There is a lot going on, but I am still gathering information on a number of stories. Something is brewing at The CAC, local playwright Hal Clark is building a national reputation, and the second Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is on the way.
But all that will have to wait until next Wednesday.
The Loyola Theatre Department needs your help. It’s about to have its essential human infrastructure torn up, and only your voice and action can stop it.
Despite growing enrollment and increased applications, the department is seeing cuts that could make it impossible to deal with the influx of these new students and fulfill its stated mission. Its technical director Robert Self, costume shop supervisor Kellie Grengs, and office manager Amelia McCarthy are all seeing reductions in both pay and hours.
For those of you who know anything about how a performing arts department works, you know this is a disaster.
There are two crippling elements involved here.
First, college theatre departments depend on their technical staff to not only round out their students’ education but also give their graduates the skills to make them employable theatrical artists. These type of departments are not simply buildings where college dreamers memorize lines and read plays. They are full immersion entities where students learn sewing, set painting, flat construction, light rigging, electrical skills, makeup techniques and a host of other marketable tools.
Often actors and directors will get their first gig, because they possess additional gifts that make them cost effective for smaller theatre companies. Additionally, the four years of exposure to a wide breadth of theatre moves those who have a passion for the art into areas where they discover a talent they never realized they had.
Essentially, these cuts reduce the time students spend in those areas, make them less prepared for the outside world, and slow down their development as complete theatrical artists. It puts them at a distinct disadvantage in a market whose numbers are growing faster than the opportunities being offered.
Second, an academic department that is event-driven and depends heavily on the scheduling of physical space is seeing the position that makes all that possible reduced to a part time job. Guest artists, teaching seminars, special offerings, faculty meetings, payroll for adjuncts, and class schedules all fall under the watch of the office manager. People like McCarthy are the hub around which departments function.
I suppose I could go on about lost freshmen on the first day of class, but I think you get my point.
Beyond all of this, it is a blow to the cause of local theatre.
Both Self and Grengs are invaluable members of the New Orleans’ performing arts community. Their individual technical contributions are countless, and the students they produce design and crew shows all over town. They and their charges are an embedded presence to a growing theatrical scene that is still woefully short of a functioning backstage element.
These are the people that no one notices until their work is suddenly not there.
Let’s not find out what that is like. Visit The Facebook page and get involved.
Cat on A Hot Tin Roof
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
JanieCat Productions and The Fuhrmann Center for the Performing Arts’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a case of directorial mendacity.
Ill-paced, blocked like a New Jersey traffic study, and lacking in a consistent performance style, the Tennessee Williams’ classic of stunted desire and lies is a monumental failure of imagination and technical control on the part of its director Michael Martin.
The evening is more galling, because unlike a number of Martin’s other efforts, it does not lack the human or technical resources to deliver high quality community theatre entertainment. The space is handsome, its amenities are sufficient, and many of the actors, most notably Rex Badeaux’s as Big Daddy, quite capable of delivering engaging work.
But all of that is simply discarded. Instead, the production feels both rushed and botched, and directorial imperatives are simply ignored. Actors fight around one another to gain space in the larger scenes. The uncontrolled performances range from carefully considered realism to a cartoonish Evening Shade brushstroke to sometimes outright ineptitude.
And finally, design elements embarrass performers by leaving them stranded or responding to the non-existent. Lights are either slow to come up or rise leaving actors awkwardly on the stage, flashes of lighting are absent rolling thunder, offstage ringing phones sound like they come from inside the bedroom, and the music and ambient noise fail to give the production poetic force. Williams’ world of the richest land in the Delta Valley and its monstrously towering inhabitants seems little worth its director’s time.
Existing in a space surrounded by darkness, Larry Johnson’s set is more than serviceable enough to create the bedroom of the iconic and dysfunctional Brick and Maggie. While it lacks the creeping rot of an older house, it should be enough to make an evening of theatre. But Martin plays bumper cars rather than navigate traffic. Entrances and exits are clunking afterthoughts. They lack the drilling so necessary to make them appear both unconsidered and seamless at the same time.
The fundamental job of a director is not groovy conversations about the meaning of fathers and sons, insufferable theories on homosexual subtext, nor clever flourishes to display talent. Instead, at its most basic, the job is getting a play to its feet and building the show through enough repetition that allows it to break free of form.
If you would like a more arts-fartsy phrase, try this on for size: a director creates a physical and imaginative landscape in which his or her performers can play the work into existence.
When in doubt, block the damn show, block it in economical fashion, and then sit down with your notepad in the fifth row, shut up, and let Brick and Maggie go at it.
Jane McNulty cuts a striking pose as the long suffering, sexually frustrated Maggie, but she is given precious little business outside of straightening her dress and withholding drinks. Despite a script that essentially has her getting ready for a full evening, too often the talented actress is made to wander back-and-forth in search of a chair or sticking point to deliver her breathless rush of lines.
Restricted by cast and crutch, Preston Bishop’s Brick fares a little better in Martin’s staging, since he is not left to wander the space for interminable lengths of time. But after setting up the despair in character nicely, his transformation into a drunk slips into caricature and his scenes with Badeaux don’t express the deep aching love the two men feel for one another. He seems merely to resent his father rather than wrestle with the conflicting emotions.
It’s Badeaux who comes closest to what is on the page. As large as the role, Badeaux growls, sputters, wisecracks, throws away, and inhabits the language from beginning to end. His initial entrance turns the engine over on the production and breathes merciful oxygen into a stultifying evening. He even justifies the worst blocking by pushing, driving and occupying the space as if it were his plaything.
Yes, that is Big Daddy.
Like Todd D’Amour in the recent and grossly overrated Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Badeaux exists in an entirely different production.
A great one.
Now, if he could only find the director to stage it for him.
There are two very distinct training methods being offered over the next year.
The Elm Theatre has moved out of its Warehouse District space and into a temporary home at The Shadowbox Theatre. But its educational offerings will continue without skipping a beat.
Its eight-week Acting I class will be offered at The Shadowbox four times during 2014.
More information can be found by either visiting the website or calling (504) 218-0055.
Mondo Bizzaro’s Open Training
Mondo Bizarro is offering open training every Tuesday from 6 to 8 pm at 609 St. Ferdinand Street in The Marigny. Led by company members, the sessions are on a drop-in basis but will build cumulatively.
Both the website and The Facebook page have details, and location can be confirmed by emailing the company at email@example.com