Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Le Petit Theatre fires entire creative staff

Posted By on Tue, Mar 10, 2009 at 8:40 PM

The board of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre, the 93-year-old community theater adjacent to Jackson Square in the French Quarter, has fired its entire artistic staff, confirms former board member Gary Solomon, Jr. Let go after a board meeting last night are a few of the biggest names on the New Orleans theater scene, including executive/artistic director Sonny Borey, artistic/musical director Derek Franklin, and choreographer Karen Hebert, as well as six other paid employees. (Correction: Solomon says the layoffs are limited to five employees: Borey, Franklin, Josh Palmer, Linda Wegman, and Andrew Carmon.)

“Pick a name and they’re gone,” says Solomon, whose company, The Solomon Group, will be operating in the role of interim general manager as the theater attempts to reorganize. “It was a hard decision.”

Buffeted in recent years by financial woes, Le Petit has nonetheless been a mainstay of the local theater scene, presenting season after season of comedies and dramas mixed with the splashy musicals that are the theater’s trademark. Le Petit’s next production, The Little Dog Laughed, continues to be scheduled to open Apr. 17, but the future of its planned big summer musical, The Producers (a Borey/Franklin/Hebert collaboration), is less sure, according to Solomon.

“Every role will have to become a contract role until we regain our financial footing,” Solomon said this afternoon. “We’re going to have to assume the roles of everyone. Right now I’m working actively with our lender. The reality is that we’re not so far behind on our interest payments, but we have to be able to sustain the cost of it to allow the bank to finance it, and it’s not currently a sustainable business model.”

The firing of Borey in particular is likely to send shock waves through the theater community. Borey, founding captain of the Krewe of Orpheus and a mainstay of the local theater world for more than 40 years, came aboard at Le Petit 10 years ago and was seen as an artistic director who spared little expense to entertain an audience. Under his control, the theater began presenting slightly edgier material, including modern musicals like The Full Monty, Rent and last summer’s sexed-up revival of Cabaret.

Solomon, who resigned from the board in order to assume temporary managership, says that he’s going to pursue an aggressive, immediate campaign of “serious fundraising,” including a benefit concert by board member Bryan Batt to be scheduled in early April.

“It’s very sad, but very necessary,” Solomon said of the firings. “But there’s not all doom and gloom.”

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