Cripple Creek is back to work in 2015 with an experiment in civic artistry

Artistic Director Andrew Vaught

Artistic Director Andrew Vaught

Comrades,

We have not spoken in some time. I hope this letter finds you well, excited for colder weather, and taking advantage of the wonderful artistic ventures this city is currently offering. In our time away from the theatrical trenches, Cripple Creek has been thinking hard about who we are as a company and what it is we are really trying to accomplish. I must thank you from the deepest place of gratitude for all of your support and encouragement during this delicate and necessary time. Cripple Creek is returning to the stage in August 2015 with Mark Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock.

This show is what we were planning to produce before we took our break, but I’d like to stress that Cripple Creek is not picking up where we left off. We are taking our time off to seriously explore the type of theatre we can make – theatre that will fulfill our mission and continually restore our energy as artists and civic actors. So, while the play remains the same, our philosophy has changed. We will make this play accessible to every citizen in this city. I don’t want to say too much. None of what I’m telling you is a secret, but it’s better to let our actions speak while the notion of Cripple Creek producing another show loses its novelty.

What I will say is this:

1. Auditions are the first two weekends in January; email me for more info or to sign up.

2. We want to create a production that is truly representative of the artistic community of New Orleans. That means going a step beyond saying that all races, ethnicities, orientations and identities are welcome, and stressing how truly revolutionary the image of a diverse and, dare I say, integrated cast and crew can be. As artists we have a job to create worlds as they should and could be. Cripple Creek seeks to present The Cradle Will Rock with a truly representative cast, crew and production team. Help us make this show an example of the city that we fight for, not the one that exists on paper.

3. We won’t be having an eight-month rehearsal period, but we realize awesome opportunities appear each day for theatrical creation as this city’s artists grow in talent, focus, and intention. We want to respect that, which is why we’re holding auditions in January. We hope that the many inspiring individuals who contribute every day to our artistic language feel comfortable and welcome to come see us, read some pages and sing a little bit.

4. Cripple Creek seeks, and has always sought, to wed our creative expression with the real-life victories that so often go unrecognized. This production will feature inspiring organizations using the tools at their disposal to protect the minds, bodies, and souls of this city.

5. At some point between now and August, look for another Cripple Creek production that explores the vital and mystical link between American labor, education, and beavers. It’s clearer than you think.

Thank you for reading. And thank you for the kind words and thoughts that you have given us in these past few months. Our work with Cradle is an experiment in civic artistry. Because of you and the experiences we have shared, Cripple Creek is excited to discover the results.

Andy Vaught

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Andy: CCTC taking sabbatical to rest and re-focus

Artistic Director Andrew Vaught

Artistic Director Andrew Vaught

Comrades,

I write to you at this moment to say thank you. Thank you for eight years of support, interest, and enthusiasm. The strength and involvement you have given this Company has sustained us as an organization, and allowed us to grow and mature as individuals. Cripple Creek has operated for eight years with the assumption that theatre can change people; oddly enough, the people that it has changed the most are us, the members of Cripple Creek. While we were producing shows that hoped to make you think and act, your support of those shows changed how we thought and acted. Theatre is a funny thing. As we have evolved as artists, our priorities and ambitions have as well. This is the transformative nature of theatre, and our company must transform with it.

We are taking a break. I won’t say this is the end of Cripple Creek, because I don’t believe it is. All of us, though, need to take some time and space to answer some very real questions about what we as an organization actually intend to do, and how we as an organization can go about achieving it.

We are hoping that some time apart will allow us the space to consider how we as a congregation of invested artists and citizens with diverse passions and interests provide Cripple Creek with the correct structure and stability to move it forward as an organization that continues to produce work that provokes social action, but does so with the intention and community organization necessary to strengthen both the work and its desired effects.

Cripple Creek began because we saw a need for a theatre that explored the societal issues facing our city. As the landscape of New Orleans continues to change, and as the expectations we place on our work change, the intentionality that Cripple Creek brings to the productions needs to change as well. Our hope for this sabbatical is to rest, breathe, and explore individual paths for a time. If we can better define ourselves as individuals, then we can better define the ensemble that results from our collaborations.

At this time, we are not planning any new productions for the summer or fall. Our intended production of The Cradle Will Rock will be moved to the summer of 2015. In light of this need for redefinition we choose to present this classic work at a time more amenable to the fulfillment of our mission. We thank all who showed an interest in the work and look forward to collaborating with you in the near future.

I count myself very fortunate to have worked with such an amazing group of artists and performing theatre for such an amazing group of invested, passionate, intelligent individuals such as yourself. Cripple Creek will continue as long as people like you desire art that attempts to change the way we think, feel, and act. We will see you soon.

Yours in solidarity,
Andrew Vaught

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CCTC earns 3 Big Easy nods

Many thanks to the Big Easy Theater Awards Committee for their dedication and hard work in putting this list together! We are very honored and of course, excited to have our work recognized by you. See you March 24th!

Cripple Creek shows and staff have cumulatively received 3 Big Easy nominations at this year’s Awards. The Ceremony will be at Harrah’s Casino on Monday, March 24th. Tickets purchased before March 4th are $100 and proceeds will benefit the Foundation for Entertainment, Development and Education (FEDE), which awards grants to support arts education and development. For more information or reservations, call Jon Broder at (504) 483-3129.

Congratulations to all the nominees and New Orleans theater makers!

  • Clybourne Park, Best Drama
  • Francesca McKenzie, Best Director of a Drama
  • Mary Pauley, Best Supporting Actress in a Drama

You can read the full list of nominations here courtesy of Gambit Weekly.

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OPEN AUDITIONS: “The Cradle will Rock” by Marc Blitzstein

cradle-poster1aCripple Creek is looking for actors for our spring show! The Cradle Will Rock needs 5-7 singers and actors. All ethnicities, gender, ages welcome! Please e-mail vaught@cripplecreekplayers.org to reserve your slot and join our Facebook event for more updates.

Auditions will take place at the Allways Lounge 2240 St. Claude Ave.

Saturday January 18 11-3p
Sunday January 19 12-4p

(Rehearsals start in March, performances May-June 2014.)

Audition Requirements: Please bring a headshot and resume, availabilities for rehearsal, 16 bars of a song to be sung a cappella (Show is in a similar spirit to Threepenny Opera) and prepare for cold readings.

Synopsis:
The Cradle Will Rock is a 1937 musical by Marc Blitzstein. Originally a part of the Federal Theatre Project, it was directed by Orson Welles, and produced by John Houseman. The musical is a Brechtian allegory of corruption and corporate greed and includes a panoply of societal figures. Set in “Steeltown, USA”, it follows the efforts of Larry Foreman to unionize the town’s workers and combat wicked, greedy businessman Mr. Mister, who controls the town’s factory, press, church and social organization.

The WPA temporarily shut down the project a few days before it was to open on Broadway, so to avoid government and union restrictions, the show was performed with Blitzstein playing piano onstage and the cast members singing their parts from the audience.

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Andy: Micro-tour to Lockport is Cripple Creek milestone

Artistic Director Andrew Vaught

Artistic Director Andrew Vaught

Friends,

For those of you who visited Possum Kingdom in the secret forest of the St Claude Truck Farm, you have our deepest thanks. Launching a new work into untested waters can be a very scary business, and your support, warmth, and feedback helped to insure a good home for our new play. We will return to the Truck Farm for one night only on November 23rd at 7:00 pm for the New Orleans Fringe Festival. We hope if you missed us the first time you’ll catch us the second. But before that, a road trip!

Cripple Creek is going on the road for the first time in its existence. We are taking Possum Kingdom out of the Truck Farm and we are moving down the bayou to Lockport, LA. There, across from the old historic Lockport Locks, lies a theater dedicated to producing work that speak to the issues, joys, and traditions that make this state and this region so vital. In existence since 2008, The Bayou Playhouse has consistently produced work that provides entertainment to the residents of Lafourche Parish and the surrounding areas. From classic works by Tennessee Williams, to one-man tour-de-force performances from John “Spud” McConnell, to new plays by local writers, The Bayou Playhouse demonstrates a wonderful commitment to Southeast Louisiana and the beauty that its residents can produce. We cannot express the gratitude we feel to Perry Martin, the Bayou Playhouse staff, and the city of Lockport for offering their backyard to us.

TICKETS ON SALE NOW: Limited Seating available, one weekend only!

New Orleans, I strongly suggest you join us out there. Living in the city, we so often fail to experience the natural beauty and simple grace of the surrounding areas, and Lockport has beauty and grace to spare. The theater hangs over the Bayou Lafourche… you can see massive tankers being worked on in the distance, you can look at the beautiful streets and homes of this strong community, or you can be content to watch the water gracefully drift. Any direction you are looking you will be content.

This “micro-tour” is an attempt by Cripple Creek to engage with the surrounding communities of New Orleans in the dialogue we have been having for eight years. For our theatrical community to grow in strength and influence, we as artists need to make ourselves accessible to as many different kinds of audiences as possible. And sometimes that simply means packing up a vision of dystopian reality and moving it 60 miles to the southwest. In this year already so full of newness and surprises, we cannot wait to see what Lockport has in store. Please join us.

See Possum Kingdom. See Lockport. See Louisiana in a whole new way.

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Selena: “Possum Kingdom” design rooted in nature, industry

In thinking about the lighting design for Possum Kingdom, I wanted to echo the regeneration of nature already existing within the play. Flowers grow, fish appear in the river, possums return to the forest, and the sun comes out for the first time.

So the play begins in complete darkness. This made me think of miners, working in darkness underground in dangerous conditions to bring us fuel.

I always wanted to do a show with mostly actor-controlled lighting, and was specifically excited about headlamps. I decided the show should start in mostly darkness with the actors using headlamps to light themselves and each other, similar to the lights in the miners’ hats.

Luckily, I am working with a brilliant director and amazing actors who were all willing to indulge this crazy idea and actually make it a reality! We spent time experimenting with the headlamps, figuring out the most effective way for actors to wear them, when to use them to light themselves, and when to use them to light each other. This experimentation, and its results, was all very exciting to me!

I thought about how light should first be introduced to the world. The first rays of sunlight would be weak, similar to the way the sun tries to shine through the clouds in the winter (if you live in a place that has winter). I remembered winters growing up in Chicago, the sky would be grey, sometimes the sun wouldn’t come out for days.

By the end of the show, the trees are full of flowers and leaves, the river is full of fish, and the world is alive. For inspiration, I looked at the quality of light in pictures of lush jungles and forests.

I noticed that the light was actually green, like in the first picture, and the bright yellow of the sun in the second picture. I decided to use similar colors to show to create that alive feeling by the end of the show.

Putting this all together, you can see the arc of the lighting as a character in Possum Kingdom. This is a fairly typical design process, combining life experiences, research, and just random things a designer is interested in. I hope you enjoyed this peek into a designer’s mind.

 

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Down By the River: Stories of Resistance

Margie Richard

“If my ancestors can have their heads put onto stakes because they dared to rebel against slavery, I can surely stand up to Shell.”Margie Richard, former President, Concerned Citizens of Norco, Goldman Award Winner 2004

With these words, Margie Richard drew strength from the long history of resistance along River Road. Two hundred years ago, Margie’s ancestors waged war against the greatest injustice of their day, and one that was considered too powerful to defeat: slavery. In 1811, 500 enslaved Africans organized an army that marched thirty miles along River Road, liberating slaves from plantations along the way. It was the largest slave revolt in United States history. When the slave revolt was crushed, a decree at the time forbade any mention of it for fear that the stories of resistance would inspire other revolts.

These are just a few of the stories that make up the rich legacy of resistance and African American history along the Mississippi River. These stories are not well known because rewriters of history understand that with the telling of these stories there is strength. Cripple Creek and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade partnered for the production of Possum Kingdom in order to increase knowledge and discourse concerning the ongoing struggles and victories of communities directly affected by the oil industry. This weekend join us as LABB showcases their work with Down by the River, a multi-media project in partnership with Xavier University, Cripple Creek and other organizations that examines the plantation-to-plant pattern in Cancer Alley communities affected by the petro-chemical industries along the Mississippi River Road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the history of revolt and resistance.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) Weekend (Nov 1-3) includes a series of events curated by LABB and Cripple Creek, including:

  • A lobby installation detailing the work of LABB’s Down by the River Project
  • An original performance piece created by Down by the River artist Lexus Jordan that will be performed before Possum Kingdom Friday November 1 and Sunday November 3. This piece was created in support from Xavier University, LABB and Cripple Creek. The performance piece combines research and testimony to explore issues of environmental justice and the history of resistance movements and racial oppression in the Gulf South.
  • A LABB Bike Tour in conjunction with LABB’s events for Oil Industry Accident Awareness Month Saturday November 2. Cripple Creek will participate and promote the tour. This experience takes participants down the Mississippi River Road to learn about the rich and revolutionary environmental and African American history that took place along the river.
  • Conversations with Cripple Creek spotlighting LABB’s work and Down by the River. Kristen Evans LABB’s Art-to-Action coordinator will be the guest spotlight speaker after the Saturday Nov 2 performance. Conversations with Cripple Creek is a space after Saturday performances where the community can gain a deeper understanding of the show they have just seen, as well as learn about opportunities to take political or social action in relation to the themes of the show.

“They tried to take our stories,” says Lexus Jordan in her Down By the River performance of an oral history interview with Margie. “But they can’t tell our stories like we can.” For one hundred years, the oil companies have written a dishonest story. They tell us that we can’t live without them, or that we live in idyllic complementarity: one hand washes the other with petrochemical-based products after a day’s work at good oil jobs. The real story: they destroy our coast, poison our air and water, hurt their workers, corrupt our politics and bankrupt our budgets. And those jobs? Far fewer and lower-paid than claimed. In Oliver Houck’s words: when the oil companies are done, they will leave us with “only the memories and a wasted skin.” That is, if we let them…if we let them write this story’s ending.

Stories can inspire us to resistance. (Slaveholders and Shell knew that.) In fact, even just telling these stories is an act of resistance. That is what Cripple Creek does. That is what we hope to do with the Down By the River project. Let’s take our stories back.

Kristen Evans
Art-to-Action Coordinator, Louisiana Bucket Brigade
_______________________
A multidimensional environmental and African-American history platform that weaves together interactive online media, performance and a walking/biking tour…to encourage us to explore the connection of people and place along the Mississippi River Road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana…and inspire us all to take action.

Down By the River is a collaborative effort between the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Xavier University, Tulane University and the Louisiana Museum of African American History. Visit the web site, take the bike tour, see the performances. www.DownByTheRiverProject.org

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Bonnie: What to watch for in “Possum Kingdom”

"Possum Kingdom" Director Bonnie Gabel

"Possum Kingdom" Director Bonnie Gabel

Theater is magic.  It’s a group of people using all their push to create something bigger than what any one of them could create alone. At the best of times, that collective push creates a synergy that brings a new world into existence.  This new world can serve as a springboard for discussion, musings about what life should be, or a mirror for what is.

Possum Kingdom has brought together a playwright, three visual artists, a composer, a film maker, a wonderful lighting designer, two puppeteers, and six performers. We have teamed up with more amazing artists and activists through our partnership with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.  We have used countless performance methodologies, found materials, and found spaces.  We have been fueled by pizza, caffeine, and a desire to have a conversation with all of you.

READ MORE: “Fortitude in the Forest” by Andrew Vaught

When I started working on Possum Kingdom, we got together to talk about the play’s connection to our communities.  We talked about how we wanted to create a work that would make people think about the way we interface with our land and our income. We talked about how counter-intuitive it is that so often we are told in order to make a living we must be a part of the destruction of something, be it other lives or the land we call home. We talked about how the people of Possum Kingdom are so afraid of change that they close their eyes, cover their ears, and erase their history in order to continue living in the way that they are accustomed.  We talked about how we feel like sometimes we do the same thing.  We didn’t come up with any answers, but we have a lot more questions.

Odile-Del-Giudice, Andrew Vaught

Odile Del Giudice, Andrew Vaught

We have a beautiful world in store for you: a hidden forest filled with possums, giant fish, strange sounds, and tiny surprises. It is my desire that this little piece of theater magic will inspire you to wonder what type of magic we could create in our own communities if we all decided to take our fingers out of our ears and the blindfold off of our eyes. I invite you to talk with us about how we can answer some of these questions together.  In the wake of the shutdown, oil spills, and environmental degradation, let’s not create a more convenient history “made up from what everyone says they remember.” Let’s move forward together from the place we are and try to manifest a better world for ourselves. I don’t know how many of us it will take to make some waves, but I know none of us can do it alone.

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I am so honored to be working with a team of people who have worked so tirelessly to create something beautiful. We have tried to bring a piece of art into the world that challenges our assumptions and beliefs. I hope that you will come experience Possum Kingdom and become a part of a continued conversation.  Maybe we will be inspired to make some collective magic in our own communities.

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Andy: Fortitude in the Forest


Artistic Director Andrew Vaught

Artistic Director Andrew Vaught

Friends,

Your continued presence at our productions is a consistent source of joy and pride. Thank you for supporting eight years of theatre that seeks to confront the darkness in our society and bring it to light.

Possum Kingdom offers a series of events pulling back the curtain on a crumbling system. The characters in this play exist in a world of arcane rules and regulations. They scrape a mysterious substance and ship it “up-river” to an unseen and unknowable location. This is a modus operandi of such puzzling impracticality that it might at first seem alien to your eyes, ears and minds; we are asking you to consider that perhaps it is not so removed.

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The scenes contained in this work center on a group of people who are holding desperately to the way things have always been. Their needs and joys are not many to an outside observer, but the resilience they display betrays their sense of pride in place and purpose. The residents of this town rely on, and have always relied on, an outside source of income to provide for their existence. And when events conspire to cripple that pipeline, the truths and certainties of this hardscrabble group begin to unravel. The past, forgotten and distorted, comes back.

“Remember to Forget” is the quote that appears on our posters and postcards; I define it as the willing act of denial, a troubling ability of the mind and heart to sweep events into the darkest corners of memory where they lie obscured by shadow. These purposefully neglected misfortunes cause so much pain and hew so closely to the routines of living, that allowing them to see the light of day would undermine the very keystone of existence. The characters in the play are guilty of that. A tragedy lurks in their past that refuses to stay forgotten. It comes back seeking retribution and enlists the aid of the natural world to acquire it.

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The residents of Southeast Louisiana have been forced to endure injustices at an alarming rate, and each time, our citizens find the resilience to endure them. It also seems that each tragedy that directly affects this region is brought about by a faith and adherence to a larger unseen and unknowable entity. Whether is a multi-billion dollar industry or an elected official chosen by popular vote, the set-up is the same. Something of amorphous size and definition fails, and we must deal with the consequences. Yet despite the failures, reliance on these people and institutions continue, because they are assumed to be essential to the livelihood that we work so hard to maintain.

As we prepare an example of that assumption being stripped forcefully away, we ask you to consider that just recently an institution that we deem vital to our survival as a nation has ceased to work. Perhaps by the time you visit Possum Kingdom, it will be working again. But at a certain point, we will be asked to continue to support it with will and deed. This has happened before, and before, and before. We have endured. Possum Kingdom asks you to consider how our ability to endure tragedy can transform into the agency to adjust, alter, and amend the causes of it.

Thank you so much for supporting Cripple Creek and exploring new worlds with us every year. We’ll see you in the forest.

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Season Eight Brings Fresh Looks at Old Struggles

Artistic Director Andrew Vaught

Artistic Director Andrew Vaught

Comrades,

Eight years ago, Cripple Creek built a two-story house in a room that was too small for a one. It was the first production Cripple Creek had ever done. The play, Kingdom of Earth, was by Tennessee Williams and dealt with a family fighting over a house in the path of a storm hell bent on destroying the object of their conflict. We had thirty people in the audience opening night, and never got too much above that. In May 2013, Cripple Creek built another two-story house in a room that didn’t necessarily want one. That play, Clybourne Park, concerned fighting over a house through generations against the backdrop of racism and wholesale dismemberment of communities. The play ran for six weeks and sold out every night. This evolution is due to you.

Thank you for the continued support you give to Cripple Creek. Thank you for engaging in discussions about the changing reality we live in. Thank you for accepting the difficult task of coming to a dark room to watch actors, directors and designers build worlds. Eight years in and we’re not stopping.

Possum Kingdom” by Andrew Vaught: October 18 – November 17, 2013

Directed by Bonnie Gabel. “Remember to Forget.” The six denizens of a small camp located at the bottom of the river live a simple life. Work consists of scraping a mysterious substance called “Brosia” and shipping it to the people up river who do … something with it. They are rewarded in beer, tin cans, and a sense of purpose. However, events far beyond their control begin to disrupt this tenuous existence. Strange sounds and an ethereal figure in the woods slowly encroach upon their camp, horrible mutant dog-eating fish swim in the river, and a possum appears in the woods. As the Brosia disappears, the small remnants of civilization left in the camp are sacrificed and discarded. Memories return in furious legion. What do people dependent upon a destructive occupation do when that occupation disappears?

Mixing politics, physicality, music, and simple machines, Possum Kingdom creates an entire world with rules, systems, and magic not unlike our own.

“Under Milk Wood” by Dylan Thomas: December 2013

Directed by Emilie Whelan. Join us in the cold month of December for an immersive aural experience; travel through the town Llareggub by listening to and seeing the inner lives of its townfolk. In Under Milk Wood, you, the spectator, get to travel through this ghostly seaside town using all of your senses. Cripple Creek collaborates with Alex McMurray and the Valparaso Men’s Chorus to create an original soundscape mixing sea shanties and text from a radio play. Set to broadcast on WRBH Radio for the Blind in the early months of 2014, Under Milk Wood: In the Walking Haze promises to be a theatrical experience never before seen in New Orleans.

“The Cradle Will Rock” by Marc Blitzstein: May 2014

Directed by Andrew Vaught. A musical unlike any other. Written at the height of the Federal Theatre and Great Depression, Cradle artfully exposes the wrongs of society. As the residents of Steeltown fight for a Union, a prostitute finds herself in jail with the city’s finest luminaries. As the audience explores how each of these characters sacrificed their integrity to the powerful “Mr. Mister,” Cradle explores the way that money, and the desire for money, corrupt even the best-intentioned citizens. Bold and stark in its musicality, The Cradle Will Rock presents the struggles of everyday people fighting against a power much bigger than themselves, and the bravery it takes to fight on against a stacked deck and an open shop. 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.

These plays concern people cut off from happiness. Whether the characters are stranded at the bottom of a river, alone in their weary hearts, or under the heel of a multi-billionaire, Cripple Creek’s Eighth Season explores the struggle for possession and freedom in a world where both are quickly eclipsing. Join us in these stories. The worlds present might be removed, but that does not mean they are different. People struggle everyday. They struggle for land, for liberty, and for a sense of ownership in the life that they must lead. We commit ourselves to telling those stories.

We’ll see you in the trenches, Comrades.

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