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PO Box 14105

New Iberia, LA 70562

Webmaster: Teresa Rymer


The Iberia Performing Arts League or IPAL as it has become known, held its first membership drive on July 14, 1998 and was incorporated July 23, 1998. IPAL received tax exempt status on July 23rd also. The play Cheaper by the Dozen, a dramatization by Christopher Sergel from the book by Frank Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey was selected as IPAL's first production. Leigh Simmons agreed to direct with Norma Lester as assistant director. Auditions were held on July 27th, 29th, and 31st in the building behind Todd's Car Wash. When over 60 young ladies showed up to try out for the four roles of the Gilbreth girls, Norma Lester suggested we add some pre-show entertainment. This gave an additional thirty-two would-be actors a chance to get on stage. Todd's Car Wash became our first PARTNER IN THE ARTS as IPAL members, under Todd Lemaire's direction, volunteered their time to build and paint sets while the cast began to practice at another member's house.

Troy Leleux, a local artist, designed and painted a seven-panel backdrop for the preshow. The singers and dancers practiced under the direction of Twinkle Ruff and Norma Lester. When the set was erected the cast rehearsals moved to IPAL Hall as the space behind Todd's became known.

Three days before the play opened, everything was moved to the Sliman Theater on Main Street in New Iberia. Cheaper by the Dozen combined with the entertainment of the 1920's songs and dances that kicked off each performance, involved 50 actors, one dog, and a host of support staff. We were thrilled to be the first production in the Sliman Center for performing arts and as the Mayor said on opening night, "This is history being made." Cheaper by the Dozen ran for eight performances October 1-4 and 8-11. That paved the way for many more great seasons of plays. On January 1, 1999 Ms. Leigh Simmons became the official executive director of Iberia Performing Arts League. Todd Lemaire remained as President with Fred Comeaux as Treasurer, and Lynn Derouen as Legal Council. In June the Daily Iberian joined IPAL as a PARTNER IN THE ARTS. At the urging of many IPAL members, we began work on our first musical when You're a Grand Old Flag was added to the year's program. There were 55 actors involved and they ranged from age 7 to 70. The Children's Workshops started with acting classes in June of 1999. They performed Twelve Dancing Princesses July 16th and 17th. Twenty-one children were on stage for this performance.

On October 31, 2000, IPAL bought the Essanee Theater from Mr. Freddie Decourt and began the renovation process to bring it up to code. The last play in the Sliman was an acting classes production of Shakespeare Unbound. Acting classes performed the first play in the Essanee, Roomers, practicing in the midst of drilling and hammering. The building was brought up to code just in time for the play. The first regular season play in the Essanee opened to much more fanfare. A Grand Opening Gala was a huge success, the opening night for More Than Meets The Eye in October 2001, nearly one year after the purchase of the Essanee. Also in 2001 IPAL was chosen as The Daily Iberian's man and woman (organization) of the year. IPAL was very grateful for the honor. Work continued, and still continues on the Essanee, while wonderful plays and musicals are being performed to entertain the community. IPAL wishes to thank each and every person who has helped out with the organization.

IPAL History Essanee