For Rivertown Theaters’ “Die Die Birdie,” Gary Rucker’s Top 5 zombie stories

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“DIE DIE BIRDIE”
WHAT: Rivertown Theaters diverges for a zombie-fied version of the classic Broadway musical “Bye Bye Birdie.” Gary Rucker directs Trevor Brown, Bryce Slocumb, Abby Botnick, Kyle Daigrepont, Helen Blanke and Haley Nicole Taylor
WHEN: Fri.-Sat. (May 26-27), 8 p.m.; Sun. (May 28), 2 p.m.
WHERE: Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts, 325 Minor St., Kenner
TICKETS: $25
MORE INFO: Visit the Rivertown Theaters website

One of the things that makes productions at Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts so compelling to watch is how they bring fresh ideas to classic works. But with “Bye Bye Birdie,” they are going the extra mile. In what might qualify as the ultimate example of lagniappe, director Gary Rucker is presenting a bonus weekend of performances with the show reconfigured as a zombie story, “Die Die Birdie.” Here he delivers his Top 5 zombie stories of all time, prefaced with one of the funnier artist statements I have seen.

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Gary Rucker, transitioning zombie

In the early 2000s, over way too many beers, some friends and I got on the subject of how terrible puberty was for each one of us. My own experience was horrifying — bad skin, crackly voice, gangly limbs, hungry all the time, listless … it was terrible. I brought up the fact that hitting puberty was a lot like turning into a zombie. We all ran with that premise for a bit, eventually said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways. Not long after that, I happen to be listening to some random show tunes and “Bye Bye Birdie” came on, specifically the song “Put on a Happy Face.” I imagined how funny it would be if the little girls Albert was so desperately trying to cheer up were actually zombies but he had no idea. This tickled me to no end. It suddenly occurred to me that “Bye Bye Birdie” would actually make a pretty terrific zombie story. The themes are already pretty much laid out in the original text, and even the lyrics of the songs fit the new interpretation perfectly. It became my mission.

Over the next 17 or so years, I tried to figure out any way I could to present “Bye Bye Birdie” as a zombie musical. The key would be to stay true to the original work without changing a single word of dialogue or lyric. I would direct the show traditionally, and then convert the exact same production into a vehicle for a zombie apocalypse. Same cast, same technical elements … same story. Only now, there’s a new threat.

The problem was always the cost and risk of mounting such a wacky concept. Luckily, I found a loophole. Since my partner Kelly and I are now in charge of The Rivertown Theaters in Kenner, it was a no-brainer (pun) to present the traditional version of “Bye Bye Birdie” as part of our main stage season, and since the show would already be paid for, there would be very little risk in running it for one weekend with some zombie visitors. I told my son all about this on a car trip and he said, “You should call it “Die Die Birdie.”

Yes I should, son. Yes I should.

“So how do you add zombies to Birdie? Is everyone just dead now?”

[Learn more: Ted Mahne reviews “Bye Bye Birdie”]

That’s the question I get the most … and without ruining the surprise of the show … no, not at all. There’s a whole through line and rules just like in any regular zombie movie. They arrive, they kill some people, they’re dealt with. I really wish I could say more without giving too much away but I will say that my dream of watching Albert try to cheer up two dead girls has come true. And it’s as funny as I thought it was. Please come see it. I’ll even throw in a discount code! At checkout use the code word “ZOMBIE” for $15 tickets. I promise it’s worth every penny.

OK, so now onto the point of this whole thing: my top five zombie movies! These aren’t the most traditional choices but each movie has inspired me in directing “Die Die Birdie” in some way. There are even a few “Easter eggs” in the show … see if you can spot them.

“SHAUN OF THE DEAD” — Not only my favorite zombie movie, but also one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s the most like what I’m trying to present. I love how Edgar Wright shot a scene as a normal, ordinary day and then shot basically the same exact scene after the zombies had arrived. It completely encouraged me in trying to tell Birdie two different ways. It’s chock full of its own set of Easter eggs as well. This one is paid a pretty big homage in “Die Die Birdie.” Also it kicked off the Cornetto Trilogy, and any time Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost get together you know good things are bound to happen. Also, the only zombie movie to say zombie!

“WARM BODIES” — “Romeo and Juliet” told as a zombie love story. I was prepared to hate this movie, as I was dragged to it, but I ultimately really loved it. I had no idea it was based on “Romeo and Juliet” when I went in, and although the characters are clearly named R, Julie, Nora (Nurse), Perry (Paris), M (Mercutio), it took me about half the movie to put it together. Nicholas Hoult is particularly good in this. Also, the dialogue between the zombies is particularly funny.

“ZOMBIELAND” — “Holy crap, the zombies are running!” It’s a great, well-told and well-directed adventure movie that is touching and very funny. And with a fantastic cameo! **NO SPOILERS** Also, this is the movie that really kicked off Jesse Eisenberg’s career and he’s just great in it. Woody Harrelson is at his most Woody Harrelson, and his character’s quest for Twinkies is gold. My favorite part of the movie is the Zombie Tips that Jesse Eisenberg’s character explains to us throughout the movie. My favorite is Rule No. 1: Cardio. I wouldn’t need any other rules. I’d be dead instantly.

“THE WALKING DEAD” (THE BOOK) — I know books don’t really count but it’s probably the best ongoing zombie story ever told. The TV show gets it right once in a while when it STICKS TO THE SOURCE MATERIAL, but nothing compares to the graphic novels. I’ve been emotionally devastated by these books … I’ve felt betrayed and heartbroken, and once actually had to put the book down and walk away because I was so upset by something that had just happened. After all this time, it still hooks me.

“DAWN OF THE DEAD” — Because George A. Romero is the master of this genre. And it premiered on my birthday, but that is literally the only reason I picked this title over any of the others. Every one of his movies is a masterpiece in zombie horror. If you want to be really scared, these are the movies for you. The zombies are terrifying … they look angry and desperate, and even though the style of the acting is a little over the top, those zombies are committed to their performances. It’s a movie very much of its time, but man is it intense.

For “The Spider Queen,” Alex Martinez Wallace’s Top 5 crazy fantasies

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The cast of “The Spider Queen” (Photo by Jeremy Blum)

“THE SPIDER QUEEN”
WHAT:
The NOLA Project’s annual collaboration with the New Orleans Museum of Art is a fantasy story and world premiere from members James Bartelle and Alex Martinez Wallace
WHERE: NOMA’s Besthoff Sculpture Garden, City Park
WHEN: 7 p.m. May 10-14, 17-18, 21, 24-26, 28
TICKETS: Adults: $25, NOLA Project Backstage Pass Members: $18, NOMA Members: $18, Students with ID: $18
MORE INFO: http://www.nolaproject.com

We are blessed this week with a double-dose of inspiration at The NOLA Project launches “The Spider Queen” for its annual collaboration with the New Orleans Museum of Art. First, the obvious inspiration: “The Spider Queen, co-written by James Bartelle and Alex Martinez Wallace,” is heavily influenced by “Spider,” the sculpture by Louise Bourgeois that resides in the production’s stage, NOMA’s Besthoff Sculpture Garden. “Spider” tells the story of a teen on a mission to learn how his father died, but winds up going down a rabbit hall along with a tepid park ranger. Along they way they encounter a characters that includes plenty of crazy creatures and, of course, a spider. So we figured Wallace would make for a fun choice to double down on the notion of inspiration by citing some inspirations of his own:

Alex Wallace (1)

Alex Martinez Wallace

I understand that I’m supposed to remark and embark on a vernacular voyage wherein I divulge with everyone the five cinematic influences that most affected the part I played in writing “The Spider Queen” — but I’m going to break the rules a little bit. And you’re honestly very lucky. Because I could go rule-breaking mad. I could have just sent to the editor-in-chief a painting of my influences. Or just a dreadful pencil drawing or some other such thing they absolutely didn’t ask for (mud slung fitfully against a blank wooden door), which, while it might mean something truthful and genuine to me, gives the kind readers of this editorial virtually nothing to go on.

I’ve lived non-sequiturally before. Sometimes I like getting yelled at. James Bartelle, with whom I co-wrote this story, was very good about keeping things from getting absolutely Loony Tunes while simultaneously letting me stretch my big dumb feathery wings. So I’m only going to break the rules a little here. And so most of my influences aren’t films. Some are television shows, and one is a play. I’m actually being really well behaved. A good boy! Arguably.

5) “THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING” (BOTH THE MOVIE AND THE BOOK) — Particularly the first installment of the trilogy, because it, more than the other two, asks you to swallow the most nonsense right out the gate. If you aren’t willing right away to eat the history of the One Ring, and the thousands of elves and dwarves and men and the great war that was many thousands of years ago and has now come thundering back into the present with the rediscovery of the ominous golden circlet and another imaginary race of tiny Hobbits … then the rest of the movie will sit with you as well as a hot-shit sandwich. You really just gotta go with it. It’s like the smash hit film “Inception.” If you start asking too many questions, you’re gonna miss something and then, before you know it, the main character of the play is in Gardendale talking to a flower person and you won’t know why. Just go with it. And “The Spider Queen” plunges you headlong right into the Council of Elrond. No foreplay! In theater, we can’t have lengthy voiceovers with historical cut scenes, or a length of text scrolling into the stars that sets the tone of the show. Well, we could, but it’s a lazy-bum solution. And we don’t have tiiimmme. There’s a kingdom in peril and two worlds colliding, and if you want in, you’ll have to hold on to your butts and jump in headfirst. And, like in Middle Earth, singing a song or poetry recital is a perfectly acceptable way to respond to any situation. That was particularly true in the books. “Why is Tom Bombadil singing? Again? Why, God, why?” Go with it — this isn’t your world — you aren’t in Kansas anymore. If you can’t tell by now, I’m a geek by many measures; if you’ve any experience with fantasy stories of any kind, you’ll slip into this play as easily as a familiar old worn leather boot

4) “STRANGER THINGS” — The first and largest revision of the play happened right when Netflix released “Stranger Things” — and just in time, too. The first cut of the play was going in a very odd direction. Very 1980s … but like… too 1980s. Like each character had their own hairband rock song. It’s ironic that a show set so completely in the ’80s helped move our play out of the ’80s. But more than anything, “Stranger Things” helped us conceptualize a fantasy world whose features were a reflection of our own world as opposed to a fantasy world with its own random lineaments. It also helped us, we hope, create a multifaceted heroine who takes the audience on a journey unlike any that has been seen onstage before. We also incorporated Eggo Waffles into the play — lololol that’s a lie. Continue reading

“PopSmart NOLA,” Ep. 24: Harlem String Quartet, David Kunian on Pete Fountain, and Jenna Guidry and Paul Sanchez

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For what by pure coincidence turned into “An All-Music Episode,” we welcomed a varied assortment of guests with local and national connections. First we welcomed the Harlem String Quartet, which performed at Loyola’s Roussel Hall to conclude the Friends of Music 2016-2017 series. We sat down to chat about that visit, as well as the diversity of this troupe, which you can see in their membership and in their musical selections.

Next we asked David Kunian, longtime WWOZ radio host and documentarian, and more recently, curator of Music for the New Orleans Jazz Museum, to ruminate on the recently opened exhibition of the late, great Pete Fountain — just in time for the French Quarter Festival. The result is a personal and professional recollection about Pete Fountain and his place in New Orleans music as well as his national imprint.

And finally we visited the home of 18-year-old singer-songwriter Jenna Guidry, a Houma native and New Orleans transplant who graduated from the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts and now at Loyola University. Guidry has released a four-song EP, “Back to Me,” produced by her friend, mentor and collaborator Paul Sanchez. They discussed their work together and performed “Precious” from the EP.

Below you’ll also find this week’s Relevant Link, which had to be cut from this week’s show due to time constraints.

SEGMENT ONE: Harlem String Quartet
Harlem Quartet advances diversity in classical music while engaging new audiences with varied repertoire that includes works by minority composers. Their mission to share their passion with a wider audience has taken them around the world; from a 2009 performance at The White House for President Obama and First Lady, Michelle Obama, to a highly successful tour of South Africa in 2012, and numerous venues in between. The musically versatile ensemble has performed with such distinguished performers as Itzhak Perlman, Ida Kavafian, Carter Brey, Fred Sherry, Misha Dicter, Jeremy Denk, and Paquito D’Rivera. Their most recent recording, Hot House, with jazz master Chick Corea and percussionist Gary Burton was a 2013 multi-Grammy Award winner.

For their performance tonight at Loyola’s Roussel Hall to conclude the Friends of Music’s 2016-2017 series, Harlem Quartet has a special program planned:

Concert Program

  • A. Mozart – String Quartet No. 17 in B-flat major, Op. 27 “The Hunt”
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim arr. Dave Glenn – The Girl from Ipanema
  • Guido Gavilan – Cuarteto en Guaguancó
  • Edvard Grieg – String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 27

I sat down with the Quartet Thursday inside their rehearsal space near the Hall. I basically reserved one question each — so you’ll be hearing from cellist Felix Umansky, viola player Jaime Amador, and violinists Melissa White and Ilmar Gavilan. We discussed the Harlem Quartet’s eclectic musical approach that includes serious jazz influences, collaborating with legends such as Yitzhak Perlman, playing in the White House, and why diversity matters – not just in their musical lineup and their musical approach, but also in their outreach to audiences.

SEGMENT TWO: David Kunian
When Pete Fountain died Aug. 6, 2016, New Orleans lost more than one of the few traditional jazz musicians to chart a Top-40 hit. The city lost a beloved and colorful personality who, despite international fame, never lost his love of the Crescent City — perhaps best known to many through his whimsically named Carnival walking troupe. In tribute, the Louisiana State Museum’s New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U. S. Mint presents “Pete Fountain: A Life Half-Fast.” This modest exhibition, which includes posters, albums, doubloons and other artifacts, comes complete with a musical soundtrack pulled from recently digitized archival music.

The museum’s curator, David Kunian, has been playing and chronicling music for a quarter century, offered personal and professional thoughts on Pete Fountain from the perch of the museum’s performance space. Those thoughts started with Kunian’s first encounter with Pete Fountain’s museum upon his arrival to New Orleans back in 1992 as a white hipster looking for the city’s coolest music.

SEGMENT THREE: Jenna Guidry and Paul Sanchez
Welcome back to “PopSmart NOLA.” I’m your host, David Lee Simmons. Our next guests are a study in contrasts. Our first guest, singer-songwriter Jenna Guidy, already has a decade of musical experience under her belt at the ripe old age of 18. Her friend, mentor and collaborator, Paul Sanchez, already was a couple years removed from his 16-year-run with Cowboy Mouth, in pursuit of his own solo efforts. Their friendship, sparked by a Facebook message, has helped Guidry along an already impressive career path.

I first came across Jenna Guidry when she performed with Michael Cerveris at his appearance at NOCCA, where Guidry was then a junior. Now the Houma native has graduated and is studying music at Loyola, and already having performed at Buffa’s, with Sanchez at her side. Last week marked the release of her four-song EP, “Back to Me,” which was produced by Sanchez. I visited with Guidry and Sanchez at her home in Lakeview, with her mother nearby as we chatted about her nearly decade-long career, what “Back to Me” means to her, and the challenges of being a young female artist in an often unforgiving music business and world. And we even took a moment to listen to a song.

SEGMENT FOUR: Relevant Link
For our Relevant Link this week, I wanted to revisit a post on NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune last week that raised the question, “Does New Orleans have too many festivals?” In some ways, it’s a trick question, right? I mean, New Orleans and Louisiana already were synonymous with festivals, and since Katrina there’s been a boom in festivals and most of them have welcomed packed crowds. Maybe too crowded, yes, but you can’t argue their success.

Nor can you argue, necessarily, with how they help hard-working musicians. In the article, musicians made the point that it’s the spring festival season that has become their most consistent financial pipeline, and are far more reliable income stream than regular club bookings.

And for the most part, fans of festivals were pretty vocal in their support in the comments section of the article. For many, it’s a no-brainer. But while those who loved festivals LOVE festivals, there was an undercurrent of opposition to so much fun. It should be noted that the attendant poll showed 47 percent in support of festivals, while 34 percent “absolutely” thought there were too many — and, interestingly, 16.5 percent chose “Maybe”, apparently agreeing with that choice’s caveat: “ I like the old standards, but these new kids on the block are too much. See y’all at Creole Tomato Fest!”

Some of the complaints about so many festivals were not too surprising — they’re too crowded, food and ticket prices are high and sometimes the portions are small, the festivals are becoming so narrow in focus they minimize the idea of cultural celebration. But one comment caught my eye: “Feel like New Orleans keeps partying as the ship is sinking. We have a deteriorating wetlands problem with water lapping at the Levees. Band plays on, people keep partying. Dont look behind the wall. Most of the festivals will disappear when next hurricane hits and half the non-locals move home or to Portland.” It taps into a notion, as one other commenter put, that we’re embracing Rome’s “bread and circus” mentality of amusing ourselves to death in light of grave concerns facing the city.

That’s all to say, as with so much about New Orleans, maybe all things in moderation?

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 23: Maxwell Williams, No Ring Circus, and “You Don’t Know the Half of It”

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Even though we had folks come in to talk about two shows at Le Petit on this week’s “PopSmart NOLA” we had a lot to talk about.

Maxwell Williams, artistic director of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré, which debuted Horton Foote’s “Dividing the Estate” during last week’s Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, and which continues — with the exception of a break for next weekend’s French Quarter Festival — through April 15.

We also welcomed Daphne Rose Malfitano and Eli Rose — aka Fiddles & Bo — who present their show, “Fiddles and Oboe’s Clown Orchestra & No Ring Circus,” April 6-8 and April 13-15 at the The Fortress of Lushington performance space at 2215 Burgundy St. in Faubourg Marigny.

And finally, we welcomed Cecile Monteyne, creator of the amazing, seasonal improv show, “You Don’t Know the Half of It” along with improviser Lynae Leblanc, and Amanda Wuerstlin of the You Don’t Know the Band — all discussing next Sunday’s show at Le Petit.

SEGMENT ONE: Maxwell Williams
Maxwell Williams is in his second season as Artistic Director of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré. He’s directed the company’s productions of “The Glass Menagerie” and “Our Town,” and co-directed the world-premiere adaptation of “Sleeping Beauty (An American Panto).” Now Max is back again in the director’s chair for “Dividing the Estate,” the final Broadway hit for the late playwright and author, Horton Foote.

“Dividing the Estate” is the story of a family in Texas, hit hard by an oil bust in the late 1980s, and whose siblings are anticipating their inheritance from their aging matriarch — all with varying agendas. What starts as a wacky family comedy turns dark in the second act in this play featuring Brenda Currin, Carol Sutton, Harold X. Evans, and Silas Cooper. The New Orleans Advocate says of this show: “What makes ‘Estate’ so charming is the bumbling incompetence of its conspirators. The hilarity of the action increases as the urgency of the circumstances compound.”

Maxwell Williams, it should be noted, served as associate director for the Tony-nominated Broadway production of this play, and he joined us in the studio. 

SEGMENT TWO: No Ring Circus’ Daphne Rose Malfitano and Eli Rose
Our next two guests have been a part of New Orleans’ burgeoning variety scene over the past few years, collaborating with circus, sideshow and burlesque performers in various shows while doing their own touring across the U.S. Now the husband-and-wife team of Eli Rose and Daphne Rose Malfitano are back in New Orleans with a new and fascinating show. Performing as two very different clowns, they will bring us “Fiddles and Oboe’s Clown Orchestra & No Ring Circus” on April 6-8 and April 13-15 at The Fortress of Lushington performance space at 2215 Burgundy St. in Faubourg Marigny. I visited the couple at their own space in the Marigny, and here’s an excerpt from that interview. I’ll also have an extended version in the podcast in this post later in the weekend.

SEGMENT THREE: “You Don’t Know the Half of It”
Our final guests represent several components of the deceptively complicated show that is the 5-year-old “You Don’t Know the Half of It,” in which writers present original comedy sketches — and with actors given half of those lines, and with improvisers are challenged with filling in the other half.

Joining us in the studio:

Creator Cecile Monteyne, a Big Easy Award-winning actress and regular performer with “The NOLA Project.” With her are one of the improvisers, Lynae Leblanc, as well as one of the musicians from You Don’t Know the Band, Amanda Wuerstlin. I should first note the entire lineup for Sunday’s show:

The Writers: James Bartelle, Alicia Hawkes, Helen Jaksch, and Mark Routhier
The Actors: AJ Allegra, Joy Lynn Andersen, Robert DoQui and Mallory Messina
The Improvisers: Chris Kaminstein, David James Hamilton, Lynae Leblanc and Josh Toups
You Don’t Know the Band: Andre Bohren, Michael Girardot, Alexis Marceaux, Stephen MacDonald, Marc Paradis and Amanda Wuerstlin

SEGMENT THREE: Relevant Link
For our Relevant Link this week, I wanted to go back a few years as we note that the downtown Super Sunday will be held this weekend on Bayou St. John – a couple weeks after the Super Sunday on St. Joseph’s Day. Both days are known for amazing suits for all of the Mardi Gras Indians, with their intricate beading and feather work. As you may have noticed a couple weeks ago, it’s a smorgasbord for amateur and professional photographers alike.

On that note, it’s important for those capturing the images of this cultural with deep and historic roots that they are being created by culture bearers who, to put it politely, barely survive from check to check. Too often they don’t see a dime for their professional use of the imagery for which they’re responsible in creating. And it’s like the city is necessarily giving them back money by using their imagery in their marketing. (Are they?) That’s why it’s important to read a “green paper” created by the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame that lays out ways professionals can compensate these culture bearers for any profits gained from the selling of these images. You can check out this green paper, and its context, when the post for this show goes up later today on PopSmartNOLA.com.

Oh, and, the downtown Super Sunday starts at noon on Bayou St. John, with a second line by the New Orleans Bayou Steppers, around 2 p.m. Good luck figuring out the route!

Those are our Relevant Links for this week!

CLOSING
I want to remind everyone that if you like what you hear on “PopSmart NOLA,” we’re here every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. — yes, our new day and time! — right here on WHIV (102.3 FM). You can listen to the archived, podcast version of the show on my SoundCloud account, “dlsnola.” Also, you can visit the website at popsmartnola.com, and like our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Instagram at “@popsmartnola” and I’m always blathering away on Twitter at @dlsnola504.

Also, if you like our show, we’d love your support in the form of underwriting; email me at dlsnola@gmail.com for more info.

Our theme music is “Summertime” by Robin Mitchell.

Up next: Chris Lane with “Eat, Pray, Fight!”

Thanks again for joining us, y’all. For “PopSmart NOLA,” I’m David Lee Simmons, reminding everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going.

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 22: NOLA Disability Pride Festival, art magazine The Iron Lattice, and movies in Venice

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For Ep. 22 of “PopSmart NOLA” as we continue to settle into our new day and time (Friday from noon to 1 p.m.) on WHIV (102.3 FM), we welcomed an awesome array of guests:

Jane Rhea Vernier, founder and chairperson of the inaugural NOLA Disability Pride Festival, which debuted Saturday (March 25) at the Advocacy Center of Louisiana and featured lots of cool entertainment and information about disability issues.

Stephanie Pearl Travers, editor-in-chief of the recently launched Iron Lattice art magazine, which will celebrate the release of its third issue on Saturday at Barrister’s Gallery.

Laszlo Fulop, associate professor of Documentary and Video Writing at the University of New Orleans and curator of a film series that began Friday (March 24) with “The Wings of the Dove” as part of both Friday Nights at NOMA and as a companion to NOMA’s “A Life of Seduction: Venice in the 1700s.”

We also featured this week’s Relevant Link, and, a had quick check in on some “Best Bets” for tonight and the rest of the weekend.

SEGMENT ONE: Jane Rae Vernier, NOLA Disability Pride Festival
Jane Rhea Vernier, founder and chairperson of the NOLA Disability Pride Festival, as well as the Founder and Head Honcho of the Quirky Citizens Alliance. The QCA’s mission is to foster equality without sameness for people with Disability and Neurodiversity and cultivate a strong, cross-disability culture in the city of New Orleans. She is an autism self-advocate and affirmative activist with nearly ten years personal and professional experience working with adults and children with Disabilities. Jane Rhea is committed to Disability awareness and building a stronger culture. (Check out this feature on the festival by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.) NOTE: While we did not get a chance to cover it during our segment, Vernier pointed out the National Center on Disability and Journalism, a very helpful website for journalists covering disability issues. I hope to use this for future reference when covering the subject.

SEGMENT NO. 2: Stephanie Pearl Travers, The Iron Lattice
Stephanie Pearl Travers is editor-in-chief for the New Orleans-based art quarterly, The Iron Lattice. This relatively new publication enjoyed its Volume 3 Release Party on Saturday at Barrister’s Gallery on St. Claude Avenue. This issue features the works of Douglas Bourgeios, Frank Relle and Malik Rahim. When she’s not working on the latest issue, you can find Stephanie Pearl Travers teaching a yoga class at Wild Lotus Yoga or pouring a customer a glass of wine at the neighborhood wine shop. Before the Iron Lattice, she was a freelance writer and editor who helped create marketing strategies for small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

I spoke with Stephanie at her home in the Musicians Village, and the tapping sound you might hear comes not from her typewriter, but her very friendly and vigilant dogs moving around as we chatted.

SEGMENT THREE: Relevant Links
For our Relevant Links this week, I’d like to point your attention to a story by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune this past week about a record-breaking year for New Orleans tourism in which the city welcomed a whopping 10.45 million visitors in 2016. Hey, that’s great.

“These achievements are the result of a strategy that attracts a combination of carefully targeted convention business and leisure travelers through tactics which leverage paid media, earned public relations exposure and special events to market New Orleans to the world,” said New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Stephen Perry.

It also is another indication of the prevalence of short-term rentals (STRs) that helped host these visitors, raising the ire of the many residents — as well as the rent — in those neighborhoods. It remains to be seen how the newly passed STR regulations by the City Council will affect residents and neighborhoods moving forward.

But then there’s another relevant link, in which the New Orleans Advocate noted that for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, more people are leaving New Orleans than coming into the city. Jeff Adelson writes:

For New Orleans, the main source of growth in recent years was what is known as “domestic migration”: people moving into the city from other areas of the United States. In 2011, for example, the city gained about 9,700 more people that way than it lost to other parishes and states, amounting to about three-quarters of the growth the city saw that year.

At that time, some former residents were still returning home and many new residents were being lured in by the city’s culture or to work on the recovery with nonprofits and other agencies.

But with affordable housing in scarce supply and nearly half of the city’s job growth coming in low-wage sectors such as hospitality and retail, the city may no longer have the allure it once did. About 760 more people left the parish for other areas of the country last year than moved in, according to the estimates.

While the tourism industry is a vital economic engine for the city, you have to wonder at one point how much is too much — a question that, frankly, should be asked about a lot of the culture of post-Katrina New Orleans. If the city is so flush with tourism (and tourism dollars, yet we’re seeing a first-time post-Katrina reversal of the net gain of residents — with them, a potentially dwindling tax base — what kind of city will we wind up having? Given the rise in housing costs and the decrease of well-paying jobs, we have good reason to wonder whose New Orleans this really is. Something to ponder moving forward.

Here’s the link to the NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune article.

SEGMENT FOUR: Laszlo Fulop, UNO; curator, Venice film series at NOMA
Laszlo Fulop, Associate Professor of Documentary and Video Writing at the University of New Orleans, curated a series of three movies that prominently feature the Venice, starting with tonight’s screening of the adaptation of the Henry James novel, “The Wings of the Dove,” which was part of the Friday Nights at NOMA activities. It’s tied to NOMA’s “A Life of Seduction: Venice in the 1700s.” Here Fulop walks us through the creative process of curating this series, why Venice is so special, and what about these films together and separately resonated with him most.

CLOSING
I want to remind everyone that if you like what you hear on “PopSmart NOLA,” we’re here every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. — yes, our new day and time! — right here on WHIV (102.3 FM). You can listen to the archived, podcast version of the show on my SoundCloud account, “dlsnola.” Also, you can visit the website at popsmartnola.com, and like our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Instagram at “@popsmartnola” and I’m yammering away as always on Twitter at @dlsnola504.

Also, if you like our show, we’d love your support in the form of underwriting; email me at dlsnola@gmail.com for more info.

Our theme music is “Summertime” by Robin Mitchell.

Up next: Chris Lane with “Eat, Pray, Fight!” I’m preparing to do all of the three, just not here.

Thanks again for joining us, y’all. For “PopSmart NOLA,” I’m David Lee Simmons, reminding everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going.

Evan Spigelman on “PopSmart NOLA”: Life with creeps, life in drag, and life helping queer youth with LOUD

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“CREEP CUTS”
WHAT: Cabaret and drag show from Evan Spigelman and Dylan Hunter with karaoke hosted by Kimberly Clark
WHEN: Thurs.-Sat. in March; karaoke 9:30 p.m., show 10:30 p.m.
WHERE: Mudlark Public Theatre, 1200 Port St.
ADMISSION: $10-$20 (sliding scale)

I first came across Evan Spigelman when he was a “draguate” of Vinsantos’ New Orleans Drag Workshop (which I covered for the New Orleans Advocate as well as here), and I was struck by how his performance in particular stuck out in an evening of incredibly varied performances.

It wasn’t until later that it became apparent that this was the first formalized drag training for Spigelman, despite his Big Easy Award-winning turn in the title role in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch back in 2011.

He wears many hats. Spigelman is a performer, light designer, co-founder of New Orleans performance collective Skin Horse Theater and of LOUD, the New Orleans Queer Youth Theater. (Breaking news: He received another Big Easy Award nomination for Best Lighting Design for The NOLA Project’s “Flood City.”

He bills his latest venture, “Creep Cuts,” as a “cartoon cloud of dada and drag.” In the show, Spigelman performs as Mz. Asa Metric opposite En Between (played by Dylan Hunter) as “New Orleans’ premier electro-cabaret-dada-freak-drag-extra-hyphenated-caffeinated- duo-from-out-of-the-blue-o.” They create a show filled with sketch comedy, lip synch and original electronic music to create a wholly new form of drag cabaret to confound the senses. Bonnie Gabel of the Pelican Bomb calls “Creep Cuts” ‘Virtuosic’ and says it ‘… challenges our perceptions of drag.’ I should add the show is preceded by a karaoke hour hosted by drag performer Kimberly Clark.

In this expanded version of the segment that ran on the March 17 episode of “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3) — complete with new day and time, Fridays at noon! — Spigelman touched on all of this work, ending with interesting insight on his work with LOUD at a time when LGBTQ youth seem in particular peril these days.

Mardi Gras Indians, street dancing, hot grilling and tight community on Super Sunday in Central City (photos)

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Thousands flocked to Central City for Super Sunday, the annual gathering of the Mardi Gras Indians sporting the new suits they debuted on Mardi Gras last month, this time on Sunday (March 19) as a part of St. Joseph’s Day at the epicenter intersection of Washington Avenue and LaSalle Street. Photographers amateur and pro jammed streets, sidewalks and stoops jockeying for position for a snap at a festival that turned into an almost informal parade up LaSalle Street.

It was a delight to watch Chief Howard Miller and Queen Rukiya Brown of the Creole Wild West make their entrance, taking time for residents and especially children to get some quality for a few photos and, in one instance, explain the tradition and culture.

There were some pretty wild sights aside from the Indians, including rows of food trucks cranking out soul food and drinks, residents forming impromptu dance parties, NOPD officers and residents  riding on horseback — and one bizarre instance, an entire group of people riding in what appeared to be a makeshift party bus in the form of an open-air U-Haul van.

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 21: Winston Ho, Evan Spigelman and John Waters on a new day and time!

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This week’s show came to listeners on a new day and time: Friday at noon on WHIV (102.3 FM)! While I will miss hanging out on Saturday afternoon, I have to say I’m thrilled with the opportunity to precede one of WHIV’s coolest shows, Chris Lane’s “Eat, Pray, Fight!” and, hopefully, to follow a very cool new show we hope to announce some time in the future.

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John Waters: “Make Trouble,” remote controls, and the crazy people in his life

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JOHN WATERS: “THIS FILTHY WORLD: DIRTIER AND FILTHIER”
WHEN:
Sat. (March 18), 8 p.m.
WHERE: Joy Theater, 1200 Canal St.
TICKETS: $45-$90
MORE INFO: Visit the Joy Theater website

Truth be told, John Waters can do these phone interviews in his sleep. What more is there to say after a career like his, which, fortunately for New Orleans, includes what feels like an annual pilgrimage to brush up on his “This Filthy World Tour” as he holds forth on the many things that landed him the title “Pope of Trash” and many other witty titles.

And yet, he always surprises you with a few curveballs and changeup pitches.

Some of that is captured in the feature in this week’s New Orleans Advocate article as well as in a podcast interview for “PopSmart NOLA.” Waters’ assistant was kind enough to also provide a “John Waters through the years” set of images for a nice photo gallery, so it seemed appropriate to provide a post of his recollections of the many crazy and special people in his long and colorful life, with some photos of him and the others included.

Enjoy!

Would you be game if I threw out a few of the names of the folks you’ve worked with over time? Would you mind giving me a first impression?

Sure.

I’ll start with Johnny Depp.
At the time of Johnny Depp in “Cry Baby” (1990), he was basically Justin Bieber. (At the time, Depp was the star of the TV hit “21 Jump Street.) He was a teen idol and he hated it. I think he made a wise decision to come with us because he could make fun of the whole thing. Then he moved on and made “Edward Scissorhands” and became a serious actor.

Debbie Harry.
I always loved Debbie. (Debbie Harry appeared as Velma Von Tussley in 1998’s in “Hairspray.”) She was from the very beginning, like a goddess to me. She’s a really good actress, too. I’ve seen her lots of different movies, independent films. It was great to have her. She was so excited to have Sonny Bono play her husband.

Ricki Lake.
Well, Ricki’s still a very dear friend. (Lake starred as Tracy Turnblad in “Hairspray.”) She’s had tragedy recently over her last husband. I don’t know if you know about that. I didn’t know. He committed suicide. It’s in People magazine this week. Anyway, she is a dear friend. I wrote the introduction to her autobiography (“Never Say Never: Finding a Life That Fits”). We’ve stayed in touch from the very beginning. She was even in “Hairspray,” the NBC thing, and a cameo thing. Ricki’s a dear, dear friend I’ve known forever. When she came in, she was Tracy Turnblad. She was in college, hated it, wanted to be an actress. She always told me she wanted to be a TV star and she became one.

Kathleen Turner.
Oh, she’s great. I still see her. We just went over and recorded something for the new “Serial Mom” (1994) DVD/blue-ray that came out. Kathleen is a brilliant actor and she works constantly. She does a lot of theater. I don’t know. She’s got a great sense of humor. She doesn’t suffer fools, but I love to be with her when she doesn’t suffer fools.

Traci Lords.
A good friend. (Lords starred in “Cry Baby.”) She was only a porn star for, what, a year and a half or something. She’s been doing everything else for the rest of her life. Traci and I hosted a big punk rock festival in Oakland last year, called Burger Boogaloo, and I’m hosting it again this year. She was great because she said for the first time ever, you know how to meet and greet, which for her can be not a good. All the lineup was mostly all women. She said, “I’ll sign their tits but those guys? I ain’t signing their tits.’ They all had their haircut from “Cry Baby” and Traci Lords tattoos and everything. It was great.

Tab Hunter.
Tab Hunter is a friend. I certainly saw him. I’m in the documentary about him. If it wasn’t for him, “Polyester” (1981) would have never crossed over to what it did. Tab is somebody that you never can predict. He’s a Republican. He always makes me laugh. He does it just to defy me, too.

Mink Stole.
Mink and I are great friends. She moved back to Baltimore after living in New York and L.A. for years and years and years. We’re very good friends. She came up to the big Writers Guild, Lifetime Achievement Award I got. Mink’s a very, very close friend. She’s like family.

What do you think of the music album she put out a couple of years ago?
It’s so good! She could sing. (“Do Re Mink,” 2013.) I said, “Why didn’t you tell me you could sing?” She said, “I didn’t know it, either.” She’s like Julie London. She can really sing.

Patricia Hearst.
Patricia is certainly my friend, I hope. (Hears appeared in “Cry Baby.) She’s somebody who, it’s all over. She doesn’t care about it, she doesn’t think about it. Her life has evolved so much further. She’s got great kids. She’s something, that like from a time warp that that happened in. She really has no interest, or there’s no trace of it. She survived it. She was always telling the truth and that’s why she’s alive.

Iggy Pop.
Iggy Pop! He’s a headliner at the punk rock festival, Burger Boogaloo, this year, both nights that we’re hosting in Oakland. I saw Iggy recently. I did his radio show (“Iggy Confidential”) with him. We talked about scary Halloween music together.

Pat Moran.
Pat Moran’s my best friend in the world. She has cast everything from all my movies, then she went on to “The Wire.” She’s, I think, won an Emmy two or three times (“Veep,” “Game Change,” “Homicide: Life on the Street”). She’s been nominated (seven) times. She was also with me at the Writers Guild (ceremony). She and her husband are my closest friends.

What did you think about her as a talent? What made her special to you?
Well, because she could just recognize people that could do it, and were believable. She knew all types. You always believed the people that Pat cast. She went to different communities to get people that maybe wouldn’t have been actors and helped turn them into them.

Finally, Divine.
Divine, I miss him. Divine would have wanted to be in every single “Hairspray” that’s ever come out. He probably would have played many different roles. By the end, when Divine died, he was playing male roles. He probably would have wanted to play, I don’t know, Corny Collins.

Peter Holsapple on “PopSmart NOLA”: “It’s kind of on my own terms at this point”

John Gessner Pic

Peter Holsapple (Photo by John Gessner)

PETER HOLSAPPLE
WHAT:
Singer-songwriter and former db’s and Continental Drifters bandmate joins in on Alex McMurray’s weekly show
WHEN: Monday (March 13), 8 p.m.
WHERE: Chickie Wah Wah, 2828 Canal St.
MORE INFO: Visit the website link

While he’s been back to New Orleans off and on over the past since leaving for Durham, N.C., singer-songwriter Peter Holsapple hasn’t gone solo in the Crescent City for a while. And now, he figures, is the right time, given a renewed focus on his solo work in recent years — a focus he’ll sharpen for his guest spot at Alex McMurray’s Monday night session at Chickie Wah Wah on March 14.

At 61, he noted in a recent phone interview, he’s done just about everything he’s been able to do to achieve artistic and commercial success in that bands he’s either co-founded (the ’80s indie-rock band the db’s, New Orleans roots-rockers the Continental Drifters) or served as a sideman (R.E.M., Hootie & the Blowfish). He hasn’t shut all of this previous work down, having performing in some form of reunion work or another with everyone except perhaps R.E.M., and remains a go-to sideman when Hootie & the Blowfish call.

But now he’s ready to do his own thing, in a way he probably hasn’t done in decades. He’s liking what he’s hearing, and will bring a freshly pressed 7-inch vinyl 45 rpm record with him to the gig.

“I’m excited to play new songs for people,” said Holsapple, who has sharpened his work through his affiliation with the Radio Free Song Club, a podcast that features writers who work on a monthly song deadline to help connect their songs with their audience. Participating artists include such familiar names as Howe Gelb, Freedy Johnston and Victoria Williams, and guest stars have included Holsapple’s old db’s bandmate Chris Stamey, XTC’s Andy Partridge and Glen Hansard of “Once” fame.

“It’s important for me to get people to the show to prove to them that I haven’t just been, y’know, sleeping in hammock since I’ve been gone,” he said. “It’s kind of on my own terms at this point. There’s nothing left to lose. … At this point, I’m just glad I have the ability to play it, and to play it for people who’ll listen. That’s exciting for me.”

The 7-inch features the haunting “Don’t Mention the War.” Lightly inspired by the catch-phrase from the British sitcom “Fawlty Towers,” the song tells the story of a family member who’s an otherwise creative, compelling figure but suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome from a horrific war experience. (The song is played out in an epic, six-minute video available on YouTube and featured here.)

“It was a ‘Song Club’ song,” he said. “I was working under a deadline. But it had swarmed pretty solidly in my head before I even ran tape on it. That was kind of a good sign. The songs that write themselves I think are implicitly worthy of trust. I think there’s something else happening there, y’know. The ones that you labor over? A lot of those are really good, too. The ones that are just borne … of whole cloth, I think that’s something remarkable. And I’m so lucky to still have that happen, y’know?”

I asked Holsapple what if anything unified all of his work — whether in the bands he’s formed or the one’s he’s contributed to as a sideman.

“If I was going to say one thing that made sense that went over all four of those groups … I would say the interplay between the melody that the singer is singing and what the bass player is doing,” he said. “I think that is really what unifies a great song, certainly, and I think all four groups … place a great emphasis on getting that part right.

“It’s the top and the bottom. It’s what the people here.”

Here in this podcast segment recorded for Sunday’s (March 11) episode of “PopSmart NOLA,” Peter Holsapple discusses more about his solo work, his time with the db’s and the Continental Drifters, some of his New Orleans friends, and life in Durham, N.C.

(NOTE: “PopSmart NOLA” moves to new its new day and time, Fridays at noon, on March 17.)