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Newsletter Two


Issue No. 2: December 16, 2005


  • Note from the director
  • New Orleans: we have a go!
  • Venice: we search for a new site
  • Mayor’s letters: how and why we got them

Season’s Greetings from Mary Lee Hardenbergh, Artistic Director

Welcome to the second issue of our One River Mississippi Newsletter. As you know, we will be sending out these newsletters to update you about our project.

I have so many fascinating and heart‑warming stories to tell from each of our sites that will participate simultaneously along the Mississippi River, I hardly know where to begin.  Some stories you’ll read in this issue, others I will publish later.

I am loving working with all of the people involved up and down the country. I feel very fortunate to have my Project Director Jana Larson, and all of the local Project Managers – they are a formidable crew! And I feel privileged to be able to be working with our roster of choreographers. All of the choreographers and I continue to hold our monthly conference calls, where we delve into artistic issues. We always take up the entire hour because there is much to discuss, and opinions to be thrown into the hopper.

Visit our website ( to read more about our incredible project managers, choreographers and composers.

Best to you all,

Marylee Hardenbergh    

New Orleans: We have a go!  

Last summer, before Hurricane Katrina hit, we had planned to perform at the future home of RiverSphere, the brainchild of the Center for Bioenvironmental Research (CBR) at Tulane and Xavier Universities.  The land there, despite the flooding caused by Katrina, remained safe and dry, though right on the river.

Here’s the latest from the acting director of Riversphere:


We are still committed to the performance. I saw Barbara at a marvelous jazz performance by Irvin Mayfield last Thursday at Christ Church Cathedral and we both agreed it is on. By June 24, we will probably have a small cruise ship anchored right off the RiverSphere site which will present even more possibilities and challenges (may have security issues to address). Definitely count New Orleans in.

With A Studio in the Woods on line, we could have performances there and along their river frontage as well as get some space on Algiers point where the Old Algiers Festival has been held the last two Aprils. Come and dance. We are ready for it!

John A. McLachlan, Co-founder and Acting Director Riversphere, Director of CBR, and Weatherhead Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Professor of Pharmacology

And from the Program Director of RiverSphere:

It's good to hear from you and we are all now up and running back in New Orleans. I also feel strongly that we should move forward with our One Mississippi collaboration and I think RiverSphere could be an interesting venue beyond our initial comprehension.

It will likely be at that point a staging area for temporary housing via trailers and cruise ships for displaced Tulane faculty and staff. This dance would bring this village together and could provide for very interesting "stage"! We also got an email from someone on your staff to link to our KERRN website.Just like your dance, this is all about linkages and communication.

Best, Doug

Douglas J. Meffert,D. Env. , MBA, the Deputy Director of the CBR and the Eugenie Schwartz Professor for River & Coastal Studies

I am going to hook up with these folks and others in New Orleans during my early January trip [see below].

Venice, Louisiana: We search for another site

Our chosen site, Fort Jackson near Venice in Plaquemines Parish, is still under water (see photo at left), and the roads from New Orleans down to Fort Jackson will not become passable anytime in the next months. In fact, Plaquemines Parish website warns “A roadblock allowing only parish residents to enter south Plaquemines is located near the Woodland Plantation at West Pointe a la Hache. Anyone wanting to go below this point is required to have a permit from the President or Sheriff's Office.” To catch a glimpse of what life is like there right now, visit the Plaquemines Parish Government site at

On my first trip, our Venice choreographer Angela Hammerli introduced me to Mike Dardar and his wife Daisy. (See photo below of Mike and Angela at the same docks shown in the post-Katrina photo above.) Mike is the tribal representative of the Houma Indian Nation. Mike graciously gave us an insider’s tour of Venice. We drove to the end of Jump Basin Road, so named because the river jumped course a while back, and there we stood on the dock, looking at the one of the many Mississippi River’s distributaries. Then we drove back up north about 10 miles to Fort Jackson. For dinner, we all went out to a restaurant in Venice for a meal of – can you guess? – fabulous boiled shrimp! It was the best and most plentiful shrimp and they laughed at my graceless manner of getting the shells off.  I enjoyed a glorious mess.  It is now sobering to see the photos of what happened to the land we stood on.  

In early January, I will fly down to research the possibilities for Angela’s performance.  Some recommend the Woodland Plantation, also in Plaquemines Parish, but farther north where the roads are operable. This plantation was totally renovated from a neglected site to become a bed and breakfast in the last seven years. Fun fact: the picture on the label of Southern Comfort is the very house at Woodland Plantation. It has been gracing those bottles of spirits since 1935!

Also during that trip, Kerry St. Pe of the Barataria Terrebonne National Estuary Program will talk with me about how our audiences this June might help the cause of the disappearing Gulf Coast wetlands.

Listen! in only 12 months we could rebuild wetlands and barrier islands in New Orleans. See Mike Tidwell’s article in the Orion magazine at; or for more detailed information, go to 

During my trip, I will also do more site research and obtaining of permissions to possibly put fabric or dancers on buildings that can be seen from where the audience will be standing. When creating performances for out of doors site-specific art, there is an astounding aunt of “red tape” that needs to be dealt with, different from a stage performance. I will be working on these behind-the-scenes details for both the New Orleans site and the new southernmost site somewhere in Plaquemines 

Mayor’s letters

Why did we get the letters of support from the mayors?

Since we aim to weave the One Mississippi communities together, we’d like the visible “footprint” of official involvement at each of our sites. We started with an appeal to the Minneapolis mayor, The Honorable RT Rybak. As a great lover of the arts, he graciously agreed to send letters to the mayors of the seven sites requesting, mayor to mayor, their support for this national project. Those letters went out in January 2005.

To receive each letter gave me a thrill.

Some arrived in our mailbox with no other work on our part; others took many, many phone calls and perseverance on the part of local choreographers. They came in the mail over a 10‑month period, always a delightful surprise. When the last arrived, I felt we had completed a stamp collection. I wish I could show you all the beautiful letterheads in “the collection” – some are gold!! Read all the letters online.

The most poignant and prescient is the letter from the mayor of New Orleans:

"This is a chance to strengthen the ties between our cities and awaken our consciousness to the environmental impacts associated with our existence. All too often we forget that our connection to the earth is a connection to each other, and these simultaneous, site-specific performances will create a sense of interconnectedness that transcends our local community relationships, reminding us that we are all one in a great, eternal whole, so we must protect and nurture our bonds."

C. Ray Nagin, Mayor New Orleans


An enthusiastic response came from Benny Rouselle, the president of Plaquemines Parish. Janice Buras, who works in the Parish President’s office, helped significantly to set up a meeting for Angela Hammerli and me when I was in town last June. President Rouselle was very generous and invited us to apply to his office for some monetary support for our performance. He also said that he would arrange for us to use Fort Jackson, a park under his jurisdiction, as the “stage” for our performance. He and Janice Buras couldn’t have been more representative of southern hospitality. Well, we all know what happened south of New Orleans. When I called Janice a while ago, things were still very rough, in fact I was lucky to get through. They were still using generators for their office. I know that you all join me in wishing all those in Plaquemines Parish the best.

Despite all of the natural disasters in Louisiana, we are on track. We are feeling grateful that everyone we met so far involved in the project is safe.

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