Decisions made in Washington, D.C., have a local impact, and Roger Hernandez knows that all too well.
Hernandez is president of the Thibodaux Playhouse, which presents shows in the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. This past Saturday’s performance of “Gladys in Wonderland” was canceled because of a federal government shutdown.
The shutdown began early Saturday after a partisan dispute over immigration and spending. The Senate was expected to vote today on a plan to reopen the government.
Hernandez said his organization can’t use the theater as long as the building is closed. Friday’s performance – the first of the year – saw a packed house, he said.
“It was very well-received,” he said. “Everyone was really happy with it, and the performers were really looking forward to a full run. Unfortunately, that looks like it’s not going to happen.”
The theater seats 200. If the remaining performances are canceled, Hernandez said, the playhouse stands to lose close to $18,000 between expenses and lost ticket sales.
During the last federal government shutdown in October 2013, the Thibodaux Playhouse was locked out of the building for two weeks and lost a show’s entire run. Cast members are usually only available for the dates they originally agreed upon, Hernandez said, and other venues must be booked months in advance.
Hernandez said the playhouse would eventually like to have its own building, but that’s a long-term goal.
“The park rangers that we deal with, they bend over backward to help us out,” he said. “It’s not them, and it’s not the people in New Orleans. It’s the people in Washington. We do have a really good working relationship with the locals here.”
Lafourche Parish Public Library Director Laura Sanders said she wasn’t sure yet how the shutdown might affect library headquarters, which are also housed at Jean Lafitte.
Terrebonne Parish President Gordy Dove and Lafourche Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle both said they weren’t aware of any effects on the parish governments.
“The Housing Authority gets some federal money,” Dove said. “Short term, it wouldn’t hurt the Housing Authority. Probably long term it may.”
Services such as air travel, federal court, mail, Medicare, Social Security and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are expected to continue as normal at least in the short term.