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A Beautiful Sight

Performing arts activity is always a little frenzied at this time of year, so crowded event calendars come as no surprise. Still, is it just me, or is the action almost over
the top?
The lineup of theatrical and musical offerings in November, December and January verges on mind-boggling. The only downside for local audiences is that it won’t be possible to catch every performance that’s worth witnessing. There’s just that much.
What’s driving it all? Well, New Orleans continues to benefit from the influx of young, energetic talent that began marching our way a few years ago. Also, some young theater companies that were still organizing or ironing out the wrinkles last year now are in the thick of their first full seasons. The NOLA Project, FourFront Theatre and Cripple Creek Theatre Company, for instance, all challenged themselves with ambitious selections. The enthusiasm of such groups seems to have inspired others, who also have picked up the pace.
The local appetite for original work is growing, and that is a mark of an increasingly sophisticated theater community. The emphasis on new works is getting a boost from the first New Orleans Fringe Festival (see page 6). Modeled after yearly events held in a dozen or so other cities, this festival — along with the New Plays Festival staged annually at Le Chat Noir — will not only help spark the creative flame for local writers and producers, but will also raise the city’s profile in national theater circles. That can only bode well for the future. 
All this comes about just as the city’s classical performing arts also stretch toward new highs. The January reopening of the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for Performing Arts is the most welcome development local opera, symphony and ballet audiences have encountered in more than three years. The gala celebrations planned by the New Orleans Opera Association, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and the New Orleans Ballet Association will herald the return of a major venue and the city’s recommitment to these vital organizations. 
All in all, local performing arts are imbued with hope and promise right now. This seems a truly auspicious period in the evolution of New Orleans’ performing arts, and it’s a beautiful thing to see. •

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