Stagebackers are Lafayette’s newest playmaker _lowres

Photo by PATRICIA GANNON -- Mitu Dasgupta, left, and Suzan Allen are part of Stagebackers, a new group whose mission is to promote quality community theater in Lafayette.

Almost famous? Not yet.

Nearly rich? Hardly.

The motives for Stagebackers are much simpler. It’s all about love of the theater.

Six former members of the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana decided to take their creative talents in a different direction when PASA elected to join with the Acadiana Center for the Arts.

“All of the arts in the community seem to have a grassroots base of support,” said Don Johnson, president of the fledgling organization. “What we want to do is help fund the community theater. There’s a big gap in Lafayette.”

Vice President Mitu Dasgupta is a former PASA member with 30 years theater experience and arts patron Suzan Allen is treasurer, while Elizabeth Bernard and Mike Castille coordinate events. Michael Myers, screenwriter and co-producer of “The Whole Wide World” (starring Vincent d’Onofrio and Renee Zellweger) takes care of the treasury.

“We’re always in agreement (about the arts), and we wanted to be together,” said Allen.

So active is Allen in the community that some saw Stagebackers as another one of her startups.

“But there’s so much talent here,” she said. “The fact they’re (actors) giving up their time to practice day after day, you can’t ask for a more altruistic way of contributing to society. When you see this you want to help them.”

The mission of Stagebackers is to promote quality community theater and fund those with limited financial resources. It has already funded two projects — one for Cité des Arts and another for Theatre 810. Allen says children’s programs are also heavy on the new organization’s financial agenda.

“What an audience sees is often the result of great sacrifice,” explained Dasgupta. “For actors to stage performances, rights to plays have to be bought, costumes acquired, and, while theatre tickets are reasonable — often $10 to $15 for local venues — mortgages, utilities and printing costs must also be considered. For a theater community to thrive and to foster a creative environment there must be summer classes for children and teachers’ stipends as well.”

“They (actors) have limited resources,” Dasgupta added, “but their passion for theater is unlimited.”

Stagebackers welcomes new membership and those interested may join for as little as $25 as officially designated ‘Divas.’ ”

“We wanted to be a little theatrical,” said Dasgupta.

An entertainment cruise on the Vermilion River is their next major fundraiser scheduled for fall and will feature a Lee Michael’s raffle. Guests will gather at Rotary Point where boats will cruise down to three homes — Dr. and Mrs. Frank Anders, Mr. and Mrs. Justin Back and Dr. and Mrs. Sam Schuffler — all of which will have entertainment, cocktails and cuisine by local restaurants. On Aug. 11, Cane Fire Film Series will present We Are the Best, at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, also sponsored by Stagebackers. Reservations can be made through AcA.

“What you do in Lafayette doesn’t stay here. Actors go to fringe festivals and show their performances to different audiences. If another city wants to see it, perhaps Stagebackers can help. We’d like to educate Lafayette about theater so they can support it and in return, we’ll give back to the community,” said Dasgupta. “Little drops of water make an ocean, but we have to fill the pool first.”

For those interested in membership or cruise tickets, contact P.O. Box 53133, Lafayette, LA, 70505. Tickets are $75 per person. Stagebackers is a nonprofit organization, and all proceeds go to the community theater.