During its run at Le Chat Noir over the past year, the comic soap opera Debauchery drew a regular crowd. One character, Taffeta, always speaks of herself by name or in the third person, and if she doesn't mention her proclaimed and self-important title, the audience provides it: "International super model."
Audiences will have to follow the productions to Southern Rep in June. Two serialized evenings of original local theater logged their final shows at Le Chat in May. Pat Bourgeois' Debauchery occupied the second Wednesday of the month, and the six-pack of short plays 6x6 filled the third (those days may change at Southern Rep).
"Wednesday night was a question of what can we program on an off night and see people become patrons of the new scene?" says Mark Routhier, who scheduled shows at Le Chat on behalf of a partnership with Southern Rep during the past year.
The switch in venue quietly marks several changes. The partnership between Le Chat and Southern Rep has ended. Routhier will work with the NOLA Project on a production of Romeo and Juliet in August, and he will teach and direct in Orlando, Fla., in the fall. Southern Rep brings the two shows to its home at The Shops at Canal Place, and both are scheduled through June 2012.
Le Chat will conclude its programming with a big weekend of cabaret performances in early July before closing for the summer. Proprietor Barbara Motley has put the building up for sale, and the cabaret's future is uncertain. She describes that decision as personal and not financial, and she may operate the cabaret without owning the property.
"I don't think Le Chat is just going away," Motley says. "It's just going to look a little different."
Le Chat has hosted national cabaret performers including Karen Akers, Jason Graae and Andrea Marcovicci. It also has been home to Ricky Graham and productions by Running With Scissors and All Kinds of Theatre. With its new play festival and productions like Debauchery and 6x6, it's also been a home to young local writers and actors. When 6x6 started, Routhier collected eight writers who would each produce a 10-minute play about a common theme for a given night. Eventually the pool expanded to 17 writers. The last installment was dedicated to Le Chat — the evening's theme was "Life's Wonderful in Here." The best-attended installment featured Hubig's Pies as a theme. When the company found out about it, it sent a box of pies for the audience.
Regardless of what happens to Le Chat, Southern Rep will be open more nights in the coming year. But the theater scene is experiencing two diverging trends. Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre's and Le Chat Noir's futures are uncertain. (Le Petit cancelled its 2011-12 season in November 2011.) But there is a growing community of active young theater companies and writers, and many have produced work at Le Chat in the past year. Even with the uncertainty of local theater houses, Routhier plans to return to the city following his stint in Florida.
"There's a burgeoning young theater scene in New Orleans that's really exciting," he says. "It has every potential to explode — in a good way."