Kathy Randels can be forgiven for cheating. The performance artist and social activist was asked for her “top 5 memories from ArtSpot Productions” (on the spot, so to speak) and while she turned it around with lightning speed, she bent the rules a bit and had some sub-topics. But consider how much this group has done over 20 years, how could she stop at five? Here’s five and a few more to boot, in advance of tonight’s (Thursday, Dec. 17) event, “20for20: A Limoncello Bordello,” from 7 to 10 p.m. at Rebellion Bar and Urban Kitchen, 748 Camp St. (See Facebook event here for details.)
1. Contesting my first grant application that was close, but didn’t make the cut to the New Orleans Arts Council in their office on Baronne. Shirley Trusty Corey and Echo Olander were in the room and many others. I was given a chance to try to convince them that they should fund the first production of “Rage Within/Without” in New Orleans, which they did! I told them it was important to fund young artists from New Orleans that moved back home to make their work! That became ArtSpot’s first production at the Contemporary Arts Center in the BankOne Black Box Theatre in the fall of 1995.
2. The various rehearsal spaces:
- a crumbling NOCCA, my alma mater on Perrier St. that was no longer functioning as a school, but home to New Orleans Schools’ Arts in Education Offices and other scrappy performing artists like me; (“Rage,” “How to Be a Man,” “The End and Back Again”)
- The Firehouse in the 700 block of Mandeville: NORD/NOBA partnership was operating out of it, Jenny Thompson, rest her soul, had her office there. Moving Humans ensemble started there with J Hammons, and Lucas Cox, rest his soul. We created “Rumours of War,” “Venus Vulcan Mars” and the “Dancing Dwarf”; “Nita & Zita”; “The Maid of Orleans” and “New Orleans Suite” there.
- In and out of Anne Burr’s Dance Studio with all the amazing Uptown dancers.
- Lakeview Baptist Church, the church my father pastored for 37 years and I grew up in, that housed our office for four years post-Katrina
- Catapult, our new home, and lab space shared with Jeff Becker; Mondo Bizarro and New Noise in the Marigny.
3. Our residency at the CAC from 2004-06. Getting the news from Larisa Gray, then performance curator there; all the performances; Brotha T, Zohar Israel and Shaka Zulu’s drums echoing through the warehouse while Roscoe Reddix, Ausettua Amor Amenkum and Monique Moss danced and Sean LaRocca amazing score for strings while Lucas Cox descended a rope over a banquet table designed by Shawn Hall during “Rumours of War”; “State of the Nation Series” and “Festival” with a special altar for Lloyd Joseph Martin; the TIME MACHINE from “Chekhov’s Wild Ride”; “Artistic Ancestry,” our 10-tear anniversary festival with amazing artists from all over the globe, including Roberta Carreri poking her hands and head through a wall of Salt in the Freeport; and Torgeir Wethal, rest his soul.
4. Site-specific work over the last 10 years:
- Learning how to ride a horse and dive backwards into a shallow pool of water in Gentilly for “Go Ye Therefore” in 2010.
- Singing and dancing all over the Studio in the Woods with “Beneath the Strata/Disappearing” when we thought New Orleans was dying in 2006.
- Watching and helping Nick Slie become a werewolf with Moose Jackson and Jeff Becker for months in the old east Golf Course in 2009.
- Watching, learning and coaching the Kiss Kiss Julie ensemble to become better lovers (Ashley Sparks, Lisa Shattuck, Rebecca Mwase, Nick Slie)!
- Singing up and down the Central Wetlands Levee led by Sean LaRocca along with a chorus of wild boar, coyotes, alligators, spiders, hawks and snakes!
5. The work with students at the Center at Douglass, performing their writings from “The Long Ride,” New Orleans’ 300 years of black resistance; and McMain girls performing at the Red Tent in the Superdome whose entrance was a giant vagina thanks to Eve Ensler. And the work with the women at Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, the LCIW Drama Club, every Saturday with Ausettua Amor Amenkum, Michaela Harrison and Chen Gu: feeling Mama Glo rip my heart out every time she performs … she, the two Mary’s and Sandra have been there longer than me and it’s been 20 long and beautiful years!