Center Stage in Cenla

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Live theatre is often described as the ultimate collaborative art form.  The actors must work together to bring the plot to life while the technicians and musicians behind the scenes must also coordinate with the stage talent to create a seamless experience.  Just as important is the collaboration between the company and the audience.  An engaged, receptive audience feeds the creative energy of the cast and crew, which in turn helps to create a more rich experience for everyone.  From amateur and professional community theatre companies to outstanding university performing arts programs, here in Cenla, we are blessed with many opportunities for participating in the theatre—on stage, behind the scenes, in the orchestra pit and in the audience!

 

Celebrating 80 seasons in 2018, City Park Players was founded as the “Alexandria Little Theatre” in 1938 as a nonprofit organization.  CPP produced live theatre for the local community sporadically during the World War II years.  By fall of 1948, CPP began regularly scheduling a stellar lineup of comedies and dramas for local residents.

 

City Park Players is pleased to kick off their 80th Season with a poignant comedy/drama by Norm Foster, entitled “Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun”.  Directed by Elizabeth Hilgerson and Halli Watson, this touching comedy features local actors Mike White as Robert, Meghan Smith as Holly, Melissa Savage as Claire, Travis Paul as Simon, and Dave Strong as the Doctor. Playwright Norm Foster creates an emotionally-charged atmosphere that explores the relationship between a disabled man and a young pregnant woman.  The show will run February 22nd through March 4th.

 

CPP continues its season with Neil Simon’s classic “Barefoot in the Park”, April 12th through 22nd, under the direction of Jim Leggett and Michael Dalme.  “An Audition for a Murder” by Lee Mueller, directed by Alana Pate, will be performed June 7th through 17th.  “Proof” by David Auburn, directed by Jared Guillory, will be presented August 2nd through 12th. The season rounds out with “I Hate Hamlet” by Paul Rudnick, featured October 11th through 21st, directed by Jim Weinzettle and Dave Strong.

 

Performance times are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm with Sunday matinees at 2:30pm at the Hearn Stage in Downtown Alexandria.  Tickets are on sale now at www.cpptheatre.com and will be available 30 minutes before each performance in the lobby of the theatre. Auditions for each show will be held approximately two months in advance of performance dates and will be posted at cpptheatre.com and on CPP’s Facebook page at facebook.com/pg/cpptheatre.  For reservations and more, please e-mail cityparkplayers@gmail.com or call (318) 484-4478.

 

In 2018, Lagniappe Theatre Company marks a decade in Cenla.  From a simple idea written on a notebook while founders Karen and Ross Schexnayder were on tour with the “Smoke on the Mountain” show in the mountains of North Carolina, Lagniappe has evolved to become one of Central Louisiana’s premier theatre companies, offering six productions a year, seen by over 15,000 patrons annually. In addition,  Lagniappe teaches nearly 300 students per school semester while serving 4,000 students at local schools with educational outreach productions.  Through their educational efforts, local talent has gone on to Broadway and lucrative film careers, giving residents not only a high quality theatrical experience, but also a place where parents and children can appear on the stage together in a positive and uplifting environment.

 

Lagniappe Theatre holds to the philosophy that the theatre should be an inclusive place where all are welcome, and strives to build a team atmosphere.  There are no stars at Lagniappe Theatre. Every actor, every volunteer, every person is part of a giant family that cannot work without its other parts.  While the mentality of many in the world is to only focus on making productions, Lagniappe Theatre wishes to create great experiences that lead to great productions.  Lagniappe Theatre is a rarity in being a for-profit theatre company.  Nearly all regional and community theatres in the country are non-profit organizations.  So, without government aid, grants, or financial donations, how does Lagniappe Theatre make the business of theatre happen?  The people of Central Louisiana are the answer.  People are looking for a place where their values are honored, and their entertainment dollar is well spent.  Lagniappe Theatre has made it its mission to serve this community with entertainment that speaks to the residents and patrons.

 

Since its inception, Lagniappe has presented audience favorites like the “Smoke on the Mountain” trilogy, giant musicals such as “Shrek the Musical” (which broke all box office sale records for Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center, seeing a whopping 6,000 patrons during its run), “Sister Act”, “The Wizard of Oz”, and the locally flavored Christmas show, the “Cenla Christmas Spectacular”. Lagniappe’s 10th Anniversary Season includes:  “Disney’s High School Musical”, May 3rd through 6th; “The Jungle Book Kids” on June 1st; “Hairspray Jr.” on June 15th and 16th, “Nunsense”, July 19th through 22nd; “The Little Mermaid”, September 6th through 9th;, “The Foreigner”, November 1st through 4th, and the “Cenla Christmas Spectacular” on December 8th.  For more information about drama classes, auditions, or tickets, please visit www.lagniappetheatre.com.

 

Empty Space Players is LSUA’s theatre company. With an emphasis on acting, and using simple stage settings, Empty Space Players has produced quality productions, from contemporary to classic plays and musicals, to  ancient Greek and classic Shakespeare tragedies and comedies. Offering a major production each semester, ESP draws its talent from LSUA students, faculty and staff, and community participants. All are invited to become involved, whether onstage or backstage, as ESP strives to offer quality educational theatre to audiences in Central Louisiana.

 

Empty Space Players was started by Clay Kirkland in the Fall semester of 1990 as a student club. His goal simply was to start a Theatre Arts program at the university with student-produced shows, eventually building a Theatre curriculum. The first ESP production was in Fall 1990—a double-bill of two one-act plays, “Suppressed Desires” and “Impromptu”. This was followed in Spring 1991 with two full-length plays: “The Rainmaker” in March and “Talking With” in April. Early productions were performed in the Student Center using make-shift lighting. After years of producing shows in any available space or on any available stage in Cenla, ESP finally produced its first production in 2011 on its own stage in the newly constructed Mulder Hall on the LSUA campus. The Black Box Theatre, later renamed the Richard Gwartney Theatre, became the home of ESP. Since its 1990 start, Empty Space Players has been led by professors Clay Kirkland, Jim Stacy, Richard Gwartney, Rhonda Shook, and, presently, Robert Harper.

 

The Empty Space Players 2017-2018 season concludes with the free-to-all “Un-Valentine’s Day Open Mic/Poetry Night” on February 13th, and a production of Yasmina Reza’s biting comedy “Life X 3”, from April 5th through 15th.  For information on how to buy tickets, support Empty Space Players, or to participate in productions—onstage or off—contact Robert Harper at (318) 473-6473, or e-mail esp@lsua.edu. Find and like the Empty Space Players page on Facebook for more company and production information.

 

LBM Productions is a national award-winning theatre company that provides first rate musical theater experiences to students and adults in Central Louisiana! Under the direction of Laine Berry Miller, who holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from the highly acclaimed University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music and is a member of Actors Equity Association, LBM Productions is dedicated to discovering and developing talent in Central Louisiana through training, productions and a Broadway connection. Staying connected with Broadway’s best is important to LBM Productions’ mission. LBM strives to bring Broadway performers to Cenla for performances and workshops, while also providing opportunities for talented local musical theatre students—Louisiana Broadway Magic—to perform and train in professional venues such as Disneyworld and the national Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta. This past January, Louisiana Broadway Magic brought back the trophy for “Excellence in Acting” with their performance of “XANADU, Jr.”

 

LBM’s 2018 Season starts out with “ANNIE, Jr.” Join performers ages 7 through 18 who will bring to life the story of Annie, Daddy Warbucks, Miss Hannigan and all the colorful characters with familiar songs, including “Hard Knock Life,” “Little Girls,” and everyone’s favorite: “Tomorrow”. Performances run March 2nd through 4th at Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center.

 

This summer, LBM Productions offers Summer Musical Theatre Workshops, starting June 4th. “Star-to-Be” camps, for ages 5 through 10, run one week and end with a musical revue. There are two options: Center Stage (June 4th through 8th) and Spotlight (June 11th through 15th). The three-week “Musical Theatre Intensive” camp for ages 8 through 18 runs June 4th through 24th and culminates in a full production of “Pirates of Penzance, Jr.” Camps will be held at the Alexandria Mall, and the final production will be  presented at LSUA’s Richard Gwartney Theatre. Members of the cast of Pirates Of Penzance will be chosen to join Louisiana Broadway Magic as they represent Central Louisiana at the national Junior Theatre Festival in early 2019!

 

Finishing off the 2018 season is a show that will feature a cast of adult, college, and high school students: Mamma Mia! Featuring ABBA’s timeless songs, this intriguing tale of love, laughter and friendship unfolds on a Greek island paradise. Performances will be October 25th through 28th at the Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center.  For information on training, auditions, camps, performances and tickets, log on to www.LBMproductions.net or follow on Facebook.

 

Northwestern State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance is designated a “Center of Excellence in the Arts” for the University of Louisiana System and is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre. The program specializes in undergraduate training in Acting, Directing, Dance, Musical Theatre, Design and Technology. The Theatre and Dance Program produces four to six productions each semester. During the summer, the program offers two dinner theatre productions and a kid’s theatre camp.

 

This spring semester, the department will present the 2018 Spring Dance Concert “The Five Senses”, February 22nd through March 3rd, “A Streetcar Named Desire”, March 14th through 24th and “Into the Woods”, April 20th through 27th. The program will also be host to the American College Dance Association’s national conference/festival, welcoming over 600 college dancers and teachers to the NSU campus.

 

For more information about the program or to reserve tickets, patrons can call (318) 357-4483. The Department’s website, theatre.nsula.edu, also provides a wealth of information about the department, course offerings, productions and pictures from past productions.

 

Spectral Sisters Productions was founded in 2004 by Tammy Killian, then Professor of Theater at Louisiana College.  Tammy and a few others felt that Central Louisiana needed a performing group, primarily made up of women, to do cutting edge theater.  They did several edgy performances, including a wonderful production of “Vagina Monologues” at the former site of Spirits.  In the same spirit, they decided to solicit original scripts, written by local authors, to be produced in Alexandria.  These world premieres began in 2004 with the first SSP Ten-Minute Play Festival.

 

With Tammy’s departure from Central Louisiana, the board changed to include more playwrights, as well as individuals interested in directing, acting and pursuing the goal of development theater (creation and production of original works).  The Ten-Minute Play Festival has continued now for 14 years.  Outside judges were solicited to provide some professional objectivity to the choice of manuscripts.  The result has been a steady increase in the quality of the writing over the years.  An adventurous public has returned again and again to see just what is hitting the stage, sometimes far different in theme and content than other theater productions. This year’s Festival theme is “Coming Home” and the production is set for May 17th through 21st.

 

Although some authors have submitted manuscripts year after year for decades, there has been a constant influx of neophyte writers, some of whom have gone on to become very accomplished.  The SSP organization has always remained a 501(c)3 in good standing and has requested and received numerous DAF grants over the years.  While some board members have come and gone, the goal has always been to “keep the drama on the stage.”

 

The whole concept of developmental theater, while not unique, is generally found only in large metropolitan areas, not smaller communities without major academic institutions.  SSP has nurtured writers, directors and actors, who have all started in the modest format of a ten-minute play, but have gone on to perform full length productions with other regional theaters.  Some of the plays have also gone on to readings and productions outside of Louisiana.  A collection of plays has also been featured in a self-published anthology, “Disparate Voices,” compiled and edited by Dr. Holcombe and available on Amazon.

 

In addition to the ten-minute plays, there has been an annual production of four one-act plays for the last five years.  This more challenging format has also attracted seasoned and novice writers who have produced compelling works for the stage. For more information, visit SpectralSisters.com.

 

Theatre Louisiana College (tlc) has been a valuable source of entertainment in the Central Louisiana community for over three decades.  Its performance space in the Martin Performing Arts Center, constructed in 1992, is one of the largest flexible black box theatres in the nation, with seating of 420.  Recently updated with state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment, tlc is committed to presenting high quality theatrical experiences for students, patrons and the rest of the Central Louisiana Community.

 

Devoted to education and creating lifelong learners, tlc brings the live theatre experience to theatrical artists, young and old, in a safe and nurturing environment.  Theatre Louisiana College promotes community participation, interest and support for the performing arts, and are always looking for new artists of all ages to be involved in their productions in a variety of capacities.

 

This year, tlc and the Louisiana College Opera is capping off its season with “The Music Man”, a musical by Meredith Willson.  This beloved classic is about a con man, Harold Hill, who travels from town to town selling the idea of the need for a boy’s band to keep the kids out of trouble.  “Professor” Harold Hill poses as a band organizer and leader.  His fast-talking charm deceives many of the citizens of River City, Iowa into buying instruments and band uniforms for their sons.  His plans to skip town with the cash are foiled when he falls for Marian, the librarian and town music teacher, who transforms him into a respectable citizen.

 

The public is welcomed and encouraged to be a part of the tlc family as a spectator, performer or patron. Visit tlc on Facebook at Theatre Louisiana College-tlc.  For production or ticket information, contact the tlc box office at (318) 487-7495 or e-mail mattie.crump@lacollege.edu.

 

The Fox Theatre, located in the heart of downtown Marksville, is home to Les Theatre des Bon Temps, Inc., founded in 1976.  The building itself underwent major renovations,  transforming it from an old movie theatre and neighboring grocery store into a community performing arts center, which opened its doors in 1994.  Over the years, the Fox has invigorated the Avoyelles Parish and Cenla community through a variety of comedy, drama, musical productions, and children’s theatre.

 

Currently, the Fox cast and crew are in pre-production for “9 to 5, the Musical” coming in April.  Registration for the Fox’s annual summer children’s workshop production will open on March 1st. The Fox is also excited to offer a variety of live music through their concert series and also host a recurring French Film Series to promote and celebrate the French language and heritage of Avoyelles. Up next in the series is a showing of “Chocolat” on February 11th at 2:00pm.

 

Operating as a non-profit organization, the Fox is dedicated to the preservation and advancement of the Performing Arts by continuing to provide quality theatrical productions and Performing Arts programming for the people of Avoyelles Parish and Central Louisiana, a mission made possible through their “Friends of the Fox” donors and community supporters. There are two big upcoming fundraisers to help financially support the efforts of the theatre. The 6th annual Fox Trot 5K and Fun Run will take place on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, starting and ending at Broken Wheel Brewery in Marksville. Early registration discount deadline is February 16th. New this year is a discounted student entry fee. It’s always a fun St. Patrick’s Day themed event (Irish themed apparel encouraged) with a great after party!  Also, the Fox will host their 2nd Annual Draw Down Gala at Bailey’s on the Square in Marksville on March 24th, which will feature live music by The Side Men, food, a silent auction, and a chance to win $1,000!

 

The Fox Theatre is always happy to welcome new volunteers, talent, artists, technicians and directors. For more information on the Fox Theatre and its upcoming events, please visit their website at marksvillefox.com, call (318) 253–8105 or e-mail marksvillefox@gmail.com.

 

As you can see, the theatre scene in Cenla is vibrant, alive and well.  Be a part of the magic and do your part to join in the collaborative process as spectator, patron, supporter or discover your inner star as a performer. Rediscover for the first time the magic of live theatre. And now, on with the show!