“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 14: Michael Aaron Santos on “A Few Good Men,” Kathy Randels & Sean LaRocca sing, Damien Moses on “Jelly’s Last Jam,” and Alex Rawls on Jazz Fest

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Saturday’s show the “All the City’s a Stage Episode” to help celebrate so many impressive stage works opening and closing across the Crescent City, which included the openings of:

* “Jelly’s Last Jam” at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré. (Read the glowing review by Ted Mahne.)
* “A Few Good Men” at Delgado Community College. (Read my feature preview.)
* “Niagara Falls” at The Theatre at St. Claude
* “On an Average Day” at the Happyland Theater

… as well as the concluding performances of …

* “Billy Elliot” at Rivertown Theaters, including an added Sunday show
* “Disney’s The Lion King,” which I caught Thursday, at the Saenger Theatre
* “Gomela” which we discussed last week, at Ashé Powerhouse Theater
* “White Rabbit, Red Rabbit” at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church
* … and ArtSpot Productions’ “Sea of Common Catastrophe” at UNO

On “PopSmart NOLA,” we welcomed:

Michael Aaron Santos, who stars as Col. Jessup, speaker of the infamous “You can’t handle the truth” speech in “A Few Good Men,” which is being staged at Delgado Community College’s Timothy Baker Theater and runs through Feb. 11. For more information, visit www.nolaproject.com.

Kathy Randels and Sean LaRocca of ArtSpot Productions, and “Sea of Common Catastrophe“ — which Gambit’s Will Coviello described as “an abstract, figurative work about New Orleans and some of its inhabitants, who are drawn to the sea and affected by it.” While the show closed Saturday, we had Kathy and Sean discuss the production for a final push, and they favored us with a song from the show.

Damien Moses, cast member of “Jelly’s Last Jam,” the Tony Award-winning musical about the life of legendary New Orleans pianist, bandleader and composer Jelly Roll Morton. This is, amazingly, the New Orleans premiere of this work, which, among other things, delivered star Gregory Hines his lone Tony Award. Damien A. Moses is a New Orleans native. His portrayal of Hedley in “Seven Guitars”, directed by Tommye Myricke, afforded him the privilege to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D. C. as an Irene Ryan recipient. His most notable performance as Mister in “The Color Purple The Musical” at Anthony Bean Community Theater, earned him a Big Easy Award nomination. The show runs at Le Petit Theatre through Feb. 12. For more information visit http://www.lepetittheatre.com/.

Alex Rawls of My Spilt Milk paid us a return visit to to help break down the recently announced lineups for the French Quarter Festival and of course the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. My Spilt Milk covers the music and culture in New Orleans. Alex has written for almost every New Orleans-based publication (including our years together at Gambit-then-Weekly), as well as Rolling Stone, Spin and USA Today — AND he guest-edited The Oxford American’s Louisiana music issue. He’s also done some really fascinating work examining the booking choices at Jazz Fest, is here to discuss their recently announced lineup as well as that of the French Quarter Festival, which precedes Jazz Fest this spring.

That’s “PopSmart NOLA” for this week. I want to again thank our guests — Michael Aaron Santos from “A Few Good Men,” Kathy Randels from ArtSpot Productions and “Sea of Common Catastrophe,” Damien Moses from “Jelly’s Last Jam” and Alex Rawls of My Spilt Milk.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode, which include a focus on the upcoming James Baldwin documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” which hits New Orleans, and this show will include some really exciting guests. Stay tuned on that.

Want to remind everyone that if you like what you hear on “PopSmart NOLA,” we’re here every Saturday from 3-4 p.m. 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 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.

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

Kathy Randels’ Top 5 memories from 20 years of ArtSpot Productions

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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!