Stuart’s Opera House still draws crowds in southeast Ohio
By Plain Dealer guest writer
May 02, 2010, 7:50AM
NELSONVILLE, Ohio — It’s nearing midnight in the heart of Appalachia, and I’m sipping on a glass of chardonnay while discussing opera with the locals.
Well, not exactly opera. We’re hunkered down in a trendy restaurant in Nelsonville called Rhapsody, and we’re chatting about Stuart’s Opera House. Both are on the city’s historic square, and while tonight Rhapsody is the town’s lifeblood, the opera house is its heart and soul.
It seems that everyone in Nelsonville is connected to the opera house, a structure that has survived a debilitating fire and a certain lack of interest from some residents yet still stands more than 130 years after it was christened.
Once the stage for minstrel shows, boxing matches, vaudeville acts and high school graduations, this all-purpose, theatrical grande dame today offers top-level musical talent in addition to local events. The likes of Richard Thompson, the Cowboy Junkies and Lucinda Williams have played here.
You could say that Stuart’s Opera House is one of the gems of Ohio tourism. Those who live in this city of 5,200 near Ohio University know it as their shimmering star.
“I don’t think there’s anything in this town that’s anymore important than Stuart’s Opera House,” said Judy Sinnott, a Hocking College publicist who covered the 1980 opera house fire for the Athens Messenger