McNeese Banners: Your guide to the 2023 season

Published 12:15 pm Friday, January 20, 2023

By Mary Richardson

The 2023 Banners Series at McNeese State University will take place between March 4 and April 29, and Director Brook Hanemann promises it will both begin and end “with a bang.”

The season’s first performance will be the high energy Tartan Terrors, which Hanemann describes as “a fun fusion of Celtic rock music, comedy and step dancing.” The final performance will be equally high energy with an international award-winning one-man show, “Nashville Hurricane” by guitar and acting savant Chase Padgett.

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In between there will be blues, classical music, family shows, puppets, lectures, and an extensive outreach program into area schools.

Hanemann says she is personally thrilled about the third return to Lake Charles by Texas blues singer Ruthie Foster. Foster first came to Lake Charles during the 2006 season following Hurricane Rita and literally blew out the power on a make-shift stage in the now demolished American Legion building. She returned in happier circumstances, and now will make her third appearance on March 31.

“After years of being told how wonderful she is by Banners volunteers, I was finally able to see her live at the Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival,” Hanemann said.  “I was simply blown away by her strong soulful vocals, her phenomenal musicians, and by the way she was able to engage with her audience. Everyone left feeling blessed and grateful for having shared her moving performance.”

The series will include two family shows. The full puppet show, “Moonlit Princess,” will creatively retell a Persian fairy tale that delivers a wonderful message encouraging kindness on April 2. And a small-scale musical production of the Wizard of Oz will give an intimate rendition of that classic tale on April 19.

Two programs will be familiar to patrons of past Banners Series. The acclaimed McLeod Lecture series will be revived on March 9 and will be filmed in the Lake Charles Civic Center for later broadcasting opportunities. The annual Works on Paper art exhibition will open with a free reception for community participants on March 23.

There will also be a number of notable “firsts.” For the first time, the series will present a Family Film Night on the lawn in front of Bulber Auditorium. “We’ve never before made use of this lovely space, lined by our historic Oaks,” Hanemann said. “We think it will be lovely.”

The Flamethrowers are responsible for two more “firsts.” First, they will be the first Banners performers to play in McNeese’s beautifully renovated large-scale venue of The Legacy Center. The second ‘first’ is that they will do a concert/dance party. Before the Flamethrowers take the stage, audience members will be invited to learn a few standard cross-genre dance moves, which they can then test out during the performance. “Word on the street is that there may be some swing dancing and line-dance action in the works, too,” Hanemann said.

Hanemann says she is personally excited about the final performance of the season on April 29 — the international, award-winning, one-man music show Nashville Hurricane, starring Chase Padgett.  “I was lucky enough to see Nashville Hurricane before it went on tour a few years ago and the power of its humor, heart, and uplifting joie-de-vivre message still resonates with me,” she said. “I am so glad we can bring this show to Lake Charles.”

The Banners Series is supported through ticket sales to individual programs, season memberships, grants, and corporate sponsors. Reed Mendelson, a long-time sponsor of the Banners Series, has offered another “first” for Banners. He will personally treat all first responders, elders of age 80 and above, and children age 12 and below to a free ticket to each event in the entire series. Patrons interested in this gift will report directly to the box office on the day of the show. Immediate admittance will be given for events at Bulber and the Legacy Center. Any available seats at the smaller venue of the Tritico Theatre will be released ten minutes before curtain.

Hanemann, who is known (even revered) for reciting the entire list of sponsors by heart before each performance, says, “We are extremely grateful. It is impossible to overstate how important our sponsors are…they are the businesses, individuals, and organizations who deeply care about raising the quality of life in our community.” She noted that individual and corporate sponsors also enable Banners to bring free, year-round outreach programming, workshops, and master classes to area schools and organizations.

The season will include:

Members-Only Kickoff Reception

March 2, 7 p.m, The Legacy Center Kleckley room

This event is open to all 2023 members, as well as anyone who would like to enjoy a free reception in the Kleckley room overlooking the newly renovated basketball arena as they sign up to become a Banners 2023 member.


Saturday, March 4, 7 p.m, Tritico Theatre, $20

The Celtic invasion of the Tartan Terrors blend the energy of a rock show with humor and stepdance. The group makes Celtic music fun and accessible to any audience, while upholding a proud tradition.


Thursday, March 9, 7 p.m. The Lake Charles Civic Center Contraband Room, Free

The McLeod Lecture Series was founded in honor of Bill McLeod, former legislator, judge and Southwest Louisiana community leader. This long-running series is dedicated to presenting timely, as well as historical, aspects of Louisiana politics and efforts to promote a climate of good government. The lecture will be filmed for future viewing. Free reception to follow.


March 10, 7 p.m.  Tritico Theatre, $20

Born in South Florida to a Jamaican father and Barbadian mother, Malcolm, 23, and his younger brother Umoja, 20, learned to play violin through South Florida’s public school system, then attended Dillard High School for the Performing Arts. These brothers are now the Sons of Mystro, and they use their violins to interpret reggae classics, American pop songs and their own creations, accompanied by a DJ & a drummer. They have won the Emerging Artist under 21-years-old award at the International Reggae and World Music Awards, and have produced their debut recording, “Reggae Strings.” Sons of Mystro will also be treating our area youth to a an inspiring strings master class and these students will play with them on stage for an encore performance.


Saturday, March 11, 7 p.m. $10-$20

This live concert is presented as a soundtrack to a montage of silent films by one of the most lauded inventors of cinematography, George Méliès (1861 – 1938). It is the musical brainchild of Jean-François Alcoléa who has created a show where a multi-layered, evocative and intricate score complements and interprets the otherwise silent films. The trio of virtuoso musicians are almost a show in themselves, as they conjure music from an extraordinary array of instruments ranging from a traditional piano to plastic take-out lids.


(Documentary Short and Filmmaker Talkback): Saturday, March 18, 7 p.m. Hardtner Hall, Free

The war in Ukraine is the subject of filmmaker and United States Army Chaplain, Justin Roberts. He will discuss his documentary short which chronicles the dying art of war journalism, and tell stories of his work with veterans who were on the front lines in Ukraine. Questions will be welcome.


Thursday, March 23, 6 p.m. Shearman Fine Arts Grand Gallery, Free.

The 36th Annual McNeese National Works on Paper Exhibition will run March 23 – May 5. A free reception will commence at 6pm, and the Juror’s Talk and Awards will be presented at 7pm.


Saturday, March 25, 7 p.m. Tritico Theatre, $20

An elite member of the prestigious Steinway Artist Roster, Spielberg has had a half billion streams of her music across the globe. Her newest album is a tribute to the Broadway Musical, “Give My Regards to Broadway.“ Spielberg is one of America’s most popular contemporary female pianists/composers. She has performed in such prestigious environments as Carnegie Hall, the Seoul Arts Center, CBS Saturday Morning, PBS and NPR. In addition to her stage performance, Spielberg will travel to one of our local elder homes for a free concert. She will also present a free outreach workshop at McNeese State University designed to help performing artists overcome performance anxiety.


Sunday, March 26, 2 p.m. Riverside Park, Free

This lecture and interactive performance by husband-and-wife team Tom Styrbicki and Victoria Bradford will bring to life the voices of people living along the Mississippi River. Drawn from first-hand accounts gathered on a journey from the Mississippi River’s headwaters in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, these stories tell a narrative people in Southwest Louisiana can relate to—how lives are shaped by water. Questions are welcome. Free reception to follow.


Friday, March 31, 7 p.m. Tritico Theatre, $20

Ruthie Foster is a four-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter who mixes a wide palette of American song forms, from gospel and blues to jazz, folk and soul. She developed her vocal talent in worship services at her community church, and has been influenced by legendary artists Mavis Staples and Aretha Franklin. However, she has always marched to the beat of her own drum, and has developed a unique sound that cannot be contained within a single genre. Rolling Stone describes her as “pure magic to watch and hear.”


Sunday, April 2, 2 p.m. Tritico Theatre, $20/$10 kids

The Moonlit Princess is a full-staged puppet show based on a Cinderella-like Persian fairytale. It is directed and designed by multi-disciplinary puppeteer artist Afsaneh Aayani, who received a BFA in puppetry from The Art University of Tehran and then moved to Houston where she became an avant-garde puppeteer.  The story follows Little Mah as she loses her parents and faces many difficulties, all while choosing kindness and, in the end, finding herself. From magical ghouls to talking frogs, all the elements of fairytale classics come together in this family-friendly and whimsical play, suitable for adults and kids ages two to 100!


Thursday, April 13, 7 p.m. The Legacy Center, $20

This group started in Lake Charles, and then became a premier event band of the entire south. Founded in 2005 by vocalist/guitarist Joseph Darbonne, the band has grown to include vocalist/guitarist Logan Fontenot, vocalist Dominique Darbonne, bassist Taylor Lee, drummer Chad Townsend, and keyboardist Wesley Royer. Before they take the stage, lessons in new dance moves will be given to people willing to stretch their dance boundaries. Plus, there may be opportunities to join in a little line dancing and swing.


Friday, April 14, 6:30 p.m., Free

Banners is inviting people to grab a blanket and meet up on the beautiful oak-lined lawn of Bulber Auditorium on McNeese campus for this open-air movie viewing which will be presented in partnership with the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury. Movie title to be announced at a later date.


Wednesday, April 19, 7 p.m. Bulber Auditorium, $10 / $5 kids

This one-hour
adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, the classic tale that has been entertaining audiences for ages, features six actors, the
Munchkins as puppets, one flying monkey and a funny witch. So rediscover the joy of following the yellow brick road with Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion as they travel through a reimagined world of Oz.

It was originally adapted, designed, and directed for New York’s Vital Theatre Company by Michael Schloegl. Perfect for two- to seven-year-olds.


Friday, April 21, 7 p.m. Bulber Auditorium, $20

Mames Babegenush unleashes a sonic crossroads where east unexpectedly meets…north! The band consists of young Danish musicians and it has fused the artists’ strong Scandinavian roots with elements of jazz, vibrant dance music and the klezmer traditions of eastern Europe. The music ranges from the contemplative ambiance of Nordic snowscapes to the lively weddings of Romania. It exudes a sense of both poignant melancholy and irresistibly danceable exuberance. Mames Babegenush is now established as one of Europe’s premiere klezmer-jazz ensembles; awards includes the Danish Music Award for Best World Album and three awards from the prestigious International Jewish Music Festival in Amsterdam.

6 Hearts

Wednesday, April 26, Bulber Auditorium, 7 p.m., $20

Behind this glorious fusion of Celtic and Acadian music with an edge of rock and roll, lies a story of the healing power of music. Only a year ago, these musicians were members of two separate groups, Vishtèn and The East Pointers. They often played together and were both scheduled to be part of the 2023 Banners Series, together. Then each group lost a member to death. The remaining four found comfort in hanging out and playing together – and they soon realized that they had created something great through the spellbinding power of music: Four hearts converging in mesmerizing contemporary traditional music, strengthened by the two hearts that remain with them in spirit, are now Six Hearts.


Saturday, April 29, 7 p.m. Tritico Theatre, $20

Hear and experience the recounting of how a mysterious acoustic guitarist appeared from nowhere, conquered the music industry, and vanished without a trace… until now. Chase Padgett becomes a manager, a mother, a mentor, and the guitar prodigy himself as all these people tell their side of the rise, demise, and resurrection of “the best damn guitar player you’ve never heard of — the Nashville Hurricane.” The audience learns about Henry Waltrip (the Nashville Hurricane) from his humble trailer park beginnings alongside his white trash mother, Brenda, to the crazy gigs on the road with his blues playing mentor, Tyrone. The tale tells the riveting dark side of show biz, augmented with blazing guitar work. Padgett will also conduct an outreach workshop on musical and theatrical improvisation.


Tickets to all Banners concerts are available at the door. However, the most economical way to see the shows is through a membership. Banners offers three memberships: the Philanthropist ticket — two tickets to everything for $150 (a value of $420); the Individual Membership – one ticket to everything for $80 (a value of $210); and the popular All-Access Package – two tickets to everything plus two guaranteed tickets to the wine and food event, Rouge et Blanc, to be held in the fall (a value of $720).

Memberships are available on line at or by calling the Banners Series office at 337-475-5123.