About the Essanee
The History of this Old Theatre
The Essanee Theater opened on November 23, 1937. Owned by Julius Scharff and Elias Elias, the theater took its name from the first two letters of their last names: S & E. Designed in the Art Deco style by Owen Southwell, the state of the art theater featured the latest Super Simplex projectors, and two RCA high fidelity sound machines. The building was “air conditioned for both winter and summer, thermostatically heated, cooled by refrigeration.” The Essanee showed its last feature film, City Limits, on November 28, 1985. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew severely damaged the roof and interior. In 2000, local businessman Freddie DeCourt purchased the Essanee and stabilized the building with the hope of turning it into a museum. At that time, Iberia Performing Arts League (IPAL) was looking for a permanent home. On October 31, 2001, the theater was purchased by IPAL. IPAL continues restoration of the building even as it presents performances year round. It really is...
“Broadway on the Bayou.”
Each month the IPAL board meets to discuss how to make our little Broadway on the Bayou better with each show. The following board members volunteer their time and talents to help make IPAL a successful community theater.
Charlie Robertson President
Favorite IPAL production: Oklahoma
Dream show you'd love to do at IPAL: Les Misérables
How you first got involved at IPAL: Bo Belanger practically drug me to the Essanee to be in Oklahoma. Doc Voorhies, the director, made the production so much fun that I decided to give IPAL a chance.
How long you've been involved at IPAL: Since 2008
Favorite IPAL production: Chicago
Dream show you'd love to do at IPAL: Moulin Rouge
How you first got involved at IPAL: I was a freshman in high school, and we were in the middle of rehearsals for our production of Annie when a few cast members mentioned they were heading to IPAL after school to audition for Wizard of Oz. I tagged along but had no intention to audition myself, as I was entirely too nervous. At the very end of auditions, the director was wrapping up and asked if everyone had auditioned, and I just jumped up and said I wanted to audition. I read and sang for Dorothy, and I got the part!
How long you've been involved at IPAL: I’ve been with IPAL going on 13 years now! I’ve loved every minute of being a part of such an incredibly loving and supportive theatre family and community.
Favorite IPAL Production: Side by Side by Sondheim
Dream show you'd love to do at IPAL: Pippin
How you first got involved at IPAL: I got involved with the youth musicals starting with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as the Elvis Pharoah.
How long you've been involved at IPAL: My first show with IPAL was in 2014.
Favorite IPAL production: Really SO hard to pick but I’ll go with SPAMALOT! All we did was laugh!
Dream show you'd love to do at IPAL: Company
How you first got involved at IPAL: Fred Comeaux was doing auditions for Send Me No Flowers. I auditioned and got the lead. Michael (my husband) came with me as moral support. When Mr. Fred saw him sitting there, he made him read for the male lead. He got the part! So much fun!
How long you've been involved at IPAL: 22 years!
Favorite IPAL production: My favorite was my first, Jesus Christ Superstar, not only because I have loved that score since I totally wore out the albums from playing them over and over in my college dorm room, but also because I got to meet and work with the incredibly talented and KIND people of IPAL. As a “Newbie” each and every person was so giving and inclusive. IPAL is truly a family that embraces everyone.
Dream show you'd love to do at IPAL: Don’t have a “Dream Show” but would like to see serious social commentary, such as Doubt by John Patrick Shanley or Radium Girls by D.W. Gregory.
How you first got involved at IPAL: While I was visiting my daughter, who had moved to New Iberia, I went to see IPAL’s Man of La Manch0 I was totally bowled over by how incredible the show was. When my husband and I moved to New Iberia, Katherine Caffery was doing JCSS and I thought, “Well, maybe they will let me be in the chorus.” I was cast in the chorus (and got to be a leper) and have been blessed to be part of several show since!
How long you've been involved at IPAL: Since we moved here, five years ago.
Favorite IPAL production: How do I pick? From the very first IPAL play in which I performed, Double in Diamonds, to the current production of The Music Man, I have enjoyed every one of them. I suppose if I had to pick one it would be Jesus Christ Superstar. Because that show is a rock opera, in which every line is sung, I had to learn how to sing, and I had been in love with the show since it was first released on vinyl. It's a magnificent version of the Christ story, and we pulled it off splendidly, in my humble opinion.
Dream show you'd love to do at IPAL: I have a couple of dream projects I would like us to do at IPAL, both musicals. Full disclosure, my desire to do both of these shows is because there are dream roles for me in both of them. Cabaret is probably familiar to most from the 1972 screen adaptation, which contained two romantic plot lines involving young couples. However, in the stage version, the secondary romance involves an older couple, Herr Schultz and Fraulein Schneider. The Schultz character is Jewish and performs my favorite number in the whole show, "Meeskite," a song about a homely Jewish boy who finds happiness with an even homelier Jewish girl. My second dream show is more recent, Something Rotten. It does to Shakespeare what Spamalot did to the legend of the Round Table. The character I would like to play is Nostradamus, a cousin of the historical figure of the same name, who possesses psychic abilities not quite up that of the famous Nostradamus. He takes center stage when he predicts that the next big thing in theater will be musicals.
How you first got involved at IPAL: A community meeting was held at what was then Armand's Restaurant, where Lettice and Loveage had been staged. It was that production, sponsored by a senior citizens group, that had inspired local theater lovers to organize a new community theater group. I signed up on that very date. I had previously been involved with New Iberia's former theater group, Encore Theater, which became defunct after just a few years, and had gotten involved heavily with Abbey Players and, to a lesser extent, with Lafayette Community Theater during the years when we had no local theater organization.
How long you've been involved at IPAL: Since its inception on July 14 (Bastille Day), 1998.
Favorite IPAL production: Hairspray! The music, dancing, and message just never get old to me.
Dream show you'd love to do at IPAL: Catch Me If You Can
How you first got involved at IPAL: I started with the children’s summer musical, The Little Mermaid, and I’ve been hooked ever since!
How long you've been involved at IPAL: I’ve been involved for 7 years now!
Favorite IPAL production: Spamalot
Dream show you'd love to do at IPAL: Sweeney Todd
How you first got involved at IPAL: I took my son to see Beauty and the Beast at IPAL and saw the Chicago auditions advertised in the program. I LOVED the show and HAD to audition!
How long you've been involved at IPAL: Since 2012
Favorite IPAL production: Anything Goes
Dream show you'd love to do at IPAL: Les Misérables
How you first got involved at IPAL: I went to a small, private school with no theatre program. However, in high school, I became friends with several choir students at NISH who convinced their director to let me audition for one of her shows. The entire cast of that show went to see Oklahoma at IPAL. After that, I had the theatre bug and accompanied those same friends to audition at IPAL.
How long you've been involved at IPAL: I first auditioned way back in 2009!