126 Iberia Street    337.364.6114

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PO Box 14105

New Iberia, LA 70562

Webmaster: Teresa Rymer


The theater was equipped with the latest super simplex projectors and 2 RCA high fidelity sound machines. The original owners were Julius Scharff and Elias Elias, which is where the Essanee got it's name (S&E), for the first letters to their last names. It opened to hundreds in November 1937. The theater closed in 1980 and sat dormant for years.

Then local businessman Freddie Decourt began plans for it to become a museum. At the same time IPAL was looking for a new, permanent, home. Mr. Decourt, graciously decided to sell the building to IPAL. Thanks to the Bayou Art Gallery, which closed and divided up the moneis from sale of its building among area charities, several thousand dollars was donated to IPAL for the down payment. On October 31, 2001 the building became property of the league.

Then the hard work began, the process of bringing the building up to code. IPAL members joined forces the first weekend in November to start cleaning the seats, washing the walls, and cleaning the bathrooms. Most of the work was done through volunteers and professionals brought in only when needed.

The building contains many of the original theater seats, which had the gum on them to prove it. Scraping off fifty years of gum was not an easy task. Also, the seats had to be oiled which was a slow task. Every theater needs a stage, and the Essanee's original stage was way too small and not functional for IPAL's needs. Work began on a large, beautiful hard wood floored stage. It was quite an undertaking. The original sloped floor in the building was kept, and the stage had to be constructed on that very floor. Along with the stage on the to-do list was carpeting, fixing up the restrooms and installing a handicapped restroom. Lots of painting was done. Also, seat cushions were added to the wooden seats to make them comfortable. A restroom and changing areas were added backstage. Another feature not part of the original building was hallways from backstage to the lobby so actors and support crews can go from one end of the building to another without being seen by the audience. A state of the art sound system and lighting system were installed.

Today, though there is still work left, IPAL has brought the Essanee back to its former glory.

The building, at 126 Iberia Street, is one of the restored jewels of the historic district. It can seat up to 200 people to be entertained by one of IPALs plays, talent shows or another IPAL production