The dark year is over: St. John Theatre reopens with IMAGE

Published 8:39 am Wednesday, January 18, 2023

RESERVE — After 500 dark days following the devastation of Hurricane Ida, the historic St. John Theatre is reopening to audiences with legendary local band IMAGE at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, January 21 at 115 W. Fourth Street in Reserve.

The reopening show, entitled “Phoenix Rising,” intertwines the legacy of St. John Theatre with the chaos of the past three years through a storytelling experience featuring music by Led Zepplin, the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues, the Beatles, the Doors, Pink Floyd and others. IMAGE is known for utilizing multimedia including video clips and lights to create a psychedelic atmosphere that weaves memories into music.

Current band members are Ron Keller on keyboard and vocals, Richard Oubre on bass guitar and vocals, Jeff Luminais on guitar and vocals, and Kevin Aucoin on percussion and vocals.

  1. Sterling Snowdy, president of St. John Theatre’s Board of Directors, is thrilled to welcome back audiences with a band that has such a strong local connection, not only to the community, but also to the Theatre itself.

Decades before the building was known as St. John Theatre, it was Maurin’s Theatre, built in 1931 and operated by band member Richard Oubre’s grandfather.

“We did not expect to be out for 500 days. But we never lost hope. We saw the light at the end of the tunnel even though we did not know exactly how long the tunnel was,” Snowdy said. “We wanted to return with a bang. We have a natural connection with IMAGE because they grew up on this street. After they outgrew their garage, Mr. Maurin let them practice in this lobby, and I would say they have a nostalgia for this place.”

The members of IMAGE remember the Theatre in its heyday, when busloads of people were transported over from Garyville and those who lived in the surrounding Reserve neighborhoods walked over to see what was playing. In the early days, afternoon shows were advertised with 5 cents admission, while evening shows were 10 cents and late evening shows were 15 cents. Kids’ movies played on Saturday afternoons.

Band member Jeff Luminais remembers St. John Theatre as the place where he heard his first curse word and saw the big teen stars of the era on the silver screen. His mother worked there selling popcorn in the late 30s and early 40s.

Years later, St. John Theatre set the stage for IMAGE’s successful 50-year tribute show in early 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 shutdowns.

“When we play songs, we play videos. In this show, we are adding flavor by putting in stuff about the Theatre and also the last three years, which have been the craziest three years since I grew up in the 60s,” Luminais said. “It was kind of like that then with the Vietnam War, Hurricane Betsy, and all of the political demonstrations. We are going to take a look back at that with the songs we play.”

When IMAGE came together in the mid-1960s, the band members were mischievous middle schoolers. They boys had all grown up together in Reserve, and when Richard Oubre and his cousin Jeff Montegut learned that Jeff Luminais and Ron Keller were trying to put a band together, they decided it would be fun to sneak in and cause some chaos.

“We decided to go over there and mess with them and try to break it up,” Oubre recalled. “Long story short, they recruited us to be in the band.”

Oubre and Montegut had never played an instrument, but they were able to quickly pick up the  guitar and drums. Duane Laurent was recruited to complete the band, but when his mother wouldn’t let him play, Oubre’s little brother Oren was brought in as the fifth member.

The band quickly grew to be successful in the early years, with the highlight being a trip to Los Angeles, California to perform on the television show “Happening 1968.”

Oubre left IMAGE in 1975 after graduating from pharmacy school. The group disbanded about a year later as the members went their separate ways. Keller remained in the music business, going on to establish his own record label and studio, while Luminais worked as an engineer.

The boys, now men, reunited decades down the line after Oubre’s father passed away in 2009. Conversations started then about getting the band back together, and it finally came to fruition two years later when IMAGE performed a reunion show for a crowd of 600 people at San Francisco Plantation’s Sugar Mill Pavilion.

The band today is comprised of three of the original five members. A newer addition is Kevin Aucoin, who has been in the music industry for most of his life.

“We started out young, and we are kind of getting older together,” Oubre said.

“Really, really old,” Luminais interjected.

After this weekend’s performance from IMAGE, St. John Theatre’s 2023 concert series continues with premier Eagles tribute band ALREADY GONE on February 4. ALREADY GONE currently features Garyville percussion dynamo Leroy St. Pierre and Reserve native Gus Bourgeois on bass.

“We think we can capitalize on the local draw there. They both graduated from St. Charles High School, and their graduating classes are coming to support them,” Snowdy said.

Rolling into the spring, St. John Theatre will host REO Survivor, a Speedwagon Survivor tribute band, on March 4.

According to Snowdy, each of the three installments in the concert series will identify a local charity to support. Thus far, IMAGE has selected the St. John Ministry of Care, and ALREADY GONE has announced its support for Perry’s Posse.

Other upcoming events at St. John Theatre include a Black History Month event, St. Charles Catholic and Riverside Academy’s Spring shows, highly anticipated summer musical Footloose, and a reappearance from the nationally acclaimed Missoula Children’s Theatre.

For more information, please visit  www.stjohntheatre.com, email Managing Director Amy Wombles at sjtreserve@gmail.com, or text 504-676-4700 for more information.