Our History

Southern Rep Theatre (Southern Rep) is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed regional theatre company that produces bold world premieres, the best of Broadway and off-Broadway, and classic plays under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Aimée Hayes. Through our Mainstage Season, Lagniappe Series/new play development and “School to Stage Pipeline” of Arts Education and Professional Development Programs, Southern Rep entertains, educates, and engages audiences with accessible, high-quality productions.

After our founding in 1986 by playwright and scholar Dr. Rosary O’Neill, Southern Rep focused on original theatrical voices and producing work that reflected Southern heritage. Quickly becoming a mainstay of the New Orleans’ arts scene, Southern Rep also worked to raise international awareness about Southern writers by touring productions in Moscow, Russia; The Sorbonne in Paris, France, and Tiblisi, Georgia. Under O’Neill’s direction, Southern Rep became a bastion of new work and established the Southern New Plays Festival that highlighted regional artists and ran annually until 2006, when it was re-envisioned as THE NEW PLAY BACCHANAL.

When Dr. O’Neill and her family left New Orleans, her successor, Producing Artistic Director Ryan Rilette, continued to grow Southern Rep into a regional venue for premiere work. From 2002 to 2007, Southern Rep focused on developing and producing new plays by American playwrights, featuring regional premieres of national work, and joining the prestigious National New Play Network, an alliance of nonprofit theatres nationwide that champion the development, production, and continued life of new plays for the American theatre.

With the appointment of Aimée Hayes in 2007, Southern Rep has become the premiere regional theatre of the Gulf South. Under Hayes’ leadership Southern Rep continues to:

  • Create artistically meaningful, award-winning work that draws an average of more than 10,000 audience members per Season
  • Deepen our commitment to new play development by consistently producing World and Regional Premieres, as an active member of the National New Play Network, and by incorporating a slate of new play programs into The Lagniappe Series that, together, have introduced over 100 new works to more than 2,000 audience members since 2013.
  • Expand our “School to Stage Pipeline” of Arts Education Programs. We provide and subsidize year-round opportunities for thousands of New Orleans students to attend, engage with, and participate in live, professional theatre productions.
  • Encourage a stronger, more sustainable New Orleans arts community. We create meaningful employment and professional development opportunities, instigate strong community partnerships, and directly advocate for increased public support.

Southern Rep’s programs are acclaimed, impactful, and, intentionally made accessible to New Orleanians of every socio-economic class. We are a community leader, creative force, and an important resource for contemporary American theatre.