CANO’s 9th Ward Improv Opera

You can now watch excerpts from the first public rehearsal, as filmed and edited by William Sabourin O’Reilley:

9th Ward Improv Opera from Creative Alliance of New Orleans on Vimeo.

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See photos from our second performance here:

The people of the 9th Ward were determined to bring their neighborhoods back after Hurricane Katrina, even when so many bureaucratic issues seemed to spell doom. Even now, as so much of the area is still struggling to survive, community members come together to keep schools open, promote community friendly development, and welcome other family, friends, and neighbors back.

That is why they came to work on the 9th Ward Improv Opera, a unique production that has brought spoken word, music, dance, visual arts, and residents together to tell a story of resilience, determination, and commitment to the future of the city of New Orleans and their neighborhoods and homes. In this unique production, first presented as a public rehearsal in January 2015, the performers and citizens depict the difficulties, devastation, and rebuilding they have endured and catalyzed. From all of them and The Creative Alliance of New Orleans (CANO), we would like to welcome you to our Kickstarter to enable us to present a more complete iteration of this performance on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of Katrina to take place on August 27 and 28. It is our ultimate goal to further develop the Opera for a full operatic presentation on the occasion of the City’s 300th anniversary in 2016.


This is a story about the resiliency and determination of people within a community. It relives the terrifying moments when the levees broke, but also the grinding horror of the days, months and years afterwards, when citizens fought to return to the place where they belonged. The Opera depicts the roar of the levee breaks, and the confrontation of obstacles. It honors lives lost in the storm, remembers “picking up the pieces” and rebuilding, and champions the work sustained by the city’s celebratory and optimistic spirit. They were met with an endless cycle of struggle and hardships to regain footing on land, to rise above sea level and to prove that families and neighbors are stronger than opposition and impediments. The story’s conclusion remains untold, as the people of the 9th ward continue to write it. In this way, our Opera closes on an optimistic note, acknowledging the determination and celebratory spirit of our citizens.



This one of kind Improv Opera will again be presented in the heart of the 9th Ward, at the St. Maurice Catholic Church. Built in 1850, St. Maurice has served parishioners in the Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish for generations. Damages sustained in Hurricane Katrina, however, lead to its deconsecration and repurposing for new community uses. The owners of the St. Maurice Church were gracious enough to provide CANO an opportunity to bring this performance to the community in January of 2015 and are equally gracious to allow us back to present this performance again in August for the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. As one of the oldest churches in the 9th Ward, St. Maurice has become a beacon to the community since Katrina. The Church, residents, performers, and CANO staff are proud to give a voice to the real stories of survival and revival that the citizens have lived, remembered, and risen beyond to realize a new future for their community. This presentation also engages citizens in new experimental performance practices that invite and encourage their creative capabilities.


The key to any successful performance is a powerful and passionate team of performers. CANO has endeavored to engage the community, local artists, and performers in a collaboration that has resulted in an inclusive and meaningful production. The community and performers have worked together to produce an impactful representation of their personal experiences. These artists, native to the New Orleans area, have the unique ability to share this performance from an involved, passionate point of view that helps bring it to life. Within the space of the St. Maurice Church, the contributing artists are able to transcend and convey this powerful story to the audience. CANO is proud to present this production with some of the best artists in New Orleans, not just for their talent and skill, but also for their dedication to the City and the first-hand experiences that they bring with them from the storm.


CANO, the cast, and citizens hope this dramatic production will send a message about the community’s resilience, pride, and hope for the future in a heartfelt and dramatic way that community activism and news reports have not fully conveyed. We hope this and future performances of the Opera will help empower the community to stay, and bolster the fight to bring the 9th Ward back, not only to its era of pre-Katrina struggling, but to a new era of renewal and the recreation of a vibrant community.

We know we cannot fix all the social, development, and economic issues underlying the struggles of the 9th Ward. We do hope, however, to give heart to the diverse citizens who have come together to fight for its future despite the frustrations experienced since the cataclysm that was expected to be “just another hurricane.”


Our Opera is making headlines! Check out recent stories about us in the media:

See the first page in Langiappe: August, 6, 2015: Times-Picayune Langiappe

See Doug MacCash’s article on August 10, 2015: | The Times-Picayune

Check out the Kickstarter that made this all possible! 9th Ward Improv Opera Kickstarter



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