When I sat down with Ruby Lou Smith and Raul Gomez, the founders of a new performing arts ensemble based out of New Orleans called "Compleat Stage," I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Raul is an accomplished violinist and conductor, as well as the founding artistic director of the Kids’ Orchestra in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Ruby, a working actress based out of New Orleans, was fresh off her workshop of Confederacy of Dunces with Director David Esbjornson and playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, and producers John Hardy and Bob Guza, and had just finished filming her role as The Glass Stripper in Ross Clarke’s latest movie, Dermaphoria. When I heard that the two talented performers were taking on the production aspect of performing art, I wanted to ask them a few questions.
What was your impetus for creating Compleat Stage?
Ruby: We are both at a stage in our artistic life where we’re hungry for opportunities and in our fields, the demand for work is higher than the supply. And we’re surrounded by all of these wonderful creative artists that don’t necessarily have as many outlets or platforms as they could use, and we strongly believe in making your own opportunities.
Raul: We wanted to create a platform for interdisciplinary artistic collaboration, and offer an outlet for creative artists who are branching out and exploring other disciplines as a way to expand or compliment their toolbox for communicating ideas through performance.
|Ruby Lou Smith|
Photo by Carlton Mickle
Ruby: We hope to bring music and theatre and all other art forms under one roof to tell stories in dynamic, interesting, and full-fledged ways that sometimes you don’t get when you go to an art gallery or symphony. That’s primarily because those mediums are simply meant to be enjoyed on their own, and they are; but what happens when you can enjoy the lime with the basil, the sweet with the sharp? It becomes this new flavor, a new experience where one art brings out the brilliance of another. In both of our educational experiences, we were given opportunities to create liberally and with a great pool of different types of artists to collaborate with and we got kind of spoiled in that! But we’re going to continue spoiling ourselves, and hopefully our audiences too!
Raul:I feel extremely lucky that I get to collaborate daily with such a brilliant creative mind! From daily mundane tasks to abstract and philosophical concepts, I think we work great together. We have learned a lot about each other's artistic vocabulary, and hopefully, what comes out of our collaboration will be something that transcends disciplines and transmits ideas in a way that is engaging, genuine, entertaining and thought-provoking.
Photo by Eric Liffmann
Ruby: It’s very exciting because you get to pamper and treat artists in a way that helps you when you’re in that position. To be able to give that back to someone else is really invigorating!
Raul: Creative entrepreneurs must embrace "the other side!" In a way, as I heard recently from Hilda Ochoa, founder and chairman of the board at Youth Orchestra of the Americas, “Life is a non-stop performance and we must ALWAYS be on stage.” The moment we become passive or complacent, or become sleepy viewers and remote-control "critics," we lose our voice and potential. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the behind-the-scenes work that goes with any successful artistic production. We should all learn these skills, the same way we learn a new instrument or acting technique.
So, what next hot stuff? Or in this case, hot stuffs?
Ruby: We’re doing the tedious paper-and-ground work, the administrative stuff, but by October we hope to have our first production, which is both exciting and daunting because we’re still figuring out our format. That first season will, of course, be a lot of experimenting to see what the artists want and need and what the audience will enjoy and support.
We have a few original shows that we’re working on.The composition and story line of each production will be entirely dependent on the ensemble. Experimental shows will allow the ensemble to make it their own and relevant to their city and time.
A huge part of our process is going to be taking work from ensemble members and doing patchwork and by performance time we will have created this quilt, this collage of a story.