b. 31 July 1949, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Bagneris was raised in an area of the city peopled by Creoles and rich with music. He studied at Xavier University, after which he briefly taught English in high school, but never lost hold of his attraction to and feeling for the music and the colourful culture of which he was to prove himself an important part. He abandoned teaching and after spending some time acting at the Mickery Theatre in Amsterdam, Bagneris began to direct his energies towards developing theatrical ventures in his home town, forming the New Experience Players, an integrated company that presented straight drama. In 1978 he wrote a show that recreated the kind of vaudeville performance that had been immensely popular decades before his birth. The show, which was set on- and off-stage in a New Orleans theatre in 1926, was called One Mo’ Time. After running for six months in the city, the show moved to New York, where it ran for three and a half years at the Village Gate, spawning numerous touring companies and playing overseas, including an 18-month spell in London’s West End. Bagneris also pursued his acting career, appearing in the Hollywood version of Dennis Potter’s Pennies From Heaven (1981) and in the Tom Waits vehicle, Down By Law (1986). He has also acted on television. In the theatre, Bagneris also wrote other shows, including a sequel to One Mo’ Time, Staggerlee, which starred Ruth Brown, Hoo-Dude, Further Mo’, the New York run of which suffered from the advent of the Gulf War despite even better notices than One Mo’ Time, and Jelly Roll, a two-man show in which Bagneris was accompanied by pianist Morten Gunnar Larsen. For Jelly Roll, a show based upon the racy life and timeless music of Jelly Roll Morton, Bagneris, Larsen and the show won high critical acclaim, including Obie Awards, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Lucille Lortel Award, the latter for Best Off-Broadway Musical. Jelly Roll was also performed in its entirety at the Oslo Jazz Festival, while in New York by the mid-90s it had moved into Manhattan’s 47th Street Theatre. Bagneris has consistently proved himself to be a major figure of the American theatre and while he has always worked out of the great tradition of black music and culture, his approach, his skills and his integrity have been such that he has been able to attract and retain audiences of all races and cultural backgrounds.
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