Turning the decade to 2010 doesn't have the ring of a new millennium, but the year in theater wasn't without the millennialist and apocalyptic overtones of end times. Stages were overrun with Nazis (I Am My Own Wife), Aryans (White Noise) and plagues in the forms of an impeding ice age (The Skin of Our Teeth) and germs (Sick). In a more local setting, Jim Fitzmorris cast King Lear as a New Orleans politician from the 1950s who asks what he has done to wreck such havoc on his kingdom. And in the fields of City Park, Loup Garou asked if we in southern Louisiana had sold our souls for a few pieces of silver, while Judas Iscariot sat in judgment at UNO. It was a year of landmarks, but one in which the vestiges of our near-biblical flood gave way to the rebirth of several theater venues and original offerings.
A new link to Broadway was established in the preview run of White Noise: A Cautionary Tale, a musical chronicling the rise of an Aryan singing duo who climb to pop stardom while coding racially hateful messages. It brought top New York actors and director Donald Byrd to the city and became the first production to take advantage of the state's theater tax credits. It also gave the reorganized and revitalized Le Petit Theatre a spotlight as it unveiled a season of new and classic musicals. Byrd extended his stay in the city to direct Aida at Le Petit.
Touring Broadway musicals returned to the city at the reopened Mahalia Jackson Theater. Productions included Cats and The Color Purple. The renovated venue also welcomed back the New Orleans Opera Association, ballet and dance presented by the New Orleans Ballet Association and performances by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
One of the year's theatrical highlights was the original production Loup Garou, created by ArtSpot Productions and Mondo Bizarro. The one-man show starring Nick Slie, written by Raymond "Moose" Jackson and directed by Kathy Randels, delivered a physically rigorous, poetic account of a Cajun man tormented by the specter of a bargain with the devil.
The Shakespeare Festival at Tulane set a couple of the Bard's works in Louisiana but saw the departure of longtime festival director Brad Robbert.
Also lost to the arts scene was the theater and studio space at the Colton School, a colony of creativity established during the art biennial Prospect.1. Cripple Creek Theater Company's production of Thorton Wilder's absurdist The Skin of Our Teeth was the venue's final show. But the surrounding Marigny and Bywater neighborhood saw other venues emerge. The stage in the back of the AllWays Lounge has become a popular spot for low-budget productions. The New Orleans Fringe Festival made good use of it in its second year, along with other odd spaces such as the Skull Club and the deconsecrated church on St. Ferdinand Street. It was an overall entertaining round-up of alternative theater productions by locals and visiting artists.
Southern Rep was reliably stable. The theater hosted the debut of John Biguenet's second Hurricane Katrina-related play, Shotgun, which has been nominated for Best New American Play by the American Theatre Critics Association. Southern Rep's year included an eclectic and far ranging set of productions, with Bob Edes Jr. serving as a connecting element. Edes starred in Sick, about a New York family retreating into a germ-proof but insolated bubble. He co-starred in Opus, about a chamber ensemble thrown into discord when its membership is shaken up. But Edes truly stood out as Charlotte von Mahldsorf in I Am My Own Wife, a biographical one-man show about a German transvestite who survived the Nazis and communists.
Some of the promising developments include the formation of new production groups such as FourFront Theatre, the increased opportunities for young writers in showcases of short works, and the proliferation of offbeat and dark comedies (Mr. Marmalade) attracting young audiences.
The New Orleans theater community lost two legendary local contributors in Stocker Fontelieu and Al Shea.