About the Grant

$35,000 to support the world premiere of Stardust and Empty Wagons: Stories from the Katrina Diaspora (MAP 2007), a new work created from over 700 pages of testimony of Katrina survivors living in the Bay Area, by Ellen Gavin, directed by Tony Taccone, with music by the N.O. brass band, The Hot Eight, featuring Peter Callender, Rhodessa Jones, Velina Brown, Aldo Billingslea, survivor Amber McZeal and others.

About the Project

Stardust and Empty Wagons--Stories of the Katrina Diaspora is a multi-disciplinary full-length work written by Ellen Gavin from the direct testimony of Katrina survivors living in the Bay Area, with live music composed and performed by the New Orleans brass band, The Hot Eight. Eleven actors, including Katrina survivors, portray the narrowing tales of brute survival during the disaster, as people were left to fend for themselves in a kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare. We learn of the building of the Ninth Ward in the old “barn-raising” style of the thirties and forties, the intricacies of New Orleans cuisine, family structures and racial identities. We come to understand the apartheid that existed in a city where the education of Blacks, particularly of Black girls, was not considered of value. With live music from the Brass band, The Hot Eight, the piece celebrates the centrality of music and culture in all aspects of “the most Africanized city in the United States.” Katrina Survivor Amber McZeal, a singer trained by the illustrious Mr. Ellis Marsalis, is the witness/ narrator. The piece will integrate photos, memories and dreams into the visual design, not as a literal interpretation of events, but as an evocative moving canvas. Amber’s potent monologue refers to the creation that must always come out of destruction — the scattered “stardust” that now comprises the New Orleans Diaspora.

Related Websites

Brava! for Women in the Arts

On the making of
Stardust and Empty Wagons-Stories from the Katrina Diaspora




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