This week in awesome: Amy Woodruff

by Walter Pierce

We don't know exactly what to say about this epic art installation except ... wow.

We don't know exactly what to say about this epic art installation except ... wow.

Amy Woodruff as The Narrator in "Moon Cove."

Artist Amy Woodruff will stage a 20-hour, multi-media art installation at Istre Cemetery in Acadia Parish at the gravesite of her father, grandparents and great-grandparents beginning at 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1. The installation concludes at 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2. The installation spans All Saints Day and All Souls Day - traditional days of remembrance in the Roman Catholic Church.

Istre Cemetery, near the town of Morse, is the last remaining burial site where the Cajun tradition of grave houses still exists. Only three such structures, which serve as mausoleums but mimic traditional Cajun architecture, remain in a cemetery that once boasted more than three dozen.

The installation is part of a larger, grander vision of Woodruff's. Here's the press release announcing the event. She tells it better than we can:

This event, a marathon performance installation done in the style of a traditional All Saints/All Souls Day vigil, will artfully observe the traditional religious holiday (known in French as La Toussaint) and also raise money and awareness for upcoming performances of Woodruff's original solo performance piece, "Moon Cove" (at the Shadowbox Theatre of New Orleans). The fundraising component of the event in Acadia Parish, nicknamed the "Toussaint-a-Thon," will additionally contribute 30% of all donations received to Istre Cemetery to support its preservation efforts.

Istre Cemetery, located in the community of Mermentau Cove (near Morse), is a National Historic Register site, as the home to the only existing examples of Cajun wooden "grave houses." When such structures were common a century ago, Istre had around 40 of the houses; today only three original ones remain. The "Toussaint-a-Thon" promises to be a meaningful "experiment" in reverence, respect, and personal, intimate art. Woodruff's time during the event will consist of candle lighting, prayer, storytelling and singing of hymns, as well as physical upkeep of the gravesites in keeping with the religious traditions of mourning. There will be a delayed internet broadcast on November 4 of digital video footage of the event, and all "Toussaint-a-Thon" donors will be given exclusive access to view it online. Donations can be made through a PayPal widget at www.theatrelouisiane.com/mooncove.html.

Amy Woodruff is an experimental performing artist/visual designer, and a tenth-generation Louisianian. She holds a BA in Theatre from McNeese University and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from Goddard College, and has been in New Orleans since 1998. She grew up along the prairies and rice fields of the Mermentau River Basin, and was the first member of her family to receive a college degree. Woodruff has trained with Dah Teatar of Serbia, Odin Teatret of Denmark, Shakespeare & Company of Massachusetts, and Vortex Repertory Theatre of Austin TX. Her works have been seen at the Montréal Fringe Festival in Canada, Harlow Gallery of Maine, Pratt Gallery of Vermont, Louisiana's McNeese Theatre, in online exhibitions, and at a dozen New Orleans spaces, including five Dramarama festivals at the Contemporary Arts Center. Her works have been funded in the past by the Jazz & Heritage Foundation of New Orleans and the Louisiana State Division of the Arts. In 1999 she founded the artists' laboratory Theatre Louisiane, Inc. and she is also a member of Four Humours Theater Company, Fractured Atlas of NYC, and Louisiana History Alive.

"Moon Cove" is a fictional ghost story from the Cajun Prairie of Louisiana about the non-fictional Acadiana ancestors of critically-acclaimed artist Amy Woodruff. It was created and performed by Woodruff using solo performance, digital projection, and handmade objects and garments. "Moon Cove" weaves together live theatre, music, and the projection of visually-striking photography to tell an epic story of the heartbreak, tragedy, and resilience of a South Louisiana family.

Two major centerpieces in "Moon Cove" are All Saints traditions and Istre Cemetery. The story that Woodruff created for this piece spotlights the historic and cultural significance of Cajun life in rural Louisiana, and precious locations such as Istre Cemetery. The fully staged version of "Moon Cove" will follow on November 30 - December 1 at 11pm, and December 3-4 at 8pm, at the Shadowbox Theatre (2400 St Claude Avenue in New Orleans' historic Faubourg Marigny, www.theshadowboxtheatre.com).

"Moon Cove" was first presented at the Dramarama festival in New Orleans in April 2008. The piece has since been performed in a regular run in New Orleans in Fall 2008, and at Goddard College of Vermont in July 2009.

For more on "Moon Cove" click here.

Woodruff's website can be found here.