Behind the stage at the Essanee Theater is a wall of photographs. Each frame is a memory of a play or musical previously performed at the theater and is kept as a timeless treasure for all to enjoy. Ask Iberia Performing Arts League Board President Charlie Robertson about the wall and he is more than happy to retell the stories behind the photos.

Robertson, a New Iberia transplant, was born and raised in Panama City, Fla. He attended college at Troy University in Alabama before moving to Baton Rouge for his first job with Herff Jones, which is a company that makes school-related products. He was later transferred to Kansas City where he worked in management but was able to move back to Louisiana in 2008 for another job with the company, this time based in Lafayette.

Around the time he moved back to Louisiana is also when he became involved with IPAL, he said, after two of his friends brought him along to see a play.

“I knew I was hooked, and I knew that I wanted to be more involved,” he said.

Robertson estimates that he has been involved with about 30 shows, in one form or another.

“I like to be on stage, but I‘ve really, really come to love directing. And that’s really been what I’ve been doing most of the past couple of years is directing,” he said.

Robertson said that at IPAL, one must be an assistant director for a play or musical before being a director for one. He was the assistant director for the recent production of the musical “The Producers,” and is set to be directing his first musical next year, “Kiss Me, Kate.” Having assisted and directed plays in the past, his next play to direct is the upcoming “The Odd Couple,” which will open in late May.

“My favorite part of all of this is that I’ve gotten to know people that I never would have known if I had not been involved with the theater, with IPAL. I have some friends that I’ll treasure for life because of the theater,” he said.

Robertson compares the experience of being a director of being like an artist making a painting.

“You start off with a blank palette and you create a set, you create your costumes, and you create how the actors will act on stage and how they will perform. So, you’re really creating art,” he said.

The first play he directed was about five years ago, “Barefoot in the Park,” which had a cast of six people. This play was one of his favorites, he said.

Looking forward, Robertson said the theater is looking to make some upgrades such as a new lighting system that will be installed sometime this summer and improving the bathrooms.

“I’d like people to know that this really is a jewel for Iberia Parish. We hope that more people will come see our shows — we have a good attendance, but it could be even better – and I’d like to see more people get involved with the theater, not just behind the curtain but also in front of the curtain, more volunteers,” he said.



Emily Enfinger is the managing editor for The Daily Iberian. Follow her on Twitter at @EmilyEnfinger.