The Old Opera House
Located at 204 N. George St, Charles Town, WV 25414
The Old Opera House is a live theatre house located in the heart of Charles Town, West Virginia. The theatre presents six main stage productions, a summer youth production, a one-act play festival, and a ballet every other year.
The Old Opera House Arts Centre teaches classes in Acting, Dance (ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, and Broadway-style dance), and Voice.
Be sure to RESERVE the best seating by calling the Old Opera House BOX OFFICE at #304.725.4420
Over 100 Years
Serving the Community Since 1911
The Old Opera House has been serving as a cultural arts center in the community of Charles Town, WV for the last century.
A Brief History
Building Excitement for the Arts!
In 1910, Annie G. Packette, whose family tree included George Washington, raised $50,000 and employed a Washington, D.C. architect to design and construct the New Opera House. It was a classic theater structure, complete with fly-space for hanging scenery above the proscenium stage, an orchestra pit and a rarely seen curved balcony. Adjacent to the theatre building is a structure that most likely dates back to the 1890's. The main theatre then seated 500 people and lived through two wars, a depression and the advent of radio. The large “P” at the top of the proscenium arch is a tribute to Mrs. Packette.
“The first entertainment to be given in Charles Town's New Opera House will be on the night of February 14 (1911) by home talent. A comedy entitled the "Bachelor Girls' Federation of Clubs" is being rehearsed for the initiation of the new play house. Proceeds of the play will go to the Daughters of the Confederacy for the benefit of indigent Confederate veterans of the country.” - Spirit of Jefferson
The emergence of the “talkie” led to many changes in the life of the theatre and in 1948 the stage went dark. At various times since then, areas of the two buildings were used as apartments, a florist shop, a movie theatre, a tavern, and even a two-lane bowling alley.
The First Mission: Restoration of the Building
In 1971, Dixie Kilham, owner of Hilltop House in Harpers Ferry, and Robert and Diane Angel contacted the owners of the building, Mr. and Mrs. Augustine Todd, about using the theatre for local productions. The Todds agreed at least to the cleaning of the structure. (cleaning included hauling 35dump-truck loads of pigeon droppings out of the auditorium). Once the building was clean, a group of local citizens joined together to form The Old Opera House Theatre Company, which was officially incorporated on May 7, 1973.
Its first mission was to restore the building, while preserving history, in the hopes of eventually offering theatre and theatrical training for young people. Later that year in July, the Todds saw the spirit and dedication of the OOHTC, and generously donated the land and building to the newly incorporated theatre group. Fund-raising drives produced a match to a Benedum grant to restore the theatre – the 4,000 square foot ceiling was re-plastered, a new floor was laid and new seats were installed. The adjoining pool hall was transformed into the Old Opera House Theatre Workshop with rehearsal space and offices established upstairs. This is where the initial performances were held.
In October 1976, the “new” Old Opera House opened its main stage doors to the public with a production of My Fair Lady. Since then, the offerings of the theatre have continued to increase in diversity and frequency. Today the theatre presents six main stage productions, a summer youth production, a one-act play festival and a ballet every other year.
In 1978, the theatre building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and over time, the season has expanded to offer six main stage productions, one summer children’s show and theatre camp.
Located in historic downtown Charles Town, WV, the theatre now seats 328 and often sells out, especially for musical productions.
Building Excitement for the Arts - The OOH Arts Centre is Born
As defined within the bylaws of the board, the mission of the Old Opera House Theatre Company is to “Excite and involve the community in all aspects of the performing and visual arts.” This mission is inclusive and unlimited.
In 2008 the owner of the Charles Town Dance Studio, that had been renting space in the Old Opera House for dance classes, elected to retire. Rather than finding a new dance studio to take the place of the Charles Town Dance Studio, the Old Opera House elected to start their own studio programming for children and adults. The Old Opera House Arts Centre now teaches classes in Acting, Dance (ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, and Broadway-style dance), and Voice.
The Jean Heiler Gallery, on the lower level of the Old Opera House presents the works of local visual artists. Gallery shows are coordinated with each of the Old Opera House’s main stage productions and on the first weekend in August of each year the Old Opera House Summertime Arts Soirée presents the work of up to 12 artists throughout the theatre for a two day art show.
The first annual New Voice Play Festival, featuring non-published new plays, was begun in 2001. This one-act playwriting competition attracts some of the country’s most gifted new playwrights and they send the OOH their new one act plays. After reading through up to 100 plays, a committee of judges narrows the field down to four finalists; ranging in length from from 10 to 40 minutes each. These are then presented on the Old Opera House stage for one weekend in late June and our audience selects the winner of the annual festival.
Three Active Volunteer Groups - Join Us!
The Old Opera House is supported by three active groups of volunteers. The Theatre Guild, which meets monthly, holds fund-raising activities, and contributes to beautification projects for the theatre. The Op Shop, a secondhand clothing store completely operated by volunteers, contributes all of their net income to the theatre and is a source for costumes. And the newest group of volunteers, the OOHLaLas assists with productions, studio events and helps with fundraising.
OOH Seven Guiding Principles
- Serving as a center for the arts
- Providing opportunities for participation in the arts
- Reaching out to all races, ages, ethnic backgrounds and abilities
- Educating children in the arts
- Maintaining the integrity and appeal of our historic facility
- Collaborating with community and business partners to promote tourism and recreational activities
- Striving to be the cornerstone of a thriving arts community
Old Opera House Policies
Please turn all cell phones and electronic devises off. They interfere with our sound system and are distracting to other patrons. Please enjoy the show device free.
Handicap Access: The Old Opera House is wheelchair-accessible. To ensure a pleasant visit, please call ahead for special arrangements.
Taking Videos or Photos (with or without flash) during any show is STRICTLY prohibited.
Children 5 or younger can become restless during shows; please help ensure they do not distract other patrons. Some shows are inappropriate for young children. Seating on an aisle (when available) is recommended. A child’s car booster-seat is allowed. One ticket per child -- no free "lap sitting".
There is a community parking lot behind the theatre that is available during show times.
All Old Opera House shows have an age rating. This is to help you determine if the show is appropriate for children, teens, or any patron that is sensitive to adult language and themes. If you have any questions on a particular show, please do not hesitate to ask.
Old Opera House Perks
- Dining: There are restaurants within walking distance. Call the theatre for details.
- Parties: We rent our balcony for private parties.
- Refreshments are served during intermission, with donations going to the Theatre Guild.
- Tours: The Old Opera House, built in 1910, is listed on the National Historic Register and is one block from our courthouse where John Brown was tried. Free tours of the theatre are available.
The Op Shop - Thrift Shop
OPEN: Tuesday- Saturday, 10:00am-3:00pm
Location: 115 N Charles St. Charles Town, WV 25414
The OP Shop, the Old Opera House's Thrift Store, sells gently worn clothing and low cost household items that appeal to the economically challenged and true bargain hunters alike. The profits from the OP Shop are used by the Old Opera House to enhance the quality of our and maintain our historic building.
Make a Difference ... Are you looking for a place to volunteer a few hours each month and make a positive impact on the local community? The Old Opera House's thrift store, the OP Shop, is looking for volunteers. If you are interested in helping, please contact the OP Shop at #304.725.6605.
Jean Heiler Art Gallery
Located on the lower level of the Old Opera House, this Art Gallery showcases work of some of the areas most talented artists.