The New New Orleans, Part One:Ricky Graham

New Orleans native; longtime theater professional

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  There are so many more fledgling theater companies and production companies and there are fewer venues. It's become more difficult for a successful show to maintain a longer run. The other big problem is there are so many distractions. There are so many other things: music festivals, there's racing. If you're a general citizen of New Orleans, it's exciting there are so many choices, but if you're a theater person, it's become more of a struggle. But there are so many more opportunities for entertainment. So that's a good and bad thing.

  When I was growing up the neighborhoods used to be so defined and so specific. If you went to Lakeview, you went to go to a seafood restaurant. Or if you went to Metairie, you were going to a store or to visit a relative or something. But now it seems like the neighborhoods are blending. Now there's a tendency to label neighborhoods more specifically. When I was growing up, people didn't say Broadmoor or Treme. Now there are all these labels on neighborhoods, but the borders seem to be blending. People don't seem to stay in their neighborhood and do things like they used to. There seems to be more interaction among the different neighborhoods and areas of the city, which is a good thing.

  There's been a lot of attention to — I always say "Marigny types," guys in porkpie hats and there are girls on bicycles wearing ballerina skirts and puppy dog ears on their heads. And I am sure they're wonderful people, but to me that was never New Orleans, that was always Austin or Seattle. It seems that aspect has been foisted on us. This is the new New Orleans? If it is, that's kind of sad. Ladies in muumuus with curlers in their hair sitting on their front stoops peeling shrimp — that's something I've always been used to and that I can accept with a good heart.

  I am afraid that's going away. A lot of that "ain't dere no more." And that's a shame. The whole New Orleans ethos has been assumed by the newcomers and regurgitated as something else. The hipsters will have like a phrase, like a "making groceries" phrase, but they use it ironically, as opposed to embracing something that's inherent to the city.

  The only thing that is constant is change. I don't know if any change is good as opposed to staying stagnant. I don't know. I can't answer that as far as the culture is concerned. Is the basic culture of the city and some of that inherent stuff that's made it so unique — is that becoming homogenized with Austin and Seattle, which have their own weirdo population?

  And I am sorry, but I love having a Walmart on the East Bank, in Orleans Parish. I love it. We just need to put a Target on Canal Street and I'll be happy. — AS TOLD TO WILL COVIELLO


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