Comedy theater plays for laughs, and more

Photo provided by Mike Yoder -- The cast of The New Movement's 'You Don't Know the Half of It,' from front center and going clockwise: Becca Chapman, Cecile Monteyne, Molly Ruben-Long, Alex Pomes, Garrett Prejean, Ian Hoch, Grace Blakeman, CJ Hunt and Natalie Boyd. Show caption
Photo provided by Mike Yoder -- The cast of The New Movement's 'You Don't Know the Half of It,' from front center and going clockwise: Becca Chapman, Cecile Monteyne, Molly Ruben-Long, Alex Pomes, Garrett Prejean, Ian Hoch, Grace Blakeman, CJ Hunt and Natalie Boyd.

The small building at 1919 Burgundy St. is surrounded by quiet Faubourg Marigny homes, but at night its performance space, home to The New Movement Theater, comes alive with uproarious laughter.

It’s ostensibly the home of an improv comedy troupe, which stages several popular shows a week. But in a larger sense The New Movement has, over the past few years, become a focal point of the New Orleans creative community.

“The idea,” The New Movement performer and producer Cecile Monteyne said, “is to put a bunch of people from different backgrounds together.” The show she started, “You Don’t Know the Half of It,” is a classic example: It unites playwrights, actors, and comedians who might not otherwise ever work together. Together, they create hilarious shows that succeed at levels beyond what any of them would have been individually capable.

The New Movement was the brainchild of Chris Trew and Tami Nelson, who wanted to create something of their own. The hurricanes of 2005 got in the way, but Trew and Nelson brought their initial dream to life in Austin, Texas. Their Texas success helped get them back to New Orleans, where a second The New Movement chapter was born in 2010.

“I got involved in early 2011,” Monteyne said. “It was around the time The New Movement was looking for its own permanent space in New Orleans, which we found on Burgundy. It was a big deal, because it was years in the making.”

Monteyne, who is a New Orleans native, spent time in other cities, including New York and London, before returning home, where she became part of something she says is unique in the world of comedy.

“You can wear a lot of hats in New Orleans,” she said. “Here, I don’t just have to be a comedian. I can be a comedian, and an actress, and a book lover. Most other cities are more regimented; you have to fill a role.”

Part of The New Movement’s mission is to be an outlet for otherwise disparate artists to create together. “You Don’t Know the Half of It,” which celebrated its first anniversary in January, has become a smashing success based on this model. Its most recent performance, in March, sold out, with potential audience members lining up outside.

The New Movement’s creative process remains open. Classes are offered. “A lot of times it’s like, ‘Hey, I had this awesome idea,’ ” Monteyne said. “You pitch it to people who you want to work with. Take the show ‘Quiet On the Set,’ which initially premiered during Fringe Fest. It’s an improvised silent movie show where all the performers are in black and white.”

Add those two shows to The New Movement’s expanding lineup and you get a constant display of the awesomely funny — and surprisingly moving.

“We try to be funny and also more than funny,” Monteyne said. “We tell stories that might even change you. And,” she added, “The New Movement is not just a space to perform. It’s a community of people who are your friends.”

The New Movement Theater, at 1919 Burgundy St., hosts shows several nights per week. A full listing of upcoming events and classes, along with ticket prices, can be found at newmovementtheater.com.