After living in New Orleans for two years Dave Hurlbert was looking for a warehouse where he could play his piano and have a big desk on which he could lay out his papers related to his work as a freelance branding consultant. When he passed the Holy Trinity Church building at 725 St. Ferdinand Street with a homemade for sale sign, he was immediately enamored with the building. On July 14, 2011, Hurlbert and partner Scott King bought the church and began making plans to restore the building and turn it into a new work space.
Then Hurlbert was approached by Kristen Evans of the Fringe Fest who wanted to host some of the festival events at the church. With the performance of dance, theater, and comedy events during Fringe Fest 2011, a new concept for the old church took seed in Hurlbert’s mind. Though Hurlbert was already leaving his doors open to any members of the public who might desire to stumble in and see what lay inside the previously abandoned building – or to hear him play his piano – he decided to take his ownership of the church in a new direction.
Hurlbert would continue to restore the old building, but rather than using it primarily for his own personal use, he decided to transform it into a space where the community could come together to participate in art making and performances. And so the concept of the Marigny Opera House was born.
Hurlbert’s concept for the Marigny Opera House is that it will serve as a non-denominational church of the arts. Building on the 150 year history of the church building, the Opera House will serve its community, providing an artistic and spiritual resource (and hopefully performance venue) as well as hosting 12-step recovery programs, writers groups, Artist’s Way workshops, and sacred singing and movement workshops.
Though Hurlbert still needs to resolve zoning issues – the church is zoned as a private residence, but Hurlbert needs a permit for public access in order to carry out the activities at the Opera House as planned – in the meantime, the Marigny Opera House Foundation will sponsor arts and culture events remotely such as the First Annual Puppet Festival New Orleans, which will be co-sponsored by the Mudlark Public Theater and held at the Old Iron Works on March 29-April 1, 2012 as well as an upcoming modern dance choreography competition.