Look Don’t Tell
A new immersive theatrical and culinary production pairs opulence and secrecy to form an experience unlike any other.
Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life.
When it comes to dinner and a show out on the town, it doesn’t get more interesting, or more exclusive, than “Look Don’t Tell,” which celebrates its third-ever production this month.
For only four nights this year (Nov. 8, 9, 15 and 16), local entrepreneur Jeanne Faget Stephens invites no more than 20 people per night to experience an evening of culture and culinary and cocktail wonders fit for royalty — all served up with a generous amount of mystery.
Attendees sign up for the event — at $350 per person — without knowing where they’re going or what the entertainment will be like. They only know that they’ll be enjoying a customized six-course farm-to-table gourmet Creole meal by celebrated chef Melissa Araujo with professional wine and cocktail pairings.
“Look Don’t Tell” centers around sharing the story of New Orleans’ famed Baroness Pontalba — a woman who, besides surviving being shot in the chest four times in 1834 — was responsible for creating the Pontalba buildings in Jackson Square.
“I am a huge fan of the immersive theater culture,” said Jeanne Faget Stephens, the native New Orleanian behind “Look Don’t Tell,” who said the idea for the production came to her in 2017. “My husband and I had a dinner club with seven other couples who would each take turns hosting a dinner at their house. When our turn came in November 2017, I took things a step further and told everyone to dress elegantly and meet in the Quarter, and we had a ‘trickster fox’ whisk them away in carriages. I hired nine actors to do a variety of performances and had a seven-course meal by Coquette chef Kristen Essig.”
The evening was such a hit that Stephens — a self-described serial entrepreneur — started to think this was something she could do as a business. She soon founded Belles Fetes Productions and — employing 50 people last year, half of whom were local performers — created the first four nights of “Look Don’t Tell.” All were sold-out successes.
“I lived in New York for years before coming back to New Orleans, and when I returned, I was really struck by our history and all the work that’s been done to preserve our city,” Stephens said. “It’s so different from New York and I just wanted to be a part of sharing that with people.”
“Look Don’t Tell” begins with a meet-up inside the French Quarter where well-dressed attendees are then chauffeured to an undisclosed local mansion. From there, according to the website, “The mystical evening includes esoteric dance, dramatic vignettes, mystical rituals, voodoo and other enchanting surprises.”
This year Stephens is particularly excited about a new addition: Chris Hannah of New Orleans’ Jewel of the South will be joining the productions as the official cocktail and wine curator. Before resurrecting the classic 19th-century New Orleans bar Jewel of the South, Hannah bartended at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, where he was part of the team awarded a James Beard Award in both 2015 and 2017.
As of mid-October, three of this year’s four nights were already sold out, but Stephens said she hopes to eventually start offering productions quarterly. Until that time, however, she does offer private, custom events by request.
“Whether you’re an individual who wants to create something special or a company looking to entertain out-of-town guests, we can definitely put something incredible together,” she said.
For more information, including to sign up for notifications of future events, visit LookDontTell.com