POSTED Thu. Oct 24, 2013
Cry You One: a theater in the wetlands, a lesson close to home
Kat Stromquist

For Rebecca Mwase, a producer/creator and performer of Cry You One, a new production from ArtSpot and Mondo Bizarro, coastal land loss was once a quagmire of white papers and statistics. She knew the talking points – a football field disappearing every day; well-meaning public relations campaigns – but they didn’t sink in until she began rehearsing for seven-to-ten-day stretches in the wetlands of St. Bernard parish.

From the time of the companies’ arrival, wild boar and hawks, snakes and coyotes haunted the borders of the production, blurring the lines between the structured performance and nature.

“Rabbits were everywhere; we’d wake up to the sounds of birds and the sunrise, our time clock completely shifted,” she says. “One of the things we’re trying to do with Cry You One is to be a channel for the land to speak to the people.”

Cry You One is the culmination of more than a year of work on a project about southern Louisiana’s disappearing coast, which Mwase and fellow producer-performer Nick Slie call a “journey piece.” The project has two major components: its website, where St. Bernard residents and members of the Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society share stories about the ways land loss affects their lives, and performances, which begin Saturday.

Like the companies’ earlier “site-responsive” collaborations, including the Louisiana-themed play Loup Garou, Cry You One’s live performances are staged outdoors. Slie says the setting is a key component of their message, in which both audience and production company are informed by the changing landscape, weather and water.

“Very often we work and we go out to a space, and our work doesn’t begin until we get there. The listening that we receive from that space puts an enormous amount of input into what we create in that space,” he says.

The performances use song, acting, dance, text and visual art to engage viewers, employing archetypal figures (like the coyote as “trickster”), symbols and totems to construct a meditation on land loss. Slie says the piece is a narrative, of sorts, but audiences should expect a more abstract interaction with a variety of mediums than a more closed or linear story.

“The word ‘abstract’ does not mean to confuse, it means to bring closer. So when we [create] abstract things, I feel like what we’re attempting to do is bring them closer for you to look at,” Slie says. “[But] we raise a lot more questions than we try to preach to you answers.”

Eventually, Cry You One will tour the East Coast, connecting local environmental problems with issues of land and water in the changing global climate. The website will feature new content through 2015, as the show travels and changes with in new contexts. Both ArtSpot and Mondo Bizarro include Cry You One as part of work loosely connected with the with the Alternate Roots arts activism organization.

“[We’re] trying to create moments of dialogue and inspiration through our work,” Slie says. “Part of our activism is knowing what we do best…we bring the same amount of rigor and professionalism to what we’re doing in practice as artists, as does the Gulf Restoration Network.”

For the next month, the show will shine a light on Louisiana’s rapidly-disappearing borders and the land, wildlife and people affected by it. Performances will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, with discounted tickets available for seniors, artists, and St. Bernard residents. The companies will offer shuttle service from New Orleans to reduce carbon emissions. Slie recommends getting tickets online in advance, as even though the performance is outdoors, space is limited.

“[The website and the show] offer entry points into a space that is real, and that is dying…I remember going out to the site for the first time and we were in awe. We were silent. You hear all these things, but then you see it,” Mwase says.

When Oct. 26-Nov. 24, Fri.-Sun., 1 p.m.
Where 1357 Bayou Rd., St. Bernard (see website for details)
How much $20 (discounts available for certain groups)

Above image: Pam Roberts, Nick Slie, Lisa Shattuck
Cover image: Hannah Pepper-Cunningham, Pam Roberts, Nick Slie, Rebecca Mwase, Lisa Shattuck, Sean LaRocca
All photos by Melisa Cardona


    Our Local Publisher Partners

    • The Arts Council of New Orleans
    • WWNO
    • WWOZ
    • PRC
    • NOMA
    • The Historic New Orleans Collection
    • Southern Food
    • Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
    The Arts Council of New Orleans

    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.


    WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at


    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.


    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.


    As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

    The Historic New Orleans Collection

    The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

    Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.



    was added to your favorites.



    Share On Twitter Share On Facebook