As 2010 draws to a close, Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre has canceled the remainder of its season and closed its doors. It's an abrupt and jarring end to a year full of memorable performances and great promise for local theater.
Le Petit had rebounded from financial problems in 2009. In 2010, it staged musicals including Grey Gardens, The Wedding Singer and Hairspray. In July, the theater presented Celebrity Autobiography, in which John Goodman channeled boy band 'N Sync and Bryan Batt read from Vanna White's autobiography, describing the challenging parts of her career in letters. Le Petit revived its once popular Children's Corner with a production of Chicken Little in October, but in November it announced that the theater and management company the Solomon Group were parting ways. Soon the holiday production of Irving Berlin's White Christmas was canceled, and the remainder of the season followed suit.
In contrast, several theaters and organizations blossomed in 2010. Southern Rep entered into a partnership with Le Chat Noir and now schedules productions at the cabaret. On its own mainstage, Southern Rep presented The Piano Teacher, new works like Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) and the world premieres of Steve Yockey's Afterlife: A Ghost Story and Peter McElligott's With A Bang. Running With Scissors fluffed up its holidays with Snow Girls, a rambunctious parody of the already gratuitous Showgirls. In addition to many smaller-scale productions at Le Chat Noir, it created ongoing series there including 6x6, a monthly installment of six short plays by local authors, written around common themes.
Le Chat Noir presented some memorable shows including Ricky Graham and Varla Jean Merman in the madcap Charles Ludlam comedy The Mystery of Irma Vep.
Cripple Creek Theater company took up residence at the AllWays Lounge and the venue came into its own as an eclectic and exciting font of creativity. Some of the highlights included a wickedly dark and funny production of Jules Feiffer's Little Murders. But The December production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera was one of the year's highlights as it combined veteran and young talents and a polished mix of raw energy and refined vision.
In its third year, the New Orleans Fringe Festival presented an array of new and original works ranging from comedy and puppetry to genre mashups and a rock opera. Some of the stellar shows included Du Fu, Mississippi, Our Man, Tale of Mephisto and the Lead Paint Libretto.
There was original work throughout the city. At the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane, the prolific Jim Fitzmorris presented The Everlasting Bonfire, a blisteringly funny and erudite take on early 1800s New Orleans actor Edwin Forrest's contemplation of the Bard. ArtSpot Productions' Kathy Randels and Rebecca Mwase used a home in Lakeview as a stage for Go Ye Therefore..., a collaborative work about both being the daughters of Baptist preachers.
Among the classic dramas staged was Our Town at Anthony Bean Community Theater, though it was reimagined as a colorblind generational saga. Anthony Bean also revived Lonnie Elder's Ceremonies in Dark Old Men about changing times in Harlem in the 1960s.
Jefferson Performing Arts Society presented musicals including The Producers and muscial comedies like Scream Queens, an homage to B-actresses and horror films.
In a year in which adult puppet theater was everywhere, Arthur Mintz and Hi-Yah Productions' Fantastic Mr. Fox was a treat for young audiences. The show used a massive cardboard catacomb to tell the story as an interactive odyssey.
2010 was a great year for original work, and offstage both Southern Rep and the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane strengthened themselves as institutions. There is much to look forward to in 2011— including, we hope, a revived Le Petit Theatre.