The McPherson Opera House is a gem.

The McPherson Opera House is a gem.

The Opera House has been closely tied to entertainment in the community for generations.

On opening night in 1888, all 900 seats were sold — this in a town of less than 2,500 people — and the Opera House quickly established itself as a cultural center, according to research conducted by the Opera House Company, which now runs the historic venue.

For 30 years, a steady stream of performers graced the stage of the Opera House.

The Opera House also hosted political rallies, suffrage meetings and local productions and events. It was the primary place where the citizens of McPherson could meet, interact, and understand themselves to be a community, according to the Opera House Company.

From 1925 to 1965, the Opera House was used as a movie theater. On opening night of the newly remodeled Empire Theater in 1929, 200 people had to be turned away.

Current generations likely remember the Opera House as the Mac Theater, where they as children watched double features, cartoons and serials, and as teens stole first kisses.

Even as early as the late 1960s, television was changing the way Americans sought entertainment. The popularity of television resulted in families staying home in instead spending an evening out on the town at a movie or live show.

This trend of social isolation brought on by broadcast media, cable, Netflix and Internet has only worsened in recent decades.

John Holecek, Opera House executive director, said it most appropriately, “There is nothing like a live show.”

You can’t walk into a live concert, play or opera and walk out with the same disposition.

“There is nothing on earth that is more of an upper than to sit around for a really good show,” Holecek said.

The Opera House’s historic surroundings, including a beautiful mural and stenciling by Lindsborg artist Gustaf Nathaniel Malm, as well as the theater’s acoustics, makes it one of the premier theaters in the region.

All of the performers, some of which tour worldwide, have commented on the beauty and intimacy of the venue.

There are no bad seats in the Opera House. Any place in the house makes you feel as if you are right there on stage with the performers whether you are on the front row or in the balcony.

Unfortunately many McPherson residents are missing out on the experience. As a society, we conditioned to hunker down at home in front of the big screen instead of venturing into the community and interacting with performers and other members of the community. If you go, you will fall in love. But, McPherson, we need to get some bodies in those seats. The Opera House in its short run since renovations where completed in 2010, has become an important asset to McPherson commerce. Shows regularly bring in audience members from outside the community who eat dinner and spend their dollars at local retailers. Follow these out-of-towners lead. Make it a night on the town. Eat out a one of our community restaurants and take in a show.

Sponsors have generously subsidized many recent shows, but to keep the Opera House operating at its peak, we need to return to those days when the theater had to turn people away.

The next live performance at the Opera House will be “Rave On,” which is a Buddy Holly tribute. The show is at 7 p.m. Saturday and tickets start as low as $10 for students. The show promises to be full of energy and a performance that can be enjoyed be audience members of all ages.

If a live performance is not your cup of tea, you can enjoy movies on the big screen in the Opera House’s opulent surroundings. The Opera House offers a Thursday night film series. The next film will be “Led Zeppelin, Celebration Day” on Jan. 24. Tickets are only $5. If you bring a friend, he or she gets in free.

The Opera House also has been host to a variety of free holiday films sponsored by McPherson Main Street, McPherson Chamber of Commerce and McPherson Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The CVB is continuing its Brain Food Film Series and plans a debut of a documentary commemorating the centennial of the All Schools Day Festival this spring.

Feed your brain, feed your soul, go see a show.

— Cristina Janney on behalf of the McPherson Sentinel Editorial Board