We traveled past bayous and sugar cane fields along US 90 to the heart of St. Mary Parish, Franklin. A place where everything happens under the lamp posts. Beautiful moss-draped oak trees and antebellum homes along Bayou Teche still proudly sit like you’ve stepped back in time 100 years or more. Lifelong resident and new mayor Eugene Foulcard says he’s not going anywhere.
“There’s no place like home,” says Foulcard. “Franklin has always had my heart. My family has been here for well over 100 years. This is home, this is the place that I want to raise my family, there’s so much to offer. beautiful landscape.”
The city really is a magical place. It’s facing some challenges, but Franklin is ready to overcome!
“We have something unique to offer. We have a very good community,” says Foulcard. “We have some things that are unique and diverse, It’s all under the lamp posts.”
One of those unique places is the Teche Theatre. Ed “Tiger” Verdin, grew up in Franklin. He believes the arts will revitalize his community.
“The arts, the community theaters, we’re economic engines,” says Verdin. “We’re that jewel. We are here to make the place a little bit better!”
The theater opened in 1940 with a Charlie Chan movie, seated 800, had top of the line equipment and sound. It was the first ever to be cooled.
“They would bring in blocks of ice and they hooked it up to this system here which is an air vent and they would use a fan and the ice to create an air-cooled system,” says Verdin.
The theater opened and closed and lost it’s roof to Lili in 2002. But, today, it shines playing host to a number of events. Those who return have memories to share.
“The first movie I saw here was Star Wars,” says Verdin. “There’s a lot of people they may not be into theater and then somebody will coax them into coming, and when they walk in, they say “Oh my God! I haven’t been here since the 80s!'”
Verdin has found a passion for the theatrical arts. But that wasn’t always the case.
“My theater class teacher Mrs. Diane Wiltz was handing out scripts, and when I opened it it had a name on it, and it was the main character. I said, ‘Mrs. Diane, you gave me the wrong script.’ She said, ‘no it’s the right one.’ And I said I can’t do it, but she said it was for a grade!
History runs deep in the theater, the good and the not so good. As Verdin points out in the balcony area of the theater where a wall used to separate the space.
“There was segregation and this used to be a wall that separated the black families from the white families. Our former board member Tyra Yarber recently passed away. He actually had the pleasure of tearing down the wall. It’s not a pretty reminder, but it does go back in history.”
Fast forwarding to today, Verdin says the theater has become an all-inclusive place.
“It’s about how we treat people. We take you as you come,” says Verdin.
The theater is about generations working together.
“My youngest son played Tiny Tim and my wife played Mrs. Cratchit. My middle son played a Cratchit child, and the baby was a Cratchit child. And my oldest son played Young Scrooge. That’s what this place is, it’s built on family.”
And they continue to look toward the future. The hope of the Teche Theater is that others from around Acadiana will make their way to Franklin to produce and see shows.
“We want to be THE playhouse of Acadiana,” says Verdin. “We think we’re one of the most beautiful playhouses in Acadiana if not Louisiana!”