Photo Flash: NOLA Artists Grapple with Gentrification in SEA OF COMMON CATASTROPHE
Irondale is proud to present the New York premiere of Sea of Common Catastrophe, a surreal multimedia theater work that grapples with complicity in the face of rapid urban change. Designed and directed by Jeff Becker, who leads a team of fellow New Orleans-based artists, Sea of Common Catastrophe follows three long-time residents of a tiny seaside town whose lives are uprooted when a compelling stranger arrives. Inspired by a passage from Gabriel Garc?i?a Ma?rquez's novella Sea of Lost Time-where a town drowns on a Sunday afternoon but persists, submerged, in its daily life, as if the deluge had never occurred-Sea of Common Catastrophe uses spectacular lighting and video, live music, and an innovative two-story set to evoke a changing landscape of upscale living and chic restaurants that suddenly transforms into a magical sunken world.Sea of Common Catastrophe is produced by ArtSpot Productions, a 23-year-old New Orleans-based company equally dedicated to social justice and original theater, and was developed, in part, through a deep consideration of the profound transformations that have swept through New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. The artists, many of whom have lived in New Orleans for decades, examined their own roles and responsibilities in the realities of gentrification and displacement. The resulting work, Sea of Common Catastrophe, challenges its audiences and its artists to consider the exploitations and the opportunities inherent in profound shifts of urban communities. "New Orleans after Katrina was surreal in the truest sense of the word," says sculptor and director Jeff Becker. "The city became restless, there was a shift in demographics, its long-time residents became uneasy, and many did not return. New transplants saw opportunity in this restlessness and began to reinvent the city in the image they imagined New Orleans to be. As well-intentioned as some of these changes appeared to be, many people felt ignored, overlooked and unrepresented in the decisions made for their neighborhoods. It was also clear that many of these adverse effects were calculated and planned to force people to leave. This is the setting in whichSea of Common Catastrophe was conceived, in an ocean of change that forever transformed the city."Utilizing a devised ensemble process, in which visual design elements drive the dramaturgy of the piece, the creative team forSea of Common Catastrophe includes Courtney Egan (video design), Jeffrey Gunshol (choreography), Sean LaRocca (original music / sound design), Laura Faye Sirkin-Brown (costume design), and Evan Spigelman (lighting design). Sea of Common Catastrophefeatures lead performances by New Orleans-based performers including Adella Gautier, Jeffrey Gunshol, Kathy Randels, Lisa Moraschi Shattuck, and Mahalia Abéo Tibbs who will be joined by New York-based performers Amira Abdur-Raheem, Janis Russell, and Kendall Stirrup.Performances ofSea of Common Catastrophes will take place June 15-30 at the Irondale Center, 85 South Oxford Street in Brooklyn. Tickets, priced at $25 ($10 for Previews; $15 students and seniors; Irondale Members 15% off with Code IEPMEM), can be purchased by visiting seaofcommoncatastrophe.org or by calling 866-811-411. Critics are welcome as of June 15 for an official opening on Wednesday, June 20 at 8pm. Sea of Common Catastrophe runs 60 minutes with no intermission and is appropriate for audiences 8-years-old and up. Nearest subways include C train to Lafayette Ave; B, D, N, Q, R, 2, 3, 4, or 5 trains to Atlantic Ave/Pacific St; or G train to Fulton St.A series of workshops and post-show discussions will be announced at a later date. About the Artists Jeff Becker (designer, director) is a director, designer, and sculptor based in New Orleans who specializes in site-responsive theater with innovative transforming environments. Becker has worked with theater companies throughout the country and abroad. He is the recipient of several awards and grants including an NEA RAP Grant, a Louisiana Division of the Arts Fellowship, a NEA/TCG Career Development Grant, and a MAP Fund award for Vessels, a collaboration with Rebecca Mwase and Ron Ragin. Jeff is the co-founder of Catapult, a collective performance laboratory dedicated to nurturing design-driven theater.Courtney Egan's (video design) projection-based sculptural installations mix the traditions of botanical art with technology. She is strongly inspired by the profusion of flora in New Orleans, where she has lived since 1991. Courtney holds an MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. She was a founding member of the New Orleans-based visual arts collective Antenna Gallery, and her work is represented by Arthur Roger Gallery and in collections including the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation. Courtney designed video with Jeff on the 2008 production Flight. Adella Gautier (Doña Tea) is a stage, film and television actor who hails from New Orleans, LA. She has entertained and educated several generations of New Orleans children and has traveled the world as "Adella Adella the Storyteller." Film appearances include: Now You See Me (2013), Runaway Jury (2003) and Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009).Jeffrey Gunshol (choreographer / Mr. Herbert) has performed for MacArthur recipient Liz Lerman and OBIE winner Mark Dendy. He received scholarships to Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, The American Dance Festival, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of Utah. Jeffrey earned his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1991 and received his Masters in Dance from the University of Utah in 2007. He is currently a professor in the Theatre and Dance Department at Tulane University.Sean LaRocca (original music / sound design) has been ArtSpot Productions' managing director and main music man for over twenty years. His long list of works for ArtSpot includes Cry You One, Kiss Kiss Julie and Chekhov's Wild Ride. Sean is a New Orleans native, attended Berklee College of Music, and holds a BA from St John's College, where his compositions won multiple awards. Kathy Randels (Perpetua) is the founding artistic director of ArtSpot Productions. She has written, performed in, and directed numerous original solo and group works for professional, student and incarcerated ensembles in Louisiana and beyond, including Cry You One. Awards include a "V to the Tenth" Leadership Award, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Artist as Activist Racial Justice Fellowship, the NEA/TCG Career Development Program for Directors, and an OBIE Award (for Nita & Zita). Randels is honored to have co-founded and to co-direct The Graduates, an ensemble of formerly incarcerated women that resulted from 22 years co-directing the LCIW Drama Club. For more info visit: thegraduates.netJanis Russell (chorus) has been the Director of the Lafayette Avenue Inspirational Ensemble, a multi-racial, interfaith choir based in Brooklyn, since 2001. She is also a nationally known jazz and blues singer whose vocal range spans from soprano to baritone, and she is equally comfortable in jazz, gospel, country, and classical. Janis is also a songwriter and arranger, and has worked as a studio musician, recording jingles and background vocals. Lisa Moraschi Shattuck (Tobias) is a theater artist from New Orleans and a co-founder of Catapult. She works with Mondo Bizarro, NEW NOISE, Vagabond Inventions, Southern Repertory Theatre, StoryWorks and ArtSpot Productions. Currently, she performs in Cry You Oneand Sea of Common Catastrophe, both funded by Creative Capital and the New England Foundation for the Arts; and A Kingdom, A Chasm, supported by a North American Cultural Laboratory residency. She is on faculty at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and is a member of Alternate ROOTS. She was an alternate for the TCG Fox Actor Fellowship in 2015 and a 2013 Network of Ensemble Theaters Fellow.Laura Faye Sirkin-Brown (costume design) has previously designed for ArtSpot Productions, Four Front Theatre, Theatre 13, and Southern Rep. Her work has been featured in Surface Design and Belle Armoire magazines. As a member of IATSE 478, she has been part of the costume team for several major motion pictures, including Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Butler, Now You See Me, and Beautiful Creatures. Laura has an MFA in Costume Design from Tulane University, and a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute's Fiber Department. Evan Spigelman (lighting design) is a performer, light designer, co-founder of New Orleans performance collective Skin Horse Theater and of LOUD, the New Orleans Queer Youth Theater. Evan has worked with the Ontological Hysteric Theater and Incubator Arts Project in New York City, Live Arts Bard, and the Design Wing of the Great Plains Theater Conference in Omaha, Nebraska. From time to time, Evan can also be seen stalking around New Orleans as one of his drag alter-egos, Mz. Asa Metric and Ms. Carrie Mehome.Mahalia Abéo Tibbs (Clara) is a writer/performing/recording artist native to Chicago's South Side. She attended Howard University, Wells College (Arts in Paris), and received her BA in Inner City Studies (Minor in Dance) from Northeastern Illinois University in 2013. A singer, songwriter and composer, Abéo is a student of Oscar Brown, Jr. and Katherine Dunham, has performed internationally and has been featured in live theater, film, and music videos. Abéo ties her work to the dismantling of systemic oppression and is grateful to do so. She is releasing her debut EP and chapbook this year; stay updated and subscribe at abeoabeo.com ArtSpot ProductionsArtSpot Productions is dedicated to creating meticulously live theater in New Orleans. Our productions are a sincere blend of disciplines developed through ensemble authorship, physically rigorous training, original music, interactive sculptural environments, and extended research and rehearsal. We practice social justice and shared power in our creative and organizational processes, and we strive to incite positive change in our community with visually stunning performances and empowering educational programs.ArtSpot Productions was founded in 1995, incorporated in Louisiana in 2000, and received its 501(c)3 nonprofit status in 2002. We've enjoyed long-term collaborations with Dah Teatar (Serbia); PEARL/D'AMOUR and North American Cultural Laboratory Theatre (NACL) in New York; and numerous individuals and companies in New Orleans including: Dog and Pony Theatre Company; Junebug Productions; Kumbuka African Dance and Drum Collective; Third Eye Theatre; and Mondo Bizarro.Over the last twenty-plus years, ArtSpot has produced dozens of original works of performance and collaborations by professional, emerging, student and incarcerated artists for the benefit of local, national and international audiences, and has received national and local awards for its productions, including a Village Voice OBIE Award forNita & Zita (Here/'03). Other New York area appearances include Rage Within/Without (Nada/'97), and The End and Back Again, My Friend ('00), The Maid of Orléans ('05) and Loup Garou ('10), all produced in the Catskills by NACL.ArtSpot has been generously supported throughout the years by the following foundations: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Surdna, Open Society, and Robert Rauschenberg, among others; and by Theatre Communications Group; The National Endowment for the Arts, The Louisiana Division of the Arts and the New Orleans Arts Council. ArtSpot has been financially and spiritually supported by long termmemberships in Alternate ROOTS (1998) and the Network of Ensemble Theatres (2005).About IrondaleIrondale is a theatre company - essentially, a performance think tank - that brings together artists who collaborate over long periods of time, who speak a common performance language and who believe that theatre can educate as well as entertain. Our theatre can become a classroom and classrooms we enter can become theatres. Through our performances and programs we ask questions and continually question the answers. We ask our audiences to come with us to unaccustomed, difficult or even uncomfortable places. The journey to those places can range from Brecht to Marx (Groucho, not Karl), from history to myth and from the rigorous disciplines of the artist to the disciplined improvisations of the child.
Photos by Melisa Cardona/Lauren Hind