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Bastrop Opera House©
Mission Statement

The mission of the Bastrop Opera House©, a non-profit theatre organization, is to produce quality theatrical productions that entertain, inform and stimulate our audiences.

Our objectives are:
 
 
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-  to build theatre audiences
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-  to educate performers of all ages
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-  to create or sponsor new stage works
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-  to nurture new related programs
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-  to provide professional direction, leadership, and supervision
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-  to represent Bastrop in the state and national theatre markets
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-  to maintain a strong arts business

History

When you visit the Bastrop Opera House©, you are visiting a piece of downtown Bastrop history, and Texas history.

Following a long period of recession after the Civil War, Bastrop boomed in the late 1800's.  The economic revival was brought about by the laying of rails and the beginning of regular train service by the Katy Railroad in 1887.

Freight goods were delivered directly to town, eliminating the long 15-mile wagon trip to and from the rail line at McDade.  A new and wider world of opportunity opened, including contacts with troops of traveling entertainers, and local entrepreneurs sensed the potential.

Bastrop merchants P. Otto Elzner and S.D. Green agreed to build the Opera House in 1889 at a reported cost of $15,000.  At the rear of Elzner's store just off Main Street sat an old stable, and construction of the Bastrop Opera House began at this site.

Reproducing the appearance of the Opera House in Taylor, 35 miles to the north, construction went forward during the spring and summer of 1889.  The brick structure included large fireplaces in the east and west walls to provide heat for the winter theater patrons.

The first public event was held on October 1, 1889--a military ball and supper attracting over 60 couples. Beginning October 3rd of that same year, "Hillyer's Lilliputian Wonders," billed as the "largest gift show on Earth," became the first touring company to grace the Bastrop Opera House© stage.

Twenty-one touring companies played the Bastrop Opera House© during its debut season. Productions included Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" as well as less durable works such as J.Z. Little's "The World...in 6 Acts and 8 Tableaus," "Two Nights in Rome," "Dad's Girl," and "The Sea of Ice."

In 1909, Elzner became sole owner of the property but went bankrupt soon afterward and relinquished ownership of the Opera House.  Some time after 1910, the Opera House was converted to a motion picture theater which remained in operation through World War II, when GI's from nearby Camp Swift swarmed the streets of Bastrop and the theater.

By the late fifties and early sixties, the theater became a center for teenagers, known as the Teen Tower -- scene of dances, parties and related activities.  With the threat of a sheriff's sale from unpaid taxes, a non-profit organization, Bastrop Opera House, Inc., was chartered in 1979.  The non-profit corporation took possession of the building and launched a program of historic restoration with professional guidance and volunteer fundraising and labor.  The building has been recognized by the National Register of Historic Places and the Texas Historical Commission for its significance in Texas history.

Under the direction of Chester Eitze, Executive Director since 1984, volunteers from board member to actors and stage crews continue to uphold the tradition of performing arts programming.  On February 1, 1997, the Opera House and its troupe competed in the Texas Non-Profit Theater Festival and, despite being the smallest theater in terms of local population, advanced to state level with Eitze's one-act version of "The Fantasticks."  The quality of acting and directing drew raves and brought well-deserved notoriety to Bastrop and the theater.

The Bastrop Opera House© YOUTHeatre©, a children's theater with past performances of "Annie," "Macbeth: A Kid's Cautionary Tale," and "How to Eat Like a Child: And Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-Up," continues to delight audiences of all ages.

The Bastrop Opera House© offers family entertainment year-round at modest prices.  Tour groups are welcome at special matinee attractions or evening theatricals.  Please call (512)321-6283 for reservations or more information -- and please, join us!

Chester Eitze, Executive Director of the Bastrop Opera House, began his theatrical career in his hometown of Austin enrolled in Mrs. Mobley’s speech class at age five. Later, aiming at a Bachelor’s in Drama Education-Secondary Level, Chester enjoyed numerous roles in stage plays and dance dramas.

He joined Ashland’s Oregon Shakespearean Festival as assistant choreographer/dancer/actor, where he soared into arts management. Returning to U.T., Chester sought a Master’s Degree in Directing. He was offered the Special Activities Coordinator with Austin Parks and Recreation which allowed him to build arts curricula with playground leaders, recreation center managers, and direct the Zilker Park Outdoor Musical. He was then offered the artistic directorship of Austin Civic Theater. He melded ACT with the recreation program, eventually getting parks land for the new ACT building which was christened Zachary Scott Theater, a facility he designed. Chester then turned toward the stars and left for New York City. Offered the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, an original play pre-dating the musical, Chester was awed to be performing in the Greenwich Village Provincetown Playhouse where Eugene O’Neill had worked.

Flying back home to Texas with regional theatre in Houston or Dallas in mind, Chester took time to gear-down after a lengthy stay in Manhattan. After a few months he was challenged by three Longhorn grads to do summer stock in 1984 at the preserved Opera House in Bastrop. He found a neat frontier playhouse that flirted with him during those four months of preparing the facility, the program and the personnel for melodrama and vaudeville. Chester became artistic director of Bastrop Opera House and began building a theatre program as a tourism destination. Preserving the landmark structure, developing youth, adult, and senior performance art programs, joining TNT and AACT as well as the Austin Circle of Theatres, and captaining the Bastrop Opera House as an historic downtown business has made the theatre successful.

Chester has just under a hundred directing credits, thirty-six dance programs and years of creative dramatics and children’s theater production. He is the current President of Texas Nonprofit Theatres.

The sign outside. (photo by Engela Edwards)
Bastrop Opera House 2006 photo by Engela Edwards
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