Banners: 2024 cultural series runs March 1-April 26

Published 4:34 am Thursday, February 22, 2024

By Mary Richardson

The McNeese Banners Series will present 15 events during its 2024 season, beginning on March 1 and concluding on April 26. Programs will include a variety of musical and theatre productions – ranging from the iconic Americana duo of Trout Fishing in America to an Ethiopian band –  plus special family events.

Memberships are $80 for one ticket to each event or $150 for two tickets. Special All-access memberships, which include two tickets to the wine and food event Rouge et Blanc (Oct. 5, 2024) are available for $500. Information on membership is available on the web site

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Tickets to individual events are $20 and available at the door or through the website. Several events are free.

For the first time, all educators from any school, plus academic staff and administrators, will be given free tickets to any event, courtesy of a donation from long-time sponsor Reed Mendelson, Jr. Productions are also free of charge to all McNeese and SOWELA students with I.D.

This year’s season will include:

Friday, March 1

Broadway’s Next Hit Musical  – “The Phony Awards,” McNeese’s Bulber Auditorium, 7 p.m. $20.

Broadway’s Next Hit Musical presents “The Phony Awards”, the original improvised awards show! Master improvisers gather made-up, hit song suggestions from the audience and create a spontaneous evening of music and comedy! The audience will vote for its favorite song and watches as the cast turns this Phony Award-winning song into a full-blown, improvised musical. Patrons have the option of dressing in their red-carpet finest. It will be followed a free reception and artist meet-and-greet.

Thursday, March 7

Ugly Duckling by LIGHTWIRE, Rosa Hart Theatre in the Lake Charles Event Center, 7 p.m. $10

Lightwire Theater has been featured as a semi-finalist on NBC’s America’s Got Talent and is the winner of Tru TV’s Fake Off. The group combines theater and technology to bring stories to life in complete darkness and is internationally recognized for its signature brand of electroluminescent artistry.

Based in New Orleans, Lightwire Theater create and delivers innovative theatrical experiences to audiences worldwide, including Hong Kong, Estonia, Canada, Belarus, China, Abu Dhabi, and as finalists on My TF1’s, The Best Le Meilleur Artiste in Paris.

Schools and homeschoolers interested in the free 10 a.m. performance can contact Outreach Coordinator Brittany Menard at

Friday, March 8

Anything Goes – a Musical, Romantic Comedy by ACTS Theatre, Bulber Auditorium, 7 p.m. $20.

Anything Goes, a musical production with music and lyrics written by Cole Porter, debuted on stage in 1934. With some character updates and minor adjustments to the storyline, this timeless story onboard a cruise ship is as hilarious as ever! The passenger list runs the gamete with mobsters, stowaways, imposters, wealthy class, struggling class, along with some questionable officers and crew members. Come out and enjoy this local production with a stellar cast of characters. Free reception to follow.

Sunday, March 10

Yesterday and Today: An Interactive Beatles Experience, Bulber Theatre, 7 p.m. $20

Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience is the nation’s most innovative and unique show utilizing the works of the Beatles. The band, anchored by brothers Billy, Matthew and Ryan McGuigan, will leave the song choices completely in the hands of the audience. Request cards filled out by audience members prior to the show will be collected, and two minutes before the show begins, a set list will be created based upon the requested songs. Every show is different, every show is interactive, and every show will prove that The Beatles music truly is the soundtrack to our lives. Free reception to follow.

Thursday, March 14

Bob Cooper’s Untold Travel Stories, Stokes Auditorium in Hardtner Hall, 7 p.m. Free

Dr. Robert Cooper will reveal the sometimes touching, always hilarious untold stories from his travels around the world with his wife, Dr. Carrie Chrisco. Bob’s journals and poetry convey the experiences of his life and are candidly expressed during this evening of interactive conversation!

Wednesday, March 20

A SLIC Movie Afternoon (Title Pending): Bulber Theatre, 2 p.m. Free.

Enjoy an afternoon film with family and friends in Bulber Auditorium, complete with free popcorn, cotton candy, and refreshments. In partnership with SLIC, a movie will be selected to inspire, enrich, and uplift lives.

SLiC, the Southwest Louisiana Independence Center, is a non-residential agency of action, advocacy and coalition for persons with disabilities and the SLIC’s mission is to enable people with disabilities to take control of their lives, make decisions about the future and ultimately avoid unnecessary institutionalization.

Thursday, March 21

Works on Paper (Art Exhibit) Opening Reception: McNeese’s Grand Gallery, 6 p.m. Free

The 37th Annual McNeese National Works on Paper Exhibition will run from March 21 – May 1 in the Shearman Fine Arts Center Grand Gallery.

Join us as we toast the Visual Arts Department at the exhibit’s Opening Reception, from 6 – 8pm with a Juror’s Talk and Awards to be presented at 7pm.

Saturday, March 23

The Jimmy Carpenter Blues Band: Bulber Auditorium, 7 p.m. $20

Saxophonist, singer-songwriter, arranger, and Gulf Coast Records recording artist Jimmy Carpenter is on a roll! He won the 2021 and 2022 Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist/Horn. He has also received a Grammy for a composition he contributed to the New Orleans Nightcrawlers’ winning album, Atmosphere. Jimmy has toured internationally with Tinsley Ellis, Jimmy Thackery, Walter Wolfman Washington, Eric Lindell, and Mike Zito and the Wheel. Among his many recordings is “The Louisiana Record,” a collection of his favorite New Orleans songs. He has been a working musician for over 40 years, spent many years in New Orleans, and now resides in Las Vegas where he is the Musical Director of one of the hottest blues festivals in the world, The Big Blues Bender.

Sunday, March 24

Finding Our Way Back Home – a reading and book signing by Keagan Lejeune: Historic City Hall, 2 p.m. Free

What’s the truth behind the mysterious grave houses of Talbert-Pierson Cemetery? What’s the secret to the living the good life? When you’re lost, how do you find your way back home? Dr. Keagan LeJeune searches for answers to these and other questions in his presentation on his new book “Finding Myself Lost in Louisiana,” which he wrote after the destruction of his home and community from the hurricanes Laura and Delta. Book Signing and cake and punch reception to follow the presentation.

Friday, April 5

“Chasing Fire” – A Documentary Film – Stokes Auditorium in Hardtner Hall, 7 p.m. Free

“Chasing Fire,” is a short documentary film by Justin D. Roberts / Echo Bravo Productions that delves into the world of war journalists who follow their relentless pursuit of truth amidst the chaos of conflict zones. He documents four-time Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalists Carol Guzy as she treks across the edges of the battlefield to capture stories before they are lost, and three other journalists. All of them have risked their lives and their mental health to document war and share what they have witnessed with the world. Filmmaker talk-back following the viewing.

Thursday, April 11

McLeod Lecture Series – Stokes Auditorium in Hardtner Hall, 7 p.m. Free

In the 20th anniversary of the McLeod Lecture Series, the Banners Series is partnering with the Hector San Miguel Fund of the Community Foundation to focus on the importance of local investigative journalism.  Autumn Phillips, Editor and Chief of Charleston’s Post and Courier, will discuss and explore the past and future of journalism in the world of social media and real-time news. Over 2,900 local newspapers have stopped publishing over the last 20 years, representing a loss of approximately one-third of U.S. newspapers. The owners of the Charleston Post and Courier are committed to local investigative journalism and have a foundation that supports that effort in smaller communities in South Carolina.  She will share their experiences and invite questions from the audience and possibly solutions for SWLA to consider.

Friday, April 12

Pixar’s “UP,” Family Film Night, a joint presentation of Banners and the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury: the lawn of Bulber Auditorium, 6 p.m. Free

Free popcorn, cotton candy, beverages, and the movie UP! Bring the family out to McNeese State University campus for an enjoyable family evening. Stretch a blanket out on the lawn (or bring chairs) and enjoy the big screen with friends and family to watch the PIXAR production “UP.”

In the event of inclement weather, the film viewing will move into Bulber Auditorium and stay on the same schedule.

Friday, April 19

Accordion Kings with Steve Riley: Bulber Auditorium, 7 p.m. $20

The accordion, a well-known instrument in south Louisiana, is an important part of many forms of traditional music throughout the world including Cajun & Creole, French Canadian, jazz, Eastern European, conjunto, the polka and more. Cajun accordion virtuoso Steve Riley presents a musical journey through many different accordion styles and cultures featuring some of today’s top accordionists in the world. Duo performances, interviews, and intriguing stories will bring listeners on a musical odyssey to the many parts of the world where the accordion has become a musical mainstay.

Thursday, April 25

QWANQWA: Bulber Theatre, 7 p.m. $20

QWANQWA uncovers traditional sounds from the East Africa regions of Ethiopia and beyond—including a trance-like chant of the Eritrean tribe of Blen, a psychedelic Somalian cover, an extended Amhara wedding medley, and a Mahmoud Ahmed sing-a-long. With Selamnesh Zemene, the Azmari diva powerhouse, at the helm, QWANQWA is a conversation of virtuosos through tight arrangements and extended experimental moments. It will be hard to believe these psychedelic sounds are coming from traditional harps, one string fiddle, and violin.
QWANQWA proves we are living during another Golden Age of Ethiopian music. Free reception to follow.

Friday, April 26

Trout Fishing in America: Bulber Theatre, 7 p.m. $20

Trout Fishing in America is an American musical duo from Houston, Texas. The members are Keith Grimwood (vocals, bass guitar, upright bass, fiddle, piano) and Ezra Idlet (vocals, guitars, banjo, bouzouki, percussion). They took their name from the novel Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan. The duo has released 24 studio albums through their own label, Trout Music. Trout Fishing in America is known for varied musical styles as their albums alternate between folk rock and children’s music. Four of these albums have been nominated for Grammy Awards. Free reception to follow.