Classic melodrama will return to the Strater Hotel next summer after a two-year hiatus.
The Great Durango Melodrama at the Henry Strater Theatre" will debut in June in the theater that was home to the
Diamond Circle Melodrama from 1961 to 2007.
There's something nice about it coming home - it just fits," said Sophie Parrott, manager of the Henry Strater
Theatre, known informally as The Hank."
Parrott and Strater owner Rod Barker said they jointly decided to bring melodrama back to Main Avenue because of
countless comments and requests by locals and tourists alike.
The melodrama is part of Durango's history and the Strater's history, and it was unfortunate that it ever left in the
first place," Barker said.
As in years past, The Great Durango Melodrama" will present two plays on alternate nights, with each performance
followed by a traditional Victorian-era vaudeville show. The first play, George M. Cohan's The Tavern," was the first
to grace the Diamond Circle stage in 1961. Parrott and Barker have not decided on the second play but expect to make
their choice early in 2010.
The Diamond Circle Melodrama closed at the Strater when former owner Jeannie Wheeldon, who is Barker's sister, could
not find a buyer for the business she had owned since 1980. The Durango Arts Center stepped in and purchased the DCM, a
move that required a $100,000-plus renovation of the center's theater. The melodrama had one season at the DAC in 2008
but was suspended this year as the organization struggled financially.
To replace the melodrama, The Hank hosted the musicals Forever Plaid" in the summer of 2008 and Dames at Sea" this
year. Both shows featured all-local casts of members of the Durango Lively Arts Company, which was a switch from the
nationally recruited casts Wheeldon assembled every year for the DCM. Barker said he and Parrott will recruit talent
from national auditions, as well, but The Great Durango Melodrama" will include a mix of locals and actors from around
We're not going to overlook
the great talent we have in town," Barker said.
This week's announcement caught people off guard at the DAC, which plans to resume the Diamond Circle Melodrama this
summer, as well.
Well, everyone knows that Durango's grand historic melodrama is the Diamond Circle Melodrama and Vaudeville, which is
housed at the Durango Arts Center and will be back in full force in 2010," said DAC board member and outgoing interim
executive director Scott Hagler.
It's a shame that anyone would want to compete with the arts center on the half-century-old melodrama. The revenue
generated from the melodrama will go a long way toward keeping the center's doors open, supporting our day-to-day
programming, and our vision of the DAC as an umbrella organization for the arts," he said.
New DAC board president Terry Swan said the center has a multiyear agreement to complete payment to Wheeldon for the
2007 purchase of the melodrama, and the revenue from ticket sales is the primary source to do so. The DAC board also
expects revenue from the melodrama to help pay for the theater renovations and some of the center's programs and
We're really concerned about this," Swan said.
Neither Barker nor Parrott were aware that the DAC intended to resume the Diamond Circle Melodrama, and Barker said he
expected to work with, not against, the arts center. With both entities learning of each other's plans just this week,neither the DAC board nor Barker has analyzed the impact of two melodramas in downtown Durango. The situation should
make for interesting discussions as the New Year begins, but Barker intends to keep things positive.
I see no need in a small town like this why we need to compete," he said.