The Old Opera House Theatre Company (OOH) in downtown Charles Town (204 N. George Street) has been a thriving scene for more than a century. Comprising six main stage productions, a summer youth production, a one-act play festival, and a ballet every other year, the organization is committed to cultivating the arts in Jefferson County.
OOH Director Steve Brewer has been involved in theatre for most of his life, and was even enrolled in classes at OOH as a child. “We often joke in theatre and say that the ‘theatre bug’ bit someone and gave them the passion for it,” he explained. “Well, for me, that bite was deep and fatal.”
Brewer appreciates that Charles Town and the Panhandle overall are rich with the arts and artists. “We’re fortunate that in this area, many of our neighbors see and feel the value of having a strong performing arts center in their midst; they ensure that the Old Opera House thrives and is available for all to enjoy.”
To that end, not only does the company have six productions each season, but it also offers acting, dance (ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, and Broadway-style dance), and vocal lessons, provides summer camps for children, and is an active art gallery. There’s truly something for every art lover at OOH.
Theater-goers will also enjoy knowing that the OOH has undergone some recent enhancements. “We received a couple large grants from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History,” noted Brewer, “which has allowed us to upgrade most of our lighting equipment (LED), as well as our sound, and even add some video components—so the overall experience at the Opera House is quite state-of-the-art now.”
An additional facet to the OOH is its OP Shop (115 N. Charles St.), an attached thrift store that provides some income for the theater, but also provides a great service for the community with low-cost alternatives to local department stores.
“The OP Shop not only supports the Old Opera House, but provides gently used clothing and household items for both those with limited financial means and the bargain hunter alike,” said Brewer. “And what we don’t’ sell there, we donate to other charities in the area.”
The OP Shop is completely run by volunteers and all the profit is used by OOH for things like programming and maintaining the historic site.
Overall, Brewer believes the theater plays, and will continue to play, a vital part in the Panhandle’s cultural scene. “The Old Opera House started out as a live performance venue and later became a movie theater, a civic center, and a public gathering place. It has been one of the landmarks of downtown Charles Town for over a century, and with the love that the local community has for live theatre, music, and dance, there’s no reason it will not continue to thrive for another hundred years.”