Smith, Mariam / The history of Omro
Opera house, pp. 87-88A ff.
OPERA HOUSE The 1850s, 60s, and 70S were booming years for the village, noticeably in the erection of new buildings, mills and factories. Not many a public building can boast of so many and varied uses as one erected in Omro about 1870, and some say earlier. It was built on the corner of W. Main and N. Adams. It is still in use but isin a rather seedy condition. (1975) originally it was built for the Spiritualist church members who lived in and around the Omro area. They met in the homes at first for their sessions. Eventually the Spiritualists hired a contractor to build a hall for them. The plans resembled a house of entertaimment, but it met the approval of the Spiritualists, however, and was built accordingly. At a cost of 2,500.--"Trsil of the Serpent" by Gard and Reetz. The rostrum or stage to this building was wide and deep with 'ihD'1doors leading off from it to the right and to the left back stage rooms. At the back of the auditorium was an upper balcony with tiers of seats leading back and up to the "peanut gallery". Bal- cony wings reached a third or half way from the upper gallery along each side wall; in these balcony wings were box seats. It was well suited to the needs of the Spiritualists. Severa] )jv doors that led onto the stage were ideal from which the "spirits" could emerge during the meetings. The spirits were clothed in filmy white habits as spirits would be. Reports are that the hall would be packed with people at each evening meeting to which the public was invited. Some of their beliefs shocked the populus no',½1'-0-" end; such as the custom of a wife being free to leave husband and family to live with another man. And it was done' The same going- oris occurred at the Fourierite in Ripon. 4 In Omro boys then were the same as now. They were curious and j decided to investigate. One night as the spirits emerged from the doors, they,, sitting in the front pews, charged? They found that the spirits were only human beings as they had surmised. (An 0hr- ite recalls her Uncle's account of the happening.) This revealing discovery may have been the congregation's un- doing for they abandoned the building. It was afterwards used for other purposes. Another group, the theatrical minded segment of O6ro, later became interested in the Spiritualist Hall. It was an ideal build- ing for a theatre. Many villages and all cities in that era boast- ed of an Opera House. So being vacated by the Spiritualists, it became Ormrot s Opera House. %...One Omroite recalls that as a young man he would apply for 4the job of scene shifter for dramas and plays that were performed Sin the Opera House. It must have been an inspiration for plus a natural talent he later acted in many Home Talent plays, Minstrel shows, and other local entertainments. At the front of the rostrum was a small door for entering t he space under the stage in the old theater. Stock Companies would come to the Opera House on their circuits, sometimes remaining for several days. A free ticket would be given an individual for de- livering hand bills about town to advertise the performances.
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