by Natalie Boyd, New Orleans theater blogger
Theater in New Orleans is about as distinct and eclectic as the city itself. In the years since “The Storm We Shall Not Name,” small, independent companies have popped up all over the city, and no two of them are easy to compare. Many of the companies have been created by non-locals who happened upon our fair city and took a liking to the creative energy buzzing all around the town. Goat in the Road Productions, SkinHorse Productions, Cripple Creek Theatre Company and The NOLA Project have all become serious players in the community due their imaginative use of locations around town and the material they choose to present.
In New Orleans, theater doesn’t always happen inside of a theatre: sometimes, it doesn’t even happen inside of a building. SkinHorse Productions has taken to doing smaller, more intimate shows inside of houses; their most successful production was Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which took place in a backyard shed, aptly named “The Backyard Ballroom.” The Cripple Creek kids have begun making a home inside the Marigny Theatre, which is attached to the Allways Lounge, a popular bar on Rampart Street. Even the outdoors was proven to be a lucrative space for theater this year, when the NOLA Project staged A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the New Orleans Museum of Art‘s Sculpture Garden and attracted over 2000 audience members.
Being good southerners, we do have a few more traditional theaters around town. The Jefferson Performing Arts Society(JPAS) has two theaters that seem to never be without a show performing. Since the historic Le Petit Theatre, in the French Quarter, closed down due to financial woes, JPAS has seemingly become the place to go to produce big, flashy musicals. The acclaimed Southern Repertory Theater, which celebrates its 25th anniversary season in 2011-12, has stayed strong with newly published works, a new play festival and a City Series which offers other, smaller companies use of their space during the season for even more opportunities for theater to happen.
All in all, theater in New Orleans is in a very good place. Collaboration is blooming all over town, and support for the little guys is really starting to explode. Last week I saw a show about “Acrocats”. Yep, acrobatic cats. If you can’t find something that satiates your need for imaginative theater in New Orleans, you can’t find it anywhere. I promise.