Where to go for a night out with your friends or family in Shepherdstown? Look no further than the theatrical space, The Shepherdstown Opera House on West German Street. The building’s height and light-blue exterior strike a commanding presence on the town’s main thoroughfare, begging the question: when and how did the Opera House come to be?
It started with one man. In December of 1909, Upton Scott Martin purchased property occupied by a small, wooden house. He tore down the house, and by June 1910, the Opera House was built and ready to host entertainment for the community. Then, in March 1915, Clifford S. Musser, needing a place to run his newspaper company, the Independent, moved his office and printing press onto the third floor of the building.
Later that same year, Mr. Musser and his wife Ada took over the operation of the theater. They soon moved their residence onto the second floor, and in 1926 the couple purchased the building. They ran the Opera House as a family business until May 1957, when the theater closed—more than three decades passed until a new generation of owners re-opened the space in the early 1990s. The current owners, Steve and Harriet Pearson bought the building in early 2018.
“The flood that caused the closure of the Opera House happened in May 2018,” Harriet recalled. “It was devastating. After four-plus years of repairs and renovation, we are thrilled to have returned the Shepherdstown Opera House to the community as a venue for live performance and screen entertainment.”
With some renovations still underway, the Pearsons have been determined to keep intact many of the historical features of the building, such as the original leaded glass windows above the entryway and the wooden floors and trim on the upper levels. They have also modernized key aspects of the building: from the sidewalk and front entrance area – which was reconstructed to enable universal access – to the new air conditioning and light/sound systems.
Speaking with the Pearsons about their plans for this venue, they share how they are working to fill the Opera House’s dance card with music and other live performances. Movies are currently being shown every other weekend, with a full-time student discount price of $9/ticket. They also mentioned that in July, the Contemporary American Theater Festival will be taking over the Opera House to produce one of the Festival’s five new plays.
You can sign up for updates and find information on upcoming events at OperaHouseLive.com as well as their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages! They hope to see a lot of Shepherd students coming their way soon.
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