About the Butte Theater
Theater is an 1890's theater refurbished for modern use. Owned
by the City of Cripple Creek, the Butte decor includes
Victorian-era wallpaper, and period chandeliers. A
1,350-square foot stage spans the main room, with seating for
199 guests. The stage is home to professional and community
theater productions as well a variety of entertainment venues.
The stage for
drama was set when gold fever hit Cripple Creek in 1890. A
gold rush of major proportions was underway at the turn of the
20th century and a boomtown atmosphere called for
Tired, thirsty and hungry, miners preferred the society of
the gambling halls and saloons that lined the streets of the
mining district. Madams, dance hall girls and medicine shows
were the preferred entertainment of the less cultured, working
element. Booze, gambling and debauchery prevailed.
But there was also a more sophisticated lot who still yearned for the
niceties of a society that they had left behind. Moving West, where social
dress and fine dining was as scarce as running water, was quite a hardship
for the socially inclined.
Early on, Cripple Creek and Victor both sported grand opera houses,
providing much needed access to theatre, music and art. Such notable acts
as Texas Guinan, Lily Langtree and Groucho Marx all performed in early
Cripple Creek at one time or another.
Located on Meyer’s
Avenue in the heart of the red light district, The Grande Opera House
produced some of the most elegant, refined and tasteful entertainment in the
whole of the district. Its ruins remind today’s visitors of the gold days
gone by when going to the opera was a typical mining camp social event.
There was also the Lyric Opera House where in 1913, the lowest of miners and
highest of society rubbed elbows to watch George Coplen fight the famed Jack
Another historical venue that began in the heyday of the gold rush still
houses live entertainment today, in the form of live melodrama and
professional theater. The "Butte Concert and Beer Hall" premiered in
1896, when proprietors Halbekann & Hertz featured nightly entertainment with
a Ladies' Vienna Orchestra. Some time later the theater re-premiered as the
Butte Opera House under the management of D.R. McArthur. Within two years,
numerous clubs and lodges were sponsoring parties and benefits at the Butte
on a regular basis.
The opera house experienced limited success, and over the next several
years underwent a series of makeovers; first it was transformed into the
Butte Hall Dancing Academy, followed by The Watt Brothers Furniture Company,
back to a theatre (this time under the name Teller Hall,) onto a skating
rink, a secondhand store, a weapons cache (the space was then called The
Armory,) an auto garage, home of the Cripple Creek Auto Company, and
eventually fell into disuse, mainly a storage facility for the fire
department located below.
Early in 1999, the city of Cripple Creek brushed aside some of
the dust and saw a lost jewel hidden amongst the rubble.
The City began extensive renovations to refurbish the Butte
with fresh paint, Victorian-era wallpaper, and period
chandeliers. A 1,350-square foot stage spans the main room,
with seating for 174 guests. The sound booth is equipped with
state-of-the-art movie projectors and sound equipment. A snack
bar and roomy dressing rooms complete the theater's amenities.
The tradition of presenting classic melodrama in Cripple Creek dates back
to the late 1940’s. In 1949 Wayne and Dorothy Mackin purchased the
Imperial Hotel and began producing original melodramas in the basement of
the hotel. They called their theatre The Gold Bar Room. For 60+years the
Mackins and their acting company, The Imperial Players, performed to summer
crowds and helped to revitalize the town of Cripple Creek with a new tourism
economy. The award winning dinner/theater venue was a hit and such notables
as Victor Borge, Arthur Godfrey, Walt Disney, Mary Tyler Moore and Lowell
Thomas visited the theater. Famed ragtime pianist Max Morath got his start
at the keyboard in the Imperial. In the early 1990s the last Imperial show
was performed as the Imperial became a casino and the Gold Bar Room closed.
After a few dark years, the traditional Classic Cripple Creek Melodrama
was granted a new lease on life. When final renovations were completed on
the Butte Opera House in 2000, the summer melodrama moved to its new home
after 60+ seasons at the Imperial. In a brand new theatre, the melodrama
was produced by Steve and Bonnie Mackin. Stacy Mackin, the third
generation of Mackins to produce melodrama in Cripple Creek, managed the
theater until the fall of 2006.
The Butte as added professional
shows and community theater and expanded its venues in the past few years.