by Kevin Allman
In an email this evening, Motley said she and her husband Biff Motley, a longtime executive with Whitney Bank, have put 715 St. Charles Avenue on the market, though the theater inside (a separate business owned by the Motleys) will remain open at least "until a buyer emerges." The theater is currently booked through June with several productions, according to Motley, including Ricky Graham's Renew Revue and Varla Jean Merman's The Loose Chanteuse.
In a statement, Motley said, "This is of course bittersweet news to most people. ... So many have put so much into builidng Le Chat Noir into the comfy little theater it has become. But life stops for no man, woman or business. My staff is committed to having a great time and continuing to welcome artists/patrons and to meet expectations."
Since its opening in 1999, Le Chat has become one of New Orleans' most vital theaters, presenting local original work as well as national cabaret entertainment from New York. For several years, Le Chat held a playwrights' festival for up-and-coming writers; in recent years, the theater entered into a partnership with Southern Repertory Theatre. It was the first stage to reopen after Hurricane Katrina with Graham's show, I'm Still Here, Me!, and has presented work by nearly every producing company in the city, from All Kinds of Theater to Running With Scissors. It has been the recipient of the Best Theater award many times in Gambit's annual Best of New Orleans poll, and its Bar Noir, with its red walls and black-and-white tiles, was a hangout for actors and other performers.
The sale and possible closure is another blow to New Orleans' performing community, which was rocked in December when Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre, the country's oldest community theater, abruptly canceled all its upcoming productions midway through its 95th season, leaving its future in doubt.
Le Chat is closed for Carnival parades this weekend; it reopens Sunday with a revival of Graham's durable Mardi Gras comedy, ... And the Ball and All.