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!

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