by: Erika Dickerson-Despenza
This play is named after the Despenza family’s historic 194os hotel, shadow/land, the first air conditioned hotel (doubling as a jazz club) for Blacks in New Orleans. In this supernatural-disaster drama, Ruth Despenza and her elderly mother, Magalee Boudreaux Despenza, contemplate selling the property after substantial tax increases across the historic Faubourg Livaudais community of Central City New Orleans. Just as they draw up the paperwork, Hurricane Katrina begins her ruin, accompanied by man-made destruction. As the water rises, threatening to destroy the family business, Magalee’s memories of Shadowland heighten as she nears death. Ruth captures her mother’s vivid memories and the devastation of the club with a polaroid camera. As the film dries, she notices shadows of another figure in the photos; an ancestor has arrived, bringing with her premonitions of post-Katrina life with a Livaudais plantation overcast.