Once Upon a Time at the Opera House

On today’s episode, we’re joined by James Berton Harris to discuss his book, Once Upon a Time at the Opera House: Drama at Three Historic Michigan Theaters, 1882-1928. The book explores the importance of opera houses to the cultural and community life of nonmetropolitan areas in Michigan. As both the civic and arts center for the community, the local opera house was a venue for community meetings, political rallies, concerts, lectures, and theatrical entertainments.

Once Upon a Time at the Opera House explores the importance of opera houses to the cultural and community life of nonmetropolitan areas in Michigan. As both the civic and arts center for the community, the local opera house was a venue for community meetings, political rallies, concerts, lectures, and theatrical entertainments. The well-illustrated and often humorous stories readers encounter in the book are based on historical facts, anecdotes, urban legends, and tall tales associated with three of the more than one hundred opera houses that existed in Michigan in the period spanning the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. A kind of storybook about the Golden Age of Opera Houses in many of America’s rural regions, Once Upon a Time at the Opera House is a truly fascinating compendium of American entertainment culture, architecture, and civic life as specifically expressed in the history of three Michigan  buildings.

You can learn more about the theaters we discuss in this episode following the links below:

The Tibbits Theatre: https://tibbits.org/
The Ramsdell Theatre: https://ramsdelltheatre.org/
The Calumet Theatre: http://www.calumettheatre.com/

James Berton Harris. Active in both academic and professional theatre for forty-five years, Harris is Professor Emeritus of Theatre at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and he has been a member of the theatre faculty at the University of Michigan and Boston University. He has worked extensively as a costume designer at regional theatres and Shakespeare festivals across the country, and his New York credits include on and off Broadway, as well as at Circle Repertory Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Once Upon a Time at the Opera House: Drama at Three Historic Michigan Theatres, 1882-1928, is available at msupress.org, your local bookstore, or wherever else you get your books. You can connect with the press on Facebook and @msupress on twitter, where you can also find me @kurtmilb.

The MSU Press podcast is a joint production of MSU Press and the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. Thanks to Daniel Trego, Madiha Ghous, Donté Smith, Kylene Cave, and the team at MSU Press, especially Elise Jajuga and Julie Reaume, for helping to produce this podcast. Our theme music is “Coffee” by Cambo. 

MSU Press