History: Built in 1885, the original Opera House burned down in the 1892 fire that destroyed much of downtown Woodland. It was rebuilt on the same site, using some of the remaining foundations and bricks from the walls, reopening in 1896. WOH became the stopping place for such performers a Nance O'Neil, James A Herne and Harry Davenport. The great Polish actress Madame Helen Modjeska, John Philip Sousa and his band, comics Weber and Fields, George M. Cohan's troupe, "Gentleman Jim" Corbett and John L. Sullivan (who appeared in theatrical production followed by exhibitions of "Fistcuffs") and such up and coming young motion picture stars as Sidney Greenstreet, Walter Huston and Verna Felton. Over 300 touring companies had appeared on its stage by 1913, when, due to the encroachment of motion pictures in the valley and partly as a result of a lawsuit over an injury the Opera House was closed and remained boarded up until 1971. The Yolo County Historical Society purchased the building in 1971 to ensure that it did not fall to the wrecking ball and bulldozer. Declared a state historical park in 1976, the Historical Society gave the property to the State of California in 1980 and in 1981 the restoration began.
The Restoration: California State Historic Landmark #851, reopened in January of 1989 after a seven-year, $2,000,000+ restoration project. For the first time in nearly eight decades, the venerable brick building in the heart of California's fertile Sacramento Valley, began to offer live entertainment on a year-round basis. From its first season beginning in the fall of 1989, WOH has consistently captured regional Elly and Local Chesley theater nominations and awards. The WOH is made up of actors and technicians from throughout the area-some commuting up to 70 miles to perform. WOH mounts 5 Mainstage productions from September to June, a summer melodrama, a youth theater camp in August, and the Young Peoples Theatre program throughout the year, each production running from 2 to 4 weekends. During the restoration, the building was made structurally safe and "earthquake proofed". Central heat and Air-conditioning, a sprinkler and alarm system and handicap access were added. An annex was built to house the mechanical equipment necessary for the above and for administrative office space, a gift counter, the Mid Level Lounge and rooftop exterior deck. In 1990 with the help of Woodland Rotary Club, the south side grassy "Rotary Court" was added to compliment the City's Heritage Plaza. The interior of the Opera House has been painstakingly restored to the grandeur it enjoyed at the turn if the century. Careful attention was paid to reproduction of the wallpaper friezes, paint colors and carpeting. The main floor carpet was manufactured in England and shipped to the Opera House for installation. Comfortable main floor theater seating was built on the East Coast for installation and the historic pew-like benches in the balcony area were repaired or carefully replaced.
Some Additional Facts: The stage contains a modern, computerized lighting system and is capable of handling most sound needs through a 12 channel sound board with CD player and tape player. Stage microphones are available although not often needed as the original acoustics of the building are excellent. A hemp-line system, using historically correct rope and sandbags, is used to rig W.O.H.'s stagehouse instead of the computerized and counter-weighted system more modern theatres often utilize. The WOH will sometimes use the "wing and drop" scenery one associates with pre-20th century theatrical productions.
The building is owned by the State of California but management is by a professional staff hired by the Woodland Opera House Board of Trustees. The Board is made up of arts lovers, theatre buffs, historians and business persons. Although the building is owned by the State of California, it receives no financial support from the state, the county or the city. WOH is completely self sufficient. The WOH brings in 50% of the total income, other programming and rental brings in about 15%, fundraising totals another 15% and the remainder of the budget is balanced with donations, corporate underwriting, foundation grants, etc.
WOH is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (1971), inventory of Historic Sites in Yolo County (1972), was on the Historic American Building Survey (1966) and listed in the Woodland Historical Zone (1971). Named California Registered Historical Landmark #851 in 1973, the Opera House was made a state historical park in 1976, even though no park rangers are on the premises.
Click HERE for a time line Click HERE for a list of past shows