Coal and Culture: Opera Houses in Appalachia by William Faricy Condee

By William Faricy Condee

A severe appreciation of the opera residence within the coal-mining area of Appalachia from the mid 1860s to the early Nineteen Thirties, Coal and tradition demonstrates that those have been multipurpose amenities that have been used for touring theater, concert events, non secular occasions, lectures, commencements, boxing suits, merits, union conferences, and - if the auditorium had a flat ground - skating and basketball.

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Female impersonators were especially prominent in minstrel shows, which had all-male casts, and were interpreted as simply another of the wide variety of white caricatures of African Americans featured in minstrelsy. ”64 After the Civil War, female impersonators evolved into a specialty role: the male soprano, who was a respectable, refined “yellow gal” of minstrelsy. These characters were considered harmless and beyond reproach, which was significant in a time when display of women’s bodies was an important part of other more risqué forms of variety theater.

From Harlan (KY) Enterprise. ”31 An advertisement for “VAUDEVILLE” at the New Harlan Theatre proclaimed, Special Scenery and Wardrobe, New Spicy Vaudville [sic] talent— Cast of fourteen people (Mostly Girls) . . ; also girl piano player; good pay; work year round; show going to Florida for the winter. Call for Mr. or Mrs. 33 Outright scandal enmeshed the opera house in Pithole, Pennsylvania, in –, demonstrating the opera house’s potential for morally liminal status and the ultimate enforcement of the dominant moral code.

34 THE OPERA HOUSE PROJECT Sign prohibiting tobacco use in Marlin’s Opera House, Brookville, Pennsylvania (1886), where audience behavior was subject to newspaper criticism. Photo by author. In this theater, men were required to put out their cigars, and women had to take off their hats. ” Ushers acted as the in-house police, enforcing promptness and silence. They carried signs around the theaters with admonitions regarding smoking and hats. ”43 The architecture of opera houses was also transformed to reflect and enforce this new emphasis on morality: the pit, formerly an area primarily for men to stand or sit on benches, was transformed into the orchestra section, with seats for middle-class spectators of both sexes.

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