I haven’t done a TV show since 2000. My manager retired and, without representation, most of my connections were in film. My first audition after I moved to New Orleans was for a new show called Treme. Everyone was talking about it as it was from the creators of The Wire, considered by many to be greatest drama ever on television. I didn’t get the part, but I kept trying. I auditioned for another part in season 1 and another in season 2. Third season’s the charm and I was finally cast as David Morse‘s ex-wife in the premiere episode. Saturday, I attended a cast and crew screening at the newly restored Joy Theatre.
Readers of this blog know that I have LOVED this show from the start and blog on every episode, mostly relating the show to the experience of living here. After a 12 year absence, I’m so glad that my first TV show is my favorite. HBO’s Treme is a banquet of food, music and culture. The episode opens in 2007 with a second line for a recently passed musician. In 2007, I’d never attended any kind of second line. Now, I’ve been to more than I can count including the 2 I recently attended for Treme Brass Band’s Uncle Lionel who appears briefly in the episode.
Rebirth Brass Band‘s snare drummer, Derrick Tabb, and Glen David Andrews, the man with the voice of a 100 years of soul, are arrested (as they were in real life). In 2007, I’d never heard of those guys. Now, I get to see them play live all the time. I’m a huge fan of both and can’t say enough about how much I love Derrick’s non-profit music education program and marching band, The Roots of Music.
Somehow, in the time since I moved here in late 2009 and now, I have become one of the characters in the show. Not because I play an ex-wife who moved to Indianapolis in the episode, but because I am now part of the fabric of the city and Treme reflects my love of this place. I may play the ex who moved away, but I’m really the woman second lining behind Rebirth Brass Band, or the patron at the next table over when the characters are eating an enviable meal or one of the people dancing to live music at d.b.a. I’m the one in the Saints t-shirt or the local who can give directions. I’m a New Orleanian.
One of the best things about the show is that it really captures the good, the bad and the ugly of this city. Steve Zahn‘s “Davis” points out one of the sadder truths of NOLA. Though New Orleans is one of the most well preserved historic cities in the United States, the sites of some of the most important sites in music history are either gone, locked up or blighted. The good news is that Armstrong Park has reopened more beautiful than ever.
On the Uptown river-side of Armstrong Park is the site of historic Congo Square, the birthplace of jazz, r&b, soul, rock & roll and most American music since the 1800’s. The slaves would gather in a drum circle on Sundays, their only day off. They would play the rhythms of their various homelands, creating something new, something uniquely American. By the early 1800’s people would travel from all around to experience the music and dancing.
In a moment of life imitating art imitating life, we walked out of premiere screening of the show into the world of the show. Today was Peace Day and New Orleanians celebrated it the way we celebrate most things, with music, food and community. I’d missed Margie Perez and the other earlier offerings, but I arrived in time to catch the end of Billy Iuso and the Restless Natives. In a true art/reality twist, I was joined by Rob Steinberg, the guy who plays my current boyfriend in Treme. For an extra-added dose of L.A. to NOLA fun, I actually first met Rob nearly 2 decades ago in Los Angeles.
I was already feeling very spoiled that I can walk out of watching Treme and walk into living the life of dancing and amazing, free concerts when we got an added treat. Iuso and the gang were joined by Grateful Dead’s Micky Hart.
You really never know what you’ll see next in NOLA. Maybe it’s a legendary drummer from the Grateful Dead, maybe it’s 100 senior citizens waiting for shuttles to take them to the AARP’s Stevie Nicks concert. Maybe it’s a kid tap dancing with coke cans smashed under the toes of his sneakers or a big guy in a blonde wig, a tutu and a black and gold bikini top. Maybe it’s Ashley the Traffic Tranny blowing her whistle in a micro-mini and shouting “Woooooooooo child!” These are just a few of the people we passed between The Joy and Congo Square. These are the people who make this city great, who fill it with whimsy and celebration and a zest for life. Don’t ever change, NOLA.
If you haven’t already fallen in love with Treme, it’s never too late and the first 2 seasons are available on DVD and online. The show can be dark, but it is always a banquet of food, music and culture.
Sundays are for football and we looked forward to the Saints finally breaking their losing streak. Alas, between the Saints having no coaches and the league having no professional referees, it was not to be. As we were all filing out of the Superdome, a random Kansas fan began celebrating surrounded by an ocean of black and gold. We all stayed quiet and let him have his moment of victory. Then a voice called out, “At least we get to live in New Orleans. You gotta go back to Kansas.” We all laughed and cheered and the guy gave us a smile, admitting we had a point, “Yeah.”