The Herald Bulletin

Midday Update


November 30, 2013

Anderson was home to Doxey and Grand Opera House

Fires, arrival of silent films signal the end of era


Patrons were treated to the Opera of Faust by Goethe. The Grand contained the second largest stage in Indiana. Only the English Theater on the Circle in Indianapolis surpassed it in size.

In a panel above the proscenium (stage area) was a allegorical painting representing the capers of cupid and a song, and to the right and left of the stage were large and beautiful figures representing "Slumber" and "The Awakening" or night and day. The drop curtain depicted a court scene from Hamlet.

A signature event for the Grand Opera House was the appearance of 110-member cast supported by a 50-piece orchestra performed by a touring company's production of "Madame Butterfly."

The Grand was also used for conventions, speeches, musical presentations, boxing matches, wrestling and other attractions, making for an extensive use.

All across America the arrival of silent films signaled the end of the opera houses as viable forms of live entertainment. Silent films were the entertainment rage and, as a growing number of new theaters opened to take advantage of the phenomenon, many former opera houses converted.

Such was the case with the Grand Opera House. It ceased operations sometime in 1923 and was reopened under the name Granada Theater in 1924 featuring silent films. The public's taste in entertainment had shifted and with the shift the traveling live productions could no longer sustain themselves.

With the conversion of the Grand Opera House to the Granada Theater, an entertainment form in Madison County came to an end. An era begun in Madison County in 1883 was over. For four decades, tens of thousands of Madison County's citizens had enjoyed the greatest live theatrical productions our country had to offer.

During that time five of the eight Madison County opera houses had endured disastrous fires, leaving them in ruins. In 1950, a wrecking ball brought down the sixth one, the Grand Opera House in Anderson. It had been vacant since the Granada Theater closed its doors in 1937.

Fortunately for us, two former opera houses still survive, one in Pendleton and one in Elwood. From their appearance and the people in whose hands they currently are entrusted, they should be around for a long time to come for future generations to ponder and remember their days of glory.

For more information visit the Madison County History Center, 15 W. 11th St., Anderson, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Phone 683-0052.

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