On the Spot: Zachary Richard

by Nick Pittman

Richard brings his multimedia experience, "Attakapas — The Story of the Cajun People," to the Manship Theatre in Baton Rouge for a live recording that will be turned into a one-hour television event.

This Friday. Feb. 3, Zachary Richard brings his multimedia experience, Attakapas — The Story of the Cajun People, to the Manship Theatre in Baton Rouge for a live recording that will be turned into a one-hour television event airing in March. In the meantime, he answers some questions.

Why did you decide to take Attakapas to LPB?
This is kind of the next step in the project, which is also going to allow us — via television — to reach a much larger audience and to share the story. It’s kind of a labor of love for me. It’s a tremendously challenging project for me. There’s, at this point, upwards of 25 people working on this project from the LPB side and from my side. My crew alone is 10 people.

How did Attakapas come about?
It just kind of happened by accident. I never really set out to do this. At one point Ryan Brasseaux, who is Carl Brasseaux’s son and teaches at Yale, invited me to make a presentation there. And the question was: What am I going to do? Am I going to show Against the Tide (the 2000 documentary narrated and co-produced by Richard)? Am I going to talk about Cajun culture, or am I going to play music? And then we basically decided it was not three different things — it was one thing that included all the elements of those three different aspects. It’s a way for me to share this very powerful and moving story with an audience, including the people of Louisiana, who don’t really know the depth and the breadth and the beauty of this story, and to do it with song and in a setting which allows me to tell the story and share the emotions and the powerful images of this story with whoever wants to come see the show.

What are you doing right now to ready for the show?
It is like a full time job for me right now. I’ve been rehearsing this for weeks already. Right now, we are on the technical aspects because there is a lot of T’s that need to be crossed and I’s that need to be dotted because we are interfacing with television. So, we are going to enter this stuff that I wasn’t even aware of, like the color temperature of a camera because we are using a video wall to project the images. It’s really boring, kind of technical stuff. There’s just a tremendous amount of technical detail that needs to be resolved. And myself, I am just really concentrating on making sure the performance is as powerful and as flawless as I can make it.
For someone who has never seen the show, what should they expect?**
It’s a multimedia event and what that means is basically I tell the story of the Acadian people from the beginning in France, the deportation in Nova Scotia and the arrival in Louisiana and the development of the Acadian culture over the last 250 years. All of this is illustrated through song and image, which are basically archival photographs from the 20th century and historical reenactments of the earlier periods. Basically, I am the story teller and the singer and illustrating this story with a very considerable wealth of archival images.

So, it is kind of like Against The Tide but with songs?
It the Broadway version of Against The Tide, put it that way. It’s not a history lesson, it’s not a documentary, it’s entertainment. t’s hopefully as moving, as powerful as the story itself. There’s some interjection of humor and of song, so it’s a cross between a Broadway musical and a history lesson.

Nick Pittman is a freelance entertainment and feature writer. To contact him, email [email protected]