Before it was turned into a Julia Roberts movie, I saw a production of the play Steel Magnolias at Le Petit Théâtre and, although it must have been more than 25 years ago, I remember it vividly to this day. I had always been a fan of Le Petit, but seeing that distinctly southern play in that distinctly southern theatre was especially fitting. Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré has been a fixture of the French Quarter for nearly a century; as a not-for-profit theatre, it’s fortunate to have a group of loyal supporters who have been instrumental to its livelihood. Just recently, a devoted group of Le Petit mainstays steered the theatre through a phase that, while tumultuous, resulted in exciting transitions. With Dickie Brennan’s Tableau Restaurant and a beautifully renovated theatre, Le Petit seems to be changing its stride – and Artistic Director Maxwell Williams is poised to guide the theatre into its next phase.
Having been involved in theater since middle school, Williams’ conversations are peppered with easy references to everything from Greek Tragedy and Shakespeare to the movie Home Alone (if you meet him, ask him about being in the choir scene of that movie). Though originally from Los Angeles, Williams comes to New Orleans by way of the New York City theater world and the award winning Hartford Stage in Connecticut. Listening to him tell it, it seems that the path of his career has been touched by an element of serendipity. Together with his talent, happy accidents have helped him land in the right places at the right time — New Orleans and Le Petit included. Though he has only been here a short while, his understanding of and appreciation for New Orleans is clear; he has embraced our city and is committed to the mission of Le Petit.
As part of that mission, Le Petit is dedicated to providing educational outreach. A couple of years ago, longtime Le Petit champion Cassie Worley (who, among many other accomplishments, has served as both the theater’s Board Chair and Artistic Director) launched a program that brings young students from across New Orleans into the theatre. Currently, Le Petit is collaborating with students from The Good Shepherd School to mount a production of The Jungle Book. Clayton Shelvin, Le Petit’s Education Director, works directly with the students and is resolutely passionate about the program. He has been teaching the kids in the cast for two years, and it’s quite clear in the way he describes them that he has a sincere respect and affection for them. I have a hunch that all who see this production of The Jungle Book will be rewarded with a magical performance.
Our French Quarter theatre may indeed be petite, but that’s not stopping it from making a big difference.
For ticket information about this or any other production, visit LePetitTheatre.com, email boxoffice@lepetittheatre or call 522-2081. Between its outreach programs and the quality of the plays it produces, Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré plays an important role in our community.
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