NEWBURG—If Rolla residents ever feel inspired to go “out of town” to catch a theater production or a high-quality concert, they definitely don't have to drive far.
NEWBURG—If Rolla residents ever feel inspired to go “out of town” to catch a theater production or a high-quality concert, they definitely don’t have to drive far.
Just down the road from Rolla, in the City of Newburg, lies an historic theater that regularly puts on some quality entertainment.
For decades, Lyric Live Theater, which used to be called Regional Opera Company, has hosted countless plays, concerts, variety shows and other productions.
“We always have two plays per year, as well as the variety show,” explained Carrolyn Bolin, manager/director of the theater. “We also have guest artists. Every Saturday from now through September, we have a show.”
The variety show falls on the last two weekends of August.
A regular guest artist for several years at the theater has been Bob Milne, a ragtime/boogie-woogie pianist with international acclaim who played at the theater in June.
Other guest artists from earlier this year include Jerry Rosa and the String Works Band, a local group, and country artists Don Joy and Melanie Lynn. Joshua Gibbs, a Warner Bros. recording artist, also visited the theater this summer.
As far as upcoming shows, David Mays, a country music artist from Branson, musicians Dave Para and Cathy Barton, and several other acts. A calendar with a full listing of all of the theater’s show times and dates can be found at www.lyriclivetheater.com/2014/cal14.html.
Bolin said that, for the most part, the stage plays and variety shows all feature local talent.
“Everyone comes from the surrounding area,” she said. “We went to keep it all local. It’s all volunteer, too.”
As for the guest artists, they get 80 percent of the ticket sales, and the other 20 percent goes to the theater to help offset utilities and maintenance costs.
Not all of the shows even have a set ticket price, though, according to Bolin.
Several acts are free, although donations are accepted.
When it comes to the level of talent in Newburg and the surrounding communities, Bolin said she is always impressed.
“There’s a lot of talent,” she said. “Really, there is. And it’s a lot of fun. We have a family-oriented theater, and anyone can audition and join. We always have open auditions.”
She said she encourages people with a desire to perform to consider the Lyric Live Theater.
“If you always wanted to act, sing, juggle or show off your skills, come to our stage and do it,” she said. “We’ve actually had some musicians and actors get their start here.”
Bolin said that she personally became a part of the organization years ago as a volunteer and did not originally want to be on stage for any of the productions.
“One night, I was downstairs cleaning, and I thought I was all alone, and I was singing,” she explained. “Frank Bridges, who was the director at the time, heard me and asked me ‘What do you mean you don’t want to be on stage?’”
Since then, Bolin has become a fixture at the theater and regularly makes appearances on stage.
To go along with the fact that people can view some quality entertainment, Bolin said there is another reason people may want to check out the theater and become involved.
The theater itself is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
History buffs can appreciate learning about the beginnings of the theater, which has been around since 1919, and was constructed as a theater for silent films. Right from the get-go, though, it also had stage acts, with its first event being a live stage lecture by Chief Wm. Red Fox, a full-blooded Sioux Indian, according to the organization’s website.
Since then, the building has hosted numerous acts and events, from silent films to plays to weddings, to everything in-between.
In the late 1950s, the theater went dark and was sold and used to store lumber, according to the Lyric Live website.
In 1983, though, the building was purchased by Jay Turley, a playwright, director and producer from Blackwater, who made improvements to the building and made the theater known for its quality productions. Turley retired from the theater in 1997, which was when Bridges took over. Bridges was later succeeded by Bolin.
Even though the theater is now well-known for its many guest artists, there was one guest that the theater would have probably preferred not visit. That guest was a massive flood that came through the area last summer.
Last August, the theater was impacted by flooding, and there was up to 2 feet of water in the front of the theater, as well as a large amount of mud and silt, Bolin said.
“The water went in the building’s side doors, and there was water all the way across (the building),” she said. “The piano was sitting in water.”
The theater’s season had to be cut short last year as a result of the flood, but Bolin said everything is back to normal again this year.
The theater also recently received a $4,000 grant from the Meramec Regional Planning Commission that will help with the flood damage, Bolin said.
“We were able to build a ramp and a secondary floor to get the piano off of the floor,” she said. Beyond that, the grant will also help with leaks and other flood-related damage.
Bolin said she hopes the theater continues to thrive and see even more participation and attendance from everyone in the surrounding area.
“We’re alive and well. We’re still going, and we’re stronger than ever. I’m sure there are people that would like to join us on stage, and I invite them to come on out.”
For more information about the theater—and to check out a more in-depth history of the theater throughout the decades— go to www.lyriclivetheater.com/. The theater’s physical address is 117 E. First St. in Newburg.