug’s Artistic Director who co-founded the Free Southern Theater in 1963 as a cultural arm of the southern Civil Rights Movement. Junebug Productions is currently creating the Free Southern Theater Institute (FSTI) to codify the particular techniques, ethics, and aesthetics developed by FST and Junebug Productions. Artists from around the region and the nation will be able to come to New Orleans, learn the FST and JPI technique and work with the local community and artists. Junebug is currently offering the third of three pilot program courses, “From Community to Stage”, bringing in artists to work with community residents, high school and university students.
Ashé Cultural Arts Center is an effort to combine the intentions of neighborhood and economic development with the creative forces of community, culture and art to revive and reclaim a historically significant corridor in Central City New Orleans: Oretha Castle-Haley Boulevard, formerly known as Dryades Street. Ashé is a gathering place for emerging and established artists to present, create and collaborate in giving life to their art so as to activate the artistic, creative and entrepreneurial possibilities available in our community. Storytelling, poetry, music, dance, photography, and visual art all are a part of Ashé’s work to revive the possibility and vision of a true “Renaissance on the Boulevard.”
The Tulane Department of Theatre and Dance is a multi-disciplinary program that offers a fusion of performance styles and techniques in the framework of a liberal arts setting. Their diverse and international faculty teaches a mix of approaches that allow their students to explore all aspects of the theatrical and dance arts in order to help them prepare for the world around them. After beginning with the solid foundation of a hands-on curriculum, students are allowed to individualize their journey by choosing study in numerous areas that include academic research, storytelling, regional and international dance styles, acting methodology, community action, directing, choreography, design and technical stagecraft. The Department’s goal is to create the beginnings of a well-rounded dance or theatrical artist who understands where she or he fits into a larger performance community.
TICKETS AND LOCATION:
Regular ticket prices range from $20-$35: $35 for Opening Night, Wednesday February 24 (includes post-performance reception); Individual tickets are $26-$29 with special discounts for students, seniors, K-12 teachers, active military, theatre professionals (with ID) and groups of ten or more. $10 Student Rush tickets are available 15 minutes before curtain on a cash-only basis, with student ID. On the edge of the French Quarter, Southern Rep Theatre is conveniently located on the 3rd floor of the Shops of Canal Place, where validated parking is available. For more information and to order tickets, call (504) 522-6545, or visit southernrep.com.
Southern Rep continues to show that it is staging the most important, challenging, and downright mesmerizing pieces of theater New Orleans audiences are graced to experience. – Theodore P. Mahne, The Times-Picayune Lagniappe
“Their energy and realness is unmatchable.” — The Village Voice
Ameriville is an experience on many levels: percolating, bubbling, and broiling, flooding the theatre to the very last row. Hold your breath and dive in. – Theatre Louisville
“A headlong explosion of poetry, percussion, and multi-culti musical exploration that absolutely demands to be seen.” — The Boston Globe