Tulane University/The Shakespeare Festival at Tulane (New Orleans, LA)

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    Man and woman onstage in masks portraying Romeo and Nurse

Teddy Boone as Romeo and Sharon London as Nurse at the Capulet masquerade ball in Tulane Shakespeare Festival’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Brad Robbert

After the hurricane season of 2005, New Orleans knew a little something about being “star-crossed,” so it was appropriate that one of the performances by the Shakespeare Festival at Tulane (SFT) in the first season after Hurricane Katrina wreaked its havoc was Romeo and Juliet, held August 3-12, 2006, on Tulane University’s campus. The NEA awarded the university an Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $8,000 for SFT’s production.

The damage of Hurricane Katrina to SFT included displacement of staff and actors, some now living in FEMA trailers, and devastation of its offices, theater space, costumes, and props. Still, the show must go on, and SFT managed to put together a show, although performances were reduced from 12 to eight. Even with that restriction, more than 930 attended the production. In order to provide patrons from all economic levels the chance to attend, SFT provided half-price previews August 3 and 4 and pay-what-you-will performances August 6 and 12. The community seized this opportunity and all four performances were sold out.

SFT has played an important role in revitalizing New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. This production provided the actors, technicians, designers, and support staff not only employment, but also the chance to help bring normality back to the city. SFT’s summer festival is a summer tradition for residents in New Orleans and having this tradition continue brought a feeling of recovery. One member of the cast and crew, many of whom lost their homes in the hurricane, commented, “Here at the theater, I feel like I have a home again.”

(From the NEA 2006 Annual Report)