According to Aimée Hayes, Southern Rep Theater’s producing artistic director, the inspiration for “BOUDIN: The New Orleans Music Project,” happened several years ago at Cochon Butcher on Tchoupitoulas over a plate of delicious boudin shared with Sean Daniels, a much sought-after theatrical director.
“We were chatting about music and how it is the life blood of New Orleans culture,” she said. “Sean is so good at generating excitement in communities about theater, especially when the community is helping to generate the art with the artists. We knew this would be a unique way to tell a story.”
So in October, Southern Rep, in partnership with WWOZ, began collecting responses to this compelling question: How has New Orleans music saved your soul?
The answers flooded onto their website, BoudinMusicProject.com with participants sharing videos, audio, photos and narratives.
Specific stories were then chosen from the many submitted and co-curators Daniels and Hayes blended those stories and added music and visual art to create “BOUDIN: The New Orleans Music Project,” which opens Wednesday, April 15, at the Ashé Power House Theater. It’s an original production that celebrates New Orleans and two of its most valuable resources: its music and its people.
Daniels, who has directed at such theaters as the Kennedy Center, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Swine Palace and Southern Rep, describes why he wanted to create and direct this project.
“I love people’s relationship to music — everyone has one,” he said. “You may not be a musician, but you have a song you danced with your dad at your wedding, you have a work-out song, you have a moment when a song came on the radio and changed your day, you have songs you don’t listen to anymore as they remind you of old times; these songs are packed full of stories. So, I thought the show would work in any city but in New Orleans, well, the relationship is through the roof. Here people talk about music all day long, they play music all night long and your musical tastes define you and help you to define the world around you.”
The project is expansive and brings together a wide array of creative artists such as Boudin’s musical director Jay Weigel, a New Orleans-based composer who has scored numerous films such as the upcoming feature “Get Hard” starring Will Ferrell. He was attracted to the project because he wanted, among other things, an opportunity to celebrate New Orleans music.
“Our music is unique,” said Weigel. “It has specific grooves, riffs and melodies that combine to create a common vocabulary that’s been passed on from one generation of musicians to the next.”
According to Hayes, the cast represents an eclectic group of styles and voices that blend together creatively. The vocalists include Brittney James, Clint Johnson, Natalie Jones, Phillip Manuel, Josh Smith and Dorian Rush.
“I couldn’t possibly turn down this project, it spoke to me on such a personal level,” said Rush, a veteran of more than 1,500 live shows. “I found my voice here, I owe who I am to New Orleans and its music. ‘Boudin’ is very much a collaborative effort and the way this show is structured, it feels more like a jam session with words and stories rather than a ‘play’ with actors and a script.”
The doors open at 7 p.m. and the audience is invited to enjoy a drink and dine on some delicious boudin, which Hayes said they will definitely have on hand.
“You can also check out the more than 30 music altars made by local artists, the psycho-geographic map by Jakob Rosensweig, an exciting storytelling installation by Margot Herster and catch some of the videos of local folks telling their version of how New Orleans music saved their souls,” she said. “I am almost as jazzed by the pre-show offerings as I am about the play.”
Southern Rep has a longstanding commitment to developing innovative, engaging new work and this production certainly seems to fit their mission perfectly.
“Everything said in the show came from the lives of one of our performers or from the people we interviewed,” said Daniels. “Really the people of New Orleans wrote this show.”