Rucker, Smason speak at Morris Bart lecture

In the tradition of the theatrical adage that the show must go on, CCJN editor Alan Smason stepped in at the last minute to assist Gary Rucker, artistic director of the Kenner Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts, at yesterday’s Morris Bart, Sr. Memorial Lecture, June 2.

Rucker and his partner Kelly Fouchi were both expected at yesterday’s gathering at the Uptown JCC at 11:30 p.m. When they were not there at the event’s start, JCC adult program director Rachel Ruth learned there was a mixup in the dates. Originally, the lecture had been planned for the second Monday in the month.

Rucker

Kenner Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts artistic director Gary Rucker speaks at the Morris Bart St. Memorial Lecture on Monday, June 2. (Photo by Alan Smason)

With Rucker located in Covington and Fouchi committed to be elsewhere on a personal matter, there was no way for a speaker to arrive until close to 1:00 p.m.

Smason, a theatre critic and member of the American Theatre Critics Association, offered to cover for Rucker until he arrived. He spoke briefly on the history of theatre in New Orleans. Smason acknowledged from the start that it was disquieting for him to be the subject of the story rather than a reporter. “For me it’s like the turkey calling in on Thanksgiving Day and asking what’s for dinner,” he began.

Prior to Rucker’s arrival, he covered a wide range of theatre history talking about past theaters in New Orleans such as Gallery Circle Theater, New Orleans Repertory Theater and the Beverly Dinner Playhouse and brought attendees up to date about the progress at various theaters still open such as Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré and Southern Repertory.

Smason also gave a brief history of the Kenner theater location and the events leading up to the awarding of the artistic contract in 2012 by Kenner city officials to Theatre 13, the company Rucker and Fouchi own that runs Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts.

Rucker and Fouchi received the Entertainers of the Year Award from the Big Easy Theater Awards in March. Rucker just finished his run in the title role of “Young Frankenstein,” a production directed by local comedian, actor and director Ricky Graham.

Once he arrived, Rucker took charge passing out season subscription pamphlets and reinforcing and elaborating on many of the items Smason had previously covered.

He mentioned that the original building, now called the Lagniappe Theater, had formerly housed a movie theater and, they had just learned, had also been a brothel at one time. The most passionate part of his talk was when he explained why he and Fouchi had elected to make their endeavor a “for profit” company, even though he said the company has yet to achieve a great deal of profit, citing huge costs associated with running a theater such as electricity.

“It’s because we don’t have to answer to a board,” he said, stating that he and Fouchi both have a vision that would be adulterated by “too many chefs.”

Rucker stated that season subscriptions have now surpassed 1,300 subscribers, up from the initial 900 in the theater company’s first year of operations. He stayed until 1:30 p.m. fielding questions from the audience.

As revealed in the pamphlets, their 2014-15 season opens in September with the first community theater production of “Shrek: The Musical” followed by regional premieres of the 2013 Tony Award winner “One Man, Two Guvnors” and Alan Menken’s “A Christmas Carol,” seen for many years at Radio City Music Hall (an add-on production to the season).

Musicals “The Will Rogers Follies: A Life in Review” by Cy Coleman in January and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” in May will sandwich the Ricky Graham comedy “When Ya Smilin‘” in March.

To learn more tickets and season subscriptions about Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts in Kenner, click here.

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