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Waiting for Godot and everything else in New Orleans

For Off-Ramp today, I was able to interview Paul Chan who served as artistic director for a production of Waiting For Godot in New Orleans back in 2007. It was one of my last cultural experiences in that city as a resident, and so it holds a special place in my heart.

I'll admit to some skepticism when some artists from someplace else came up with this idea - Bunk excluded, who came up in Pontchartrain Park. I was a carpetbagger. I knew that some carpetbaggers could be flaky. Heck, I was on my way out myself, against most odds and plenty of reason. But Godot won me over. The creative team knew plenty of people, talked to plenty of people. They served gumbo, and the night I went in Gentilly, my ladies The Pinettes, who are the self-proclaimed world's-only all-female brass band led us to the stage, and I got a whole big dose of everything I would soon find in short supply: crawfish, brass, neighbors, community in the streets at all times.

All that came to me while I waited. So when Paul Chan talked about why a play about waiting made perfect sense in New Orleans, I got it. I told Paul that when I saw it these lines of Beckett's sounded - what - louder, more, bigger, in my head:

Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! (Pause. Vehemently.) Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Not indeed that we personally are needed. Others would meet the case equally well, if not better. To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment o f time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us! What do you say?

Later this year we'll get swamped with 5 year anniversary of Katrina pieces. It'll feel to some of us like the media (yes, I know the irony of that noun) and everybody else have been waiting to care again. One thing I learned in New Orleans is I'd prefer to fill my time differently than just sitting around, even if I have to wait.