FOR RELEASE: DECEMBER 18, 2009
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
ROD BARKER, 970.375.7123, OR SOPHIE PARROTT, 970.375.7135
DURANGO, Colo. – Traditional “melodrama” will return to Durango in Summer 2010 with “The Great Durango Melodrama at the Henry Strater Theatre.”
Two different shows will be staged on alternate nights beginning in early June and running through mid-August. The George M. Cohen classic “The Tavern” has been confirmed, with a second show to be announced in coming weeks.
“We thought long and hard about this,” said Rod Barker, owner of the Historic Strater Hotel, which includes the Henry Strater Theatre (colloquially known as The Hank). “I can’t tell you how many people continue to call and ask if we still have the melodrama, and they’re disappointed when we say no. Now we will be able to say, yes.”
The Diamond Circle Melodrama was launched at the Strater’s attached theatre in 1961 by Earl Barker, Rod’s father, and it rose to international fame for its charm and unique qualities – as well as adherence to the traditional theatrical art form. Melodramas are characterized by exaggerated movements, strong emotions, up-tempo dialogue, and clear conflict between good and evil. They also entice audiences to boo the villain, cheer for the hero and rollick with Vaudevillian comedy.
In 2007 Barker’s sister, Jeannie Wheeldon, who assumed management and ownership of the Diamond Circle Melodrama in 1980, sought a buyer, which ultimately was the Durango Arts Center (DAC). The Diamond Circle Melodrama thus moved to the DAC’s theater, but productions were staged for only one season (2008). During the same period, the rechristened Henry Strater Theatre turned to light musical comedies, staging “Forever Plaid” in 2008, and “Dames at Sea” in 2009.
“While these were wonderful productions, we really wanted to get back to our unique niche,” said Barker, who has staunchly maintained the Victorian ambiance at the Historic Strater Hotel. “We’ll continue with live music and as a venue for community events, but during the summer, it will be all about traditional melodrama.”
Barker and Theatre Manager Sophie Parrott will be traveling throughout the country to recruit the professional melodrama performers who in early years helped ensure the stellar quality of the productions.
“But we want to include our local performers as well,” said Parrott. “We have so many wonderful young actors and actresses right here in Durango. Our musicals these past two years helped give them professional experience, and we’d like to continue with that tradition.”
First presented in 1920, "The Tavern" is set in a run-down Wisconsin inn on a dark and stormy night. Travelers take refuge in the ramshackle tavern, hoping to escape the rain and a band of highwaymen who’d been robbing and terrorizing people on the road. Among the tavern's occupants are a jolly, talkative vagabond (whom George M. Cohan played in the original production), a young woman on a quest and a local politician and his staff (accosted by the highwaymen before their arrival). During the course of the evening, a murder occurs and the innkeeper fights to maintain order until the sheriff arrives to solve the crime.
The Diamond Circle Melodrama staged ‘The Tavern’ in 1961,” said Barker. “We thought it only appropriate to bring it back for the melodrama’s rebirth. And we will be having a Vaudeville revue just like in the old days.”
Community members are responding favorably:
“It is glad to learn that melodrama will be revitalized at the Strater,” said John Wells, principal of The Wells Group and presiding officer of the Durango Business Improvement District. “The melodrama has been a long-standing tradition in Downtown Durango, and to have it return to the historic location where it has been staged for so many decades will be a wonderful asset to Durango residents and visitors alike.”
“The melodrama at the Strater had become a Durango icon over time and has definitely been missed the past couple of years,” said Steve Short, president of First National Bank of Durango. “Hiss and boo no more, rather, three cheers to Rod Barker and the Henry Strater Theatre for bringing the melodrama back.
“I think it’s wonderful. It’s great news,” said Dennis Johnson, former actor and owner of Stuart’s of Durango. “It goes far in continuing the symbiotic relationship of the Strater and the melodrama, which is a tremendous benefit for the residents of Durango and our visitors alike.”
“It is truly great news that the melodrama is returning home to the Strater,” said Russ Elliott, president of Brainstorm Internet and former Strater employee. “The only thing more Strater than the melodrama is Henry himself.”
"We are delighted that The Hank will continue to be a vital part of Durango's summer theatre scene,” said Mona Wood Patterson, local theater director and co-founder of Merely Players theatrical troupe.
“It is great,” said Charles Leslie, director, Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. “With no melodrama in town, it was as if a vital piece of Durango’s entertainment package was missing. This will complete the spectrum. We now have it all.”
For reservations or further information, visit www.henrystratertheatre.com or call 970.375.7160.
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