After a particularly rough year enduring Louisiana storm weather, the city of Lake Charles has opened the doors of the famed ACTS theatre to the community, according to this article from The Advocate.
Many of Lake Charles’s cultural structures and institutions had sustained significant damage from the four natural disasters that have hit southwest Louisiana this past year. Despite much of the outside world seeing Lake Charles as a working-class town mostly comprising industrial plants and casinos, the oft-forgotten cultural structures are left behind in the conversation but not in the damages sustained.
The smaller Lake Charles theatres, though not as profitable as the industry that leads the city’s GDP, often bring a sense of community and spirit to the city’s population of roughly 80,000 people. This includes music venues, art galleries, and other performance spaces throughout the city limits for the area’s collection of zydeco musicians.
But as of Fall 2021, the arts are alive again in Lake Charles as a production of a musical, 42nd Street, has premiered in the ACTS Theatre, standing as the first play the former movie house has “put on” in over a year. Mike Ieyoub is one of the lead actors in the production of 42nd Street, and just before a recent rehearsal began for the show, he assessed damages that the theatre had sustained from Hurricane Laura and worried about the likelihood of reopening the theatre to the public. “We looked around and we didn’t think we’d get it reopened,” Ieyoub told The Advocate.
He and Kristen Harrell both play leading roles in 42nd Street, and they both commented on the audience’s excitement for the theatre’s return as well as the cast’s. They attributed the anticipation to the fact that dramatic performances in a theatre are symbolically representative of a return to normalcy for audiences, and they provide an outlet for cast members as well. Harrell said, “for a lot of us who grew up doing it, myself included, it’s like, ‘I can tap again;’ coming back together and just having fun.”
The cultural affairs director for the city of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Matt Young, said the following regarding the resilience of the city and its residents in light of the past years of storms: “living in Lake Charles is kind of tough these days, but I think the more that we’re able to restore our festivals and fairs and open our cultural institutions and attractions, the better chance we’re going to have of keeping our residents, and not just keeping them, but giving them a great quality of life.”
Over the past few years, Lake Charles has put in noticeable efforts to address some of the citizens’ concerns that certain neighborhoods and structures in the city have been neglected for quite some time. These efforts include the creation of the Nellie Lutcher Cultural District in the northern area of the city through the use of tax incentives. This creation of a district named after the famed Lake Charles jazz singer and pianist is an effort to spur new development in this area of the city.
Another effort supported by the city is to construct a new performing arts space, and given that the Lake Charles Little Theatre had sustained heavy storm damage recently, it will soon be demolished. Randy Partin is the former president of this once-operating theatre, as it’s the second-oldest performing group in the state, having established itself in 1926, but due to the scheduled demotion, Partin has aligned his goals with the city’s. He founded the Live Arts Venue Alliance in an effort to lobby for and support the establishment of a new performance space in the city.
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