Friday, January 18, 2008

Where the Heck is Backyard Ballroom?

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2008 at 3:36 PM

If you missed last year's underground theatre event: The Palanquin Diaries, Confessions of a Mardi Gras Queen, you have one more weekend to catch the encore. Assuming of course that you like nudity, snakes, rock music, and can find the venue. But where the heck is the Backyard Ballroom?

Like most things bohemian, the Backyard Ballroom is located in the Bywater. On St Claude and Gallier, next to an empty lot, the large, strately house and its backyard are owned by the playwright, Otter, who co-produced Palanquin Diaries with her partner, Chris Rudge, owner of the Bywater's Bacchanal wine store. He personally ran back and forth between the backyard and his wine store to "deliver beer", since he is only licensed to sell alcohol out of the one location.

I brought blankets, assuming the backyard would be cold. Turns out, there's an indoor theatre space back there. The Bywater is host to a number of new gallery/performance venues these days, such as SideArm Gallery, Barrister's Gallery, Hi Ho Lounge, and Bacchanal. The Backyard Ballroom offers a narrow stage, curtains, lights and lightboard, sound. And the electrical looked up to code. Even the exits were visibly marked. New Orleans needs more low-cost theatre options, and Backyard Ballroom is one of the better ones, if you can attract an audience that "far" into the Bywater.

The Monday night show I attended was sold out. They offered a "pay-what-you-will" performance for family and friends, which drew an SRO crowd. But the standard ticket price of $23 is too high, considering the location's hard sell and the off-beat nature of the work. They close the following Saturday night, although I heard a rumor they may return after Mardi Gras. Don't chance it, go see Palanquin Diaries this weekend.

The show is comprised of short vignettes read from Otter's diary, who was ostensibly murdered just before the curtain opens. In rhyming iambic pantameter, Palanquin Diaries is a rock-and-roll who-done-it that explores the seemy underbelly of New Orleans life. Did I mention nudity?

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