The Casket Girls Story
Inspired by local New Orleans legend, Cory and Gregory formed the story behind the ballet production.
Synopsis ©2018 Cory Gabel
New Orleans, 1729. The city is teeming with pirates, thieves, and prostitutes, many of whom were released from overpopulated prisons in France. At the time, the King of France had thought this would be a good way to populate the New World, but his plan has backfired. The city is a treacherous place.
He devises a new plan, sending the daughters of well-educated, well-bred families to bring civility to the colonists and to become the wives of young professional men. The young women arrive in New Orleans carrying their wedding trousseaux and belongings in wooden cases that are oddly shaped liked caskets.
Upon their arrival, the nuns of the Ursaline Convent intercept the Casket Girls, taking them to live in the convent until suitable husbands can be found. A strong-willed girl named Catherine cautiously inspects her new surroundings, skeptical of both the locals and the clergy. She wears a red ribbon tied around her neck in protest of the guillotine executions in France.
Catherine quickly gains the attention of a young man named Jean. She is intrigued by the vivid culture of the city, and by Jean as well. But she is watched closely by the Ursuline sisters. Back at the convent, the high priest blesses each of the girls, as well as their trousseaux, which are then locked in the convent attic and sealed with blessed nails.
Catherine and Jean fall in love, and the church eventually approves of the marriage. After an evening wedding ceremony, the priest leaves Catherine and Jean alone while the nuns go to the dark attic to retrieve Catherine’s trousseaux.
The sisters find all of the casket-shaped cases opened and empty. Dark, shadowy figures lurk in the attic and ultimately pursue and attack the nuns. They flee downstairs to Catherine, but what they find is how the legend of The Casket Girls is born, and the vampire history of New Orleans begins.
A century or more has passed since Catherine’s fateful night in the convent attic. After years of self-exile, she has returned to New Orleans for the first time, and visits the cemetery to pay her respects at the grave of her husband Jean. Catherine is alone in the world, moving from place to place, still struggling to understand and accept her vampire nature.
Her isolation vanishes when a Vodoo clan, led by the charismatic Mother Ava May, enters the graveyard and begins to dance and worship. Catherine instantly feels a spiritual connection to Mother, and an emotional one to her beautiful, young apprentice Seraphine.
But the times of New Orleans are as tumultuous as ever. An ambitious politician named Lucien wants to lead the city. He aims to form an alliance with the Voodoo clan, offering the city the joint leadership of business and spiritual leaders. But Catherine sees menace behind his motives and fears he may undo the fragile sense of belonging she has finally gained.
Mother shares the trance dance, and comes to understand Catherine’s true nature, but still embraces her. Meanwhile, Lucien grows less patient and more craven in his quest to rule, and reveals to Catherine who he truly is. He plans to openly rule New Orleans as a vampire, and envisions Catherine at his side. He will stop at nothing, and no one will stand in his way.
Everyone and everything that Catherine now loves is at risk, but Lucien is already too powerful for her to oppose. He plans an elaborate masquerade gala at his estate, a guise to bring all of the city leaders together. Once gathered, he will unleash vampire fury on the guests, and begin his ruthless rule.
Can Catherine stop him? Can she protect the Voodoo clan and the innocents of the city? Can she unite her vampire nature with the spiritual power of Mother and Seraphine to defeat Lucien?
Lives will be lost, and sacrifices made. The future of New Orleans, and the immortal heart of Catherine, are at stake.