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FoSL and Columbia Theatre partner for cabaret

By London Taylor
On January 31, 2017

The Friends of Sims Library and the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts will be working together to host “Breakfast in Paris, Martinis in Manhattan: a Cabaret.” The cabaret will be held on Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. in the Columbia Theatre Conference Center.

Executive Director of the Columbia Theatre Roy Blackwood gave a brief description on what the cabaret will consist of.

“Raynel Shepard, a highly successful vocalist from Boston, New York and New Orleans, will cast a spell over anyone who hears her,” said Blackwood. “Harry Mayronne is to be the accompanist and is also a master puppeteer. There will be a few marionettes on display. Ticket holders will receive two signature cocktails, designed by Jacmel Inn, and the performance consisting of two 40 minute sets and an intermission. The music will consist of tunes popular in Paris and New York. There will be an additional cash bar. Seating will be club style with tables for two and tables for six. Tickets are $40 in advance and not available at the door. People can go to our website, That will link them to the Sims Library website and purchase tickets online.”

Blackwood shared that there may be a possibility of the two partnering in the future.

“There may possibly be a series but that is only in discussion,” said Blackwood. “It depends upon the communities’ response.”

Library Director Eric Johnson described what will happen with the proceeds of the fundraiser. 

“Both the Friends of the Library and the Columbia Theatre will share the proceeds from the cabaret,” said Johnson. “The Friends group raises funds to support the collections and programs of Sims Library, and the Columbia Theatre uses such funding to provide quality entertainment for the community.”

The event will be the first cabaret that Blackwood and Johnson planned together. Blackwood described working with Johnson. 

“I’ve worked with the erudite and enthusiastic Eric Johnson on many projects including the ‘Let’s Talk Art Series’,” said Blackwood. “I’ve attended other events organized by Friends of Sims Library that he has chaired such as the very successful FoSL wine tasting event and others. Eric is thorough and thoughtful in his organizing skills. So, we work well together, and we joke a lot.”

The cabaret will be the first event of the spring semester for the FoSL.

“Next up for Friends of Sims Library is the annual Member’s Tea on March 4, which features a full afternoon tea with an author presentation,” said Johnson. “This year’s tea features Poppy Tooker, popular food writer and host of WWNO’s ‘Louisiana Eats!’ We’re excited to start off our spring events with a cabaret since it kicks off the year with something fresh and new for us and Hammond.”

Shepard approached Johnson with interest in setting up a musical performance. 

“I brought the idea to the Friends of the Library board, and they agreed that it would be a great opportunity for the city,” said Johnson. “Although something similar has been done here before, this is the first time in a number of years that an actual cabaret is being presented. The Columbia Theatre seemed to be the perfect venue for the event since it’s a more intimate setting to celebrate these cherished songs.”

Blackwood described what guests should expect from the cabaret event.

“For a very modest sum patrons will receive the gift a reminder of the eternal and evenhanded power of beauty, an experience that inspires us deeply,” said Blackwood. “Music, as all good art, initiates a conversation between our cognitive self and our hearts encouraging a discourse that both comforts and brings joy. Why would one not want to exchange a few dollars for that feeling?”

Johnson first came to Blackwood with the concept of this event two to three years ago.

“From the first time I saw the Conference Center at Columbia Theatre, I have wanted to present an intimate musical experience in the form of a cabaret,” said Blackwood. “It has taken this long to put the details together. We had to build a business plan identifying the components and assign tasks to a group of volunteers. The venue is flexible so a plan to design the space for this purpose had to be pulled together and, of course, a budget laid out.”

For the cabaret, Blackwood shared what attire is recommended.

“Typically, one would dress for a fancy night out,” said Blackwood. “Club wear or business casual are fine, but the world is more casual than ever before so patrons should dress for comfort. If one comes in a tuxedo or gown, he or she may be the only one. Surprise us.”

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