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Monday
Apr272015

Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?

75 ATCA members and guests do

 .

Alan Smason sums up the conference and issues thanks.

Thank you all for a wonderful time in the Big Easy. As Conference Chair for our first-ever New Orleans Conference, I can attest that it took lots of planning to pull this thing off and I certainly hope you enjoyed yourselves. I am sorry for those of you that missed out on the past six days of fun and frivolity (and, oh yes, theatre too).

New Orleans conference logo: ATCA meets TennesseeThanks to our immediate past excom chair Jonathan Abarbanel for his help in making this conference special, forcing me to keep to a budget and posting a profit, meagre as it was. Thanks to our many “sponsors,” including Zatarain’s, Aunt Sally’s Pralines, the Sazerac CompanyQuintin’s Ice CreamCommunity Coffee, but most especially to the New Orleans Theatre Association for their generous grant, without which our conference would not have been in the Crescent City. I also want to offer my personal thanks to retired Indiana professor, Bruce Burgun (now a resident of New Orleans), who was our ambassador at the opening jazz reception at Gallier Hall. Last of all, I am indebted to Barry Gaines, our executive director, for assisting me with all the details for the conference.

Wednesday began with the visits to the National World War II Museum, the Ogden Museum’s Tennessee Williams painting exhibit, the welcome jazz reception at Gallier HallAnnette Smason by Al Hirschfeld with the exclusive showings of 11 Al Hirschfeld original pen and ink drawings and lithographs from the personal collection of Annette Smason (my mom). We ended the night with a visit to the new JPAS facility on Airline Drive before seeing Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts’ showing of “When Ya’ Smilin’,” a comedy about growing up in New Orleans in the 1950s.

While Thursday was a rainy day (“Don’t you just love those long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn’t just an hour - but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands - and who knows what to do with it?”),Barbara Bannon and Jennifer Haley we did make the Primus Prizepresentation for 2013 to Jennifer Haley (“The Nether”). Some of us did manage to see the impressive Saenger Theaterbefore a very informative assembly of the area’s main artistic directors and a former theatre critic. We huddled from the rainstorm as we caught the “Hotel Plays” - a joint production of the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival and theProvincetown Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival -  at the historic Hermann-Grima House. After “second-lining” to Tableau Restaurant for a lovely meal, we were treated to a showing of “Dinner with Friends” at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré.

Friday’s “Perspectives in Criticism” talk with Hedy Weiss (Chicago Sun Timesfollowed our morning membership meeting and that night we all enjoyed a special tribute reading for Tennessee Williams (“Blue Devils and Better Angels”) at theUrsulines Convent featuring several noted actors (Keir DulleaMya Dillon), humoristAmy Dickinson, playwright John Shanley and director and filmmaker John Waters.

Bryan BattSaturday morning it was my pleasure to welcome Broadway and TV star Bryan Batt to our gathering. It was so enjoyable to see him and all of the members reveling in his love of acting and New Orleans. That was followed by the matinee performance ofSouthern Rep’s ”Suddenly Last Summer” at the new Ashé Power House Theater. Saturday night our members and guests caught a staged reading of “I Never Get Dressed on Till After Dark on Sundays“ by members of The NOLA Project.

As some of us packed and got ready to leave the Crescent City, many ATCA members and guests availed themselves of the ability to take part in Sunday morning’s TWNOLF events including seeing former New Yorker theatre critic John Lahrand Williams biographer John Lahr (“Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh”). Immediately following was a panel with playwrights John Biguenet (“Rising Water” and “Broomstick”), Femi Euba (“The Gulf” and “The Eye of Gabriel”) and John Shanley (“Doubt: A Parable” and the Academy Award winning screenplay “Moonstruck”). 

My very best wishes to newly elected Ex Comm Chair William “Bill” Hirschman as he begins to take charge of the course of our organization for the next several years. We said goodbye to two long-standing members of the Ex Comm and thanked them for their service and also welcomed several new or familiar faces to leadership roles.

If you are a member, don’t forget to keep posting to our ATCA New Orleans Conference Facebook page (it is now a closed group). All production photos are listed there as well as an Excel spreadsheet with the names, addresses and email addresses of all registered ATCA members and guests who attended. You can get there by scanning the QR code on your name badge. Also, don’t forget to tweet to #ATCA2015 and to @ATCA_Member                                   
It was so very good to you all in my hometown and I look forward to seeing you again in Philadelphia next year with our host and conference chair Howard Shapiro, so I can get rid of this accursed hat.Alan Smason and the accursed conference hat

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