When members of the all-woman Mystic Krewe of Terpsichore get together to plan their Carnival ball on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, Ricky Graham will be there, too — even though he already knows almost exactly what’s going to happen. Things haven’t changed much for Terpsichore’s Yat-pack cast of characters in the last decade. Or for their ball and truck float.
And for New Orleans-area theatergoers, that’s a good thing.
Graham wrote the comedy about the krewe, “And the Ball and All,” which premiered in 1995. It’s been performed 1,000 times since then, he estimates. The original run at the old True Brew Theater on Julia Street lasted an unprecedented two years. The play has been onstage for months at a time in other venues, and it’s traveled to other cities as well.
“The intention was just to write a show that sounded like New Orleans,” Graham said, recalling the nail-on-chalkboard pain still in Crescent City ears back then from Dennis Quaid’s accent in “The Big Easy.”
“It just seemed to resonate with people,” he said. “I was overwhelmed with the response. Every year since it was written, it’s been performed somewhere.”
For the past three years, that spot has been Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts. In its only performances of this short Carnival season, “And the Ball and All” takes the stage Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the theater, 325 Minor St., in Kenner’s Rivertown. Tickets are $26. “And the Ball and All” stars Becky Allen, Amanda Hebert, Gogo Borgerding, Yvette Hargis, Rebecca Taliancich, Amanda Zirkenbach and Patrick Mendelson. Graham directs.
“For the first three or four years, we kept updating it,” Graham said of the script. “We changed the TV shows that we talked about, changed where the ball took place, changed names of cars and things like that. We got to a point where we didn’t after (Hurricane) Katrina.
“In 2006, we decided the show needed to stay as a period piece. Once we made that decision, which was the right thing to do, people come to see it and enjoy it even more because … there’s the nostalgia of being set before Katrina.”
The cast, too, has remained almost a constant. Allen and Hargis were in from the first performance. Zirkenbach joined a few months later. “The cast now has been (together) for at least 10 years,” Graham said.
The group of larger-than-life actors re-creates what may be a dying slice of culture.
“We have people who are bringing younger people or out-of-towners to say, ‘This is how it was when I was growing up.’ As New Orleans becomes more of an international destination and we have an influx of younger people, there’s a tendency for a lot of things to homogenize. Small neighborhoods and the way people talk and idioms have become quaint relics.”
Graham hopes to raise from more literal ashes one specific taste of local culture.
“One thing we’re hoping is … we might have some Hubig’s Pies for the show.” The Hubig’s factory burned in 2012. “Since the first production, we were getting pies and passing them out to the audience — and Zapp’s Potato Chips, which they eat onstage. At the end, the girls are all in ball gowns and give them both to the audience. We might be able to get special pies. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”