Curtain time is not always an easy moment when you operate a theater on the edge of a bayou. At the Bayou Playhouse in Lockport, about a half hour away from Thibodaux, guests wait for the theater doors to open on a deck that overlooks Bayou Lafourche. A few times, Perry Martin, the theater’s founder, recalled show time had to be delayed. The guests were too engrossed with a group of alligators hanging out nearby. Only after the gators disappeared into the night could the show begin.
Upon entering the theater guests might notice that the numbers on the chair are not in sequence. That’s because the seats came from the pre-renovated Saenger Theater in New Orleans. Martin recalled seeing a work crew piling the discarded chairs outside the theater. When Martin asked how much the seats sold for, a worker told him to get his truck and take what he needed. Martin needed a small theater’s full.
Quirky to the max, it would be easy to dismiss the Bayou Playhouse as a rural spoof of real theater, except for the fact that it is not only very real, but a very good theater. A recent production of Driving Miss Daisy won great reviews. The three performers were all well-known in the New Orleans area theater community.
Janet Shea (Miss Daisy) has been a longtime fixture on local stages. Pretending to be driving Miss Daisy was Lance Nichols, performing the role first popularized by Morgan Freeman. Nichols was one of the fixtures in the HBO series, Treme, in the role of dentist Larry Williams. Spud McConnell is an area radio personality who has drawn audiences with his one-man show of Huey Long. The cast was so high-faulting that Perry Martin faced another obstacle, beyond alligators.
The performance the following Saturday night was going to have to be rescheduled because both Nichols and McConnell had movie calls.
Getting quality actors takes connections and commitment, and Martin, a longtime veteran of theater who openly jokes about his sight problem, has had great vision.
For any town, having a community theater is an amenity that makes your town a little better, a little more civil, especially if the town provides support. To date the Bayou Lafourche community has helped disprove what many thought would never work.
Alligators will still delay the openings from time to time, but not always. On another night the theater crowd was captivated by a different spectacle. No matter how good your theater is going to be, it is hard to compete with eagles.