As 2010 draws to a close, a look back shows a busy and productive year for local artists and entertainers, but also one full of promising developments.
- Photo courtesy HBO
- David Simon's series Treme brought the flavor of New Orleans' neighborhood clubs like Vaughan's and Kermit Ruffins' jazz jams to HBO viewers.
For three months, New Orleans showed the nation it is ready for its closeup via David Simon's HBO series Treme. A slew of local writers, actors and musicians got more than 15 minutes of fame out of the drama set in post-Katrina New Orleans. Artists including Dr. John, Donald Harrison, Kermit Ruffins and Benny Jones played themselves as the show went to great lengths to demontrate its knowledge of local music. Exposure coincided with Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews' national rise (see music preview, p 44) and Kermit Ruffins' October release, Happy Talk (Basin Street), which spent several weeks in the Billboard jazz chart's top ten. A second season of Treme is in production now and will debut in April 2011.
New Orleans backdrops appear in many films completed in 2010 and yet to be released. Audiences may recognize local scenery in Red, Welcome to the Rileys, The Green Lantern, Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Mighty Fine and many other productions. Other local shooting included another season of MTV's The Real World, the Imagination Movers' third season, Spike Lee's If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don't Rise and scenes for The Young and the Restless.
It also was a busy year on local stages. Southern Rep offered new works, like Sarah Ruhl's 2009 play In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), a world premiere for Steve Yockey's Afterlife: A Ghost Story, and a host of programming in partnership with Le Chat Noir, where it schedules shows, including the monthly events like 6x6, featuring short works by local writers. Southern Rep also recently announced YO NOLA, a free after-school drama training program serving students enrolled at Success Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Treme.
The downtown theater scene blossomed in 2010. The AllWays Lounge closed the year with an exciting production of The Threepenny Opera. Veteran and young actors and musicians put together a great production that also brought together Uptown and Downtown talents and audiences. Also in the neighborhood, the New Orleans Fringe Festival filled the Marigny and Bywater with high-quality shows in a variety of genres and genre mashups, many of them by local companies. In just its third year, the festival hit an impressive stride.
While puppet theater is nothing new in New Orleans, suddenly puppets are everywhere. The Mudlark Public Theatre hosted what seemed like a mini-puppet festival within the Fringe, highlighted by the house troupe's show Hunter's Blind. Arthur Mintz's puppet odyssey version of Fantastic Mr. Fox opened in April, filling the third floor of the Contemporary Arts Center. The show reopened in November and runs through January. On the music front, Marrero puppet rapper Lil Doogie released YeahBrahCaDaBrah.
In visual art, young artists were often the spotlight in 2010. At the New Orleans Museum of Art, Miranda Lash, curator of modern and contemporary art, brought in shows by local artists including Skylar Fein and Matt Vis and Tony Campbell, the duo behind Generic Art Solutions. With international art biennial Prospect.2 postponed to 2011, director Dan Cameron created Prospect.1.5, featuring artists with local connections, including new residents Michael Pajon and Justin Faunce in a show at Madame John's Legacy (632 Dumaine St.) through Jan. 20, and New Orleans-born artists, like Maximilian Toth, whose work is currently on display at Good Children Gallery (4037 St. Claude Ave.).