On Friday, Creative Alliance of New Orleans startup arts and education colony Studio at Colton will officially disband, with no definitive word on its future plans. Closing the studio this week are two events that couldnt be more fitting: a dedication ceremony (5 p.m. tomorrow) honoring the students and artists that collaborated on the Colton vestibule mural, a 13-panel project undertaken by Xavier Community Arts Program, Bottletree Productions, Young Aspirations/Young Artists, G. W. Carver High School and the New York 2 New Orleans Coalition; and the Cripple Creek Theatre Company's final two performances of Thornton Wilders The Skin of Our Teeth (8 p.m. Thursday-Friday; read Gambit's review here). Gambit sat down with Cripple Creek co-founder and director Andy Vaught during dress rehearsals to discuss the show, the company and the uncertain fate of Colton artists.
We started out at 3 Ring Circus' (The Big Top Gallery) for the first two shows (in 2006). Our third show was in a public park (Washington Square). That was a fun one. Then we found Convergence (Center For the Arts) on Magazine (Street). They were just starting out too. We were in what is now the Swan River Yoga Studio for Waiting for Lefty. Then they moved upstairs, above the Jewel Grocery. When I first came down here, I had looked at St. Marks (Community Center). Those balconies its just an amazing space. Inked a year deal with them, where we would pay them $10,000 for four shows. We wound up subletting one of those slots to ArtSpot (Productions) and MondoBizarro to do Flight. Then we did a show above the Jewel Gallery. Thats when the AC blew out. It was an attic production. Im fine with [the heat] at this point. Were going to give out free lemonade at the show.
[Laughs] Yeah, were Bedouins. Just a little bit of everywhere. Ive been wanting to do this play since college. We agreed to do it, then it was about where we could do it. Thinking about the play, and thinking about, youre watching a play falling apart in front of your face, and about these people struggling to keep it going. It seemed like this was the best place for it. Heres this old, rustic decrepit maybe auditorium. We came in here, and theres so much cool stuff. A lot of these chairs are just loose around here, so were using those in the show. We kind of came in here with the idea to use as much of Colton as we could in the show. It was a free space. Thats always really important. A lot of people think the Bywater is coming into its own as an art area. Marigny Theatre, Sidearm Gallery. Stuff along this strip is really popping up.
I think the show itself is pretty perfect for New Orleans. Crap happens, and you have to just keep going. Its never perfect. Its weird, because its such an absurd play. Our Towns very serious, and this one seems to be kind of, this guy just threw everything he could think of on a page. Its these people dealing with disasters and history and culture. Its all these things that people here have to deal with. And this building itself I dont know how old it is. Theres buildings like this all over New Orleans, and you can never get in them.
Were hoping to be in the Fringe Festival for a play I wrote called Major Swellings Salvation Salve Medicine Show. Its about a guy whos hawking this salvation salve, and he brings Huey P. Long back from the dead. Then he enters into this epic confrontation with Bobby Jindal. And its a musical.
I probably have been that many times.
We had done one show here: Mondo Bizarro and ArtSpot did something called The Saint Plays a while ago. We were on a hall on the second floor, which was a different experience entirely. We had sent an email. To be honest, I dont even know if were supposed to be in here. We sent some stuff in, then we found out Colton was closing early. This run was supposed to go to Aug. 8. That was just passed down to me. (Board member) Joanna (Russo) was like, "You can do it here, just dont expect anything." Which is fine. Were kind of used to not having help. I hope we get to stay. We lock it up every night. This whole production kind of felt like skin of our teeth. Things keep happening that get in the way, which is fine. Thats probably the way its supposed to be.
We had looked at spaces (here) at the beginning. It was a little too quick. We run on such a skeleton crew. It was always from the beginning, like, You will lose this space. Some things, I think, are great. Its wonderful to have a space where people can go. But you come into this building, which has been neglected for years and years. And this isnt even storm damage. It looks like the last time it was renovated was 1953 because theres a plaque on the door that says that.
It was just such a massive project. I wonder if anyone couldve done it. (Program Manager) Sarah (Hess) was the point person on getting people in here. Shes about to have a child. Its like a ghost story at this point. You walk through the halls, and you have these spectral images of Michael Jackson around.
I think the arts community here specifically talking about Colton its going to get by. Its going to survive, but you always kind of feel like youre scraping by. In New Orleans you can do art. Whats so great about New Orleans is, anyone can do the art they want to do. Theres endless opportunity. The problem is, are you going to make a living at it? Or is it going to be successful? Is it going to be noticed anywhere outside of New Orleans? I dont know what the answer is, but you got to keep slugging away.