Actress returns to BR stage to honor friend
Ana Maria Andricain wouldn’t be sitting here scraping the white surface off the silver if it weren’t for Derek Gordon.
Her role as jewelry maker isn’t as glamorous as seeing her name in lights on a Broadway marquee: “Ana Maria Andricain in ‘Beauty and the Beast’” or “Ana Maria Andricain in ‘Les Miserables,’” but it is can be done at home.
When performing a Valentine’s-themed concert at Baton Rouge Little Theater in 2008, Andricain and her husband, Philip Mann, found themselves talking about finding a way to make a living closer to home.
Home for Andricain is Baton Rouge. It’s where her parents live, home to her three siblings. It’s where she went to high school, and Baton Rouge Little Theater was where the path to her acting career began.
Now she’s back. Mann is director of Entertainment Industry Division at the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, and Andricain is a full-time jewelry designer, creating original pieces for her line, Jewel of Havana.
Jewelry-making began as a hobby with wire and beads, something on which she could work between scenes while on Broadway. Now it’s grown into something bigger, more artistic.
Her pieces are sought by collectors at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge’s monthly Arts Market.
And the Arts Council is ushering her back to the stage on Thursday . This time, her name will be in lights at Baton Rouge Little Theater, where she will perform another Valentine’s Day concert — “A Broadway Valentine” will benefit the Arts Council.
“I feel like we’re doing this for Derek,” Andricain said. Staging this concert was a priority for Gordon, who died on Sept. 12, 2012.
“Kathy Scherer (the Arts Council’s acting director) and I visited him at his house before he died,” Andricain said. “We told him that we were going to make this concert happen. I don’t know if he heard us.”
Now Andricain is sure that Gordon would be ecstatic to know that the show will go on.
She continued scraping the white substance off the silver while telling this story. This, she said, is what the silver looks like when it comes out of the kiln.
All of the capillaries in the silver stand upright like miniature little trees while in the kiln, creating this white surface. Once it’s scraped away, then placed in the tumbler, the piece will emerge smooth and shiny.
“I have to say, I work harder doing this than I did when I was acting,” Andricain said. “And if someone would have ever told me I could make a living by selling jewelry once a month in Baton Rouge, I wouldn’t have believed them.”
But Gordon knew.
“He was very instrumental in guiding me to build my jewelry business,” Andricain said.
Mann is a native of Alabama, where he was working as director for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in 1999, when he met Andricain. She already was living in New York, and he hired her for one of the Shakespeare productions.
They fell in love and married. Andricain made a successful career on Broadway. Mann was equally successful, having served on the administrative staff of The Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J. He also was an agent with The Booking Group in New York City, and as a theatrical investor, he was represented by the Broadway and London companies of The Drowsy Chaperone, which won five Tony Awards.
“When we came here for the concert four years ago, it was the first time I was able to spend more than a week in Baton Rouge since I was 18,” Andricain said. “We really loved it, and we started talking about how we wished we could make a living here.”
Gordon found a way.
A friend told him about Mann and Andricain. The couple had just returned to New York, when Gordon contacted Mann about an opening for a director’s job in the Louisiana Department of Economic Development.
“The job encompassed every part of what Philip has done in the entertainment industry,” Andricain said. “So, we moved back.”
The couple moved into an apartment in downtown Baton Rouge and started meeting Gordon for Sunday brunch.
“There were so many things I loved about New York,” Andricain said. “We could walk out the door, and there would be music playing somewhere. There was always something happening. I realized that Derek brought these things to Baton Rouge — he brought everything I loved to Baton Rouge.”
Andricain will honor him by performing a concert of love songs, including some Gershwin and Porter favorites, as well as a collection of songs from the Broadway productions in which she performed.
Her brother, Hugo Andricain Jr., a regular in Baton Rouge Little Theater’s productions, will make a special appearance. He also put the accompanying trio together for this show. Trey Eubanks will play piano, John Madere will play bass and James Boudier will play drums.
It’s important to make the distinction between Hugo Jr. and Andricain’s father, because it’s Hugo Andricain Sr. who keeps her company in the jewelry studio.
Andricain’s studio is a room inside her parents’ garage. Her dad originally used it as an aviary and later had plans for a workshop.
“I didn’t get my workshop,” he said.
“But look at what you got,” Andricain said, clearly teasing. “The whole room was remodeled; you got a new floor, and the walls are painted.”
“He gets just as excited about the jewelry as I do,” she said.
Every morning is Christmas when Andricain opens the kiln. She can’t wait to see how a piece would turn out, and her dad, standing behind her, is just as anxious to see the results.
Hugo Sr. also helps his daughter set up and mans her booths at arts markets and festivals. She also shows at the monthly Arts Council of New Orleans Arts Market in Palmer Park, and will show at FestForAll and Festival International.
Back to the new piece fresh from the kiln. Andricain had finished scraping away the white surface to reveal a silver, one-of-a-kind piece that eventually will become the main component of a necklace.
She works with metal clay, a crafting medium consisting of small particles of such metals as silver, gold, bronze or copper mixed with an organic binder and water.
“When I was making my jewelry between scenes in New York, I started looking for different clasps,” Andricain said. “I wanted something different, and I couldn’t find it. So, I started making my own. I tried metalsmithing at first.”
But then she read about metal clay. A store in Baton Rouge offered a class in the process, and Andricain signed up. That class led to a course in Houston taught by Patrik Kusek, winner of the Saul Bell Award, the most prestigious prize among metal clay artists.
The process originated in Japan in 1990. Metal clay can be shaped by hand, tools or through the use of molds. After drying, it’s placed in a kiln, where the organic material burns out, leaving sintered metal.
After the scraping comes the tumbler, a device that smooths and polishes the metal’s surface.
Andricain also works on leaf-shaped pieces fresh from the tumbler, all inspired by leaves from her parents’ backyard garden.
She often picks leaves from plants, brings them into the studio and presses them into the metal clay. She’s also planning to do the same with the flowers that annually bloom each spring in the backyard.
Andricain also incorporates precious and semi-precious stones into her metal work.
“When I first moved back, I was contracted to be a vacation swing for the traveling production of ‘South Pacific,’ ” Andricain said. “That first year was hard, because I was still working in New York, and then I had to be on the plane at a moment’s notice to fill in on ‘South Pacific.’ Now I’m designing jewelry, and it lets me spend a lot more time with Philip.”
Though it would be nice to one day see her business grow into something along the line of, say, Mignon Faget’s or Paloma Picasso’s, Andricain prefers her hands-on work.
“I like knowing that each piece is different,” she said. “And I like signing each piece.”
It’s her art, made in Baton Rouge.