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Jamie Norwood

The Southern Rep Theater has been a home for local playwrights, actors and artists alike for the last 25 years. Southern Rep was a professional theater from the get-go and a great venue for other companies in need of a professional stage.

Southern Rep’s production of “Spring Awakening” this month, however, will be the last show on the stage it has called home for the past 25 years – the lease is up on the Canal Place property.

“For many years, our company has benefited from a very positive relationship with our landlords at Canal Place,” the Southern Rep staff wrote in a Jan. 9 press release. “And we are grateful for their ongoing support of Southern Rep. Due to recent growth within Canal Place, our space will change hands next month, February 2012, and will no longer operate as a live performance venue.”

Artistic Director Aimee Hayes acknowledged the challenges of finding a new home for Southern Rep but has high hopes that the change will benefit the theater in the long run.

“We were always aware that this would happen,” Hayes said. “But this could be a new opportunity to be bigger and better, so we’ve been reaching out to the community.”

The theater’s announcement upset the community, as the Southern Rep family prides itself on its collaborations with local organizations. In past years, the theater has worked hand in hand with the Contemporary Arts Center, the New Orleans chapter of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and other local theater companies. Southern Rep has even worked with Mardi Gras Krewes.

In honor of Ruby Bridges, the first black student integrated into an all-white New Orleans elementary school in 1960, the theater annually awards $10,000 to a local female playwright of color. The selected playwright is also given her own workshop and opportunities to hold readings in New Orleans and New York.

“What’s really important to me is how we [reach out] to the community,” Hayes said. “We try to find people to heighten awareness. Seeing a play can brighten your horizons and enlighten your life.”

Though the future of Southern Rep is unclear, Hayes said, they hope to relocate soon. Until Southern Rep finds a permanent home, the company will be launching fundraisers and accepting donations.

The staff is currently looking for temporary venues for next season. The theater plans to finish this season at Canal Place. The company has two shows left this season, one of which is the famous favorite “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“We’re still in discussion with many folks as to what would be the best thing for Southern Rep,” Hayes said. “Everyone’s been very helpful and generous in offering solutions. But we haven’t found a solution yet, so we don’t know what’s going to happen.”


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