A woman dressed in white chants incantations under the looming shelter of the giant roots
of a fallen pecan tree. In the distance, a woman at the edge of a pond sings a river lullaby. Somewhere between them, the widow of
a Mardi Gras Indian chief sews a final costume for a ghost, and a graceful dancer discovers shards of valuable pottery buried in
the soil. Strangely, the forest — its trees, its vines — seem to have grown into the shapes of doorways and thresholds, and each opening
lets you into a new room, a new scene, a new song and a new story.
Long before Hurricane Katrina, mankind's herculean efforts to control the Mississippi River were having
unforeseen and undesirable consequences: southeastern Louisiana, created over the course of thousands of years from
sediment deposited by the drastic course changes and annual flooding of the river but now cut off from replenishment by constraining levees,
carved up by oil companies, and threatened by relentless saltwater incursion, was beginning to sink. Only now are we beginning to recognize
the scope of the disaster we face; if the land disappears, what will happen to the many cherished, unique cultures that have evolved here?
Studio in the Woods, 7.6 acres of unspoiled bottomland
hardwood forest 25 minutes from downtown New Orleans bought in 1969
by Joe and Lucianne Carmichael, has under their stewardship been
turned into an artist retreat and nature preserve, and is being
allowed to undergo the slow process of returning to its natural
state. This is the setting for Beneath
the Strata/Disappearing, a performance installation created
by director Kathy Randels, visual artist Asante Salaam, performers
Ausettua Amor Amenkum, Aja Becker, Herreast Harrison, Stephanie McKee, Lisa
Shattuck, Beverly Trask and Nick Slie, with musicians Sean LaRocca, Luther Gray and Jonno Frishberg.