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Very Tasty Boudin April 19, 2015

Posted by The Typist in music, New Orleans, Odd Words, Theater, Toulouse Street.
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I did not set out to opening night to write a review of BOUDIN: The New Orleans Music Project at Southern Rep. I took no notes during the performance or when I got home last night, and thoughtlessly left my program on my seat in my hurry to get to the bathroom after the show. I went to the show out of a certain pride of ownership, having submitted and had accepted into their online collecion an old Wet Bank Guide piece on the project’s theme of How New Orleans Music Saved My Life. Whether you think this masterful piece of musical stage craft is one of the great musical tribute reviews, a rightful heir to Vernel Bagneris’ On Mo’ Time or the must see Monolithic Mouse musical theater attraction in the emerging Theme Park at the End of the World We Knew as New Orleans, BOUDIN delivers on its conception as story project, tribute and a night of theatrical delight.

One look at the Panel of White Privilege that conceived and created the project, before the first word was spoken at the pre-show panel discussion set off every alarm in my (white, once privileged) New Orleans Exceptionalist, Chauvinist self. I was prepared for the worst when I finished my tour of the “altar” art dioramas, although some were quite good. When the Ashe Cultural Center loudly whirring A/C shut off just before the lights went down, I had my preconceptions all lined up like a display of tourist carnival masks in a French Quarter shop window, and this amazing cast knocked them all not just down but across the room, back into the box and onto a ship back to China. No matter how cynical you enter this theater you will leave walking on air, a smile on your face and the hum of a song resonating in your head.

Accomplished musician turned actor Phillip Manuel and Dorian Rush denominated the stage with an easy grace and amazing power, taking us from Allen Toussaint in the studio to five nights a week singing happy hour to early drunks on Bourbon Street, but there is not a weak link in this cast. Josh Smith’s hip-hop microphone vocal rhythm machine antics and Clint Johnson on Banjolele were all the live accompaniment the show required, and Johnson’s tale of a stutterer who was cured by the music of Louis Prima was as powerful as a visit to the ex-votos of St. Roch. Brittney James was equally comfortable bringing gospel sweetness or Etta James raunchiness to center stage. While Natalie Jones seemed to carry the wistful air of the theater nerd she proclaimed herself at one point all through the show, her sweet voice and the story of the girl who came to the music after being tossed out of Catholic School choir and her tale of salvation from evacuation by an old spiritual felt, if a bit practiced, sweetly genuine.

The few slightly off notes in the selected stories swept by almost unnoticed as the talented ensemble kept the almost full house enthralled. It was a shame a seat went unfilled. Perhaps it was eyeballing the producers that sent me into the theater smelling a faint whiff of paint from an expensive but loving restoration, but this show wiped that sin of self-important, St. Claude hubris away and left me feeling as redeemed as by an honest confession. This is a show that should plant itself in the Quarter and run as native and concierge recommended institution until the last tourist packs their bag to board a vaparetto out of town.

Odd Words’ Tennessee Williams Festival Preview Part 2 March 27, 2015

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, Louisiana, memoir, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, The Typist, Theater, Toulouse Street, Writing, Writing Workshops.
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Here are some highlights of the weekend activities for the Tennessee Williams Festival. For the complete list, visit the TWF website for the electronic program.

& First, to get your full on fill of Tennessee:

  • TENNESSEE WILLIAMS’ EUROPEAN INFLUENCES Williams was both a product of and a muse for Europe over the last half century, and their mutual exchange of themes, ideas and images altered the artistic landscapes of several post-war nations. This panel of Williams specialists discusses the early Williams and the uses he made of various European sources in his theatre; the late Williams and the promise European theater afforded him with his
    experimental plays; and the posthumous Williams and his influence on late 20th and early 21st century European theater and cinema. Panelists: John Bak, Michael Hooper, and Barton Palmer. Moderator: Robert Bray. Williams Research Center Saturday at 10 am.
  • TENNESSEE TODAY: HIS CRITICAL REPUTATION AND POPULAR IMAGE “Snatching the eternal out of the desperately fleeting is the great magic trick of human existence,” Tennessee Williams wrote in his essay “The Timeless World of a Play.” In the 32 years since his death, Williams’ plays continue to be produced, his critical reputation grows, and his influence on today’s playwrights is undeniable. From many productions of his works on Broadway, London’s West End and beyond, to the hundreds of references to Streetcar in every form of popular culture including Woody Allen’s film, Blue Jasmine and in TV shows such as “The Simpsons” and “Modern Family,” Williams’ genius not only endures but continues to captivate global audiences. Williams experts and friends discuss the playwright’s hold on our contemporary cultural reputation, and how the future may view the resonating worlds he created. Panelists: Kenneth Holditch, David Kaplan, and John Lahr. Moderator: Thomas Keith. Williams Research Center, Saturday at 11:30 am.
  • TENNESSEE TODAY: HIS CRITICAL REPUTATION AND POPULAR IMAGE “Snatching the eternal out of the desperately fleeting is the great magic trick of human existence,” Tennessee Williams wrote in his essay “The Timeless World of a Play.” In the 32 years since his death, Williams’ plays continue to be produced, his critical reputation grows, and his influence on today’s playwrights is undeniable. From many productions of his works on Broadway, London’s West End and beyond, to the hundreds of references to Streetcar in every form of popular culture including Woody Allen’s film, Blue Jasmine and in TV shows such as “The Simpsons” and “Modern Family,” Williams’ genius not only endures but continues to captivate global audiences. Williams experts and friends discuss the playwright’s hold on our contemporary cultural reputation, and how the future may view the resonating worlds he created. Panelists: Kenneth Holditch, David Kaplan, and John Lahr. Moderator: Thomas Keith. Williams Research Center, Saturday at 11 am.
  • A CONVERSATION WITH JOHN LAHR Interviewed by Robert Bray How do you chronicle a life that defies illummation? John Lahr, the longtime senior drama critic for The New Yorker, has emerged victorious in this task. Lahr’s critically-lauded biography, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, is a triumphant weaving of Williams’ journeys as an artist and as a man. The mammoth undertaking involved a decade of research and writing, and illuminates Williams’ works and life, giving readers the added gift of titillating insight into the lives
    of the theatre greats who were Williams’ contemporaries. Join Lahr as he discusses his book, a 2014 National Book Award finalist, with Williams scholar Robert Bray. Sunday, 10 am.
  • And of course: Shouting Contest Contestants vie to rival Stanley Kowalski’s shout for STELLAAAAA!!!!” in the unforgettable scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. Women are welcome to try a little
    role reversal and yell for Stanley. Free and open to the public. Prizes will be awarded. Jackson Square, 4:30 pm.

& Also, in addition to the numerous stage productions around town, don’t forget about LITERARY LATE NIGHT: MIXED COMPANY “There’s a time for departure even when there’s no certain place to go.” ― Tennessee Williams The 21st century moment is an exciting and uncharted time in literature and publishing with new and traditional media forms both co-existing and duking it out to create new avenues for artists to get their work to the public. Mixed Company is an independent publication featuring the writing, art, and photography of women of color currently based in New Orleans. This late night offering will highlight the interplay between tradition and innovation and the syncretic results of a culture of diaspora. “Mixed Company” will be a multi-media presentation of literature, art by artists of color based in New Orleans, film, and music that will expand our notions of reading and seeing into the present, past and future. Location, TBD, 8 pm.

& Saturday and Sunday means panels, panels, and more panels featuring exciting writers and topics. Odd Word’s picks with a focus on panels for writers. All events are by admission, and in the Hotel Montleone unless otherwise noted.

SATURDAY:

  • CRAFTING MEMOIR: OURSELVES AND OTHERS Memoir–You writing about you. But you are not a deserted island. How do memoirists portray themselves in the context of significant and non-significant others? Outside the personal sphere, a writer’s own perspective is set against larger realities—race, gender, sexuality, and nationality. How important is the recognition of the writer’s point of view—and position in the world—in memoir? Can a reconciliation between the You and the many Others happen on the pages of a memoir? Or are memoirs just fine as single and singular stories? Writers on this panel have taken on love, race, and activism in their works. They’ll be considering these questions and more in this panel. Bring your own for the Q&A. Panelists: Molly Crabapple, Jim Grimsley, and Mac McClelland. Moderator: Lauren Cerand.
  • MIGRATING WORDS: HOW POETS INFLUENCE AND ADAPT TO LANGUAGE The rules of the English language are always in flux— from assimilated words to idioms born from social media. Poets are the shepherds, more than the arbiters, of language. Panelists Vijay Seshadri and Saeed Jones write poems that manage to acknowledge the traditional form while simultaneously innovating its use. They will discuss how language came to them and read from their pioneering works. Panelists: Saeed Jones and Vijay Seshadri Moderator: Ava Leavell Haymon. Muriel’s Jackson Square Restaurant,
  • THE TRANSNATIONALISTS: AMERICAN WRITERS ON BORDER CROSSINGS The U.S. literary landscape has always been a transnational space—America goes on excursion into the world and the world comes in—as seen in works of authors from Faulkner on to the many multiply-hyphenated, diasporic writers. In this panel of consummate border crossers, authors will discuss what it means to be an American writer in the world today, at home and abroad. Phil Klay, an Iraq veteran and author, Molly Crabapple, an activist, writer, and artist, and Laila Lalami, a Moroccan-American novelist and linguist, will discuss point of view, writing from within (and about) the U.S. borders and looking inward from abroad. Panelists: Molly Crabapple, Phil Klay, and Laila Lalami. Moderator: Pamela Paul.
  • STORM AND STORYTELLER, TEN YEARS ON: TWO WRITERS AND A PHOTOGRAPHER REVISIT KATRINA In recognition of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, this panel brings together three of the storm’s most eloquent narrators: Dan Baum, Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans, Cheryl Wagner, Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around: A Memoir of Floods, Fires, Parades, and Plywood, and photographer Ted Jackson, Hurricane Katrina Then and Now. The panelists will reflect on their Katrina work, consider the responsibilities of journalists and writers in such crises—both as reporters and as storytellers—and share their perspectives on the city of New Orleans ten years after the storm. Reporter, writer, and New Orleans native Lolis Eric Elie, most recently of HBO’s “Treme,” will
    moderate the discussion. Panelists: Dan Baum, Ted Jackson, and Cheryl Wagner. Moderator: Lolis Eric Elie
  • CONVERSATION WITH RICK BRAGG In his biography of aging music legend Jerry Lee Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Bragg has dared readers to “find one boring page in this book.” Indeed, the life story of the Louisianaborn music sensation known as “The Killer” is one that keeps eyes bulged and mouths agape. The son of Delta sharecroppers, raised as a “holy roller” Pentecostal, Lewis would go on to earn a reputation as a hell-raising rock ‘n’ roller who would shake the music world with his outlandish piano-banging theatrics and offstage scandals. David Johnson, editor of Louisiana Cultural Vistas and KnowLA, The Digital Encyclopedia of Louisiana, will interview Bragg and discuss Lewis’ life and times. Williams Research Center.
  • LADIES WITH AN ATTITUDE Women have come a long way in the crime world from the days when they were either femme fatales, damsels in distress, or simply the murder victim. Where do things stand in the modern day world of crime writing? Join three successful women crime writers as they discuss the state of the art for women in the world of crime fiction. Panelists: Laura Lippman, Annamaria Alfieri, and Rebecca Chance. Moderator: Greg Herren. Muriel’s Jackson Square Restaurant

SUNDAY:

  • A CONVERSATION WITH JOHN LAHR Interviewed by Robert Bray How do you chronicle a life that defies illummation? John Lahr, the longtime senior drama critic for The New Yorker, has emerged victorious in this task. Lahr’s critically-lauded biography, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, is a triumphant weaving of Williams’ journeys as an artist and as a man. The mammoth undertaking involved a decade of research and writing, and illuminates Williams’ works and life, giving readers the added gift of titillating insight into the lives
    of the theatre greats who were Williams’ contemporaries. Join Lahr as he discusses his book, a 2014 National Book Award finalist, with Williams scholar Robert Bray.
  • A BYLINE OF ONE’S OWN: WOMEN IN LITERARY LIFE Where are the women on the page? Apparently not very many places as counts of magazines bylines by VIDA Women in Literary Arts have revealed. What does this mean for writers, readers, and the intellectual landscape of our time? Join us for a conversation about women as authors, critics, and readers in contemporary literary life with author Pamela Paul, who edits the New York Times Book Review, Brigid Hughes, founding editor of A Public Space who was formerly at the helm of The Paris Review, and independent publicist Lauren Cerand. Panelists: Lauren Cerand, Brigid Hughes, and Pamela Paul. Moderator: J.R. Ramakrishnan
  • BUILDING STORIES: A PANEL WITH A PUBLIC SPACE In a piece for the Brooklyn-based literary journal A Public Space, now collected in Best American Essays 2014, Yiyun Li wrote that “there are many ways to carry the past with us: to romantize it, to invalidate it, to furnish it with revised or entirely fictional memories.” But how can writers begin to shape experiences into engaging sentences, and what role can editors and mentors play in bringing
    stories to life on the page? Li will be joined on stage by A Public Space founding editor Brigid Hughes and APS Emerging Writer Fellow Vanessa Hutchinson for a candid discussion of fatalism in fiction, the importance of revision, and how writers – like their stories – can emerge in unexpected ways. Panelists: Yiyun Li and Vanessa Hutchinson.
  • NEW ORLEANS: CRAFTING A MYTHICAL CITY New Orleans looms large in the popular imagination, a city envisioned as a peculiar bohemian outpost, loosely attached to the United States in locality and mentality. Tourists seeking a foreign experience within America are drawn to this exotic metropolis, and many arrive with a perception shaped by a long literary tradition of writers who have played off the city’s reputation for eccentricity, debauchery, mystery, and corruption. From Mark Twain and Anne Rice to Tennessee Williams, Frances Parkinson Keyes, and journalists covering the Katrina disaster and its aftermath, this panel will examine how such writers have molded the image of the Crescent City and inadvertently commoditized it as a tourist destination. Panelists: Brian Boyles, Rien Fertel, and others TBA. Moderator: David Johnson

If you hear a cry of Stellaaaaa!!!! in the distance before Sunday, that will be me taking a break from a weekend long special project for the day job that pays the bills that lets me pay Mr. Zuckerman to make sure you see this post on Facebook.

Odd Words’ Tennessee Williams Festival Preview Part 1 March 25, 2015

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, reading, The Typist, Theater, Toulouse Street, Writing, Writing Workshops.
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It’s Tennessee Williams Festival Week. Sadly, Odd Words will not be covering the festival as in recent years as the paying day job makes that impossible. Here, however, are the highlights for the first two days of the Festival (Thursday and Friday):
Program-Logo-Cropped
& Master classes kick of on Thursday at The Historic New Orleans Collection, including:

  • RANDY FERTEL: IMPROV AND THE ESSAY If improvisation generates spontaneous works of art inspired by the
    muses, born of instinct and intuition, and spurred on by revelry, then what city could be more nurturing of improv artistry than New Orleans? Join scholar, author and philanthropist, Randy Fertel, as he investigates the role of improv in the confecting of the essay and works of creative non-fiction. With the city that care forgot as a Dionysian backdrop, Fertel’s call to action, based on his A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation, may encourage hesitant artists to develop a taste for chaos and discover a recipe for pure and undiluted creativity. & This would be OW’s Go To Master Class. I’m reading the essay right now and I think this will be a fantastic event.
  • NIGEL HAMILTON & PATRICIA BRADY: WRITING TRUE STORIES So you want to write a real Life? Where to start, how to conduct research, organize your materials, scaffold the story—and bring it to life? And finally: for whom? Who is your audience, and what, in theend, do you want to communicate, and why? Two distinguished biographers, Nigel Hamilton whose latest work is The Mantle of Command; FDR at War, 1941-1942,and Patricia Brady (A Being So Gentle: The Frontier Love Story of Rachel and Andrew Jackson), explain—and take you to the heart of biography today.
  • ROY BLOUNT, JR.: ALPHABET JUICE—GETTING THE GOOD OUT OF LETTERS Writing may be about any number of things, but it always consists of the alphabet, variously arranged. Always comes down to wrangling the ABC’s. So let’s take a close look at the building blocks of writing in this master class. In addition to writing bestselling books, Blount is a usage consultant to the American Heritage Dictionary. You will enjoy his take on dictionaries, slang, rhyme, rhythm, and yes, weasel words. This will spice up your style, liven your language, and tickle your funny bone.
  • MICHAEL FARRIS SMITH: PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER How do you write a novel? Maybe the better question is how to write pieces of a novel. Thinking about the form as a sum of parts can help relieve the anxiety of the whole. How can you shake things up, give the novel the propulsion it needs to sustain? Discover some different strategies to use when thinking about the next step for your novel-in-progress and practice creating intruders for your story with in-class exercises that may give your work the push it needs.

& And you won’t want to miss this (I won’t since it’s after work): Don’t miss your chance for a first look at the next wave! New Orleans literary blog Room 220 will host the #TWF15 Contest Readings. The contests, part of our organization’s mission to encourage and support new talent, unearth the freshest new talent from hundreds of entries. Writers who have yet to publish a book compete for cash prizes, publication, and the honor of being selected by a judge. This year Molly Antopol (The UnAmericans) judged the Fiction Contest and Vijay Seshadri (3 Sections) judged Poetry. In this panel, the winning writers will read and discuss the contest with Seshadri and novelist Zachary Lazar (I Pity the Poor Immigrant). Press Street HQ, 3718 St. Claude Ave., free and open to the public.

& Another Not To Be Missed Event Thursday: JOHN WATERS: THIS FILTHY WORLD: FILTHIER AND DIRTIER Visionary filmmaker and one-of-a-kind personality John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Polyester, Female Trouble,
and Hairspray) is bringing his show “John Waters: This Filthy World: Filthier and Dirtier” to New Orleans, presented in a presentation by Daniel Nardicio. Waters takes on taboo topics as only he can do in this hilarious and completely uncensored one-man show. Waters, who has been dubbed “the Pope of Trash” and branded “O for Offensive” by the Catholic Church, earned his bad reputation by turning bad taste into high art. Part confession,
part Vaudeville act, he’ll share his origins in the trash genre and his subsequent adventures.

& Friday’s Master Classes include:

  • LAUREN CERAND: LITERARY BUZZ AND HOW TO GET IT Lauren Cerand is the independent literary publicist you want in your corner. •In this Master Class, she’ll talk about innovative publicity now, from tricks-of-the-trade of the old school in traditional publishing right up to the evolved media landscape and social media of the present day.
    Attendees will have a chance to discuss their personal challenges and aspirations, and work towards formulating a sensible public relations plan that can serve as a “North Star” in order to orient themselves, and focus on strengths and strategy.
  • LAILA LALAMI: DECEPTIVE HISTORIES, TRUTHFUL FICTIONS If history is fated to be written by the victors, then fiction offers tantalizing alternate readings of official records. Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account follows
    conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez’s 1527 expedition to the New World. The 300-man enterprise ended with four survivors, three Spaniards and an enslaved African named Estebanico. The latter’s account—and role as the first African American explorer—is obscured in the authoritative historical chronicle. In her novel, a NYT Notable Book of 2014, Lalami imagines Estebanico’s story. She will discuss history as narrative force, her re-creation of the multilingual voices of the past, and the points at which facts turn into fiction with Festival literary programming
    director, J.R. Ramakrishnan.
  • JIM GRIMSLEY: THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH Writing fiction and nonfiction about painful subjects involves a willingness to expose the harder and more painful sides of ourselves. Grimsley will share from his own experience in writing nonfiction about the racial attitudes he learned in the South of his childhood, detailed in his memoir How I Shed My Skin, to be published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill in April 2015. He will also discuss the different processes for approaching such difficult material in fiction and in nonfiction.
  • MARLY RUSOFF AND JONATHAN ODELL: AUTHOR AGENT ALLIANCE An agent and author explore their dynamic partnership in the today’s changing world of publishing. Roles are no longer as fixed in this brave new world of publishing. How does one navigate times of increased fluidity, where roles often need restructuring in the face of market demands? It’s exciting, fast-moving, and can be daunting, as events happen very much in real time. There are no easy templates but in this class, agent and publisher Marly Rusoffand author Jonathan Odell will share their experiences and innovative ideas about how to succeed in publishing in today’s world.

& Friday is also the annual Tennessee Williams Scholar’s Conference. Panels at the The Historic New Orleans Collection Williams Research Center 410 Chartres Street include:

  • Tom’s “good time girls”: Burlesque and Chorus Girls in Williams’s Early One-Act Plays — Dr. Annette Saddik, City University of New York, Mr. David Kaplan, Provincetown Theatre Festival, Dr. Michael Hooper, St. Margaret’s School (UK) Moderator: Dr. John Bak, Université de Lorraine (France).
  • The Paintings of Tennessee Williams — Dr. Cori Convertito, Curator, Key West Art and Historical Society John Bak, Mr. Bradley Sumrall, Ogden Museum of Southern Art Moderator: Ms. Margit Longbrake, The Historic New Orleans Collection.
  • Suddenly, Last Summer, Play and Film Discussion — John Lahr, former New Yorker drama critic Brenda Currin, actor Dr. Barton Palmer, Clemson University Moderator: Dr. Henry Schvey, Washington University.
  • Southern Literature and the White Trash Aesthetic — Dr. Andrew Leiter, Lycoming College, Dr. Meredith McCarroll, Clemson University, Mr. Jim Grimsley, Emory University, Moderator: Dr. Robert Bray.

& Literary Panels , Theatrical Performances, and Special Events for Friday (Odd Word’s picks; for the full list go to the Festival Website):

  • LOUISIANA WITNESS: HOMEGROWN NARRATIVES The gumbo of the American South’s identity comes from cultural histories as diverse, and in some cases more diverse, than America itself. So when writers, born of the region’s native locales, render and evoke the South, their personal narrative perspectives inform the stories that we receive and read. Panelists discuss how their characters bear witness to an ever-changing Southern social and cultural climate, evolving views of histories, and how these views inform the overall work. Panelists: M.O. Walsh, Rick Barton, Laura Lane McNeal, and Vicki Salloum.
  • SWEET AND SAVAGE: WRITING THE WOMEN OF THE SOUTH Southern women in fiction have faced and overcome seemingly insurmountable adversity, Margaret Mitchell’s Scarlet O’Hara and Alice Walker’s long-suffering Celie come to mind. In this region of sweet tea and magnolias, lynching and the Klan, female characters have long had to be less than genteel, perhaps at times even savage, in order to live their lives and protect those around them, as we see
    depicted in the works of the writers on this panel. Panelists: Natalie Baszile, LaShonda Katrice Barnett, Katy Simpson Smith, and John Warley. Moderator: Nancy Dixon
  • GOOD MORNING, BALTIMORE: LAURA LIPPMAN INTERVIEWS JOHN WATERS John Waters’ wry eye on pop culture has resulted in some of America’s most beloved cult films. The Pope of Trash decided to put his finger on the pulse
    of contemporary culture by hitchhiking across America, from his home in Baltimore to his home in San Francisco, armed with no more than his sardonic wit and a sign saying “I’M NOT A PSYCHO.” The book Carsick is an account
    of what he found. Another Baltimore icon, award-winning bestseller Laura Lippman, sits down with him to talk about what he found on his trip, the experience, and get some insights on America.

& More events the first two days include Southern Rep’s production of Suddenly Last Summer, matinee shows of HOTEL PLAYS BY TENNESSEE WILLIAMS (THEATER), in which The Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival brings short plays by Williams including The Last of My Solid Gold Watches and Lord Byron’s Love Letter set in such rooms. At the Hermann-Grima House, 820 St. Louis Street, $30; and, BLUE DEVILS AND BETTER ANGELS: TENNESSEE WILLIAMS TRIBUTE READING These luminous readings will be comprised of scenes, monologues, poetry, and correspondence of Williams that relate to the struggles and triumphs of the spirit. Readers include author and cult filmmaker John Waters; playwright Martin Sherman; veteran stage and screen actors Keir Dullea and Mia Dillon; and John Patrick Shanley, who will read excerpts from his Pulitzer Prize-winning play Doubt. Also joining our cast are author/columnist “Ask” Amy Dickinson, and glamorous thriller writer Rebecca Chance. Curated by Paul J. Willis and Thomas Keith, and hosted by Keith. The Old Ursuline Convent, 1112 Chartres Street, $35.

Look for another listing Friday of the weekend’s events here on Odd Words, or visit the website for the complete program.

Y February 28, 2015

Posted by The Typist in Bloggers, Fortin Street, FYYFF, je me souviens, Katrina, postdiluvian, Remember, Sinn Fein, The Narrative, Theater, We Are Not OK.
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[Baraka’s] are the agonized poems of a man writing to save his skin, ot at least to sette into it, so urgent is their purpose. — Richard Howard’s jacket blurb for Amiri Baraka’s S O S Poems 1661-2013

Word.

Klonopin does not differentiate between a panic attack and the sudden urge at the edge of sleep to turn on the bedside lamp and find a notebook. — The Typist to his Psychologer, on why he wants to “wash out”

Nor can the inflexible chemistry of psyco pharma recognize what might be thought an anxiety attack if it did not present as righteous anger. Yesterday I should have been emblazoned with the red lightening bolt of danger, caught in a fit of righteous anger, the fire that blossomed into the shield-boss flower of the old NOLA Bloggers, the warriors for New Orleans. I am not done with that. More2com, not –30–.

Rastaman the Griot: You got to be a spirit! You can’t be no ghost.

Before pharma entered my life there was beer, there was coffee, and after The Federal Flood there was writting, the countless typos of a hundred thousand plu words written in wee hours on not enough sleep. The dispensers of  psycho pharma do not recognize the world around them, the urgency of that world’s dysfunctional  condition, their patients but presentations of a broader illness. If people are not angry or depressed some significant portion of the time they are at best ill informed and at worse complicit dupes. I am not sure Toulouse Street is the platform for such an anger. The name lacks the resonance of the names of the prophets. The Typist is not Ezekial, fresh from the desert. Before Toulouse Street there was the Wet Bank Guide, where anger, sadness and hope argued drukenly around a table in a halo of smoke.  Somewhere in the middle was a famous and druken, attempted but incoherent eulogy  atop a fountain in the courtyard ofa bar at Ashley’s wake I don’t need a Klonopin. I need a fountain. And a beer. FYYFF, The Typist

Tennessee’s First Flower Blooms at the Allways Lounge Theater March 23, 2013

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, Odd Words, Review, Theater, Toulouse Street.
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While the smart set at the the Tennessee Williams Festival is settling into watch the third part of John Biguenet’s Katrina Trilogy, Mold in a small bar room/theater Off-Off-Royal Street Tennessee Williams’ first produced play–A Battle of Angels–is given a compelling production at the Allways Lounge Theater. The Allways has become the Southern Rep of the St. Claude and Bywater set, and director Glenn Meche’s production keeps up the high standards the theater has set for its small space. The tale which most of the world knows from its much re-written version as Orpheus Descending and the film The Fugitive Kind is still riveting theater in the Circle Repertory revival version presented by the Allways.

From the moment the excellent Nicole Gruter as Beulah Cartwright and Lillian Claire Dodenhoff as Dolly Bland burst gossiping into the mercantile store the audience is swept back in time and up to the Mississippi Delta. A more perfect pair of haughty southern matrons could hardly be wished for. As soon as Diana Shortez sweeps into the room as the flawed and fallen Cassandra Whiteside the hammer is cocked and ready for the volley of familiar Williams themes of sex, death and redemption to follow. Shortez, with her commanding physicality and chameleon abilities is perfectly cast as the the loose-moralled scapegoat and by the last act the play’s one-woman chorus.

At the end of the first act one wishes Eli Grove as snake-skinned Val Xavier had some of the animal magnetism of Shortez, but he brings his best duck-tailed Cool Hand Luke to the table and as the complexities of his character are revealed through the remainder of the play he wins the viewer over with a brooding Kerouacian charm. The strong cast of women delivers the reflection of the character’s reptilian charm in their own performances. He is convincing as the (one part Tennessee) thoughtful drifter with a head full of ideas running from a troubled past. The delight of the night is Veronica Russell as Myra Torrance. Her slow transformation from a bitter shopkeeper with a loveless marriage and a dying husband as reptilian as Xavier’s jacket into the lovelorn victim of Xavier’s charm is at the center of the plot and she carries the spotlight with a quiet but powerful performance. Years seem to melt from her face as she moves backwards in time from pinch-faced shopkeeper to the charmingly coquettish victim of Xavier’s promise of escape.

Rebecca Myers as the deeply religious Vee Talbot wears the character’s convictions well and does a fine job of carrying the difficult task of tying together the almost Old Testament bombastic imagery–from Xavier’s snakeskin jacket to the frightening cane-of-God Doug Mundy wields mostly off-stage–in this tale of temptation and fall set at Easter Week with the wild Whiteside making whoopee up at the town’s Golgotha. The text is freighted with symbolism almost past the Plimsoll mark but Myers and the rest of the supporting cast manage to keep the bowl of apples off the table and give Russell and Grove the space to play out their doomed romance. There is not a weak performance in the ensemble which also includes Barry Bradford as a genuinely threatening Sheriff Talbott and Patrica Raw and Rebecca Rae as the comic spinster sisters. Director Glenn Meche has shaped a fine cast into a compelling night of drama.

The Allways’ small proscenium theater is turned sideways as it was for last year’s The Future is a Fancy Land Place and while you might find yourself rubbing your neck at the end of the night, it gives the actors room to move and the feeling the audience is in a much larger space without the loss of intimacy. While far from the center of the Tennessee Williams weekend at the The Hotel Monteleone, festival goers would do well to find their way down to St. Claude Avenue and the rest of us have until April 6 to see the root of Tennessee’s genius in its first blossom.

O-o-o-oh, Romeo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o… December 3, 2012

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If you were thinking of going to see the well acted and thoughtfully staged The NOLA Project production of Romeo and Juliet and NOMA: don’t. The acoustics and sight lines are horrible in the foyer of NOMA and render a great part of the dialogue, including the balcony scene, unintelligible to the audience on stage right. Only a handful of the actors–A.J. Allegro as Mercutio, Natalie Boyd as the Nurse, James Yeargain as Friar John and experienced Shakespeareans Martin Covert and Jim Wright as Montague and Capulet, managed to modulate their voices to minimize the echoes and so be intelligible and demonstrate their talent. Even the best of the actors sometimes were placed in the space so that one despairs of understanding them. Good use was made of the four entrances and stairway to generate an energetic tension in the scenes of conflict between the young men of the two families, but the scenes of Juliet on the staircase and balcony, while dramatically staged, placed her dead in the center of the echo chamber. Kristin Witterschein was a fresh and charming Juliet What can be seen from an obstructed view and what could be understood was well done, but I’m judging much of her performance from tone of voice and a few brief glimpses, as if I were watching a foreign film behind a tall man in a tall hat. I would love to see this company perform this in another place.

If you already have your tickets, be sure to arrive by 6:00 for the 7:30 curtain and run don’t walk to a seat in front stage left, where I think you would at least be able to understand the balcony scene and have unobstructed sight lines. Or else be sure to read the play before you come so you can at least play it in part in your own head. If you insist on going, buy an obstructed sight line ticket and save some money because there was no effort made to actually segregate the seating, and our full price tickets placed us squarely between two pillars and we arrived at 6:30.

Everything in Life Dreams August 4, 2012

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MARELA (to Conchita): No, everything in life dreams. A bicycle dreams of becoming a boy, an umbrella dreams of becoming the rain, a pearl dreams of becoming a woman, and a chair dreams of becoming a gazelle and running back to the forest.
— Nilo Cruz, from Anna in the Tropics

Do you feel the dreams around you? The coffee longs for Columbia, your cigarette remembers Virginia, the walls recall the gypsum earth from which they came. That is a beautiful line from the play but I believe what is around you does not seek to escape or pull you into reverie but to push you out the door. All these mingled dreams of scattered places are like the forecast of the storm around the corner. Somewhere among the brightly colored and diverging lines is the unforeseeable track, the true path that leads to your own dreams. You may never reach the end but everything around you calls you to follow, past the boy on his bicycle, the tan woman in the black dress, her pearlescent neck, through the pouring rain and into the forest. Something rustles in the leaves then bounds away. You can see the faint track worn in the grass. You leave the path and follow it.

Have A Banana April 25, 2012

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Hell, have two. You’re going to be here a while. Or have been here a while. Perhaps a very long while. It’s hard to tell.

Sex on a Hot Tin Roof March 25, 2012

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“I was thinking about what might entice the crowd in on a beautiful day in the Quarter and I thought: put sex in the title,” moderator Robert Bray explained, and the title William’s Sexual Politics is partly why I find myself at the Tennessee Williams Research Center.

How do you resist a title like that, suggesting Stella on the staircase, Maggie astraddle a conquered Brick?

I had started out in a room full of biographers talking about presidents, dutifully scribbling in my notebook until I came to the end of a line, stopped, and asked: what am I doing here? I scoured the program until I found the panel I had noticed earlier, the one with the come hither description.

This was the first time in several festivals attended I set foot in the Tennessee Williams Research Center, which is usually filled with academics and their acolytes, the people who own every word every written by or about Williams. In dog-eared hardback. They sit through days of panel discussions that start out with a session for the reading of abstracts. If two hours listening to academics reading abstracts isn’t enough to keep you away you should seriously step back from your life and reconsider.

The room at the Historic New Orleans Collection where the master classes are held is the porcelain blue tea room for the well dressed lady’s book club sort who, with their walkers, fill the place with just a scattering of writers hunched in the front and another set in the very back where they stumbled in late. The Research Center is just as formal a space but instead of the pearls and porcelain chatter of the Collection this room is hushed as a temple, the last panelists renewing their long-standing acquaintance with the next set. The walls are a barely discernible light olive, the lighting largely directed at the portraits of vague historic figures in the front (is that Governor Claiborne?) and modern canvases of New Orleans in the back: a second line, a shotgun street, a scene out of Katrina. I take a seat under one of the few spotlights in the ceiling to I can take notes.

Moderator Bray starts out with William’s cover article in Time magazine in 1961 which called him a “kind of peddler of sex…intent on shock” and went on to catalogue play-by-play his written sins: rape, homosexuality, nymphomania, alcoholism, drug addiction, castration, masturbation, cannibalism. It concluded, Bray said, but calling him the world’s greatest living playwright.

David Savran, co-editor of the Journal of American Drama and Theater and Distinguished Professor of Theater at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, offered a quick explanation: “In historical terms, the period from 1946 until the early sixties was the most conservative period in American history, a time when McCarthy linked Communism and homosexuality, and here homosexuality was central to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire.j Williams was making the theater going public confront issues they didn’t want to confront but where incredibly curious about.

Will Brantley of Middle Tennessee University quickly agreed. In plays like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth Williams built a play around the penis, took a word that couldn’t be said in his era and “made it the center of his drama [but] the controversial was presented as symbolic and metaphorical so it stays with us.” Savran also noted the intense homophobic reaction to Williams in criticism through the author’s career.

Actress and filmmaker Jodie Markell, the one woman on the panel disagreed, with categorizing Williams as sexually political. “I think of Tennessee Williams as a poet, not political but writing from the heart about what makes people want to connect, what makes them want to desire each other. He speaks to so many people about human vulnerability. It was so universal..how brave it was to explore these territories without being perverse and not judgmental of his characters.”

Bray asked about depictions of Blance as a nymphomaniac, and Savran again asserted this was w symptomatic of a time when “any woman of strong desires was called a nymphomaniac.” Markell says was drawn to Williams as an actress and now as a director of The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond because “I was interested in the women in Williams who were too sexual, too bright, too too too…women who project their desires onto idealized and flawed men.”

Ah, finally the audience were (OK, I was) being released from prurient curiosity and into the meat and bone of what the Research Center programs are about, the reason we were all here: peering deep into Williams and finding ourselves.

Bray paraphrased Night of the Iguana: “nothings disgusts me except intentional cruelty”. Savran chimed in immediately, “Williams’ theater is a theater without villains [but one] of connections, not villains but antagonists of desire. In so many of his plays there the meeting and the parting, ” which Savran said is found in Chekov as well. Markell said Williams was interested in sexual alienation. “He enjoyed the play of how opposites attract.”

Bray returned to sexual politics, suggesting that characters in Williams approach sex with a manipulative praticallity, citing Maggie and Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie stuffing her daughter’s bra. He suggested Williams women were sometimes sexual predators. Markell agreed with the practical sexuality of William’s women and said that is what her film is about, but disagreed with the idea of the women as sexual predators.

The panel also considered the differences in endings between Williams’ plays and the film versions. “He was up against the Production Code Administration, which not only censored but encouraged happy endings.” One panelist (my notes get blurry here) suggested . “Williams wanted people to supply their own ending, to leave the end ambiguous,” and Savran agreed. “Modern drama is about asking not answering questions. It doesn’t tell us how we should think or feel.”

An Odd Sense of Color March 24, 2012

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, Louisiana, New Orleans, Theater, Toulouse Street.
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OK, I just have to say it: it was Odd that three of the four panelists on the Tennessee Williams Festival panel New Orleans Free People of Color were white. The garrulous playwright John Guare tried to steal the show and not in a good way, and managed to annoy mystery writer Barbara Hambly when she disagreed with him but wouldn’t stop talking long enough to let her say her piece. Guare put his hand on the back of her chair at some point and it was funny to see Hambly leaning away from him to the point of tipping over.

Guare is the author of a successful Broadway play A Free Man of Color, Hanbly has penned a dozen mysteries featuring the Creole private detective Benjamin January, and the panel was rounded out by Daniel Sharfstein, author of The Invisible Line: A Secret History of Race in America and Gregory Osborne, a child of the Creole diaspora to Los Angeles in the post-World War II period and an expert on the subject who manages the archives at the New Orleans public library.

Sharfstein and Osborne thankfully stole the show away from Guare. Sharfstein’s book drew out of a a stint of volunteer work in South Africa where he met a Black woman who had been registered as Colored (of mixed race) by a census taken who was a friend of the woman’s father. He recounted a fascinating tale of a couple prosecuted f under South Carolina’s miscegenation laws, a charge from which they were exonerated after the state’s Supreme Court ruled that it was impossible to determine if the woman’s grandfather had himself been pure Black, which would have made her an octaroon and invalidated the marriage.

Hanbly said she switched from writing science fiction to mysteries because “I wanted to write a mystern novel about a free man of color since I was in high school [and] a mystery is the best way to investigate a society because the character has a reason to be explaining” his milieu in the course of his work. Her central character is about viewing the state of antebellum Blacks and the through the lens of color. When she spoke of the history of the gens de colour it was clear she has done her research over decades of writing about her character.

Osborne, who worked closely with historian of New Orleans Creoles Gwendolyn Hall, shared the details of his own life growing up in a Creole family in which his grandmother still spoke Creole French with her cousins and a thumbnail history of the free people of color in Louisiana. Growing up “I knew I had deep roots here and my father would call himself Creole but I didn’t know what that meant,” he explained.

He is writing a book looking at several hundred interracial relationships, mostly in New Orleans and dating back as far as the uprising in San Domingue (Haiti). In the eighteen and early nineteenth century a white man could leave his inheritance to his Creole family if he had no friends or other family in Europe or New Orleans, but as the antebellum American authorities began to crack down and categorize all persons they declared legally Black extensive searches were made for relatives to deny these families their inheritance.

Guare began his play–a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize–after his friend the African-American director George Wolf asked him to write a play about race. “Why me, an old white guy?” he asked, but never explained Wolf’s answer. Wolf wanted a play about the history of race in Louisiana and do it as a Restoration comedy, sexually charged comedies of manners with their collision of subjects and elaborate costumes explains why the show was a Broadway hit with a long run. The only criticism he heard was of his historically accurate depiction of a Black man opening slaves. True to a restoration comedy, his protagonist has a hard time keeping him pants zipped in the present of both white and women of color, which explains why a serious subject would manage a long Broadway run.

The panel managed a good thumbnail sketch of the history of free people of color, mostly through the contributions from Osborne and Hambly, with Sharfstein filling in the details of race and miscegenation from the Revolutionary War through the start of Jim Crow. And it is hard not to want to see the mounting of Guare’s play at Louisiana State University in the fall, if only to see how such a serious subject plays as a comedy of manners.

It’s Like Gone With The Wind on Mescaline March 24, 2012

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“Its like Gone with the Wind on mescaline.”
— Character John Kelso in the film adaptation of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

I was going to write a short review of last night’s Literary Late Night: Lafcadio Hearn but frankly it was one of those events where you had to be there. That and I left my program on the bar at Cafe Istanbul. Fortunately there is an online copy of the poster and cover, which gives me the names of all the readers and actors to go with my beer-stained notes.

Things started a bit flat with Chris Lane’s initial reading. It’s hard to imagine an MC for Fleur de Tease being too low key but that was just the slow climb up the first hill of the roller coaster. C.W. Cannon and Andrew Vaugt (the latter of Cripple Creek Theater) brought their best game and had the audience in stitches with Hearn’s satirical pieces, especially Vaught’s rendition of the calls of street vendors chronicled by Hearn. Cannon’s delivery of the dryly hilarious “A Visit to New Orleans” by the devil was archly perfect and would have had Mark Twain standing to applaud. Once the players had the audience in their hands the show just got better and better.

I thought at first that spoken word artists Chuck Perkins and Kataalyst Alcindor were too understated in their reading, but in fairness I am used to them in a spoken word/slam environment which calls for a much difference sort of performance. I am still undecided if Kataalyst should have brought his angry to the piece The Indigent Dead, but that may just be my expectation of what he would do with his own work. Reading Hearn’s account of 310 murders in New Orleans with only five persons hung worked in an understated delivery, especially for a New Orleans audience, and as delivered was more in character of a 19th century author than a full on slam performance. And then Perkins brought on the Hip-ocracy belly dancers for his reading of “The Dawn of Carnival” our own private carnival was well underway

Ratty Scurvics was Ratty Scurvics and once again proved that an essential element of stage presence is an animal magnetism that crackles around him like a vast static charge. He was in good voice singing behind the curtain for Trixie Minx’ performance as a clown at a crab boil after Scruvics read “Why Crabs are Boiled Alive”, and Minx’ performance was a fantastic mix of slapstick and burlesque moves. When Madame Mystere of Fleur de Tease came out on her belly riding a dolly and dressed in an alligator mask and tail and not much else for a reading of Hearn’s “The Alligators” you knew you were at a literary event that could only happen in New Orleans.

Yes the festival is supposed to be all about Tennessee but the People Say Project put on a show at Cafe Istanbul with enough tragedy, comedy and sex I am certain Williams would approve.

Odd Words: A Weekend with Tennessee Williams March 22, 2012

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Theater, Toulouse Street.
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Here are my weekend picks for the TW Fest. For the complete list, visit the Festival schedule online.

This is supposed to be the weekend listings for the Festival, but I’m going to start out with the last event of Friday Night because this just sounds too good to miss.

Friday

& Literary Late Night: Lafcadio Hearn Think you know New Orleans? Explore the city of yore through a variety show that brings to life the works of Lafcadio Hearn, who in the late 1800s gave New Orleans its provocative reputation for Voodoo mystery, exotic cuisine, and a fecund underbelly.

In this choreographed evening of readings, music, and dance, the People Say Project present artists from the burgeoning Bywater/Marigny theater and performance scene in the heart of the St. Claude arts district. Experience the city’s resilient literary culture while looking back at a figure who left an indelible mark on the world’s image of New Orleans.

& Also on Friday and omitted in the earlier listing (for shame): A Reading from the Poetry and Fiction Contests with Judges Amy Hempel and Julie Kane Why not kick-off the weekend with something new? As part of our organization’s mission to encourage and support new talent, the Festival turns an eye to the next voices in American letters with a reading from our 2012 Fiction and Poetry Contest winners. Hundreds of entries poured into our offices from around the world from writers who have yet to publish a book in their genre.

& Tennessee Williams, Gerontologist? Almost all of his life Williams expressed anxiety over growing old and the ravaging effects of time, and towards the end of his life he became virtually obsessed with aging. Come join us for a discussion to discover how the author depicts the superannuated years in both the comic and tragic veins. 10 a.m. at the Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St.

No doubt this will be a panel on Big Daddy, Violet and other elderly characters, but it puts me in mind of the annual panel I think of as I Knew Tennessee, and the dwindling pole of panelists. Seeing Edward Albee last year was fantastic, but I can’t help but think it will soon be reduced to children he once patted on the head walking down the street.

& The Right to Write: Blacklisting and Its Repercussions The way things are going in this country lately, you probably want to hear how the blacklist ruined dozens of careers during its heyday from the late 1940s until the early 1960s. Panelists will put blacklisting in a historic context, discuss the impact on its victims, and identify some of its lingering effects. Panelists: Michael Bernstein, Lou Dubose, and Victor Navasky Moderator: John Pope. Queen Anne Ballroom of the Monteleone Hotel.

& Intimate and Confidential: Detailing a Moment in History When dealing with history, sometimes it’s more interesting to think small. This can be especially true when dealing with the larger-than-life figures of American Presidents. In this panel, four writers discuss how they used telling details to examine the histories writ large on our political landscape. 11:30 a.m. in the Queen Anne Ballroom.

& Nick Spitzer: Music in the Cultural Conversation Tulane University professor Nick Spitzer is the creator and voice of the public radio gem of a music program, American Routes. Now in its 14th year, American Routes reaches over half a million listeners on 267 outlets, largely because of Spitzer’s unique insights into the way music plays an integral role in our communal life. Whether he’s talking about the bluesmen of Mississippi, the brass bands of New Orleans, a rollicking Tejano band or a worshipping gospel group, Spitzer brings his terrific knowledge to bear on the special ways music both reflects and creates community identity and spirit. Sit back and listen to a man who’s truly a master of the music. 2:30 p.m., La Nouvelle Room, Monteleone.

& Spark and Fire: Poetry Readings Award-winning Louisiana poets Ava Leavell Haymon (Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Prize), Benjamin Morris (Chancellor’s Medal for Poetry/University of Cambridge), and Alison Pelegrin (Akron Poetry Prize) join Louisiana Poet Laureate Julie Kane (Donald Justice Poetry Prize) in a reading and discussion about where the poem originates and how it gets made by frictions as diverse as memory, social criticism, climate change, archetype, natural-cultural-political disaster, and fabulism. Panelist/Readers : Ava Leavell Haymon, Julie Kane, Benjamin Morris, and Alison Pelegrin. Moderator: Darrell Bourque. 2:30 p.m. Muriel’s Jackson Square Restaurant.

& Broomstick by John Biguenet This staged reading is directed by George Judy, Artistic Director of Swine Palace, and features Cristine McMurdo-Wallis. In Broomstick, a witch confesses all: her first love affair, how she discovered her powers, how she has used them. But more than that, it is a funny and frightening return to our childhoods, where we first wrestled with evil and justice. For the witch is a completely unsentimental moralist who knows everything about the human heart — having been both its victim and avenger all her long life — and who metes out inexorable justice, immune to our pleas for mercy, cackling at our excuses. In Broomstick, whiners wind up in casseroles. 6:00 p.m. in the La Nouvelle Ballroom of the Monteleone.

Sunday

& The final day kicks off with Staged Reading of the 2012 Festival One-Act Play Contest Winner
Communication Arts presents a reading of the winning entry in the 2012 Festival’s national One-Act Play Contest. The Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of New Orleans administers and coordinates the competition judging. The winning playwright receives a $1,500 cash prize.10 a.m. in the La Nouvelle Ballroom at the Monteleone.

& A Unique Slant of Light: The Bicentennial History of Art in Louisiana Commissioned by the Bicentennial Commission, A Unique Slant of Light: The Bicentennial History of Art in Louisiana, is a beautiful new book featuring the work of approximately 275 artists and photographers. Editors Michael Sartisky, Ph.D., president of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanties (LEH); and J. Richard Gruber, Ph.D., director emeritus of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art appear with art collector and philanthropist Roger Ogden and artist George Rodrigue to discuss this important work. Panelists: J. Richard Gruber, Roger Ogden, and George Rodrigue. Moderator: Michael Sartisky 10 a.m. in the Royal Ballroom of the Monteleone.

& An Autobiography About My Brother by Justin Kuritzkes Andrew’s brother is about to be executed for killing 25 people. On the eve of his brother’s execution, Andrew looks back on his own life, his brother’s, and the places where they intersect. Also, Andrew lies a lot. The University of New Orleans Department of Film, Theatre, and Communication Arts presents the premiere production of the winning play in the Festival’s 2011 One-Act Play Contest. 11 a.m. in the La Nouvelle Ballroom of the Monteleone.

& Walker Percy: A Documentary Film Pulitzer Prize winner Walker Percy has said his concerns as a writer were with “a theory of man, man as more than organism, more than consumer — man the wayfarer, man the pilgrim, man in transit, on a journey.” And with time-honored classics such as The Moviegoer, the physician turned writer’s wry observations about the meaning of life have long-delighted readers. Festival-goers have the chance to gain a new perspective on one of the South’s greatest literary voices with this special screening of a new documentary about the author.

Through archival film, excerpts of Percy’s work, and interviews with family, friends and scholars, Walker Percy: A Documentary, examines Percy’s own journey. Followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, Win Riley, the film lets audiences become true “Moviegoers” as they learn from this formidable talent. 11:30 am at the Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St.

& Talking Tennessee with Piper Laurie, Bryan Batt, and Christian LeBlanc Join these talented actors as they recount their experiences with Tennessee Williams’ words and works. They’ll discuss our namesake’s imprint on American theater, as well as his inspiration to them as actors. A highlight of the discussion will be Ms. Laurie reminiscing about her time playing the role of Laura Wingfield in the acclaimed 1965 revival of The Glass Menagerie on Broadway opposite Maureen Stapleton’s Amanda, Pat Hingle’s Gentleman Caller, and George Grizzard’s Tom. Facilitated by Foster Hirsch. 1 p.m. in the Royal Ballroom at the Monteleone.

& Cityscapes: Writing the American City in Fact and Fiction Writing about the American city poses special problems and offers particular pleasures, whether you’re a novelist, memoirist, or historian. Of course, writers about New York have the pre- and post-9/11 dilemma, just as writers about New Orleans always write in the shadow of Katrina. Larry Powell discusses his brand new work of history about New Orleans, The Accidental City; Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts talks about writing Harlem is Nowhere; Laura Lippman describes the real city of Baltimore she depicts in her novels; and Susan Larson, who has been reading books about New Orleans for 25 years, moderates. Panelists: Laura Lippman, Larry Powell, and Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts. Moderator: Susan Larson. 1 p.m. in the Queen Anne Ballroom at the Monteleone. You can pretty much count on seeing me there. I’m the old fart in a young man’s hat down in front.

& Laugh and the World Reads with You — Favorite Comic Novels
We read books for many reasons — for enlightenment, for instruction, and for consolation. But we also read to be amused, to be diverted and taken out of ourselves. Every reader’s known the joy of laughing out loud at a funny sentence, then sharing it with an inquiring onlooker. National Book Critics Circle president Jane Ciabattari leads writers in a discussion of favorite comic novels. Bring your favorites too! Panelists: Joshua Clark, Amy Dickinson, Jewelle Gomez and Ted O’Brien. Moderator: Jane Ciabattari. Just taking a wild flyer here, but I think Confederacy of Dunces may come up. Let me know as I’ll be at Streetcar and miss this one. 2:30 p.m. in the Queen Anne Ballroom of the Monteleone.

& And of course, with Festival closes out with Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest Contestants vie to rival Stanley Kowalski’s shout for “STELLAAAAA!!!” in the unforgettable scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. Women contestants are welcome to try a little role reversal and yell for Stanley. Free and open to the public. Prizes will be awarded. 4:15 p.m. on the Pontalbla Building gallery on the Canal Street side.

Word. January 2, 2012

Posted by The Typist in 504ever, Bloggers, music, New Orleans, Theater, Toulouse Street.
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Of the Lord (Lord David, that is) from The Truth and Other Lies. If you don’t read his blog, consider yourself woefully under-informed and your opinions beneath notice.

I find myself closer to a Stepford/Mayberry in Hell reality than I ever thought possible for the City of New Orleans…

Join me in the following year, if you dare, in going out to see music that MATTERS; from the Soul Rebels to Ratty Scurvics & the Black Market Butchers, or Dr John sitting in with JD Hill at the St Roch Tavern.

Patronize amazing local theater at out-of-the-way places like Allways Lounge & Marigny Theater, the Shadow Box theater or Otter’s Backyard Ballroom, rather than more commercial endeavors, like Professional Douche Bag, Pres Kabacoff’s, ugly little orange mall..

Gird your loins appropriately, folks, and head on out.
Life in this city is dangerous.
Its complicated.
It’s amazing & it’s beautiful.
In the final measure, for me, it’s the only way to go.

Writing the Edge November 20, 2011

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My review of Writing the Edge at this year’s Fringe Fest is up at NOLA Defender. There are photos on Facebook and in Flikr here. It was overall a tremendous night of poetry performance, for which I have to commend organizer/MC and performer Valentine Pierce and all of the involved performers. Sadly did not draw the SRO crowds of last year. I have to wonder aloud (as I do in the review) if the vaguely Katrina theme kept away a Katrina-weary audience. Go read the whole thing for the details. Thinking about it this morning it led to a long rumination on poetry which I’ll get up later tonight but for now go read the review and the one below of The Baroness Undressed.

The Baroness Rampant November 19, 2011

Posted by The Typist in History, New Orleans, Odd Words, Theater, Toulouse Street.
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How do you collapse the fantastic and tragic story of the Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba into a one woman show of less than 30 minutes? Why, with a corset, of course.

For the first several minutes of The Baroness Undressed, after Diana E.H. Shortes’ entrance onto the Allways Lounge’s small stage we witness a silent and powerful physical performance of operatic violence, a marionette possessed, as she laces her corset and buttons her bodice with the tenacity of a lioness, twisting and bending and contorting her body with and her face with pain and frustration with every yank of the laces and every recalcitrant button wrestled into place she has assumed both the costume and the persona of her tortured aristocratic character. What is laid naked in this show is the interior of the Baroness’s character.

In this very short one-woman show Shortes gives us the essentials of the Baronesss’story. one
“no woman living today could understand”: a privileged Creole child named for St. Micheal the Archangeal “who cast Satan himself into hell”; a wealthy young “heiress from both ends” subjected to an arranged marriage to her cousin Xavier Celestin Delfau de Pontalba; how the Pontabalas took her away from New Orleans to a prison-like castle outside Parish; bitterly spits out that she “conceived six times” but does not otherwise mention her children; the attempts by her father-in-law to steal her fortune that ends with his attempt to murder her; how he failed and ultimately took his own life; how she ultimately returned to New Orleans and recovered her fortune, finally escapes from the clutches of the Pontablas.

Until the last minutes of the play, when she begins to unbind herself from her constrictive feminine costume and relates her ultimate triumph and monument–the buildings that still bear her name–she struggles through her corset to find the breath to tell her story. She collapses not only to the feinting couch that is the stage’s only dressing, but frequently onto the floor. Her attempts to speak with a masculine ferocity frustrated by the tightly laced female costume of that period which leaves her frequently a gasping heap, a perfect symbol for the societal strictures she struggles against. From the couch she rises wielding her fan, once again–if only for a moment–the charming Creole aristocrat. From the floor she struggles to her knees and to her feet like someone just shot, determined to catalog at any cost the injustice and injury she suffers.

In one of the shows most dramatic moments, as she describes the attempt on her life, she slowly pulls a long red scarf out of her bodice as if she were in fact bleeding out on the stage. Later, as she recounts the parallel troubles her native city suffered she brilliantly ruffles the same scarf over the floor as she describes the fires that twice destroyed the eighteenth century Vieux Carre. As toward the end she reverses the process of dressing and pulls off her dress gloves she prominently displays the left hand as if hooding a particularly striking ring up to the light, the fingers of the hand shattered by her in-laws bullet clad in a solitary black under glove.

Shortes uses her thin body, Veronica Russell’s costumes (the constraining corset, the perfect sense once dressed of an eighteenth century lady in a Franco-Spanish city, the darkly sexy garments underneath it all) and the consequences of those costumes to stunning physical effect, but it is ultimately her face flashing with lizard quickness from coquettish smile to contortions of pain and of rage that allow us into the soul of the Baroness.

As Shortes recounts her struggles not only with her powerful voice but with every thread of her costume and every muscle and sinew in her slim frame, she plays not for sympathy but for respect, decrying the patriarchal feudalism the Baroness struggles against. Shortes captures the emblematic Pontabla perfectly, becomes New Orleans’ anti-Joan of Arc who takes up her fan like her name saint’s sword and ultimately triumphs over every man and tragedy life places in her way, her monument the graceful apartments upon which her emblematic P is still emblazoned on every gallery in iron as hard as Shortes’ Baroness herself.

Odd Words at the Fringe November 18, 2011

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, Odd Words, Theater, Toulouse Street.
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No, the post title is not a tautology. I will be reviewing a few plays for NOLA Defender, and probably reviewing some others on my to see list here on Toulouse Street which the Defender already has covered by other writers.</p

Odd Words November 17, 2011

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Poetry, Theater, Toulouse Street.
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I think my last post, Blogging by the Book, is introduction enough for this week’s Odd Words. So let’s dive right in.

& This is the fourth year of New Orleans’ annual festival of experimental theater, Fringe Fest. I’m not going to try to tell you everything that’s going on. That’s what the Fringe web site is for. And if you haven’t started scanning the cubes already, you’re way behind schedule as performances started last night

I will call out one, Writing The Edge, a spoken word event Saturday night at the Maison at 7 pm and again at 9 p.m. There’s no complete list of performers on the Fringe site but I know that the fantastic Raymond “Moose” Jackson and Valentine Pierce are on the list. Last year all of the performers were incredible. Did I mention its free? Did I mention it was seriously SRO last year? Get there early.

&This week’s other big event is a visit to 17 Poets! by Bernadette Mayers and Philip Good. Mayer will be reading and signing Ethics of Sleep (Trembling Pillow Press, 2011) and Good will be signing his new book, Untitled Writings from a Member of the Blank Generation, new out from Trembling Pillow press. Mayer is one of the major poets of our generation, serving as director of The [prestigious] Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in New York, editing several influential journals and publishing ten books of poetry and prose. 7 p.m. at the Goldmine Saloon.

& If you’re already overdosed on Fringe by Friday night, stop by the Antenna Gallery and check out the [PANK] INVASION of New Orleans, featuring a rogue’s gallery of talented contributors to the literary journal PANK who promised “Propositions Sudden & Thereupon Poesy   Contortions   Verse   Dynames   Astounding Feats of Potboiling Fabel.” The participating writers include a Rumpus favorite and honorary Orleanian Antonia Crane among the 12 writers participating. Others include Tessa Fountaine, non-fiction editor of the Black Warrior Review; local Robbi Pounds, memoir/nonfiction novel Rubble Fever and M. Bartley Seigel (, founder of the journal PANK. You can check all the bios on Room 220 here. This sounds too good to resist even in the busy clutter of Fringe week. Check the flyer and stop into Antenna Friday at 7 pm.

& Late UpdateIf you’re reading this on your MacBook or iPad, you’re going to want ton consider stopping by Octavia Books tonight to hear Walter Isaacson lecture about Steve Jobs followed by a booksigning. Books may be pre-orded during store hours at Octavia Books, 504-899-7323, or anytime at octaviabooks.com/book/9781451648539. Tonite, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. Expect this one to be crowded with Jobs acolytes.

& If you miss Isaacson tonight, you can catch him again at lunchtime Wednesday at Garden District Books

& Also tonight is a chance to catch James Nolan reading and signing from his new book Higher Ground. For more details on that book, go read my write up of his event at the Words & Music Festival. Let’s just say I’m pretty sure this one is going up on the New Orleans canon shelf here at Toulouse Street after that reading.

& On Friday Maple Street Book Shop will be the bookseller at a reception celebrating the renovation of 1026 Conti Street, the site of the famous brothel operated by Norma Wallace. Wallace was the subject of Chris Wiltz’s highly praised biography, The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld. Chris Wiltz will be the special guest at the reception. For additional information visit www.1026conti.com.

& Downtown Friday night at the Love Lost Lounge, the No Love Lost Poetry Reading hosted by Joseph Bienvenu kicks of at 5:30 p.m., just in time for the bar’s Jazz Happy Hourand opening time for the excellent Vietnamese kitchen in the back.

& Later Friday New Orleans premiere spoken word event Acoustic Fridays the Red Star Gallery, 2513 Bayou Road, hosted every week by Charlie V-Uptowns Illest MC. $7 cover, $5 with college ID

& This Saturday at Garden District, R. Reese Fuller will read and sign Angola to Zydeco: Louisiana Lives, a collection of creative nonfiction pieces about the lively personalities who call south Louisiana home. Originally published in newspapers based in Lafayette-Times of Acadiana and Independent Weekly-the twenty-five profiles and features provide intriguing glimpses into the lives of well-known Louisianans such as James Lee Burke, Ernest J. Gaines, Elemore Morgan Jr., Buckwheat Zydeco, Marc Savoy, Boozoo Chavis, Calvin Borel, Santy Runyon, and Eddie Shuler. Author R. Reese Fuller. Musical accompaniment by David Rogan.

& Also on Saturday at Maple street, Edward Branley will add to his string o titles on New Orleans landmarks, sharing and signing his latest, Maison Blanche Department Stores. Mr. Branley wrote a wonderful book about the Canal Street street car line as well as Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans. You can pick one up at the bookstore or if you look next time you’re in Walgreens his publisher, Arcadia Publishing, has managed to place point-of-sale displays of their titles right there in what probably used to be your Friendly K&B. Look for the stand-up diplay of their sepia-colored covers.

& On Sunday the long-running Maple Leaf Poetry Series will take a day off because of the expected crowd-crush of the Po-Boy Festival on Oak Street. In spite of these occasional interruptions (including a Katrina hiatus) this event–founded by noted New Orleans poet Everette Maddox- is the longest running poetry series in the South. You can contact Nancy Harris if you want to get on the mailing list, but you can always check Odd Words

& And of course this and every Monday Kate Smash will lead everyone in a rousing chorus of “Mercedes-Benz” after the Writer’s Block reading/performance event on the amphitheater steps across from Jackson Square. 9 .m. No list, no mic, all performers welcome. Bring your didgeridoo if that’s your thing. (I almost bought one at Jazz Fest two years ago; they were such things of beauty).

& Tuesday at Octavia there is a double-header featuring John Jeremiah Sullivan’s PULPHEAD & Nathanial Rich THE MAYOR’S TONGUE. In Pulphead, John Jeremiah Sullivan takes us on an exhilarating tour of our popular, unpopular, and at times completely forgotten culture. Simultaneously channeling the gonzo energy of Hunter S. Thompson and the wit and insight of Joan Didion, Sullivan shows us—with a laidback, erudite Southern charm that’s all his own—how we really (no, really) live. Rich’s debut novel, hailed by Stephen King as “terrifying, touching, and wildly funny,” the stories of two strangers, Eugene Brentani and Mr. Schmitz, interweave. What unfolds is a bold reinvention of storytelling in which Eugene, a devotee of the reclusive and monstrous author, Constance Eakins, and Mr. Schmitz, who has been receiving ominous letters from an old friend, embark from New York for Italy, where the line between imagination and reality begins to blur and stories take on a life of their own.

& One last note: after struggling for months to get a reliable contact at the 1718 Reading Series hosed by writing students at Loyola University, M’Bilia Meekers–winner of this year’s Words & Music poetry contest and a student at Tulane active in 1718, kindly sent me the list for this year which I will repost as the events come up. If you want to mark your calendars, here’s the current schedule:

    December 6–Mark Yakich
    January 17–Kristen Sanders
    February 7–Tom Piazza
    March 6–Oluwaniyi Osundare
    April 10–Michael Lee
    May 1–Julie Kane

P.S. If your event is not in here it’s because you didn’t send it to odd.words.nola@gmail.com. I can only spend so many hours trolling the Internet trying to find out what’s going on.

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