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NoDef Nods: Theatre
Theatre, Person, & Story of the Year
2011 was wild a ride that saw Aimée Hayes guide Southern Rep through tough waters and into successive hits, The St. Claude Corridor rise as a theatre power and suddenly have to deal with being in the spotlight, and finally, the shocking close of two mainstay theatrical venues while a new one rose in Mid City.
It was a time of precarious transition, and I, for one, am interested to see if the next will solidify the trends begun or spin us off our axis once more. However, before the New Year begins I wanted to take one more look back and give you my theatre, person, and story of 2011. These picks are about the doing, the done, and the action. The company, man, and the donnybrook I have chosen are nothing more or less than that aforementioned trifecta.
Theatre of the Year
Anthony Bean Community Theatre. ABCT defines the meaning of the word Community, and it spells it with a capital C. It has a clear precise mission statement, and it follows it. It understands the daunting challenges of violence, corruption and disruption facing our city, and it gives us shows like The Good Negro, The Blood, and Reflections: A Man and His Times that bear that out. When coupled with its summertime musical offerings and American classics like Jitney, it is one of the few theatres where the season alone suggests a genuine conversation.
However, it is not just a matter of the play being the thing. The people who attend the theatre are the story there as well. Dedicated to educating both young and old alike, ABCT serves any and all who have the courage to hoist themselves on the boards at 1333 Carrolton Avenue. Through its multiple educational programs, many of its students have worked their way from the back of the chorus to leading roles, and in doing so, they have earned a chance to rub elbows with some of the finest practitioners of the craft in the city and beyond. In particular, Bean’s work with young people across town borders on the heroic and does not receive the attention it deserves. A lot of people talk about reaching out to the schools, but few do it on the level of ABCT.
Bean will entertain any and all offers, but the pitch must include an opportunity for the people who sit in his theatre to hear the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. He tells our tales, and that makes his company Theatre of the Year.
Theatre Person of the Year:
Gary Rucker. The co-artistic director of Theatre 13 was simply a tyro, a man on an almost singlehanded mission to keep popular mainstream theatre alive in New Orleans. Every month, Rucker was glued to his Droid and racing across town to appear in one show while focusing on minutiae like securing the props for another. Whether it was to lend lovely support in On the Air, split your sides as Auguecheek in Twelfth Night, or infuriate you by being right in God of Carnage, Rucker just kept coming and finished his year by appearing in the sold out run of The Pecan Cracker. That means he appeared at The National World War II Museum, Tulane, and Southern Rep in under twelve months. In other words, if you saw theatre this year, you saw him.
But the performances were only the half of it. When not onstage, he was putting his personal tempo on Drowsy Chaperone, bringing new works and their creators into town with Play Dates, or keeping the kids happy with Schoolhouse Rock. As of this writing, he is staging the musical Spring Awakening for its regional premiere. He and partner Kelly Fouchi worked with anyone, anywhere and gave opportunities to people all over the city. Furthermore, for a guy who loves the spotlight as much as Rucker, he has that wonderful saving grace of demanding it be made ever-so-wider to include his many collaborators. For those reasons, he is our Theatre Person of the Year.
Theatre Story of the Year:
Le Petit. It was divisive, ugly, and spellbinding. It tore the theatre community in half, ended friendships, and left a massive hole in the fabric of performative life in New Orleans. However, it ran deeper than simply another theatrical brouhaha between a few drama queens, because it was a power struggle for a building worth millions in New Orleans’ most historic neighborhood. It involved one of the city’s most prominent culinary families, a television celebrity, community gadflies, a sitting Councilwoman, and even City Hall. It received shoddy coverage from a press desperate to appear fair and balanced. And it ended with the tensest vote count since the hanging chads of Bush v. Gore. By the time it was over, Le Petit was left with one performance space, an incoming fine dining restaurant, and the promise of desperately needed upgrades. No matter what side you were on, you have to admit it was The Theatre Story of the Year.
Happy New Year!
Dead Huey Long, Emma Boyce, Elizabeth Davas, Ian Hoch, Lindsay Mack, Anna Gaca, Jason Raymond, Lee Matalone, Phil Yiannopoulos, Joe Shriner, Chris Staudinger, Chef Anthony Scanio, Tierney Monaghan, Stacy Coco, Rob Ingraham,
Brandon Roberts, Rachel June, Daniel Paschall
Michael Weber, B.A.
B. E. Mintz
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Minced Media, Inc.