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- DescriptionOpera houses were everywhere. Many towns had at least one opera house on Main Street by 1900. Hundreds of theater troupes, opera companies, individual performers, and many sundry entertainers then tred the boards of these halls as new rail lines could bring these troupers to previously isolated hamlets in new and old sections of the country. Five hundred troupes called Tommers performed only Uncle Tom's Cabin. Sarah Bernhardt, Mark Twain, and John Philip Sousa entertained thousands of townspeople as did innumerable mir league magicians, circuses, lecturers, and theater companies. At that time, more people saw live entertainment than at any other period making this the Golden Age for this distinctly American rural institution and the beginning of an era of mass entertainment These halls, called opera houses to lend a touch of urban sophistication, were often the only large place for public assembly in a town. Aside from cultural events, they served as a public hall for local activities like school graduations, recitations, sports and town meetings, elections, and political rallies and even social dances and roller skating parties. Some were housed in town or city halls, but most were built by local entrepreneurs or committees interested in promoting the town as well as attracting performers. Considered local landmarks, often in distinctive architect-designed buildings, they aroused considerable pride and reinforced town identity. These once-proud halls, however, succumbed in the early twentieth century as radio, movies, and later television and changing tastes made them seem obsolete. Some were demolished, but those that were abandoned to pigeons languished for decades until discovered in the last three decades by stalwart revivers in small towns across the county. The phoenix has indeed arisen. The resuscitation of these opera houses today reflects the timeless quest for cultural inspiration and for communal engagement to counter the anymity of the virtual world. These revived halls are where art and community meet.
- Author BiographyCity planner in Washington, DC. Involved in environmental, cultural, and preservation planning to improve community livability, civic engagement, and sustainability for national, state and local public and private agencies. She has lectured, written articles and book, Going Shopping: Consumer Choices and Community Consequences, and was awarded two NEA individual grants.
- Author(s)Ann Satterthwaite
- PublisherOxford University Press
- Date of Publication12/05/2016
- SubjectMusic & Dance
- Place of PublicationOxford
- Country of PublicationUnited Kingdom
- ImprintOxford University Press
- Content Note72 illustrations
- Weight1102 g
- Width186 mm
- Height257 mm
- Spine34 mm
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