9 to 5­: At the Cutting Edge of Community Theater in the GNO Area

12:00 January 06, 2020

In a city internationally known for its music and cuisine, theater-lovers find quality production to be much more limited. However, at the edge of the metropolitan area, on the Northshore, Cutting Edge shines as a community theater offering a wide variety of plays and musicals executed with a surprisingly high level of professionalism-but in an intimate setting with lots of leg room and a great view from every seat. And with tickets generally ranging from $25 to $47, this is quality live theater at quite an affordable price as well.

This week, Cutting Edge is joining the celebration of Dolly Parton's 50 years with the Grand Ole Opry-as well as her life, spirit, and music-with its production of the musical 9 to 5, written by the 1980 film's original screenwriter, Patricia Resnick, and created by Dolly herself. The musical, which will run from January 10 through February 1, is both a comedy and a drama promoting female solidarity and empowerment.

The musical revolves around the evolving identities of and relationship among secretaries Dora Lee, Violet, and Judy, respectively played by Angie Euliarte of St. Charles parish; Dawn Mastascuso, a member of Cutting Edge's troupe for 6 years; and Cheyenne Moore, a Slidell native who started her career in theater at Southeastern Louisiana University in 2012. The women are cast in stereotyped roles as the sexualized maiden, the widow, and the divorcee, defined by their relationships with men. The movement of the play is driven by their uniting to fight back against these limiting identities in the patriarchal office setting-represented by their boss, the "egotistical, sexist, lying bigot" Franklin Heart, played by Ronald Brister. Rounding out the office cast of women is the aging Roz, played by 40-year veteran actress Sara Pegones, who is utterly devoted to Mr. Heart.

The talented cast carries the audience through a range of emotions with witty and fast-paced dialogue and songs that are effectively moving and insightful. Further, even the "villains" are developed as fully human through nuanced performances and plotted dynamic twists. Their performance-even in rehearsal-makes clear that these thespians are dedicated artists with years of training and experience. However, in personal interviews, they unanimously attribute the theater's success to one essential feature: the vision and commitment of their director, Brian Fontenot. Cheyenne Moore simply says, "Brian doesn't take no for an answer-he's gonna make it work."

Brian Fontenot, however, is also quick to give credit where credit is due-and making "it work" in the small theater also depends on the creative direction of his husband and co-owner Richard Fuentes. Together, they built the theater from the ground up, tucked in the anterior space of Attractions salon, where they work by day. Details like the women's fun vintage costumes in 9 to 5 and sets are the work of Fuentes, and they are, in turn, supported by a tech team that brings the small stage to life through skillful projections of urban street scenes and office-scapes.

Dawn Mastascuso explains that Brian "imparts everything that he is" through the theater, and it is his and Fuentes' boundless creativity, commitment to excellence through collaboration and community-building, and mission to "provide our audiences with a healthy perspective of our cultural differences and similarities" that makes Cutting Edge so special. As a result, Mastascuso claims that she has "never seen a place for community theater like this," a place where an actor like Ronald Brister gets to play a "sleezy bad guy" in a comedy like 9 to 5 this year, after getting to perform the more intense controversial role of the Marquise in Quills last year-but also supports children's theater, such as last year's Frozen. After 9 to 5, the theater will begin preparing for another powerhouse comedy centered on empowering women: Sweet Potato Queens.

The theater artists at Cutting Edge just keep coming back to participate in the diverse opportunities to explore and grow their cultural lives offered here-and we have a feeling that you may, too.

For tickets and more information, visit cuttingedgetheater.com.

Cutting Edge Theater, 767 Robert Blvd., Slidell, (985) 649-3727

9 to 5, Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., January 10 - February 1; $30-$35

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