|New Orleans Magazine, December
2003 - Persona
by Denise Trowbridge
performer Bryan Batt is from
a well-known family that once operated
a local amusement park. He recently
opened an interior design shop in
Orleans Resides: New Orleans
and New York Age: Somewhere between
35 and death Family: "Lots.
Love 'em." Favorite movies: "To
Kill a Mockingbird" and "Auntie Mame" Favorite
food: Sweetbreads Favorite play: Chicago's
Steppenwolf Theater production of "The Grapes of Wrath" Favorite
music: Everything from Elvis Costello to Ella Fitzgerald
What does it feel like to perform on Broadway?
It is one of the most wonderful feelings. The first time I went onstage
in a Broadway show, I was petrified. It was like jumping out of
a plane: You have a parachute, and you know you have a parachute,
but jumping is still a little scary. But the play is going to end
- you are going to hit the gournd, and it's going to be over. You
just have to fly with it.
My favorite time, though, is half an hour before the show.
I like saying hello to everyone, walking through the wardrobe room and finding
out what's going on - the family-style backstage antics are just as fun as
what happens onstage.
What were your favorite moments performing?
I loved playing Darius in "Jeffrey."
So many young people identified with him. Plus, we didn't know what
we had. We had no idea how the audience would react when we performed
it the first time, but it was a great success. And when I was in "Forbidden
Broadway," Carol Burnett came to see the show. To hear her
laughing in the audience at what I was doing - nothing can describe
When did you decide you wanted to be in
I think I always knew, but growing up I never thought it was
an option. I didn't know anyone in the theater. I thought I would
be living here in New Orleans for the rest of my life, working
as a lawyer. Then, in high school, my drama teacher, Kitty Greenberg,
stopped me in the hall and said, "When are you going to audition for my play? Because
you know you want to do it, and you know you'll be good." I did
it and I was hooked. I performed as much as I could during college,
and then I ran as fast as I could to New York City after graduation.
I really lucked out.
What inspired you to open Hazelnut,
your Magazine Street shop?
I have always been inspired by New Orleans design and wanted to do
something with interiors and home furnishings. My sister-in-law happened
to walk by and saw that the space was available. My partner, Tom Cianfichi,
had been involved in retail on Madison Avenue for years, so we just
decided to go for it. I made a few calls and everything fell into place.
When a window just opens up like that, you have to jump out of it.
Is it hard to live in two places? Do you miss
New Orleans when you are away?
The UPS bill is big, but it's like having the best of both worlds.
I have so many friends in both cities. But there's something about
New Orleans - when you're from here, you always gravitate back to it.
I think there's something in the water that just draws you back. When
I'm in New York, I miss the food. New York has great food, but New
Orleans is so unique. We have our own music, food and way of life.
You once had a band called Barbie and the Mystery
Dates. How did you get that name?
Aaron Neville was hosting a playground fundraiser and he asked Barbara
Menendez, New Orleans' new wave queen, to perform. Her brother was
my best friend, and we came up with the idea of forming a new band
and calling it Barbie and the Mystery Dates. Vance DeGeneres (Ellen's
brother) was in the band, too. We had two gigs and we each dressed
up as one of the Mystery Dates: I was the Dream Date in the white dinner
jacket, another guy was the Dud and one was the Sporty Guy.
Your family owned Pontchartrain
Beach amusement park. What is your favorite memory?
It was so wonderful. I miss it. Growing up, all I wanted to do was
take over and turn it into the Disney World of New Orleans. I even
designed a haunted house. But unfortunately, I think that style of
small, family-owned amusement parks was on its way out. Having it as
my playground growing up was fantastic, though.
My father and I drove by the day they tore down the Zephyr.
We just couldn't watch. The coaster had been up since my father was born, and
I remember feeling a great melancholy. I didn't want to say goodbye. Pontchartrain
Beach is still open and running in my mind.
True confession: I was the
worst basketball player at Newman. I don't know why I was even on
the team. There was only one player worse than me and he would shoot
at the wrong basket.