Scot P.J. MacDonald, executive director of Valparaiso’s Memorial Opera House, says a lot has changed with his venue and theatrical company over the last few years.
“There was a time where people would say ‘Memorial Opera House? Never heard of it,’’’ he said. “Now it’s become something that’s in the front of everybody’s mind. They want to come for quality shows and to come here for the concerts.”
Located in Valparaiso at 104 Indiana Ave., the beloved venue will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2018. Built in 1893, the hallowed halls have seen luminaries from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to comedy icons The Marx Brothers grace its hallowed halls in the early 20th Century.
MacDonald’s affiliation with Memorial Opera House started in 2007, when he volunteered his time and talent. He moved up the ranks over the years and assumed the role of executive director in March of 2016.
During his tenure thus far, MacDonald and the Memorial Opera House staff have put together theater programming to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. This year, they have brought productions ranging from the classic comedy “You Can’t Take it With You” to the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which played to a packed house each night of its run and jazz-themed “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
The venue has also been a Region hotbed for live concerts. Its ongoing monthly Lunchtime Cabaret series focuses on styles prominent in the early and mid 20th century, while nighttime concerts find Chicagoland favorites such as Local H and Michael McDermott and songwriting icons such as Jimmie Dale Gilmore gracing the stage.
“We really want to make sure we are engaging the community with our product,” MacDonald said. “Whether it’s a play or a musical or a concert, it’s going to be something that's going to engage the community."
Memorial Opera House has also found success with its LimeLights Youth Theatre program. According to MacDonald, more than 175 Region youngsters have participated in the programs this year.
“Our mission is to use the theater and the arts to build a community and to create a sense of belonging, and I think that we’re doing that,” MacDonald said.
Memorial Opera House concludes its 2017 season with “A Christmas Story: The Musical,” which runs Nov. 24 to Dec. 10.
The 2018 season commences Feb. 16 with “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and includes “Blithe Spirit,” which opens April 27, the musical “Legally Blonde,” scheduled to open July 13 , “Sweeney Todd,” opening Sept. 28 and concluding with a musical version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” slated to open Nov. 30.
“We wanted it to be things that were new and bring in a new audience,” MacDonald said of its upcoming season. “We also wanted to pay tribute to our roots."
For more information on Memorial Opera House, call 219-548-9137 or visit MEMORIALOPERAHOUSE.COM