Washington Opera House History
By: Submitted: 7/25/2006
The Maysville Players began in 1962 with their production of "Our Town". This is not at all unusual, since "Our Town" has been the vehicle of choice for a great many fledgling theatre group. What is very unusual is that 35 years later, we are still active in the theatre business. This makes The Maysville Players unique, as well as the oldest group of its kind in the Commonwealth of Kentucky; and our theatre, The Washington Opera House, is the 5th oldest theatre in the country.
On September 30, 1797, a Washington, Kentucky weekly newspaper, 'The Mirror', printed the notice of a performance by the "Theatrical Society" to be performed in the courthouse on Thursday evening, October 12. This is the first record of a western stage performance to reveal play titles and advertise dates, site, and price for the evening's entertainment, and may well have been performed by some of the ancestors of present Maysville Players. By 1817, Limestone, or Maysville as it has now become, could boast of a theatre where local, as well as visiting thespians could unveil their talents.
A disastrous fire occured in April, 1850, that destroyed a great deal of the property on West Second Street, including the then Presbyterian Church known as the Old Blue Church. When the Presbyterians decided to rebuild at a new location on Third Street, two events occured that affected the physical and cultural well-being of Maysville residents. In 1851, two fire companies were formed to protect the life and property of the area citizens, and, an elegant theatre was built on the site of the Old Blue Church to enrich the lives of the residents.
The Opera House was the pride and joy of Maysville, and became not only a place of entertainment, but filled the community's need for a place to gather for school commencements, patriotic rallies, and great political debates. However, tragedy struck again in January of 1898, when the new Opera House was gutted by fire. Perhaps the Washington Fire Company, of of the two fire companies to appear at just the time the Opera House was built felt a deep sense of regret and responsibility, for in 1898, they rebuilt the theatre at a cost of $24,000. After this construction, the theatre was known as The Washington Opera House.
In the early days of local theatre, many famous names could have been sprawled on the dressing room walls- names unfamiliar to today's young players, but some of you may remember Marguerite Clarke, Tom Mix, Lou Tolligan, John L. Sullivan, Harry Garey, and the great John Phillips Sousa and his band. Year after year came Al G. FIelds and Lasses White, along with their famous minstrels. Maysville was also a one-night stop between Cincinati and Lexington for dozens of Broadway shows. What history we made!
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