Monday, March 12, 2012

Maine State Legislature to Honor Stonington Opera House

On Thursday, March 15, the Maine State Legislature will pass a Legislative Sentiment honoring the Stonington Opera House on its 100th anniversary. State Representative Walter Kumiega will speak on the House floor and the Speaker will recognize guests from Opera House Arts, the nonprofit organization that restored the Opera House in 1999 and re-opened it in 2000 after the building had suffered more than eight years of abandonment and decay.

The iconic, green-shingled Stonington Opera House building, rising four stories above Stonington Harbor, is on the National Register of Historic Places. At the heart of Stonington’s downtown, where School St., Main St., and the commercial fish pier intersect, the Opera House has been central to Stonington’s Main Street and the island’s cultural life for more than 100 years. The first amusement hall was built on the current footprint in 1886 by quarry owner and entrepreneur Charles B. Russ. From 1886 to 1910, first the original Russ’s Music Hall and then its expansion, the magnificent Stonington Opera House seating 1,000 people, were important Stonington landmarks and institutions. One hundred years ago this year, the brand new Stonington Opera House as it exists today, with its unique architectural element, the scene tower, re-opened to the public: rising from the ashes of a 1910 fire that might have taken the town with it had not the town’s new water system and fire hydrants gone live that very day.
Opera House Arts is planning multiple events and projects to celebrate this centennial, including the re-creation of an historic vaudeville show of the type that came to the Opera House 100 years ago, July 5-8; the re-staging of Opera House Arts’ popular original musical, “Burt Dow, Deep Water Man,” August 9-19; giant video projections of historic photos on the exterior of the Opera House tower; and the release of a new history and photo book on the Stonington Opera House since its original construction in 1886.

As an important part of these celebrations, Opera House Arts seeks stories and items from community members who remember the Opera House during earlier incarnations. Individuals who collected the china that was given away at movies during the 1930s have already come forth, and a display of these items is scheduled for this summer. Photos, programs, dance cards, posters and other ephemera are all welcome regardless of their condition. Please contact Linda Nelson at 367-2788 or lnelson@operahousearts.org

Opera House Arts (OHA) is a nonprofit small professional theater noted for its original productions and artistic commissions of performance work relevant to its Down East Maine community. OHA restored and operates the 1912 Stonington Opera House with a full, 52-week-a-year schedule of first-run movies, live theater, concerts, dance, workshops, community events and educational programs. For more information and a full schedule of events, please go to www.operahousearts.org.

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