‘Don’t look for Neil Simon here’
The Elm Theatre’s Garrett Prejean appeared in Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind at Mid-City Theatre.
Three years into a test of how live theater might play in the Mid-City area, Fred Nuccio says the project is no longer an experiment.
Many of the city’s best actors, directors and producers have put their talents on display at Mid-City Theatre, and audiences have taken a liking to the homey setting that’s housed in a made-over warehouse but exudes a whiff of sophistication.
“Mid-City Theatre has been well received,” the low-key Nuccio says.
Located just behind the American Can apartment complex, steps away from Bayou St. John, Mid-City Theatre has a different feel than other area stages. The only live theater that lies between downtown and the lakefront, it draws patrons from such areas as Lakeview, who like the easy access and free parking in the neighborhood.
They’re also enjoying the diverse lineup that Nuccio brings to the stage. Offerings have ranged from original works by local playwrights to stand-up comedy to the long-running live soap opera “Debauchery.”
In the past year, Mid-City has delved more heavily into a form that goes over particularly well with local audiences – cabaret. With a boost from his right-hand woman, Su Gonczy, who for years doubled as a lighting-sound technician and house manager at Le Chat Noir, Nuccio has embraced the entertaining, bistro-type performances. Most recently, audiences turned out for A Midsummer Night’s Cabaret, presented by the singing duo of Sean Patterson and Mindy Zirkenbach, accompanied by pianist Jefferson Turner.
Mid-City may owe some of its staying power thus far to difficulties at other venues. Not only did the closure of downtown club Le Chat Noir create a void in cabaret-style entertainment, but the city’s top dramatic stage, Southern Repertory Theatre, lost its lease in Canal Place and subsequently took its shows “on the road” around the city. A number of its productions have landed at Mid-City Theatre.
Southern Rep’s producing artistic director, Aimée Hayes, says the roaming shows may be drawing to an end as the theater could settle into more permanent quarters. The theater will stage John Biguenet’s Broomstick, starring Liann Pattison, at Ashé Cultural Arts Center, on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, in October.
Meanwhile, Southern Rep’s new play development continues, with both its 3X3 and 6X6 series being performed at Mid-City Theatre.
Nuccio welcomes the eclectic mix of works at Mid-City and says he wants to continue offering both cabaret and serious drama, along with original and offbeat shows.
Recent months brought staged readings of a Shakespearean Star Wars, which Nuccio says was “extremely well received,” and The Big Lebowski, presented in iambic pentameter.
Garrett Prejean’s Elm Theatre took Sam Shepard’s gritty A Lie of the Mind to the Mid-City Stage. And the talented Bob Edes Jr. comes back in October with his award-winning performance of Miss Gulch Returns, presented by Running With Scissors.
The action will be brisk at Mid-City in November, with performances associated with the New Orleans Fringe Festival, along with The Island of Dr. Fitzmorris, by Monologic Mad Scientist Jim Fitzmorris. Also, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts will visit the venue with its presentation of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. And then comes a treat by actor-singer Cameron-Mitchell Ware, who presents a musical exploration of his life in Catch 23.
Nuccio promises a line-up of holiday camp in December, including a show re-uniting Ricky Graham and Varla Jean Merman to celebrate the new year.
“We’ve been not-exactly-mainstream, and that’s kind of where we’ll stay,” Nuccio promises. “Don’t look for Neil Simon here.”
As Mid-City Theatre solidifies its presence in the neighborhood, one of the city’s most inventive troupes is celebrating its 10th season with a lineup of strong characters.
The NOLA Project, founded by an energetic band of New York-trained actors led by Andrew Larimer, is presenting a season of what it terms “theatre for the bold,” in which individuals who have decided enough is enough “take a brave stance against oppression, structures of power and The Man.”
The five-play series began in September with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and proceeds in October with the regional premiere of Shiner by Christian Durso, at The AllWays Theatre.
Now led by Artistic Director A.J. Allegra, NOLA Project will travel to the New Orleans Museum of Art, Mid-City Theatre and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden for its productions of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night; Charles Ludlam’s Camille, featuring Ricky Graham; and Robin Hood: Thief, Brigand, a new play by Andrew Vaught, of Cripple Creek Theatre Company.
Check the websites of all these theaters and companies for dates, times and other details.