Heart of Louisiana: Liberty Theater

In the 1920's the southwest Louisiana town of Eunice got it's own vaudeville theater. The old building has been through a lot over the last 90 years, but lately it's been leading the revival of live Cajun music.

In the 1890's, a former sheriff C.C. Duson drove a stake in the southwest Louisiana prairie and founded a new town that he named after his wife, Eunice. Today, Eunice with its downtown Liberty Theater, is leading the say in saving its Cajun heritage.

The music is a Saturday night tradition. A live 90-minute show is broadcast on local radio and cable TV and the entire program is in French.
One of the old-timers is Goldman Thibodaux who leads the Lawtell Playboys in a traditional form of Creole music

"Creole music, it got a touch of Blues, a little Blues," says Creole musician Goldman Thibodaux.

Thibodaux says the Saturday nights shows came along at a time when his music was dying out. He enjoys its new popularity.

"You got to love what you're doing. But you got to play with a lot of feeling, sing it will a lot of feeling. That's what the music is all about," Thibodaux said.

He tailors his songs to the dance floor. The more they dance, the more he plays. Fenrick Manuel has been dancing to Cajun music all his life.

"I'm 83 years-old and I'm still going strong . We enjoy coming. We enjoy visiting with friends and dance and have a good time," Cajun dancer Fenrick Manuel said.

The Liberty Theater opened in 1924 as a vaudeville house. They showed movies there for the next half century before it closed in the late 1970's. Then the city of Eunice bought the property, and in 1987 it reopened as a Cajun Performing Arts Center.

The audience is always a mixture of Cajuns and visitors from around the country and world.

"People come from all over the world for the food, the music and the language and just the culture of the people," Cajun musician Drew Simon says.

Simon is part of the next generation of Cajun musicians.

"On the weekends my dad would listen to it. Actually my grandpa was a swamp pop musician. He would sing in French a few songs. I heard it all my life," Simon recalled.
But it wasn't until Simon started playing Cajun music that he learned to speak the language so he could sing the songs.

"It's the music that belongs to Cajun people. It belongs to us, only us."

"I'd like to do it for a long time to come. Keep doing it. I love what I'm doing," Thibodaux said.

"It's a heartfelt music. It's a music that my ancestors played and it's all up to me. I have to keep it going," said Simon.
The music lives in the voices, in the accordion and fiddle in the steps of the dancers.

It lives in the hearts of those who learned it from their fathers, and those who now perform for a new generation.

The Liberty Theater in Eunice has been featuring the live Cajun shows every Saturday night for the past 23 years.

The admission is only $5. The theater is located next door to the Jean Lafitte National Park's Prairie Acadian Cultural Center. For more information,

go to http://eunice-la.com/libertyschedule.html or http://www.nps.gov/jela/prairie-acadian-cultural-center-eunice.htm