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About Nothin' Nice

Nothin’ Nice is the story of a young man forced to confront issues of environmental racism and its impact on his family and community. Raised in the “Lower Nine” or “Ninth Ward”, a community ravaged by toxicity, Lonewolf faces the destruction of the women in his life and discovers his own ability to accept the challenge of leadership. With the guidance of his uncle, a former Civil Right activist; his mother, who is battling cancer; and the young woman who is the mother of his child, Lonewolf learns to accept his role as a Generation X freedom fighter. Musical references allude to the Civil Rights Movement.


Production Information

Nothin' Nice is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by Junebug Productions' Environmental Justice Project in partnership with Illusion Theater of Minneapolis and NPN. The Creation Fun is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency). For more information:  This 50th Anniversary Series Play is made possible by The Roy Cockrum Foundation.

Nothin' Nice was written by Linda Parris-Bailey, artistic director of The Carpetbag Theatre, and developed by the CBT ensemble company in collaboration with AmeriCorps of New Orleans and other community partners. It is based on stories collected during a multi-year AmeriCorps project. It received its premiere in May 1998, as part of the Environmental Justice Festival at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans. It was subsequently performed at Pellissippi State Technical Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, in February 1999, and at Knoxville College in 2000, during CBT's four-year term as the resident professional company. In 2001, Nothin' Nice was presented at Austin East High School, an arts magnet school in Knoxville, by the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, and at the Alternate ROOTS annual meeting in North Carolina. Excerpts were also performed at the Network of Ensemble Theaters gathering in San Francisco. In February 2002, Nothin' Nice was presented by Touchstone Theatre in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and in a residency project at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. The play remains in CBT's repertoire.

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Lonewolf: an AmeriCorps worker, twenty-one. He has one daughter, Kesha, who lives with her mother.

Victor: Lonewolf'd uncle, mid-fifties. He is a Vietname vet, community organizer and wise man.

Lil: Lonewolf's mother, forty-seven. She is hardworking and honest about her feelings. she and Lonewolf are very close.

Nicole: Kesha's mother, ninteen. She works and goes to school. She is also an aspiring poet.

Tyra: Nicole's best friend, nineteen.

Maylene: a musician who plays the bass guitar and drums. Maylene served in Bietnam as an army nurse and came back a healer and teacher. She sings with neighborhood youth in her courtyard every evening.


The play takes place in inner-city New Orleans. The stage is divided into two "home places": the house where Lil and Lonewolf live, and Victor's house and and above-ground garden.  In the space that represents Lil and Lonewolf's home, the "shotgun" nature of the house is dominant. The area that serves as kitchen, dining room and family room is dominated by television sets that play continuously, reporting the local news. The multiple televisions provide a backdrop and are programmed to reflect images of "Cancer Alley" and other environmental disasters. Also in the room is Lonewolf's keyboard, which he plays throughout the show.

Victor's home is dominated by an outdoor garden with tree large, rectangular, above-ground plots where he grows collard greens and other vegetables. There is a small television in Victor's garden.

Adjacent to Victor's garden is Maylene's backyard, a small courtyard where she and her "pupils," the young people of the neighborhood, play music and visit. She and other members of the ensemble provide the transitional music for the play from this area. 

Other locations, such as Louis Armstrong Park and various New Orleans street corners and alleyways are implied by lighting, simple set pieces and props.

Music is key to the play, and is used to transition from scene to scene. Songs are also used as "teaching tools" by the characters; most of the songs come from the tradition of the Civil Rights movement. Original music has been created to underscore Lonewolf and Nicole's scenes, and Maylene and the "neighbors" (the ensemble) take on the roles of chorus and orchestra. As with all of CBT's original work, Nothin' Nice is a play with music.

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