A jazz/electro-pop fusion score, based on Rex Rose’s New Orleans novella, TOAST tells the gritty story of a community trying to put down roots in post-Katrina New Orleans and a young woman on a mission to finish a tattoo.
TOAST had a reading at Coastal Carolina University in 2015, a workshop production at the Bloomington Playwrights Project in 2016, and was further developed at the Johnny Mercer Colony in 2017.
Tania, a magnetic, brash young woman with a broken-down car, returns to New Orleans to find her tattoo-artist ex-lover “Snake,” in hopes of completing her half-finished serpent tattoo and winning a new Harley in an upcoming biker mag contest. But, finding Snake still embittered over their break-up and also dying of AIDS, the reunion is more difficult than she ever imagined.
In New Orleans, she quickly falls in with a crew of misfits seeking to transfigure the pain of existence–particularly in the wake of the hurricane–to joy (or at least a good time) in the classic New Orleans tradition. Centered around an upstart underground night club called “The Green Goddess,” the community’s attempt to rebuild itself and recover from unimaginable loss is threatened when government forces strive to shut the club down.
It’s New Orleans, a little more than a year after Hurricane Katrina and all the devastation it caused. We find ourselves in the upstart Green Goddess Night Club, a haven for some of the local misfits who survived and stuck around to begin the feeble rebuilding process. The club’s co-owner, drag queen Kay Sera Sera introduces us to the club denizens and the city’s age-old tradition of pushing pain aside and having as good a time as possible in the opening number “Dancing on Our Graves.”
Tania, a magnetic, brash young woman with a broken-down car bursts in. Turns out she hitched her way into town on a mission to reconnect with Snake, a local tattoo’s artist and her ex-lover, hoping to complete her half-finished massive serpent tattoo and win a new Harley in an upcoming biker mag contest.
Marcus, an ex-pat Brit and frustrated romantic falls instantly in love with Tania and determines to lend any assistance he can. But things get complicated when Marcus discovers Tania’s romantic history with Snake and Tania discovers that Snake is now dying of AIDS (though his own passion for Tania remains). As this love triangle develops, all three of them end up going to lengths they never imagined to find greater meaning and help those they care most about.
Meanwhile, as the city and corporate interests threaten to shut the club down, Kay, in an attempt to save her community’s home, seduces building inspector Andy. Kay considers it a meaningless and utilitarian fling at first—as she is still getting over the loss of her partner, who died in the flood—but develops feelings much stronger than she had initially planned. Their burgeoning romance is soon challenged by their conflicting professional responsibilities.
Likewise, club DJ Tomasso and his bartender girlfriend Flossie grow apart, as she comes to realize that her domestic inclinations are at odds with the freewheeling lifestyle of the club.
When government forces succeed in condemning the club and police victimize its denizens, the community must decide how best to move forward.
Through it all, Tania seeks closure with Snake and the mutual artistic expression they both desperately need while exploring her budding relationship with Marcus and combatting her own impulses to run away from the complexities of life, love, and loss.
Driven by an eclectic score that fuses, New Orleans jazz, electro-pop, and country with contemporary musical theatre, Toast examines a community still coping with injustice, while working to honor the past, live in the present, and look toward the future.