Home | Stories | News | Theaters | Drive-Ins | Profiles | The Authors | Other Books | Links
Abbeville Opera House - Abbeville, SC

Abbeville Opera House, Abbeville, SC

Abbeville Opera House
Town Square
Opened: October 1, 1908

Web Site: Abbeville Opera House

History of the Abbeville Opera House from their program.

At the turn of this century there were many "road companies" producing shows in New York City. Once the production was assembled, the show traveled throughout the country. One of the more popular tours went from New York to Richmond, Virginia to Atlanta. For a number of years, Abbeville was an overnight stop for the entire touring company. Several members of the community decided that if this area had a facility, since the traveling companies were coming through here anyway, Abbeville could sponsor some of these touring productions.

On October 1,1908, what was then the Abbeville District dedicated a new Court House and City Hall. The grand old theatre now known as the Abbeville Opera House was a part of that splendid pair of buildings, "equal in beauty of architecture and modern conveniences of any in the state," according to regional newspaper accounts of the day. Some months later the great stage - 7500 square feet with its wonderful fly loft, cat walk and auditorium - was officially used for its intended purpose. The show was called "The Great Divide" and it was a gala occasion that set the entire area buzzing with excitement.

From that time on, all the "greats and near-greats" played on the magnificent Opera House stage. The Ziegfeld FOLLIES, George White's SCANDALS, Jimmy Durante, Sarah Bernhardt, QUO VADIS, BEN HUR, and many other memorable productions and performers were presented as the big road shows moved down the eastern seaboard. Vaudeville was in its "heyday" as was the Abbeville Opera House.

As the road shows began to fade, the silent movies moved in. These early motion pictures carried full crews of musicians and sound effects men. They were impressive and still carried the awe of "live" show business. Then came THE JAZZ SINGER and the "talkies" came to the Opera House. But the old lustre was gone. Vaudeville was dying and the theatre was changing. Concurrently, Abbeville's influence as a cultural center faded. The Opera House was converted into a movie theater and the films became more and more automated.

It remained a movie theater until the late 1950s. With the decline of movies, even the once grand "movie house" degenerated, lost money and finally closed. The Abbeville Community Theatre had long wanted a home of its own, so in 1968 mounted a community-wide campaign as the first step in restoring this grand old theatre. Since then many people have taken part in the effort to keep the Opera House open and in good repair.

In 1978, with the increase of tourism in this region, the Opera House began a Summer Theatre Season. A professional touring theatre company established residence at the Opera House that year - the first since 1917. Since then the professional summer stock season has gained recognition throughout the southeast. The winter and summer seasons combined produce over 36 weeks of live theatre a year. Once again, this "grand old lady" is being used for it's original and intended purpose - to house live theatre.

Reference Materials:

"The Abbeville Opera House"
Season Program

Home | Stories | News | Theaters | Drive-Ins | Profiles | The Authors | Other Books | Links