PRINCESS THEATRE - Raising the Curtain: April 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010


I've posted before about other restored theaters, and what we've learned from visiting them. Now we have discovered a success story that followed the pattern we hope will make the Princess Theater a center of entertainment for our area. It's the "Historic Liberty Theatre" in Eunice, Louisiana.

The Liberty Theatre has its beginnings way back in 1920 when local business men joined forces to erect the first brick theater in Eunice. Unfortunately, their plans fell on hard times, and the building stood as a shell until 1924 when new life was breathed into the dream of A. F. McGee. Sr. and J. Claude Keller.

The Liberty enjoyed great success over its entire existence, due, in part, to McGee and Keller's promotional expertise. That success remains to this day.

Eunice, under the direction of its’ Mayor, Curtis Joubert, purchased the theatre in 1986 and after restoration and renovation. Mayor Joubert created a program and made the theatre the home of the internationally acclaimed “Rendez-vous des Cajuns” Cajun Music Radio & TV Show. The first show was performed at the Liberty Theatre on July 11, 1987 with performances by Chuck Guillory, Papa Cairo and the Rhythm Boys, The Church Point Playboys and humorist Craig Soileau. Dr. Barry Ancelet was the Master of Ceremonies and has continued as the emcee for the Cajun Music Radio & TV Program every Saturday night at 6:00 PM since that first show on July 11, 1987.

The format of the show is based on the Louisiana Hayride, Prairie Home Companion series and the Grand Old Opry and features performances by bands and interviews by an emcee on the Cajun culture, origins of music and language. The first few rows of seats were removed to provide a dance floor in front of the original stage. It is truly, a unique and one-of-a-kind family experience. The “Rendez-vous des Cajuns” Cajun Music Radio & T.V. Show is held every Saturday night at the Liberty Theatre, starting at 6:00 pm and ending at 7:30 pm.

There are other events during the year, like the annual tributes to Hank Williams, Sr. every December/January, and the musical about his life once a year called "Lovesick Blues: An Evening with Hank Williams!" As you can see above, the house is packed!

We've been in contact with the Liberty Event Coordinator, Ginny Moody, and she has invited a group of us down to check out the theater, lessons learned, the town, and to eat some local Cajun food! She had me at Cajun food! Do I hear..."ROAD TRIP!"

It shouldn't be long now before you will notice workmen on the roof of the Princess. The roof is the first stage of the restoration and that will signal the start of the fruition of the dream!

The plan for the Princess Theater is to also host "live" shows in the main auditorium and they will be aired on Roane State managed and operated Channel 15 through Comcast, and out over their radio station. The hope is that we will have groups that will make the Princess their home base, with bookings of various other traveling groups.

Having an auditorium and an associated radio and TV station is quite unique for restored theaters. The Princess will join the elite ranks of those like the Liberty Theatre that does! What a wonderful thing that will be for all of us.

I was asked again just the other day, "When will the Princess start showing movies again?" The answer again is...she won't! She will be a stage play and music venue theater folks. Oh, there may occasionally be a locally produced and shot movie, but it will never be a commercial Hollywood movie theater again. Believe'll be glad of that to!

Never again will you hear, "There's nothing to do in Roane County." There will be plenty to do and see!

If we (Gary, Chris, Dr. Ahler, and more) make the trip, I'll post photos of everything we see AND EAT!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


"What? What is going to happen?"

"Something wonderful."

*The character Dave Bowman, in the movie "2010", speaking to Dr. Heywood Floyd and telling him of "something wonderful" that's about to happen. Isn’t it the same with spring each year…something wonderful does happen!

That's kind of the way I felt last weekend. So many wonderful things were going on in and around Harriman, that I had a sense, and I think those around me had similar feelings, that "something wonderful" was about to happen. Something so unique and so good for us all that you could almost feel it in the air.

Spring seemed to break last week, and my wife and I enjoyed a part of the "Dogwood" trail in the Fountain City area. Everything was new, fresh, green, colorful, and alive! It made us feel new and alive too!

Back in Harriman Saturday we took in the "Cruisin' in Harriman" (2nd Saturday each month), the first one of the 2010 season. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood and all the cars were freshly washed and waxed. People milled about Roane Street once again and passed hopefully under the Princess marquee. Like me, they wondered about what the future would bring – about the new spring season and about the Princess.

Having been to 2 or 3 "Cruisin's" previously, I was shocked to see that 90% of the cars present last Saturday were new to me. I had no idea there were that many classic and hot rod enthusiast in the area. Therefore, you cannot say "if you seen one, you've seen'em all!"! There will always be something new and unique to see.

Down at Roane State, Bill Landry finished his 3rd performance as Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird", and then celebrated his 60th birthday with his wife Becky, the cast, crew, and the audience. He too seemed excited about the good things happening around him, and about the kindness of Roane County folks to stick around after the play to wish him “Happy Birthday”!

What is it? What is going to happen? Well, I don't know officially, but I do know that the TVA money has been received, and that the contract with Frank Sparkman has been “gone over with a fine-toothed comb”. So, it could only mean that our Princess should soon be receiving a brand new spring bonnet, and then soon after she will be redressed in a brand new fresh dress. Her dress should resemble her original frock, but underneath it will be supported by the latest in modern fire protection and technology. She will once again be ready to entertain us with live shows and events!

No, she will not be ready by the previously promised fall 2010, but will probably be ready about three months later than first thought.

I don't know about you, but as long as I know spring is coming, and I can see its first hints, I can wait for it! Just knowing our Princess will actually be restored is enough for me...I know it will happen! I know something wonderful is about to come true!

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