Michael Merino wrote Porcupine in 2009 to commemorate the centenary of psychoanalysis arriving in America, via Sigmund Freud and the lectures he delivered at Clark University. The inspiration for the play came from an article in Cabinet magazine written by George Prochnick, which explained why Sigmund Freud had a bronze porcupine on his desk in his home in London. Prochnick's great-grandfather, James Jackson Putnam, invited Freud and his European colleagues to his family's retreat in the Adirondacks. Freud mentioned that his primary goal for coming to America was to see the American Porcupine in its native habitat ... and to deliver some lectures. When he was unsuccessful in achieving his primary objective, Putnam had a sculpture made and presented it as a gift to his new friend.
At the time Michael was a member of Woolly Mammoth's Playground, a playwrights group based in Washington, DC. The work was featured as part of the theatre's reading series. And like many of his other works, Porcupine was quickly filed away in a Shoebox of Genius.
Last April, Michael held a reading of reading of the play at Bywater Wonderland, and the audience clamored to see a full production. Stacy Hoover, the owner of the whimsical property, was eager to oblige. Mel.Cook, who Michael knew from their association with 'tit Rex, the beloved Mardi Gras micro-krewe, read the play and accepted the challenge of transforming the proscenium arch text into an immersive experience. Mel.Cook, with Destany Gorham as the production coordinator, held auditions and assembled a talented cast.
The staging of the work in the house and gardens of Wonderland inspired Michael to write more scenes to create many simultaneous moments for the actors to dramatize and the audience to discover. The actors have also devised their own private moments for the event as they are never truly offstage and the audience is always present and watching.
We hope you enjoy the performance, explore the site-specific location, and learn a little about the emergence of psychoanalysis and the lives of the inhabitants of Putnam Camp.
Lizzy Bruce as Maggie Malone
Lizzy has directed and performed in productions around the country; a few of her favorites were Black Santa in Chicago (Basejump Productions), The Three Eleanors (Stage Left Theatre: New York City), and Fault/Line (MeetFactory: Prague, CZ). Locally, she has worked with The Radical Buffoons on their 2020 lab production of Dreams Project and TWTC's Period of Adjustment in 2019. She loves her dogs.
Ryan Bruce as Carl Jung
Ryan (he/him) is a theatre artist who has worked both on and off stages locally, regionally, and internationally. His favorite projects incorporate improvisation, magical realism, and chaos. Ryan is a theatre "jack-of-all-trades," always learning new skills, meeting new people, and finding ways to turn all of it into a theatrical endeavor or simply a fun way to brighten up life. A native New Orleanian, Ryan has lived all over the city and the country. During the daytime, he teaches at the amazing Lafon Center for the Performing Arts in St. Charles Parish. Favorite projects include Fault/Line (MeetFactory: Prague, CRZ), Period of Adjustment (Tenn. Williams Theatre Co: New Orleans), The Solid Sand Below (O'Neill Theatre Center: Waterford, CT), The Christians (The Kennedy Center: Washington, D.C.), and Seven Year Itch (Madkap Productions: Chicago). Member: SDC, USITT. ryanpbruce.com
Jay Canova as Molly Putnam
Jay is thrilled to return to performing after a lengthy artistic absence. As an NSU alum and local New Orleanian, he hopes each audience member enjoys the show and leaves to ponder what their own inner "porcupine" is. This performance is dedicated to his late grandmother, Adele Canova, who lives on in every smile he brings to others. "I want to make a difference. I want to matter."
Mason Joiner as James Putnam
Mason (he/him) is an English teacher at Delgado Community College and a sometimes theatre hobbyist. He wrote and produced the original plays Sycorax (2016) and Executrix (2018) at the Fortress of Lushington and was last seen in Sweet Bird of Youth (Scotty, Southern Rep, 2017) and King Lear (Edmund, Captain’s Coat, 2015). Originally from Alexandria, LA, Mason moved to New Orleans in 2010.
Vatican Lokey as Sigmund Freud
A fixture of local stages and TV for over 30 years, Vatican has originated roles in the NOLA premieres of Grand Hotel, Falsettos, Opus, W;t, Chess, Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding, among many others. Films and TV include Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, 30 Days in the Bowl, Scream Queens, Treme, and American Horror Story: Coven. He is best known as Professor Carl Nivale, seen every Carnival season since 1996 on WWL-TV Eyewitness Morning News, and every holiday season as Tinsel the Elf. An award-winning playwright, he is the co-producer and director for NOLA Voice Theatre, and is featured in two books about NOLA theatre history: The Soul of the City: Le Petit Theatre and Just Who is Stocker Fontelieu, Anyway? He can be heard on the original cast recordings for Nine Lives and The Music of Porta-Puppet Players. In 2021, he was named a Culture Bearer by Mayor Latoya Cantrell.
Jen Pagan as Marian Putnam
Jen, an alum of The Second City, is a master improviser both on the stage and in the kitchen. Most recently she wrote and performed No Minor Characters for the 2022 Tennessee Williams Literary Festival Opening Gala and Yo Soy Hondureña for Teatro Sin Fronteras. Her solo show Shoebox Lounge garnered Big Easy theatre nominations for Best Actress and Best Original Show. Jen’s latest solo performance piece Eat Me premiered at the 2019 Infringe Festival and the anticipated remount is slated for the fall of 2022. Currently she is developing her solo piece Donde Esta into a short film and devising a site-specific retelling of Shakespeare’s Scottish play by a coven of Weird Sisters. When she is not playing hard to get with the coronavirus, her inner porcupine travels the world hiking, looking for waterfalls and collecting seashells on beaches at dawn. Abrazos y besitos to Porcupine’s amazing cast & crew - mucha mierda mis amores!
Todd Schrenk as William James
Todd is pleased to be working with Mel.Cook, Michael Merino, and the excellent cast and crew on Porcupine. In addition to dabbling in mask making, puppetry, and music, Todd teaches theater to the charming and talented students at Audubon Charter School. Todd would like to extend an extra special thank you to his wife and son, Trish and Wylie, for their love and support.
Ratty Scurvics as Sándor Ferenczi
Ratty has had a career in theater spanning nearly thirty years as an actor, award winning score composer and technical designer.
Fresh from a two-year covid stint directing immersive Shakespeare in New Zealand, Mel.Cook is an award-winning theatre maker, who creates autonomous adventures for audiences around the globe. A graduate of University of London Birkbeck’s MFA in Theatre Directing and RADA’s Acting BA, Mel. has directed productions for a multitude of theatres around the world, including Southern Rep, Theatre Royal Margate, New Zealand Globe Centre, The Lowry, The Finborough, The Arcola, and The Bush. Mel. has created pervasive narrative games for spaces like the Barbican, Glastonbury, V&A, and National Gallery; made interactive theatre with companies such as Punchdrunk, Coney, Shakespeare’s Globe, and the RSC; built immersive events for corporations including Beefeater, Smirnoff, Central St Martin's, and Nokia; and devised narrative adventures in several cities, parks, graveyards, and derelict buildings.
Lizzy Bruce, Assistant Director
Destany Gorham, Production Coordinator
Destany is a New Orleans-based theatre mercenary.
Julie Ebel, Costumer
Ratty Scurvics, Sound Design
Michael Merino, Playwright and Producer
In the 1990s, Michael was the artistic director of the Lower Garden Theater Project, which presented experimental works at their storefront on Magazine Street, the Contemporary Arts Center, x art, The Pickery, and Café Brasil. His works have been been staged in Washington, DC, and Paris. He has presented sold-out productions at fringe festivals locally and in our nation's capital, and placed first at Theatre Oxford’s 10-Minute Play Festival. Michael was named as an Emerging Voices Playwrighting Competition winner (Washington, DC), a MainStage Series winner at the Great Plains Theatre Conference (Omaha, NE), a finalist at the Charles M. Getchell New Playwrighting Project (Southeastern Theatre Conference), and a semi-finalist at Playwright’s Center’s PlayLabs Festival (Minneapolis, MN). He has been nominated for a Big Easy Award and the Storer Boone Award for best original play. Michael has been a member of Woolly Mammoth Playwright’s Playground, and participated in Flea Theater's Pataphysics Workshop and Cimémorphe performances.
We'd like to thank the many people who have spent many hours assisting with this project.
Julia Hodges for assisting with the program and props.
Chris Dupont for loaning his restaurant as a rehearsal space.
Jonathan Traviesa for taking such beautiful publicity photographs.
Skip Casale for designing the poster and postcards.
Rudi Riet for helping with the website.
Katya Vaz for assistance with graphic design.
Heather Ferrell for making the costumes fit the actors.
Grace Patterson for generating buzz on social media platforms.
Nicholas Frederick and Natalie Morvant for building and delivering the tetherball pole.
Edward Cox for the smoke machine.
Randy Maggiore for donating mixers for our beverages and the firewood.
Stacy Hoover for making her lovely home available for this experience.
Ateven Snderson for stringing lights, moving furniture, and assorted odd requests.
And to those who participated in the reading last year: Donald Lewis, Cristina Molina, Claudia Baumgarten, Kurt Owens, Todd D'Amour, Eliza Baquet, Todd Schrenk, and Jamie Doyle.