On two social and cultural fronts, hundreds — a thousand? — of followers gathered at the National WWII Museum for Cultural Collision, which kicked off the season for more than five dozen of the city’s nonprofit visual and performing arts organizations. Dozens were in attendance for the opening night of the first 2014-15 season production of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre: “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” It’s a Tony Award-winning comedy by Christopher Durang. The annual Patron Appreciation Party-goers assembled before and after the play for good cheer and comestibles.
Colliding with Culture
The announcement was exhilarating: “The Cultural Season Kick-Off is Back!” It embraced the free happy hour(s) that concerned the sixth annual Cultural Collison, an event that brings together more than 60 arts-related organizations. For the most recent assemblage, a new location was booked: the National WWII Museum’s Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. Around the capacious area were tables for the participating visual and performing arts organizations, along with some live performances on stage. All the while, folks scoped out upcoming performances as they took advantage of ticket promotions and met like-minded arts lovers.
Headlining the arts’ who’s who was event organizer Jess Brown. Noted amidst the scads of minglers — all either promoting or calendar-planning forthcoming events — were Tracey Sherry and daughter Jenna, Beth Adams, Bill Reeves, Sharon Litwin, Alexis de Bram and cousin Frederic Sciontino, Margarita Bergen, Ana Gershanik, Stewart and Renee Peck (soon to be parents-of-the-bride — again), and spouses Margarete Wabnig and Bernhard Fraling, who not long ago moved to the Crescent City from Europe.
Also, Jeanne Nathan, Paul Mauffray, Missy Bowen, Josh Smith, Laura Friedman, Rachel Gorman, Lesley DeMartin, Alan Raphael, Caitlin Williams, Wanda Fulton, Paulette Crain with buddy Mary Flynn, Robert Lyall, Harriett Cortez, and chatting duo Paul Maassen, general manager of 89.9 WWNO-FM, the host organization, and Stephen Watson, executive vice president of the National WWII Museum, the “new home” for the event.
Food was available by ticket purchase, and lots of CC-goers took advantage of the tasty noshes. The same applied to libations at cash bars. For entertainment, the Symphony Chorus of New Orleans took to the stage, as did a few other groups in pop-up performances.
The spearheading forces? The above WWNO had the hosting honors, while the CC sponsoring set thanked NewOrleans.me, the National WWII Museum, and Canary Collective. The organizers were the Arts Council of New Orleans, Deveney, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the New Orleans Opera Association, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Southern Rep, and WWNO.
Founded to provide the city’s arts and cultural organizations with a collective voice, “as well as a platform for collaboration and promotion,” Culture Collison VI had packed premises.
Hopes follow for comparable attendance at the plethora of performances and arts-related activities in the new season. Get your tickets ready.
In the current Le Petit Theatre production of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” in which playwright Christopher Durang plays loosely with Chekhovian themes (and names), sibling situations form the nucleus of the activity and comedy. Ron Gural is the director and Martin Covert, Susan Shumate, Cassie Steck Worley, Jake Wynne-Wilson, Idella Johnson and Sophie Amoss are the actors.
Anticipating the opening performance of the 2013 Tony Award-winning Best Play and the regional premier of the show were a pack of patrons. About 175 rubbed shoulders at the very nearby Cabildo, where, on the second floor, they enjoyed food generously donated by Tableau, such as shrimp and grits and seared tuna; wine and liquor donated by Republic National Distributing Company; and music by Charles Moore. For the floral embellishment, white hydrangeas were placed in julep cups. Post party, everyone headed to the theater.
Headliners included Le Petit Theatre board President Bruce Hoefer, who praised the performance, with wife Libby; the above actress Cassie Worley, who is also the theater’s artistic director; Dickie Brennan and Steve Pettus of the Dickie Brennan group of restaurants (of which Tableau is one); Brenda and Mike Moffitt; Leon Contavesprie; and Jackie Clarkson, whose daughter Patricia will be appearing on Broadway (previews start Nov. 7) in “The Elephant Man.”
And, Diana Bajoie, Ned and Helaine Benjamin, Bryan Batt and Tom Cianfichi, Kay Favrot, Bill and Mary Hines, Stephanie Huger, Kay McArdle, Andree K. Moss, Sarah and George Young, Errol and Peggy Scott Laborde, Lynne and Harold “Hal” Neitzschman, and lots more. (Several remembered the time Christopher Durang visited Le Petit Theatre and the production there of his short monologue play, “Mrs. Sorkin.”)
Post show, a dessert and cast party unfolded at the adjacent Tableau, where the second season of partnership with that restaurant was hailed. The drink of choice was Sandeman Port. (Other guests might have met George Sandeman during July’s Tales of the Cocktails.
A seventh-generation descendant of the port family, and brought up in England and Spain, George Sandeman is chairman of the House of Sandeman. He also bears the same name as the founder, George Sandeman, a Scotsman, who, in 1790, founded a wine business in London.)
A number of the above-mentioned were present for one of the three packed performances of “Nine Lives,” which just had a run at Le Petit Theatre. The Hoefers were there, as were Ransdell Grace Prieur and husband William, Donna Flower, Karen Edmunds, Duane Page, Laura Bayon, Sally Richards, the above Moffitts, Mary Reidy, the Murray Valenes, Charlie and Kathleen Van Horn, Bill and Elizabeth Sewell, and scores more. At intermission, many flocked to buy the book, “Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans,” by Dan Baum that was being sold on the spot.
Around and About
Katy Simpson Smith, who was featured in a spread in the August magazine (among other recent publications), gave a short reading from her debut novel, “The Story of Land and Sea” at Octavia Books. Sitting rapt in the audience were Dr. Lance Estrada , Dr. Leslie Estrada, Corina Loubier and daughter Elise, Karen Kersting, Susan Larson. Marie Gould, Susan Tucker, and Benjamin Morris. To mention a few. After historian-turned-novelist Smith spoke, she signed books. Attendees also raised glasses of cheer. The wines of choice were Terre du Sol reds and Famega whites.
Cheers and best wishes will go the way of George Wilson and Nell Morgan, who have a forthcoming wedding date. Claire and Harry Stahel assembled a few friends to hail the good tidings.
In the younger set, David and Jessica Gentry have just become parents thanks to baby girl Genevieve.