New Orleans is a theatrical city, a place where costumes are kept in designated closets, wig stores abound and dancing in the streets doesn’t raise an eyebrow.
That creative energy has long fueled theatrical performances indoors as well, with touring and locally produced theater a part of this city’s history since the early 19th century.
The gorgeous renovated Saenger reopened in 2013 — Photo courtesy of Charles Pence
In fact, the first documented playhouse in town was located at 732 St. Peter St. – Le Spectacle de la Rue St. Pierre, a lively showcase of talented actors from the French West Indies.
Ever since that time, New Orleanians have supported and nurtured the lively arts and the actors, writers and artists who raise the curtain on all kinds of productions around town. The restoration and renovation of some of these gorgeous art palaces is a clear sign that the downtown theater scene is back in a big way.
The 365-seat Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre reopened in 2013, after being dark for more than two years. When Dickie Brennan & Co. purchased half of the existing space for what is now Tableau, the circa-1916 theater was able to renovate and reopen for business.
Often described as the nation's oldest community theater still in operation, Le Petit produces its own shows using local talent, in a gorgeous jewel box setting.
Also in 2013, the Saenger Theatre reopened for business after undergoing a stem to stern renovation that respected the historic building’s architectural integrity while incorporating state-of-the-art technology, as part of the $50 million-plus redo. Besides a touring season of Broadway productions, national names like Jerry Seinfeld and Penn and Teller perform here.
The revitalized Civic Theatre in the CBD opened last year after an extensive nine-month-long, $10.5 million renovation. Built in 1906 as the Shubert Theater, the space hosted a playbill of luminaries in pre-Broadway road productions, including Mary Martin, Tyrone Power, Helen Hayes and Charles Boyer.
Later turned into a movie house and disco, today the Civic is a gorgeous space, an intimate 1,150-capacity venue that has partnered with Bowery Presents to host touring acts like Elvis Costello and Paula Poundstone.
Another restored venue is the Joy Theater, a stunning jewel box space at 1200 Canal St. that was considered a “modern” movie house in 1947. Reopened in December 2011 after a $5 million renovation, the 900-seat space now hosts live music, theater, film and private parties and events in an intimate space that delivers terrific sight lines from all vantage points, from orchestra to mezzanine and balcony.