Monday, July 30, 2018 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm

Celebrate the Samuel French, Inc. publication -

Staged reading of KATRINA by Rob Florence

Interrobang Theatre Project’s Katrina: Mother-in-Law of ‘Em All is both extremely disturbing and incredibly touching, as playwright Rob Florence preserves oral tradition to illuminate six darkly beautiful, true stories.  The magnificence of this play lies in its stories, which celebrate the human spirit and remarkable ability to survive. As the stories are told in tandem, each player cheers, boos and jumps in accordingly, leading to a camaraderie that the audience can’t help but feel too. Playwright Rob Florence skillfully exhibits the stories’ universal themes while always respecting their unique qualities. Maybe not every city could survive this, Florence seems to say, but this gritty, almost otherworldly place, and those who have chosen to make it their home, could and did. Florence’s script is almost perfect,…. Katrina: Mother-in-Law of ‘Em All is vital to the modern theater scene. The play incorporates oral tradition and history that audience members will recall in startling detail.”

Laura Whelan, Chicago Theater Beat, 9/8/15 from Windy City Times:

“Authored by Rob Florence, Katrina: Mother-in-Law of 'Em All is drawn from true stories of six New Orleans residents who alternately share what happened to them and their loved ones before the hurricane hit and the harrowing aftermath once the city was flooded. But far from being a solemn affair, Katrina: Mother-in-Law of 'Em All continually fascinates as you get drawn into each story to find out how everyone survived to tell their tales and why they returned to New Orleans. Director Georgette Verdin adeptly directs the production with Greg Pinsoneault's cozy bar set design center stage. The upsetting magnitude of the disaster is also amplified by the great sound design work of Eric Backus and especially by projection designer Chris Owens who strategically draws from photographs and video footage to underline the desperation of the situations.

Katrina: Mother-in-Law of 'Em All is gripping throughout,…. With its blend of humor and horror, Katrina: Mother-in-Law of 'em All is certainly a strong way for Interrobang to kick off its sixth season dedicated to Unnatural Disasters. And if nothing else will prod you get emergency supplies ready for your home, this play is it.”

- Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times, 9/16/15 from Chicago Stage Standard:

These are important stories. These are stories we should never forget and should have every opportunity to hear for the first time. There is a realization that Florence’s play brings and that Verdin capitalizes on. That from tragedy there is strength. These six people—laughing, drinking, happy people—are survivors. There is strength in their recounted lives. That is beautiful and worth giving to the world.

Jerald Raymond Pierce, 9/9/15n From the Katrina 10th anniversary production, The Joy Theater, New Orleans, LA:

“The play was politically astute and the performers helped the audience feel these stories. Especially poignant was the memorializing of the ancestral trauma of the trans-Atlantic dispersal of African descended people and the 2005 dispersal of families and communities - leaving people to search on highways, municipal buildings, etc., for each other. The back drop painted by Daniel Fuselier et al. was visually arresting.”

“A wonderful show.  A completely insider view and feel. Only from here can you find so much perspective and reason to laugh in this hard hard story we share on the Gulf Coast.”   

-Dr. Kim Vaz-Deville, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of EducationXavier University of Louisiana;  Author of “The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Traditions,” August 29, 2015

-Dr. Anne-Liese Juge Fox, PhD, Theatre and Performance Studies, Louisiana State University;   Artistic Director, NOLA Playback Theatre, August 29, 2015 From The Bayou Playhouse Production, September, 2014:

“There was a telling moment during an opening weekend performance of Rob Florence’s play, ‘Katrina: Mother-in-Law of ’Em All.’ As one character related the tale of his evacuation from the floodwaters and eventual arrival at an Army base in Arkansas, he noted that he was at last able to take his first hot shower in days.

A voice from the audience blurted out, ‘Bet that felt good, podna!’

It was an audience full of people who had been through the same situations. They knew. Only they could really understand…..

…. Even when they were widely lauded, we’ve all laughed at the dramatic excesses and just plain missteps that Hollywood makes when it tried to tell our stories through such shows as “Treme” or “K-Ville.” Martin and his cast do such a better job with these stories precisely because they know what happened, they know these real characters. That’s why this funny and touching show is worth the drive to Lockport.”

Theodore Mahne, The Times-Picayune, September 8, 2014


Under the tile of: THE KATRINA COMEDY FEST:

FROM JUNE & JULY 2013 (Hollywood Fringe Festival), The Lounge Theatre and The Fountain Theatre, Los Angeles, CA 


“Playwright Rob Florence’s script is funny, poignant, uplifting, and clever. In 80 minutes, he captures the essence of why people from New Orleans want to remain, even when the potential for disaster is always palpably real.”

- Melinda Schupmann, ARTS IN L.A.,  6/27/13


“Playwright Rob Florence enlarges on the view from the ground. His play offers an inspiring portrait of a community that came together to weather the storm with grace and laughter.  To write “The Katrina Comedy Fest,” Florence wove real-life survivor accounts, a feat that I as a nonfiction writer applaud. When you’re working with true stories, the job of assembling the facts into one coherent, linear story is challenging. Florence accomplishes this with not one, but five individuals, creating a pastiche of characters whose combined experience pays homage to America’s most colorful, benevolent and often ignored city: New Orleans....  After the recent events of hurricane Sandy and deadly tornado in Oklahoma, theatre-goers may rest assured that although the nature of the The Katrina Comedy Fest may connote visions of death and anger, it is just the opposite. You’ll come out of the theatre with a smile on your face from the demonstration of resiliency that each of the characters, in their unique quirkiness, impart with a levity of spirit and honesty of the soul.”

- Sheana Ochoa, SLAM,  6/8/13


“Gutsy, factual, funny, and powerfully realistic.... Shocking, mesmerizing, and uplifting at the same time, with just enough humor weaved in.  This is a worthy evening of ‘up close and personal’ theater.  Sure to satisfy your soul.”

  • Pat Taylor,  The Toulcan Times, 6/14/13


“True personal stories brought to life by a stellar cast.  Superb performances, nicely woven stories.”  —Colin Mitchell, Bitter Lemons, 6/17/13


“The storytelling captures the sensitivity, nostalgia and steely guts of survivors in the face of a natural disaster and caught in the web of bureaucratic foibles....   The Katrina Comedy Fest, refreshingly, does not focus on the politics.  The play brings the event to a tangible level that can be digested as a languorous 5 course meal, beginning with the rising waters and ending with a sobering shot of reality.  It becomes a speculation game as to the strength of ‘this one’ compared to the ‘last one’ when the levees didn’t breach.”  

  • Analyn Revilla,  Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative Blog,  6/18/13


What happens when six Katrina survivors retrace their footsteps at the Mother-in-Law Lounge?  Experience the heartbreak, humanity, and yes, Comedy through the journeys of these New Orleanians:

Rodney, who keeps order at his apartment building, reunites lost children with family, and travels with Al Gore, all while guiding his elderly parents to safety, taking great pains with his infirm, recalcitrant mother.

Raymond, a cosmic old homeless man who thinks his city resembles "the end of the world," sleeps on a Superdome ramp because the stench inside is so unbearable, evacuates to Arkansas and then California for a trying experience with his cousin only to return to New Orleans considering Katrina to be  “a blessing.” 

Judy, an Uptown woman with pet ferrets who befriends, and is befriended by, what her uncle calls "a scurvy bunch of hippies," kids with tattoos and piercings, in an experience of unlikely companions reaching out to one another during disaster. 

Franklin, African-American male whose Katrina journey in search of missing family members transports him to the Middle Passage, Congo Square, and Emancipation.

Sonny, whose path is a surreal crazy quilt in which he travels with a man who broke into his house, an 80-year old Cuban woman, and a young female stranger from New Orleans to Arkansas to Miami and back to New Orleans, a voyage which includes an interrogation from FBI and TSA agents and an appearance on television with Tucker Carlson.

Nettie, who cares for neighbors, strangers, and her 13-year old “special” granddaughter in the Mother-in-Law Lounge before being evacuated to North Carolina and then returns to New Orleans in her newly-acquired hearse to make sure that the Ernie K-Doe statue is safe.

Event date: 

Monday, July 30, 2018 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm

Event address: 

Arthur Seelen Theatre
250 West 40th Street