Stuart's Opera House
|Address||52 Public Square,|
|Type||Live event venue|
Stuart's Opera House
|NRHP reference #||78002007|
|Added to NRHP||1978-12-29|
Stuart's Opera House is a nonprofit organization dedicated to its role as a regional leader in the arts community, a center for public expression, and an economic development partner for Southeastern Ohio.
The Opera House is a registered historic building in Nelsonville, Ohio, listed on the National Register on December 29, 1978. It is an Opera House and live music performance theatre that was built in 1879, and continues to be used to this day.
Stuart's Opera House is the cornerstone of the historic Public Square in Nelsonville. It is dedicated to its role as a regional leader in the arts community, a center for public expression, and an economic development partner for Southeastern Ohio.
Stuart's Opera House envisions itself as the cultural anchor and a center of expression on Nelsonville's bustling and dynamic Public Square. It is a historic venue sought out by people of all ages, from all walks of life, and from near and far. Its well-earned reputation as an intimate, casual setting for continuous offerings of both familiar and innovative artistic performances and community events brings people back time and again.
Stuart's Opera House is the cornerstone of the Nelsonville Historic Art District. It is a lovingly restored theatre that reflects its glory days in 1879 through 1924 when it was home to vaudeville, melodrama, and minstrel shows. Stuart's closed and sat empty from 1924 through 1976. In 1977 a group formed a non-profit and started bringing the theatre back to life when a devastating fire nearly destroyed the building in 1980. Seventeen years later, in 1997, the Opera House re-opened its doors and is once again home to local, regional, national and internationally acclaimed performances. Stuart's Opera House now hosts over 75 events each year and is Southeastern Ohio's favorite place to experience live performance.
Stuart's Opera House has been a stakeholder in Nelsonville, Ohio since the boom times of coal mining in the 19th century. During this time, both the building and the region have gone through a great deal of change. This transformation of Stuart's can teach us about the transformations within Southeast Ohio, and particularly how the local population's views on entertainment, and how to interact with the greater community, evolved.
The man who would build Stuart's Opera House, George Stuart, began life in show business as the owner and operator of a showboat, traveling through the canal system of Ohio with a professional minstrel troupe. Stuart's showboat sank in 1869 with construction of his new opera house beginning soon after.
Workers finished construction of the Opera House in 1879, at the start of Nelsonville's boom period brought about by the growing rail system which sent coal from the area to the industrialized north. The presence of an Opera House signaled that Nelsonville had thoroughly established itself. The building quickly became a cultural centerpiece of the town, not only as a place of entertainment, but as a gathering place for community events: from benefits for local organizations and high school graduations, to Sunday school classes too large to fit in the local church. The Opera House attracted a high caliber of shows as well, playing host to some of the most successful acts of the era. The Opera House would continue to be deeply connected to Nelsonville until its closure in 1924, which was brought about in part by audiences’ preference for film and the coal boom coming to a halt.
Stuart's doors would remain closed until the 1970s when the Hocking Valley Museum of Theatrical History bought the building with the goal of restoring it to a working theater, as well as a place of learning. The hopes to restore Stuart's were nearly dashed, however, when the building was enveloped in flames on March 24, 1980. What followed was a great deal of heated debate over whether the building should be torn down, or if the restoration could start from scratch. In the end, it was decided that Stuart's would be restored, and after an immense amount of money and effort, Stuart's was finally ready to house an audience once more.
The grand reopening on March 8, 1997 was headlined by Jack F. Spell's performance of Ladies and Gentlemen: Mark Twain, a show written by Mr. Spell twenty years earlier, slated to open at Stuart's before the fire. From a handful of community theater performances per year and a concert here and there, Stuart's has become the premier performing arts center in Southeast Ohio. For the past 20 years the Opera House has seen growth, prosperity, culture and fun. In addition to a full concert schedule of the best in Americana, folk, and contemporary music, Stuart's proudly hosts both community and professional theatrical productions, dance, and visual art exhibits.
- President: Bob Garbo
- Vice-President: Michael Mark
- Treasurer: Alex Couladis
- Secretary: Herman Carson
- Carol Ault
- Miki Brooks
- Russell Chamberlain
- Howard Fokes
- Valerie Kinnard
- Channing McAllister
- Diane McVey
- Jenny Pope
- Karl Runser
- Dan Stroh
- Mary K. Walsh
Board Member Emeritus
- Frederick Oremus
- Katie McCoy
For twenty years, Stuart's has been a community center for the arts. On average, Stuart's provides 25,000 visitors with over 75 events a year, including concerts, theater performances, free concerts, educational events, and private rentals. Additionally, all kids 12 and under receive free admission to the Nelsonville Music Festival. The art programming and educational outreach keep Stuart's heavily involved with the underserved population of Nelsonville and surrounding communities through cooperative participation in and preservation of the arts. An average of 7,000 students participate yearly in the Stuart's Arts Education Program. The goal of the Arts Education Program is to offer an affordable, broad based program in the performing arts.
Stuart's Opera House Arts Education program is supported by: Epstein Teicher Philanthropies, The Ohio Arts Council, The Athens County Foundation, Rocky Community Improvement Fund, ETC, The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, The McCleland Fund, The Athens Sunrise Rotary, The Athens Community Music Festival, Benefest, The Johnny B and John Spataro Fund, L’Heureux Properties and many individual donors.
Stuart's Opera House programming is made possible in part by state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically
- Afterschool Music Program (AMP)
- Audio Production Program
- Poetry Out Loud regional host
- Elementary Drama Club (Nelsonville-York Local School District)
- Drama Club (Nelsonville-York Local School District)
- AMP for Adults
- Performing Arts for Adults
- Imaginative Writing, prose
Nelsonville Music Festival
The Nelsonville Music Festival (NMF) is an annual four-day music festival located at the Historic Village of Robbins Crossing at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio in Southeastern Ohio. The event usually takes place in May or early June and features a variety of genres, including local, regional, and national artists. The weekend celebration includes local food and artisans as well as a campground for both primitive and RV camping. The festival also provides activities for children and strives to be environmentally friendly. The Nelsonville Music Festival is a production of Stuart's Opera House.
NMF features a main stage, a picturesque Porch Stage, the small No-Fi Cabin featuring artists performing with no electricity, and a FREE Boxcar Stage with music from an old train car turned into a stage backdrop and mural.
Zero Waste Initiative
The Nelsonville Music Festival strives to have a positive impact in the Nelsonville community and southeastern Ohio environment, so it is a Zero Waste event, diverting over 92% of the waste created at the festival from the landfill in 2018 with recycling and composting.
NMF Notable Acts
Past performers have included Wilco, The Flaming Lips, Willie Nelson, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Ween, Loretta Lynn, Gillian Welch, John Prine, The Avett Brothers, They Might Be Giants, The Decemberists, Randy Newman, Merle Haggard, Iron & Wine, Yo La Tengo, George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Courtney Barnett, and many more.