The performers describe themselves as “fearless,” and they’d like their audiences to be equally so. Fearlessness is a cornerstone of the New Orleans Fringe Festival, a five-day event that flouts rules as it offers up innovative and flat-out weird artistic performances.
Now in its sixth year, the festival (Nov. 19-23) touts as its core principles “fringiness,” quality and inclusiveness, which come through not only in the works, but in the unusual settings where they are performed. This year’s venues range from A to Z – Art Klub to Zeitgeist – and include such other settings as Mardi Gras Zone, Marigny Opera House, the Old Firehouse and The Shadowbox Theater.
Local peer reviewers choose performances from hundreds of applicants around this country and a few others. Two dozen hand-chosen groups will perform at Fringe-managed venues, but many other artists will appear at locations throughout the city. This year’s fest will include some 300 shows.
The nonprofit organization behind the festival sponsors other art-supportive events throughout the year, including outreach programs and theater training workshops. See nofringe.org for details about festival performances, locations, times and tickets.
Orchestra on road home?
Nearly a decade after the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra last performed a symphony in its favorite setting, it may finally be on track toward a homecoming.
The historic Orpheum Theater on University Street downtown was built in 1918 and initially offered vaudeville performances. The 1,800-seat Beaux Arts-style building was nearly demolished in 1979 before being rescued and renovated. It re-opened in 1989 as home to the LPO, whose musicians value the site’s high-quality acoustics.
After being devastated by the flood that followed Hurricane Katrina, the theater sat wrecked and neglected through a series of attempts to save it, until last year when the owner of the city’s best-known music club, Tipitina’s, stepped in.
Roland von Kurnatowski, his wife Mary von Kurnatowski, and business partner Eric George bought the theatre for $1.5 million. A renovation and restoration now under way not only aims to return the space to its former majesty, but will update the amenities to include an adjustable floor and removable seats that will instill the flexibility to host more events. A spokeswoman for Kurnatowski says the Orpheum will be ready to welcome the LPO back in time for the orchestra’s 2015-2016 season.
Saenger keeps hit musicals coming
Audiences are growing accustomed to having the Saenger Theater back in action at the corner of Canal and Rampart streets, and theater managers are getting used to rising expectations. The theater does not disappoint.
The fall and winter lineup of hits not only includes such blockbusters as Chicago, Dirty Dancing, Mama Mia! and Annie, but also brings one of the world’s most spectacular musicals, The Phantom of the Opera.
Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s phenomenal musical boasts special effects that include the show’s legendary chandelier, new scenic and lighting designs and new choreography. The beloved story and thrilling score will be performed by a cast and orchestra of 52, making this Phantom one of the largest productions now on tour.
Bring on the laughs
A few years ago, an Austin, Texas, a comedy “conservatory” found its way to New Orleans, and today local fans of live comedy are benefiting. New Orleans natives Chris Trew and Tami Nelson launched The New Movement in the Crescent City when they teamed up with improv troupe Stupid Time Machine. Now TNM NOLA is expanding from a cramped Burgundy Street space to larger digs at 2706 St. Claude Ave. The group recently raised more than $50,000 in a Kickstarter campaign that will advance their goal of teaching the art of live comedy through classes and on-stage performance opportunities.
See TNM’s upcoming performance schedule at newmovementtheater.com. If you’re an aspiring comic, check out details of TNM’s five-day training camp, scheduled Dec. 15-19. And don’t miss the biggest comedy event in the Gulf South – Hell Yes Fest – coming Nov. 12-16.
An impressive lineup of dramatic, comedic and musical offerings will unfold on stages around the city in the coming months. Find highlights in the following pages, check the organizations’ websites for details and reserve your seat for the fall season.