[StBernard] 'Cry You One, ' a theatrical wetland tour, premieres Saturday in St. Bernard

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Oct 24 09:05:41 EDT 2013

'Cry You One,' a theatrical wetland tour, premieres Saturday in St. Bernard
Print Doug MacCash, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune By Doug MacCash, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on October 23, 2013 at 4:59 PM, updated October 24, 2013 at 12:04 AM

Two of New Orleans’ most avant-garde theater groups, Mondo Bizarro and ArtSpot Productions, have teamed to produce an adventurous outdoor musical play in St. Bernard Parish titled "Cry You One" that debuts Saturday (Oct. 26). Audience members will be taken on an imaginary wetlands tour, led by in-character performers. Along the way, the apparently educational ecological outing takes a few unexpected detours.

“What you think is a nature experience, a nature walk, turns into something more extravagant,” said actor Nick Slie, who conceived of and produced “Cry You One.” Slie plays one of the tour guides, a character named Tom Dulac, a former oil rig worker who left his job after an industrial disaster.

Slie, who was born in New Orleans, may be best remembered for his arrestingly aggressive performance in the acclaimed "Loup Garou," a rather abstract one-man play staged in a City Park meadow in 2009. Unlike conventional theaters where the setting is artificially controlled, the alfresco Loup Garou setting will embrace the changing weather, shifting light and passing birds. They will become part of the experience.

“Nature is one of the most interesting characters ever,” Slie said of the unpredictable outdoor stage.

Slie and videographer Monique Verdin visited the Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Museum while scouting for a location for an outdoor play set in Louisiana’s threatened wetlands. Across Bayou Road from the museum, Verdin, a St. Bernard native, was drawn to a field owned by friends of her family. For her, the field was a happy childhood landmark, where she was given her first dog. Across the field was a levee and canal. It all seemed ideal for the meandering set of “Cry You One.”

Audience members should gather at the Los Isleños Museum, 1357 Bayou Road, no later than 1 p.m. for each performance. Busses will deliver them to the site of the play. Readers who want to discuss the unusual presentation of the play further are welcome to call 504.826.7783 for details, Slie said.

Asked to explain the title, Slie explained that he once heard a Cajun musician introduce a mournful song by saying: “Now let me cry you one.” The phrase came to mind as the play, which deals with south Louisiana’s lachrymose ecological plight, took shape. Though, Slie points out, the drama isn’t entirely grave.

In the beginning, he said, “the tone is very matter of fact, research based, to bring people through the facts of erosion and land loss, but then the tone changes to a dream-like quality. It’s like ‘What if we listened to what the land and the culture and animals wanted to say?’”

Slie wouldn’t go into more detail about the plot of the play, for fear of ruining the crucial surprises. Raymond “Moose” Jackson and Joanna Russo wrote the script, with dialogue based, in part, on stories by wetlands residents that have been recorded and posted on the Cryyouone.com website. Well-known performance artist Kathy Randels directed the play and will sing during segments of the production. “Cry You One” is a continuation of a series that began with the 2006 outdoor, ecology-themed performance “Beneath the Strata Disappearing.” (Jackson wrote and Randels directed “Loup Garou.”)

Verdin, who is a member of the Houma Indian tribe, is the “Cry You One” cultural consultant. She also has a role in the play that is largely autobiographical -- but not exactly.

“There are twists and turns that are not 100 percent me," she said.

In St. Bernard, the steady loss of the wetlands “is a conversation we’re all hyper-obsessed with,” she said, adding that she’s come to see herself as a witness to the environmental and social changes that have taken place in relatively recent history.

“What I’ve seen in 15 years blows my mind,” she said. “Sometimes I think I don’t want to see anymore.”

She said it’s “the harsh reality that this is where I live.”

Like “Loup Garou,” there’s a political edge to “Cry You One,” Slie said. But, he said, “all theater is political, depending on your politics.”

The answer to the problem of wetland erosion and ecological abuse is beyond the scope of the play, Slie said, but he and the rest of the cast hope to bring their “most compelling creative vision” to the situation.

“Our purpose is to keep the story alive… Our job is to do what we do best, to inspire people to learn more.”

"Cry You One"

What: Mondo Bizarro and ArtSpot Productions present the interactive piece written by Raymond "Moose" Jackson and Joanna Russo. The live, outdoor performance is part story, part song, and part procession for the lost land in South Louisiana. The performance lasts about three hours. Hats, close-toed shoes and long pants are recommended. Directed by Kathy Randels. Starring Will Bowling, Rebecca Mwase, Hannah Pepper-Cunningham, Pamela D. Roberts,
Lisa Shattuck, Nick Slie and Monique Verdin.
Where: Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Museum,
1357 Bayou Road, St. Bernard. Audience members should gather there at 1 p.m. for each performance. A bus will take the audience to the site of the performance.
When: Starts Saturday (Oct. 26), with performances Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m., through Nov. 24. Special "Pay-What-You-Will" shows on Monday (Oct 28) and Sunday (Nov. 3). Sunday performances are followed by an optional free dinner, co-hosted by a local partner organization. On, Oct. 27, Gary Granata from Slow Food New Orleans hosts the meal.
Admission: $20 general admission; $15 students, seniors and artists, $10 St. Bernard residents. The fee to ride the shuttle bus from the museum to the play is an additional $3.
More information: Visit the “Cry You One” website or call 504.826.7783.
Slie warns potential attendees that the procession-like play lasts three hours, spent in the sunlight – or whatever nature has to offer. But, he said, audience members will have chances to sit down and rest during parts of the performance. Plenty of water and bug spray will be provided.
Based on a preview performance that included audience members from ages 5 to 78, he said, the play seems to be enjoyable for all ages.

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