On June 23-25, Mélange will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the deadliest fire in New Orleans history, when an arsonist set fire to The UpStairs Lounge, a popular French Quarter bar and safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community. During a time when being gay was declared a mental illness, and dancing with the same sex could be cause for an arrest, UpStairs provided a refuge where patrons could unmask and be themselves; living, loving, and even worshiping freely. Not only was the UpStairs Lounge arson the deadliest attack on the gay community at the time, but it remains to be New Orleans’ deadliest fire. Thirty two lives were lost and deserve to be remembered. Through dance, film, spoken word, and elements of live music, dynamic stories of love and loss will unfold, bringing to life this quirky three room bar with red flocked wallpaper that held church services, presented charitable theatrical productions, and united their community in song, as they proudly sang United We Stand night by night. Meet Buddy Rasmussen, the entertaining and courageous bartender who led many to safety on the night of the fire and John Golding, married to Jane by day and out of the closet by night. Marcy Marcell, New Orleans’ first person to impersonate Liza Minelli in drag had omens on that night that are forever haunting. Reggie and Regina, a breathtakingly beautiful and tragic love story will send chills up your spine. We present a cautionary tale of what internalized homophobia and hate can do and a celebration of life. Return UpStairs with us as we revisit our inaugural production to illuminate the lives of its patrons, honor its continuing spirit and relevancy, and reflect on the legacy that we must carry on in today’s world.
The UpStairs Lounge is supported by the generosity of the New Orleans Theatre Association and also in part by the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council, as administered by the RAC. Funding has also been provided by the National Endowment of the Arts.