Off to Edinburgh with NOLA
I met Look Left Look Right‘s Artistic Director Mimi Poskitt while I was working as an Assistant Director for the Old Vic New Voice’s massive devised community musical (check out those adjectives!) Epidemic. I liked her instantly, she made me feel less loud. The show was an immense experience and has proved to change my life in London socially and professionally. Towards the end of our run, Mimi asked if I would be interested in Assistant Directing her company’s fringe show, a verbatim piece on the BP oil spill called NOLA. My immediate reaction was ” DUH! ARE YOU KIDDING? TAKE ME TO EDINBURGH, NOW NOW NOW.” Though my five years of “professional behavior training” that was a Drexel University education implored me to reply with a “Yes of course, would you like me to prepare anything for the interview?” instead.
And I got the job! It’s my first non-Central affiliated professional London theatre job (outside of my improv gigs). Before the production began, I was also asked to co-facilitate Verbatim Theatre workshops at the BRIT School with Ellie Browning. Through that, I began to understand the workings of the company, their philosophy, and approach to material. And after experiencing their one-on-one theatrical walking tour of Camden that was You Once Said Yes, I was all-in.
Since working on the project, I’ve become the official human Encyclopedia of all things America (an honor I share with our show’s lone American actor Nell). I’ve come to realize just how much I do know about the place I am from – the tricky political waverings of “blue” and “red”, what’s considered “the south” as well as immensely important details like how Americans wear tube socks, the appropriate vessel for iced tea, the difference between bluegrass and country, elements of a good po’ boy, and how people from Maryland pronounce their “o’s”. In many ways, I’m responsible for how this show represents America. Particularly the south.
Now, as a predictably liberal young woman from the Northeast, I am just as guilty for making grand assumptions about what’s below the Mason-Dixon line as the next Huffington Post-reading graduate student. Working on NOLA has changed my position quite a lot. The south has a lot of stereotypes. Many of which are ugly. The beauty of a show like NOLA is that it represents the meaning of a place beyond the surface – it tells the story of a disaster, its aftermath, and the human beings affected by it. The play introduces you to people from Louisiana whose lives depend on their environment – on the deltas, the marshlands, the Gulf, and the bayous. And when that well burst, eleven men died, sea life was destroyed, and thousands of acres of land are still recovering. I’ve come to respect the south in a different way. My research for the show has included much more than costumes and dialect – I’ve delved into the music, culture, food, business, industry, and landscape of this one pocket of our massive country. And they’ve given us quite a lot.
When disasters like the BP oil spill happen, we all want to know who’s to blame. Is it the corporation? Is it government regulations? Or is it our society’s constant consumption of oil? NOLA is a chance to examine all of those things, to meet people who have more depth and insight than the headlines, and to find moments of shared, common humanity. Empathy, really.
And off we go tomorrow morning. Up north to Edinburgh where it’s colder and wetter than London, to present a verbatim play about a national disaster with global consequences and deep human loss – amongst a myriad of sublime, obscure, hilarious, absurd, innovative, and downright obscene work that is the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s my first time to the festival and I’m fairly certain I have no idea what I’m in for.
To support the show, please take a look at our WeFund page.
Wish us luck.