Personality: June 2016
● By Robert Frey
By Amanda Jean Harris
It was John Steinbeck so long ago who said, “The theatre is the only institution in the world which has been dying for 4,000 years and has never succumbed. It requires tough and devoted people to keep it alive.”
And alive and well it is in New Iberia thanks to theatre lovers like Kathryne C. Delcarpio and organizations like IPAL. Iberia Performing Arts League has become just one place Delcarpio has invested her time upon arriving in New Iberia just one year ago in. We caught up with the Kansas-born New Orleans transplant between tours at the Teche, the theatre and spending time with her grandkids.
“A year ago we decided to move here. My daughter had just had their third baby. Our three grandchildren are here,” she says.
The couple said they would just look at houses while Delcarpio was helping with her daughter Annie’s new baby. The couple loves older homes and said they weren’t interested in looking at new houses. They just wanted to see what might be on the market.
“I said I wasn’t interested in new houses and we ended up buying a house on Main Street,” Delcarpio says. “We love it.” And there’s an added bonus to finding a house in the location they did. “The extra is that we can stand on our front porch and see our daughter’s kitchen window,” she says. “They are very close to us and that’s a good thing.”
While close proximity is one of Delcarpio’s favorite things, the separateness is also great. “It also works out that our daughter and I are very independent,” she says. “We’re not bothering each other all day long. We are liking it very much. We signed for the house on Friday the 13th last year and moved on April Fool’s Day.”
And yet, rather than being bad omens, the dates have been ironic. The couple is now at home in New Iberia. And while Delcarpio is retired the move has meant she hasn’t slowed down. At all. Delcarpio spent more than three decades teaching outside New Orleans in Pearl River while her husband was Associate Dean of Students at the medical school in New Orleans in downtown.
The Delcaprios moved from just outside of Slidell and while New Orleans is a bustling city nearby, Delcarpio is finding more things than ever to do in New Iberia.
“I think New Iberia has more to offer. We’ve been coming back and forth for years to see our daughter and visit,” she says.
But it was in 2012 that Delcarpio first discovered the joys of Iberia’s local theatre scene. Her son-in-law asked her to see “Man of La Mancha”. The theatre-degreed woman was skeptical of just what the play would be like.
“I went and my jaw dropped. This is really good theatre. I got excited. I knew if I came here I would not be talented enough to be on stage,” she says. But, knowing what she did about community theatre, Delcarpio knew she could find her own place in the fold. “The community theatre always needs people to work whether it’s backstage or somewhere else. There are 100 jobs for people to do,” she says.
In addition to the plays and the work, perhaps the most beloved thing about theatre in any location is the nature of theatre people. “They are very inclusive and warm and they don’t care who you are and that to me is really, really cool,” she says.
She decided to head to the theatre upon her move and just see where there might be a need. “I would start to meet some people and that was the beginning of opening the door,” she says.
In the coming months, she has solidified her love for local theatre and is working on an upcoming production. One of the more telling stories about Delcarpio and the theatre group is about one particular actress who recently participated in “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Delcarpio played a small role as a leper in the play, but it was a girl talented in music who had a desire to be in the play that perhaps stole the show — Jada Cormier, who is blind.
“IPAL is very inclusive and there is this young woman who is talented and wanted to participate. I was a high school teacher for 35 years and when Jada sat next to me she introduced herself. We both sing soprano.”
While Cormier was on stage with Delcarpio, the once teacher served as her guide. “I would help her get on stage and in position for scenes. Everyone pitched in so that she would be a successful part of the show,” Delcarpio says.
And successful she was. In a beautiful connection between theatre and real life, the blind actress sang in “The Temple” as one of her solos, which includes the line, “see my eyes I can hardly see.”
“A person from the audience told the cast ‘Oh, my gosh. Where did you get the contacts to make her look blind?’ I’m not the only one who helped her. The whole cast rallied around her. We were close because we sang soprano,” Delcarpio says.
This summer, Delcarpio who thought she would just be helping behind the scenes is working on lines for a murder mystery comedy called “Out of Sight, Out of Murder.” The play is based on characters from the old murder mysteries that are the standards. Delcarpio is playing the part of an old crotchety spinster who disagrees with everyone and makes judgments about everything.
It couldn’t be further from Delcarpio’s personality. She has been married for four decades to Joseph B. Delcarpio and has two grown children — Annie Barras, a 6th-grade science and social studies teacher at North Lewis Elementary who is married to New Iberia native Michael L. Barras and with whom she has three children (Wyatt, Ian and Aiden) and a son, Thomas Delcarpio, who is at KLFY in Lafayette.
While Delcarpio certainly was motivated to move to New Iberia to spend time with her grandchildren, they are not the only children who have captured her heart. She is a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) working on behalf of foster children.
CASA is a national program that receives no funding and was created to ensure every abused or neglected child has a court-appointed advocate.
“We go to court about every six months or more and go to family meetings with DCFS and visit the biological family at least once a month and we may go to their schools or daycare or head start,” she says. “We are the eyes of the children and we have questions and take in information. Our job is to be the voice of the child.”
Older children may be able to articulate, but still need an advocate while younger children don’t have a voice at all.
Of all Delcarpio’s volunteer efforts, it’s the one closest to her heart.
“I feel like I can really make an impact in someone’s life that way,” she says.
In addition to caring much about children in the system, Delcarpio is also looking for ways to help nourish those in Iberia by working with community garden programs.
“I believe in the mission of community gardens. Helping people understand how to grow vegetables, the food deserts are places where people don’t have access to fresh produce and it’s important to teach people how to be better at helping themselves. It’s so easy to produce vegetables,” she says.