The NOLA Project Show Archive

Cloud Nine

Cloud Nine
By Caryl Churchill
Directed by James Tripp
August 2007: The Nims Blackbox Theatre at NOCCA|Riverfront

A.J. Allegra: Bill

Alex Martinez: Wallace Harry Bagley / Martin
Andrew Larimer: Betty / Edward
Angela Vitale: Mrs. Saunders / Betty
James Bartelle: Joshua / Cathy
Laura Ramadei: Maud / Lin
Molly Schreiber: Edward / Victoria
Pete McElligott: Clive / Gerry
Whitney Thompson: Ellen

Davis Barron: Lighting Design
Jenni-Lee Crewe: Set Design
A.J. Allegra: Sound Design; Stage Manager
Peter McElligott: Sound Design
Michael Jefferson: Crew
Erica Carlson: Crew
M. Brady McKellar: Costume Coordinator
Elsa Dimitriadis: Costume Coordinator
Sean Creel: Carpentry
Andrea Watson: Light Board

Set in 1880 Africa and 1980 London, Cloud Nine turns issues of gender, race, sexuality, and genealogy on their heads and back again. The play is an inquiry into identity, begging the questions, "Who are we?", "Where did we come from?" and "Who the hell is under my skirt?" This isn't your mother's century-spanning, gender-bending, race-skewering social farce. Or is it?...

some personal history…

Like The Misanthrope, Cloud Nine was an area of Jimmy expertise. Jimmy has directed the show somewhere close to eight times and had a very clear-cut idea of what he wanted out of the production, though allowing actors the flexibility to discover the roles for themselves. For Cloud Nine, we also returned to NOCCA for the first time since the storm. In fact, upon our return to New Orleans, we found out that our set from Cripple had remained standing all throughout the storm and the NOCCA occupation by the National Guard. It’d be nice to think that they played on it and pretended to be eccentric Irish types to relieve the stress of the recovery work.

Cloud Nine’s rehearsal process also overlapped performances of The Misanthrope, meaning that we had about fifteen people all living in the house at one time. Picking a restaurant for dinner was always a challenge, as was cooking for everyone. One memorable evening during rehearsals involved all of the company carrying tikki torches, beer, and Alex Wallace’s boxing equipment down to the bayou to host an impromptu boxing tournament.

Being our fourth production, Cloud Nine marked the first in which we did not receive unanimous praise from reviewers. For me, this was an important step in our evolution. Just as much as anyone loves praise, critique is also something that is good for you, like cough medicine. Or college. Certain things in the production were amazing, like Angela Vitale’s performance as Betty, and Cloud Nine was a joy to work on. But ultimately I don’t think it represented our best work. Perhaps it was more challenging than we gave it credit for, or maybe we had gotten too comfortable with our own work, but it was an important wakeup call. In his review for Ambush magazine, Brian Sands described a part of the show as ‘jarring.’ Working as stage manager, I was stationed near one of the stage entrances. Every evening before James would walk onstage for his entrance I would tell him to try to be less ‘jarring.’ And then he’d jump rope onto the stage dressed as a six-year-old girl. I guess it’s also an important lesson not to let the bad reviews steal your good time. –A.J. Allegra

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