19th Century Opera House still Bringing in Crowds

By Eric Olson

October 12, 2011 Updated Oct 12, 2011 at 10:18 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (Indiana's NewsCenter)--Before 3d, before IMAX, before even movie theatres most little towns had an opera house…where local folks could enjoy traveling shows, plays, vaudeville acts, hear political speeches….a cultural window on the world. Down in Warren, Indiana it was the Pulse Opera House, built in 1884, that brought folks together most Saturday nights. 106 years later, the Pulse is still going strong.
From March through December the Pulse Opera House brings together local actors, stage and production folks and puts on shows…high brow tragedies, whodunit mysteries, toe-tapping musicals…fulfilling the purpose for which it was built more than a century ago. Cynthia Smyth-Wartzok made it all happen, she wrote her masters dissertation on the Pulse Opera House at Indiana University and fell in love with the place. After graduation she bought the abandoned theatre and resurrected its career. That was 25 years ago.

“There was about a 12 year period that the opera house was really in its heyday,” Smyth-Wartzok says. “I used to talk about that a lot until one time I realized we had actually gone longer than that first 12 year period so maybe this is the heyday of the opera house.”

It’s not been easy, finding actors, directing shows, drumming up audiences in little rural Warren Indiana. But- despite competition from all sorts of media, Cynthia is seeing her audiences grow.

“I thought before because of the internet and social networking and all that that the idea of live theatre was maybe going by the wayside,” Wartzok says, “but I find when people get here it’s like you return to something you forgot.”

Something Pulse audiences knew a hundred years ago. There’s nothing quite like watching live actors dealing with life’s slings and arrows, joys and sorrows while sitting among friends and neighbors. It’s called community, and that is something that remains timeless.

Eric Olson out in Your Country.

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