Q&A: The NOLA Project's Latest Season

The NOLA Project opens its ninth season on Sept. 5 with A Truckload of Ink, Jim Fitzmorris’ play following the upheaval of an established city newspaper – sound familiar? The season also includes Oregon Trail, A.J. Allegra’s irreverent take on the computer game; A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant, the story of the “religion” presented as a bad elementary school production; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Alice in Wonderland, which will be staged in NOMA’s Besthoff Sculpture Garden. Allegra, who’s also the company’s artistic director, discusses the season opener.  

Tell me about A Truckload of Ink.
It’s inspired by the massive overhaul that happened at our city’s local paper. When they announced the cutbacks, I was out of town but remember reading the news fervently. The more I read about the actual goings-on within the newsroom and within the community of people who work there, the more I became fascinated by the human story – all of the sudden, they had the rug pulled out from under them. To me, that’s something that would make an interesting drama. I was reading about angry speeches that were made in the newsroom by employees, employees passing around Crown Royal, the news staff going to Wit’s Inn and getting their bar tab paid by the Chicago Tribune. And it occurred to me that the paper business is inherently dramatic: it’s a bunch of people running around like maniacs to meet deadlines, uncover information and secrets. I called Jim Fitzmorris, a gifted playwright, and said here’s my idea for this story – why don’t you write it?  He came up with a script with which we were happy.

We don’t use real names or call it The Times-Picayune, but it’s based on our interpretation of what went down during those dark days. The cool thing is it’s coming at a point we still haven’t yet determined if this was a good or bad thing for our city. To a degree we’ve gotten used to it; to a degree we’ve fought back against it: the paper does publish seven days a week in tabloid form now. I hope this play keeps the conversation going about whether a newspaper is a cultural institution and tradition that’s worth saving, or if it’s a dinosaur technology that needs to evolve.

This season’s theme is “desperate times.” How did you arrive at this theme?
The theme grew out of A Truckload of Ink, the first play we knew we wanted to do. To me, the lives of the newspaper reporters and lives of people who are avid readers of The T-P seemed to be in desperate times, cornered by a large corporation that’s based in New Jersey. When Tom Benson offers to buys something and is rejected, it does seems like we’re in desperate times, aren’t we?

Visit NolaProject.com for details on the play and season.

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