French for "The Little Theatre," Le Petit is one of the oldest continuously operating community theatres in the United States. Founded in 1916 and in its present French Quarter location at St. Peter and Chartres streets, Le Petit offers a year-round schedule of six to eight mainstage productions annually.
The theatre started out as a small group known as the Drawing Room Players, so named because they originally performed in the drawing room of one of the members. To accommodate ever-growing audiences they later rented space in the Lower Pontalba Building fronting on Jackson Square and, by 1922, they were ready to move into even larger quarters.
The theatre’s present site at the corner of St. Peter and Chartres streets was purchased, the structures facing St. Peter Street were removed, and the present theatre building was constructed. Noted architect Richard Koch designed it in authentic Spanish Colonial style. The corner building, reconstructed in 1963, has a long history, dating back to the Spanish colonial period in 1797.
The Theatre Today
Recently reopened after extensive renovations, the fully-equipped theatre has a seating capacity of about 450. The corner building now holds reception rooms, offices, dressing rooms, and a Children's Corner theatre with a capacity of more than 120.
Performances range from re-stagings of Broadway classic musicals to premieres of new works written by local residents as well as internationally renowned playwrights. It also hosts special events at various times of the year, including seminars and stagings during the annual Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival.
All the performers at Le Petit are volunteers, in accordance with the charter designating it a community theatre, though many are professionals in music, dance, TV or other performing arts. Productions staged by a professional staff and auditions are open to all.