Since losing their Canal Place home in 2012, Southern Repertory Theater has existed as a traveling theater troupe.
Last Thursday, Southern Rep announced its new home will be in a revitalized St. Rose of Lima Church building in the historic Bayou Road corridor of Treme.
“This historic building is the perfect home for Southern Rep Theatre,” said Aimée Hayes, Producing Artistic Director for Southern Rep Theatre. “It offers everything we have envisioned in our search for a permanent space.”
The new 13,400 square foot theater complex will feature a 125-seat Main Stage proscenium theater, plus a 65-seat Lagniappe Stage that is convertible to a cabaret or black box configuration, and a rehearsal room.
“We’re also excited about an outdoor stage right out here,” Hayes said at the press conference, held right in front of the church building. “Before every performance, there’ll be a mini free performance of music, of theater, of kids doing fabulous things that the audiences and the community will be able to enjoy before each show, and that’s all capped off by a fabulous bar and café.
“We’ll also be able to bring our offices and our storage and our shops, everything in one place,” she added. “My staff is the most intrepid gang of amazing people and they drive all over the city to make Southern Rep Theater happen, and the idea of being in one place is just a beautiful thing for all of us.”
The theater complex will be part of the new 47,000 square foot Bayou Treme Center, a project of the Rose Community Development Corporation, Broad Community Connections, and Alembic Community Development, which will renovate the long-vacant church campus into a hub for the performing arts in the city and a cultural anchor on Bayou Road. The project partners anticipate that construction will begin in 2017, with a projected opening date in 2018.
“The Bayou Treme Center will be another catalyst in this renaissance helping to anchor investment in supporting the amazing small business owners who are already here,” said Jeff Schwartz, executive director of Broad Community Connections.
The history of the Treme corridor of Bayou Road starts back in pre-colonial times, when Native Americans used it to carry goods between the river and the lake, and has seen countless stories play out over its centuries of existence.
“Now it’s going to have a new life of telling more stories and telling everyone’s story as we move forward, so this is an exciting day,” said Michael Grote, director of building programs for Alembic Community Development’s New Orleans office. “I don’t think we could find a better group to take over this building and really carry it on through the next century.”
“The prospect of making theatre at this historic crossroads of New Orleans is inspiring and humbling for us,” said Hayes. “The theater is more than just making plays, and this is something that we all feel so strongly about at Southern Rep Theater. It’s about starting conversations, it’s about instigating change, it’s about supporting the community that you’re in, and with our doors always open, we look to expand our programming for things like opportunity youth programs, or expanding what we do for new play development for the artists in the city, or offering homes for independent theater companies that need a place to work.”
In looking for its new home, “it’s fair to say we’ve been very cautious along the way,” said Dr. Bernie Jaffe, president of Southern Rep’s board of directors. “We waited for the right fit. Though we’ve had other opportunities, none of them have compared to this. We found the right neighborhood and site for us to be on here on Bayou Road to start the second and most important chapter of our existence.”