Earlier this month I led the sixth CDS iPhone Workshop, only this time it was in New Orleans. Our friends Marie Lovejoy – an independent media artist and performer – and Nick Slie – a leading cultural activist and founding member of the MondoBizarro Ensemble theater – had arranged for us to take over the Catapult Art Space for a weekend. We turned the rehearsal space and theater production shop into an impromptu mobile digital storytelling krewe headquarters.
Our stories focused on the centrality of food to our individual and communal identities. Not surprisingly, everyone had powerful stories to tell about their connections to food, and the initial introductions had us hungry for finding out where this journey would take us, but also just plain hungry as we sampled the best of the nearby Cake Café.
Then our group of eleven hardy storytellers from California, Colorado, and Louisiana trekked through the Marigny, Bywater and French Quarter Neighborhoods, taking in the charming exteriors, including the wonderful French Market, and stopping to start a story circle at the Croissant d’Or on Ursuline. We ended up breathing in, tasting, and eating up the culinary culture that makes New Orleans a food capital of the United States.
In the two and a half day workshop, we used iPhone photography to experiment with mobile-based media production and to explore audio recording and editing on iOS devices. The limits of these production platforms are evident, but they make up for it in fun and experimentation. We played with Hipstamatic, Camera+, and CameraBag for images, (reviewed here), and edited in iMovie for the iPad. We practiced audio recording with and without microphones. Everyone took to the experimentation with ease.
New Orleans inspired in other ways as well. I was able to enjoy a meal with Marie at American Sector, a John Besh restaurant at the World War II museum. Along with Nick, we caught the opening of the large art exhibition connected to film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” at the Contemporary Art Center.
Another lovely connection during the weekend was staying with my dear friends Matt Schwarzman and Mimi Zarsky. Mat came to New Orleans more than a decade ago to work with the National Performance Network, of which I was once an active member as the executive director of Life On The Water theater. Mat now runs the New Orleans Kids Partnership, but Mimi continues to work at the NPN. The NPN national board meeting was over the weekend, and we gathered at the home of NPN Executive Director MK Wegman and Lisa Mount (also one of the workshop participants) with many friends and collaborators, including Vicki Meek of the South Dallas Cultural Center, Joan Osato of YouthSpeaks, and Abe Rybeck of Theater Offensive.
We held a screening on Sunday night over delicious gumbo (from the Mardi Gras Zone store on Royal), and the stories were extraordinary. There were stories about visiting New Orleans, a reflection on discovering the food that grows around us, memories of Grandma’s fried chicken, how to make a great roux, the secrets of making gumbo, and an unfortunate inability to eat seafood while living in New Orleans. Afterwards, a few of us headed over to the Bywater for additional bites and brews at Maurepas, an excellent way to end the evening.
The next morning we finished the workshop with a review discussion over coffee and some good food at the Flora Gallery and Coffee shop at Royal and Franklin in the Bywater.
I wasn’t counting calories, but the enormous spirit of creativity and enjoyment was certainly worth counting, and I look forward to next year’s workshop during the annual FoodFest in March.