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2015: The Year in Theater 

New spaces all over town were the hallmark of this year’s stage scene

click to enlarge Detroit examined suburban decay at the new Ashe Power House theater.

Photo by John Barrois

Detroit examined suburban decay at the new Ashe Power House theater.

When Shakespeare wrote "All the world's a stage," he wasn't reflecting on real estate, but in New Orleans' theater scene, 2015 was a year for exploring new spaces. There were grand new additions with the opening of the Ashe Power House Theater and Jefferson Performing Arts Center, and improvised spaces and immersive shows brought theater to all sorts of locales.

  The Ashe Cultural Arts Center opened the Power House Theater in Central City, and Southern Rep made the most of the space, presenting Tennessee Williams' Suddenly, Last Summer, BOUDIN, an original show about local music and the regional premiere of local playwright Lisa D'Amour's Detroit. Southern Rep presented local playwrights' Joe Morris Doss and son Andrew Doss' Song of a Man Coming Through at First Grace United Methodist Church.

  Ashe's first production in its theater was a reprise of Harold Clark's Fishers of Men, starring former New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas and Martin "Bats" Bradford (NCIS: New Orleans).

  After years of delays, the $54.5 million Jefferson Performing Arts Center opened with the Jefferson Performing Arts Society (JPAS) as artists in residence. JPAS presented the musical My Fair Lady and the opera Rigoletto at the center.

  Mid-City Theatre closed, and cabaret shows are again on a nomadic quest for a regular home. Some productions, such as Varla Jean Merman's Big Black Hole, moved to Mags 940 in Faubourg Marigny. The barroom with a tiny stage also served as the setting for Tennessee Williams' Small Craft Warnings, which is set in a scruffy lounge. Bars also served as settings for the immersive works Clown Bar, a noirish dark comedy The NOLA Project presented at Little Gem Saloon, and A New Brain, a musical from See 'Em On Stage Productions at Kajun's Pub.

  Small Craft Warnings was one of two lesser-known Williams plays presented by the new Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of New Orleans. It debuted with The Kingdom of Earth at the Metropolitan Community Church of New Orleans.

  Williams' works were staged all over the city. The Contemporary Arts Center presented The Mutilated, an odd comedy set in New Orleans, starring longtime John Waters collaborator Mink Stole. One of the highlights at Anthony Bean Community Theater was an adaptation of The Glass Menagerie with an all-black cast starring Gwendolyn Foxworth.

  Several companies built on their strengths in 2015. The Bean Theater continued its dedication to the works of August Wilson and mounted its second production of Fences. Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts announced a 2015-2016 season comprised entirely of musicals.

  The NOLA Project continued its relationship with the New Orleans Museum of Art, presenting Robin Hood: Thief, Brigand in the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden and The Winter's Tale in the museum's Great Hall. The company's highlight was Marie Antoinette, starring Cecile Monteyne.

  Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre welcomed new artistic director Maxwell Williams and presented Thornton Wilder's classic Our Town and an adaptation of Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye.

  Goat in the Road Productions returned to the raw space at the Ether Dome on St. Claude Avenue to present its Anton Chekhov adaptation, Uncle Vanya: Quarter Life Crisis.

  The African-American company OperaCreole presented its first full-length production, William Grant Still's Minette Fontaine, set in New Orleans.

  2015 was a year for shows set in or adapted to New Orleans, performed in places meant for or adapted for local audiences.


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