The backstage drama over the fate of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre roiled on last week as the theater's support guild obtained a temporary order halting the sale of 60 percent of the building by the Le Petit board of governors to restaurateur Dickie Brennan. The hearing, scheduled for June 23 in the courtroom of Judge Kern Reese, was postponed at the last minute until June 29.
Throughout the process, the amount of the sale hasn't been publicly disclosed, but Cassie Steck Worley, head of Le Petit's board of governors, told Gambit the deal was for $3 million — 60 percent of $5 million, which was one of two appraisals of the building made since Hurricane Katrina. (A 2011 appraisal in relation to the Brennan deal was not made, she said.) The building has a $700,000 mortgage, held by Capitol One bank, and needs an estimated $1 million in repairs.
Worley estimated the theater's current monthly expenses to be $5,000 for the note, $2,000-$4,000 for utilities and $1,500-$2,000 for insurance. She estimates total operating costs for the building to be $20,000 per month. She adds that the Brennan deal is the "best solution" because it not only addresses immediate and long-term monetary issues but allows the board to continue to own the theater.
Worley said the board is not entertaining any more offers.
Meanwhile, on June 21, the guild held a rally at the Columns Hotel, which was attended by subscribers, supporters and several prominent members of the New Orleans theater community, including actors Becky Allen, Heidi Junius and Vatican Lokey. At the rally, organizers displayed a petition they said had been signed by 1,650 theatergoers opposed to the deal. In the audience was a prominent sign reading "LE PETIT FILET?" — a poke at the proposed restaurant-theater combo. District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, in whose district Le Petit stands, attended in what she said was "a listening capacity."
At the rally, guild members complained they had called a meeting of the full board, in accordance with the theater's bylaws, but nothing had been done. (Nowhere in the bylaws is a deadline for such a meeting to be held once requested; Worley says they are waiting until July, when board member Bryan Batt returns from a trip to Australia.) Nor was the guild satisfied with City Council president and board member Jackie Clarkson's assurance at a press conference two weeks ago that the board struck "the best deal possible." (Clarkson is a veteran Realtor.) "What is this, a Ray Nagin deal?" Allen said at the rally. "We don't want 'Dickie's on the Square.'"
Le Petit's next season is set to begin in fall 2012. — Kevin Allman & Will Coviello