Innovators deliver for local audiences

Theater-goers who enjoy drama with a social conscience are already applauding the much-awaited comeback of Cripple Creek Theatre Company. After a year-long hiatus, the Cripple Creek players plan a return to the stage in August when they will present Mark Blitzstein’s “The Cradle Will Rock.”

Founder Andy Vaught calls the production “an experiment in civic artistry.” The company aims to bring the vibrant music of “Cradle”  into the present day with a production that furthers Cripple Creek’s goals of societal transformation and collaboration, he says.

“This paean to the right of individuals to make a decent living could find no better location than the right-to-work state of Louisiana,” he said. See for more information.

Making noise
Collaborative theater ensemble New Noise has grown to five members and last fall raised $6,000 in a Kickstarter campaign to put on “Oxblood,” billed as “a panoramic outdoor dance theater performance about land, labor and home in the contemporary South.”

Following the initial success of “Oxblood,” the troupe has focused on taking the performance on the road.

Meanwhile, they are bringing back Voicebox, an intensive workshop series led by local and national performance innovators. The 2015 lineup “includes dance, devised theater, and design,” according to the ensemble’s founders.

New Noise also has re-launched its Acting and Scene Study, led by director Joanna Russo. The Wednesday night class is open to actors at many levels of experience who are looking to sharpen their skills and take risks in a supportive environment. See for more details.

20 years and counting
It started in 1995 as a vehicle for artist Kathy Randels to produce her  solo performance work, and this year ArtSpot Productions is celebrating two decades of work with a look back. Through summer 2016, the ensemble of artists will present snapshots of their major performance pieces.

“On or about the 20th of each month, we present something from the piece; lead some workshopping of principles discovered in the making of the work; and engage in a shared conversation about the piece,” Randels says.

The series kicked off in January and February with “Rage Within/Without” and “How To Be a Man in the Twentieth Century.” See for more on upcoming performances. Admission to each performance is free “so come ready to watch, move and talk,” Randels says.

Laugh tracks
Broadway-style shows and musical theater are the bread-and-butter of many local entertainment venues, but increasingly, comedy is playing a bigger role and giving talented locals a chance to sharpen their stand-up and improvisation skills.

CMT Casting recently hosted a showcase to search for the area’s funniest comedians at The New Movement on St. Claude Avenue. Tami Nelson and Chris Trew say they founded The New Movement to challenge the traditional makeup of a comedy show. They focus on improv and a chain of reactions among participating players. A scene often finds its foundation in an initial, spontaneous exchange and branches outward.

The New Movement aims to teach and train comically inclined individuals to step fearlessly into improv. Trew and Nelson formulated the training program by drawing from their own experience in performing hundreds of shows. (See for more information.)

Meanwhile, even Jefferson Performing Arts Society, long known primarily for musical theater, recently presented its first “pure” comedy night. The Comedy Fusion Revival Tour took the stage in Westwego in February, courtesy of its founders, James Cusimano and J.D. Sledge.

Retro delight
Audiences looking for a nostalgic musical experience are never disappointed by shows at the Stage Door Canteen in the National World War II Museum. Regulars know they can count on a musical matinee tribute to the Andrews Sisters by the Victory Belles every Wednesday. In addition, on stage through April 5 is “Always … Patsy Cline,” a touching tribute based on letters written by one of country music’s biggest stars. The musical play – presented with dinner in the 1940s-inspired theater – offers down-home humor, emotion and even a few sing-alongs with such unforgettable Patsy Cline hits as “Crazy,” “Sweet Dreams” and “I Fall to Pieces.”

Beginning April 10, “On the Air: A Live Radio Broadcast Musical,” will take the stage, followed in June by “Thanks for the Memories: Bob Hope and his All-Star Pacific Tour,” a lively re-enactment of the actor/comedian’s great shows. See for more details.

Innovators deliver for local audiences
From the October 2014 production “Oxblood” by New Noise.

Innovators deliver for local audiences
Stage Door Canteen.



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