How does one bring to life the eccentric and exacting prose of Hearn from his ability to wax poetic about his adopted city to his ear for sounds on the streets to his witty diatribes poking fun at the inane and the deadly serious?
People Say answered the call with a multimedia presentation that both gave space to Hearn's prose but that also provided an entertaining backdrop as well as interludes of pure joy for the audience in the packed house at Cafe Istanbul.
The program included performers coming to the mic to read aloud samplings of Hearn's writings from 1877-1880 that center around life in New Orleans. Short passages on the beauty of the city led into commentary on the weather, the political corruption, the sounds of street vendors, the crime and Hearn's ability to capture the particular characters of the streets such as in "Complaint of a Creole Boardinghouse-Keeper," which was beautifully acted out by Trixie Minx in full costume and with a Creole patois. Kataalsyt Alcindor gave a beautiful rendition of "A Creole Courtyard" in a sonorous voice that carried the audience into the tranquil, minutely described details of the titled piece.
Among these careful selections of Hearn's works were constant surprises as a white alligator crawled on stage before a screen backdrop of swampy images for "The Alligators, " which begins: "None discover aught of beauty in them; yet they were once worshiped as gods," or an interpretive dance was acted out of a crab putting itself to boil complete with carrots and veggies flying out of the pot and into the audience.
Madame Mystere of the Fleur de Tease
Ratty Scurvics hopped on the piano to accompany the piece "Eleusis" while Trixie Minx did a reverse strip tease dressing up in the ballerina costume that the piece describes in exacting details.
Chuck Perkins recited a piece while a troupe from the "Hip-ocrisy Belly Dancers" stood in the background ready to take to the stage with their flipping fans adding a carnivalesque atmosphere to what was overall a love-fest for New Orleans in words, gestures, and images.
Hip-ocrisy Belly Dancers
As much as the show was a tribute to Hearn, it was really New Orleans that took center stage, and the finale which brought forth the whole cast embodied that with the piece: "Glamour of New Orleans (Nov. 26, 1878)," which is as poignant now as it was when Hearn wrote it. In fact, maybe more poignant in that about half the audience nearly witnessed the end of what we know as the city of New Orleans. Hearn's piece captures what we hold in our hearts about this city that we adore, and Hearn's pieces on violence and crime seemed sadly just as relevant today as well capturing the side of New Orleans that often breaks our hearts. In "Glamour of New Orleans" the city whispers: "My streets are flecked with strange sharp shadows; and sometimes also the Shadow of Death falleth upon them; but if thou wilt not fear, thou are safe. My charms are not the charms of much gold and great riches; but thou mayest feel with me such hope and content as thou hast never felt before." Written over a hundred years ago and the city still promises, and the city still provides for those with eyes and hearts open to receive.
The People Say Project and the cast of the Lafcadio Hearn Literary Late Night production casted a magical spell last night that compressed time reminding us all how wondrous and unique this city continues to be. Other cast members included: Andrew Vaught, C.W.Cannon, and Chris Lane, with photographs and images by Leslie Addison and George Yerger. Grant Ingram was on hand capturing video of the production from every angle possible, so check the People Say Project soon for video of this event.
Also see Mark Folse's take on Odd Words/ Toulouse Street in addition to Mark's write ups on the entire Tennessee Williams Fest.