After being itinerant since 2012, Southern Rep Theatre has a permanent home in the former St. Rose de Lima church (2541 Bayou Road). Last weekend, hundreds of thespian supporters and talents turned out for the company’s grand opening in its new 7th Ward digs.
The 13,000-square-foot theater complex includes three performance spaces: a 125-seat main stage, a 74-seat Lagniappe Stage in the lobby by the bar, and an outdoor stage. Troi Bechet, Ramshackle Revival, Reba Douglas, Latonia Dupree Black, Malaysia Black, Liza Rose, Whitney Mixon, Clint Johnson, Brice Miller, and others performed at the grand opening party.
Many original elements of the circa-1915 Gothic Tudor church remain post-renovation, including stained-glass windows and vaulted ceilings. Rose Community Development Corp. partnered with Alembic Community Development for the renovation and redevelopment of the three-building campus, which now houses the Waldorf school, Southern Rep Theatre, and a coworking space.
Artist Langston Allston painted a triptych mural of black Union Army soldier Capt. André Cailloux, whose funeral took place at the church.
The venue’s bar, Sanctuary, was built from the church confessional’s wood.
The main stage was dressed for The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated play about young female soccer players. The state-of-the-art theater did not compromise any of the church’s original elements, because it was designed as a building within a building.
“We basically inserted a box with a top on it into the interior of the church,” Mike Grote, director of building programs for Alembic Community Development told Preservation Resource Center New Orleans. “We wanted to leave the church structure intact, so we fit it in very carefully without touching the walls or columns.”
Southern Rep brings more varied offerings to its 2019 season, which include workshops and music, drag shows, and circus cabaret performances.