The NOLA Project ♥ New Orleans. This city is our most important asset. It is the home of our adventures, our work, and our passion. However, there is a sister city, a second location that captivates our heart and influences our style…New York City. Our founders, nine years ago, arrived in New Orleans as fresh graduates of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. While New Orleans is where our company found its purpose and passion, New York is where our founding members found each other. And in some ways, our company is still in exchange with New York City. Four of our company members live and work in NYC, carrying The NOLA Project name wherever they go, still participating in company projects, and still contributing to the artistic work we do here at the home base.
On the Monday before Mardi Gras, I was in New York City (I’ve binged on Mardi Gras many times, so now I feel an okay-ness with taking advantage of the week-long Carnival break to travel) and I met up with these members at an outlandish tavern near Union Square in Manhattan.
Will Connolly is a founding member of The NOLA Project. After working here, he attended the Yale School of Drama. He was featured in the hit Broadway musical, Once (which performed at the Tony Awards, winning “Best Musical”) and his musical, Fly By Night is gearing up for a performance at the notable Playwright’s Horizons in NYC.
Laura Ramadei is a founding member of The NOLA Project and also a founding member of the hip company, Lesser America. Lesser America has been celebrated by NYC audiences and publications for its ballsy storytelling.
Pete McElliott is pretty legendary. A founding member of the company, folklore of his characters, plays, and unusualness is repeated through the company like a Bill Brasky sketch. He is currently on faculty with the Stella Adler Studio and co-created the Ten Bones theater company in NYC, which does the “Entirely from Memory” series, where actors improvise classic stories from their recollection. Pete’s Alice in Wonderland will be produced by The NOLA Project later this year in the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Sculpture Garden.
Claire Gresham is also a co-creator Ten Bones and the “Entirely from Memory” series. She is a graduate of Tulane’s theater program and currently works for the Manhattan Cultural Council. Oh also, I guess I should mention that Claire is engaged to the aforementioned Pete! Pete proposed to her during a “Entirely from Memory” performance in December.
At this get-together, the NYC NOLA Project-ers reminisced about moving down to New Orleans immediately post-college and living in the same Lakeview house together, rehearsing in the summer heat, and retelling bizarre only-in-New Orleans performance tales. They spoke about that one night on the bayou when they had a boxing match…and the next day when their director yelled at them for doing it. They remembered that time when an inexperienced high school sound technician for The Wind and The Willows made a fireplace sound cue too loud, making it sound like there was a forest fire in the Thames valley…that high schooler was me.
And they longed to return to NOLA for a show or two.
Will, Laura, Pete, and Claire went to New York City and created their own opportunities. With their own entrepreneurialism, they’ve made a name for themselves in the vast landscape of New York theater and thus have expanded the reach of The NOLA Project.
The NOLA Project ♥ NOLA, that’s obvious. But also, we must admit, we ♥ NY.
- Alex Ates, Company Member