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Looking for the Goat

Editor's Note: Goat in the Road Productions is a New Orleans-based performance ensemble dedicated to the production of original and invigorating new works of theater, dance, performance arts, and educational programming. Last May, Goat made its foray into the audio world with Episode One of a 12-part performance and podcast series. In November, the group performed Episode Two at Luthjen's Dance Hall located on the corner of Marigny and Chartres Streets, as part of the 2013 New Orleans Fringe Festival. This weekend, the group performs the third episode live at The Shadowbox Theatre.

Here, Company member Shannon Flaherty returns (after participating in this guest blog series) to explain how The Goats got their name and a new goat-landscaping service (seriously).

Morgana King with her goats

Morgana King with her goats

Humans disguised as goats make art. Goats disguised as landscapers beautify our city.

People ask why we've called our ensemble Goat in the Road Productions all the time. In 2009, company co-founders Rachel Carrico and William Bowling were driving through the Marigny when they were stopped by a goat crossing the road. The goat pulled up right next to the car and did its business. Rachel and Will couldn't decide on a name for the theatre company they wanted to start, and then there it was -- a goat in the road.

Since then, we have come to be known as “The Goats” at the schools where we teach our children’s playwrighting program, Play/Write. We chose Pan, the god known for his affinity for red wine and a good party, who also happens to be half goat-half man, as the main character for our radio serial This Sweaty City. People like the name and remember it. Maybe it is memorable because of the juxtaposition it brings up -- the bizarreness of an animal normally on a farm in an urban setting, walking through the street, just as comfortable there as if they were any other city dweller.

Whatever it is, we owe our name to that first Goat: Evangeline.

Recently I've wondered: Is Evangeline still roaming around the Marigny? Are there goats walking around in every neighborhood in the city? Is New Orleans the kind of farm-friendly city where you bring home something warm and cuddly, deciding beyond a dog or cat?

My curiosity led me to Morgana King, her four goats, and her plan to put them to work for the city.

Morgana owns Chauncey, another well-known Downtown goat. Chauncey has lived on Lesseps St. in the Bywater with Morgana and her husband Michael Patrick Welch for about ten years. Chauncey has been a neighborhood staple. He was featured in an episode of Animal Planet, written about on nola.com, and included in Michael’s new book, Famous People I Have Met.

“He used to go to Vaughan’s all the time… they loved having Chauncey visit," Morgana told me the other night, as I chatted with her and Michael.

About a year ago, the couple moved to Algiers with a plan: a landscaping service, called Y’Herd Me? Property Maintenance, with the goats that function as the lawn mowers, weed-whackers, and brush clearers,  Sound crazy? Google does it, so does Amazon, and now, thanks to Morgana, New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways will too.

In the past three months, the total number of goats that Morgana and Michael own has gone from one to four. Chauncey has been joined by Chuck, Caledonia, and a little 6-month-old goat, yet to be named (but you can pick a name by donating to Y’Herd Me?), each of whom has their own.  Morgana and Michael say they found the three new goats on Craigslist and through Facebook.

Chuck

Chuck

Very soon these goats will be moved from their backyard in Algiers to Brechtel Park, located on Lennox Blvd (off Charles de Gaulle), to help control overgrowth with their constant munching (yes, that stereotype about goats is true). The 110-acre park run by the City of New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways suffered ecological damage during Hurricane Katrina and took another beating from Hurricane Gustav. In January of 2012, in collaboration with the Westbank Redevelopment Corporation and the landscape architecture firm BROWN + DANOS Land Design Inc., the city agency put out a Master Plan Report, stating: “The park is now overwhelmed by invasive land and aquatic species, degraded facilities and amenities, and hydrological uncertainties”. I drove around there the other day, and to my un-trained eye, the park was, indeed, in need of some goat love.

Chauncey

Chauncey

Once Morgana moves the goats to the park, she will enclose them with a temporary fence. When the goats have eaten all the un-desirable growth in that area, she will move the fence to a new, overgrown spot. Morgana estimates that the goats would begin in the next couple of weeks.

Michael says he will be glad to see them there, eating sanctioned greenery. “Having one is fine, but now we have four, and they’re like having gremlins at your house. You know they’ll find stuff to do that you don’t want them to do," he adds.

He's not the only one who will be happy to see the goats get to work.  When I asked if Chauncey was going to join the three new goats, Michael and Morgana paused.

“Well, I’ll try it out, but I don’t think so,” said Morgana., “Chauncey’s more of an old man; he just wants to chill.”

Seems the new goats are cramping Chauncey’s style a bit.

“Those other Goats are nice but they’re more goat-like,” said Michael. “When he has that yard to himself he’s the happiest; you can see his personality change. He loves it so much.”

 The Y’Herd Me? goats’ work at Brechtel Park is a pilot program. For more information on the project and the organization, visit the official website or Facebook page.

 Goat in the Road Productions has a live performance of its podcast series, This Sweaty City, starring the famous goat-God, Pan, this Friday, May 2nd and Saturday, May 3rd at 8 pm at The Shadowbox Theatre (2400 St. Claude Ave.). Tickets are $10 at the door or online

 Hear episodes 1 and 2 of This Sweaty City here 

 

Laine Kaplan-Levenson is a producer at WWNO, The Moth and Listening Post and cofounder of Bring Your Own.