Butte Theater Cripple Creek

About the Butte Theater

The Butte 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.

 

Butte Theater History

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 entertainment galore.
   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 Dempsey.
    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.

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