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Blake Pontchartrain: What’s the history of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre? 

The community theater will turn 100 years old in March

click to enlarge Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre has been in its present location since 1922.

Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre has been in its present location since 1922.

Hey Blake,

In the French Quarter, the Little Theatre is known and loved by its French name, Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre. What can you tell me about its history?

Robin

Dear Robin,

  The Little Theatre, which is nearing its 100th anniversary, originally was formed in March 1916 as the local chapter of the Drama League of America. A year later, the group of 20 or so theater lovers who gathered in their homes to read plays or act them out for their own fun began calling themselves the Drawing Room Players.

  "We started out as a small group of people interested in private theatricals, and we met at the Garden District home of Mrs. Abe Goldberg," founding member Martha Robinson said in a 1976 Times-Picayune interview. "We had no money, so we each put up $2 and we bought books so we could read the plays."

  In 1919, the group set up shop in an apartment in the Lower Pontalba building in the French Quarter. With the more established home came a new name: Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre. In 1922, with a membership of 1,700 patrons, the group purchased the building at 616 St. Peter St., which has been its home ever since.

  Much of the credit for the group's early success goes to founder Louise Nixon, who served as the theater group's president for 30 years. Two other names that loom large in Le Petit history are Ethel Crumb Brett, who spent 40 years designing sets and costumes, and Stocker Fontelieu, who served as executive director for more than 25 years.

  The theater once was the oldest continuously operating community theater in the United States but gave up that title when it closed for renovations in 2012. To help its financial footing, Le Petit sold a portion of the theater space to Dickie Brennan and Company, which now operates the restaurant Tableau in part of the building. The theater once again is staging a wide range of productions.

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