We were so fortunate to be invited to tour the Woodland Opera House recently. In fact, the tour was given by the Board President and fellow photographer Karen Alexander. With me, Marlene and Rita in attendance, she began our tour with a history lesson.
Built in 1885, the opera house was the first of its kind to serve the Sacramento Valley. However in 1892 a fire destroyed the building which was rebuilt in 1895/1896, using materials from the original structure. The Opera House flourished until 1913 when, with declining ticket sales, the theater closed. It remained unused for almost 60 years. In 1971 it was purchased by the Yolo County Historical Society, declared a state historic park in 1976 and was deeded to the State of California in 1980. Restoration work continued, and the Opera House reopened in 1989.
Today it is a California Historical Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. And, it is active, holding productions from September to June, running a summer youth theater camp and a Young People’s Theater Program that runs throughout the year. They also provide school day low cost ticket prices for students for current productions.
As we continued our tour, Karen explained how they tried to use original furniture and seating during the restoration. This resulted in a beautiful, small theater where there are no bad seats. Our backstage tour brought us down to the green room where actors gather when not on stage. Dressing rooms were located on either side of the large room. Karen also explained how the lighting and staging was done.
It was an amazing few hours. And, it was amazing how this opera house rose from the ashes twice–literately and figuratively. Take a look!