To learn a new style, take in a performance, apply to a festival, or learn how to pitch one's work, a comic need only spend some time at La Nuit Comedy Theater. La Nuit not only houses a ComedySportz training center and troupe, but runs its own, unaffiliated conservatory, whose curriculum includes improv and writing. The laughter hub's blog tracks the shows that cycle past the stage's chalkboard wall, along with the workshops, open mic nights, and festivals that help launch NOLA comics toward their goals. Two full-service bars and private comedy shows help make events–from birthdays to bachelor parties to Flat Earth Society meetings–more memorable.
Overlooking St. Charles Avenue, Mia's Balcony offers Mardi Gras revelers a central view of grand, glittering floats and shimmering beads. But the restaurant isn’t content to host a party once a year; on the other 364 days, visitors cheer on the college, professional, and sock-puppet football games broadcast over the patio's outdoor televisions, and a banquet room is available for private soirees. While watching a Saints or LSU game or just chatting, guests can share small plates of seared scallops on the half-shell or fish croquettes or dig into substantial entrees such as pepper-jelly lamb chops. On weekend mornings, the chefs prepare brunch dishes including creole omelets and veal grillades over grits.
Local artwork, exposed-brick walls, and fireplaces set an inviting scene indoors. Bartenders fill glasses with craft beers, wine, and potent cocktails such as the French 75, a champagne- and gin-based drink based on a vintage recipe.
Pots of bubbling water cook freshly made pasta until it’s ready to join meatballs and calamari on plates doused in zesty sauces. Nearby, pizzas are loaded with prosciutto, shrimp, and roasted garlic, while fresh mozzarella rains over a pizza crust headed for a wood-fired oven. Leonardo Trattoria forgoes local New Orleans food influences, instead maintaining “a focus on Sicilian dishes and cooking styles,” as Ian McNulty of Gambit writes. The full-fledged Italian atmosphere continues in the dining room, where flat-screen TVs mounted on brick walls play Italian mobster movies or hours of footage of Dante’s writing desk. Outside, lush foliage hangs from a second-story balcony, adding to the ambiance that helped the eatery snag a diners’ choice award for outdoor dining from OpenTable readers.
Founder of the New Orleans Burlesque Festival, Rick Delaup, directs the spotlight toward a scintillating trio of former "Queen of Burlesque" titleholders as they strut their stuff in an eye-popping stage show that packs aural oomph with a live jazz band. Vanquishing her feathery foes and prevailing as victor in 2009, Perle Noire evokes a gymnastic Josephine Baker as she blends high kicks, splits, and flips into her energized, yet elegant act. Dancer and pin-up model Coco Lectric from Austin, Texas earns applause with classically trained maneuvers that won her honors in 2010, while 2011 winner Ginger Valentine teaches the audience how to whistle with her steamy stock of beguiling strip-tease tricks. A superstar cast of performers joins the champions on stage for added flair, including sultry chanteuse and burlesque "scene queen" Athena and lively duo Nathan Kepner and Morgan Tsu-Raun, who thrill tawdry inner-children with circus tricks and bravura juggling.
Favorably featured in the Times-Picayune for its riveting 2010 staging of Blackbird, Elm Theatre brings socially conscious theater to New Orleans's drama devotees. North Baton Rouge native and recent Windy City dweller Garrett Prejean returns to his home state to teach introductory acting to aspiring stage stars and uncanny De Niro impressionists sick of doing scenes with their reflection in a mirror. Prejean is a graduate of The Second City’s acting program, and he later taught at the famed comedy-star breeding ground. At Elm Theatre, he leads a series of workshops that includes the eight-week Acting 1 course. Groupon holders will be treated to an exclusive, three-week abridgement ($30 per-week value) of this course, with no required long-term commitment or blood-signed contract. The three-week session will touch on monologues, auditions, acting exercises, and the fundamental techniques actors use to create and finely tune their characters.