The big storm of a couple years ago made a big splash on stage in 2007. Southern Rep gave us two originals: Rising Water by John Biguenet and The Breach by a trio of out-of-towners. Both plays (directed by Ryan Rilette) showed us locals taking to their rooftops. In the latter drama, the flood was recreated on stage. Perhaps the most curious memorial to the terrible Madame K came in the form of Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett's 1950 meditation on mankind's eternal confusion and helplessness. What better site for existential angst than the Lower Ninth Ward? To the great surprise of everyone involved, including artistic director Paul Chan, large crowds filled the outdoor bleachers night after night and the cast got standing ovations.
Generally speaking, theater not only survived in 2007 but thrived. In addition to the usual suspects, there were some adventurous new arrivals.
The Hi-Ho Lounge hosted Robert Patrick's Kennedy's Children (directed by Michael Martin). The play celebrates Cafe Cino in New York, an off-off-Broadway landmark. The no-frills Saint Claude Avenue-bar setting gave a feeling of authenticity to the piece. Catty corner from the Hi-Ho is the Marigny Theatre. Over the years, Marigny has upgraded into a comfy little cabaret. The shows are generally getting tighter. For example, Valhalla is a Gordian knot of a script that weaves the fate of Ludwig II of Bavaria with two Texas boys. Director Glenn Meche found a way to keep it buoyant and entertaining.
Speaking of a new, no-frills auditorium, remember the Alamo! The Alamo Underground that is. Playwright Gabrielle Reisman and her bohemian henchmen have taken "necessity is the mother of invention' as their maxim and maximized it. Some other unexpected venues were used for single production engagements. Cripple Creek Theater used a storefront on Magazine Street for Waiting for Lefty and Saint Mark's Community Center for Bury the Dead (both directed by Andrew Vaught). Veronica Russell took her original one-woman show, A Different Woman (directed by Perry Martin), to the New York Fringe Festival and gave locals a chance to savor it at Barrister's Gallery.
Le Chat Noir is not a newcomer to the theater scene but had plenty of original productions. This year in conjunction with its annual one-act play contest, Le Chat commissioned eight playwrights (Jim Fitzmorris, Andrew Larimer, Gabrielle Reisman, Michael Aaron Santos, Andrew Vaught, Peter McElligot and R. J. Tsarov) to pen 10-minute dramas set at Cafe du Monde. Winning one-act contest scripts by Bradley Troll, Lucy Faust and Jennifer Pagan received staged readings. The eternally youthful and inexhaustible Ricky Graham also took the stage with several of his own divertimenti, like I Know What it Means. Carl Walker merits a tip of the hat for directing the remarkable Doubt at Southern Rep.
Le Petit brought its usual energy and talent to musicals like The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (directed by Derek Franklin and Sonny Borey) and Purlie (directed by Tommye Myrick). America's oldest continually active community theater also hosted more daring presentations. For instance, there was Martin McDonagh's blood-drenched laugh-fest The Pillowman (directed by Dane Rhodes).
The Anthony Bean Community Theater continued to tread often explosive territory with offerings like The Sty of the Blind Pig (directed by Bean). Gwendolyn Foxworth's stunning performance in that drama was one of the year's treasures.
Jefferson Performing Arts Society " in addition to announcing impressive progress toward its longtime goal of a new theater " offered solid shows like The Will Rogers Follies (directed by and starring Kris Shaw). The Actors Theater of New Orleans also seems to have found an audience in the Parish. Once again, Artistic Director René Piazza set the tone with his writing and directing, as in shows like The Game Show and A Christmas Carol " The Whole Story.
Out at Rivertown Rep, Gary Rucker carried the directorial load with shows like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Agatha Christie's murder/comedy And Then There Were None.
With apologies to all who deserved a mention that this limited space did not permit, break a leg in 2008.
- New plays in new venues, like The Root [cel.lar] at the Alamo Underground, were among the exciting developments in the local theater scene in 2007.