The Grand Opera Theater is located in Dubuque, Iowa. Dubuque is on the Mississippi River, at Iowa's border with Illinois and Wisconsin. Address: Barn Community Theatre Company/135 Eighth Street, Dubuque, Iowa 52001.
Description and History:
Described as an exquisite edifice, The Grand Opera is a beautiful brick and sandstone building. Inside one finds a large auditorium, a stage area, an attic, a balcony and a lobby, in the style often found in theaters built around the turn-of-the-century.
This grand theater opened its doors in 1890, providing the public a truly magnificent place to see operas, ballet, stage plays, & minstrel shows, all productions that were produced on such a high quality level, seldom seen in the upper Midwest part of the United States, during this time period. In 1904, the great composer/performer George M. Cohan came in person to entertain at this opera house. He wrote such musicals such as 'Tintypes.' In its glory years, such stars as Sarah Bernhardt, Ethel Barrymore, and Lillian Russell participated in the stage productions. However, as movies became more and more popular, the interest in live theater began to falter.
Finally, in 1928, The Grand Opera became a movie theater and remained so for the next 39 years. In 1986, people dedicated to live theater bought The Grand Opera and renovated the building, as it was to be the new home of The Barn Community Theatre Company. The Grand Opera is now a busy place, offering theater lovers professional productions, produced by the community theatre members, and other outside groups that are able to rent the theatre, when the theatre company members aren't using the building themselves.
The ghosts of people who truly loved live theatre are still hanging around the building, and have done so since 1928, when the theatre was transformed into a movie house.
The Stage Area:
* Various cleaning women, who would be working there alone during the '30s, called the police several times and reported hearing voices coming from the stage area.
* Many people, since the theater opened up in 1986, have heard the same thing; voices coming from what looks like an empty stage.
* Singing from the stage has also been heard by the living, when the stage looked empty.
* The community theater pianist, who accompanies the various shows, usually plays her piano in the orchestra pit. With some productions, however, her piano is rolled up onto the stage. During these productions, she feels a strong presence standing behind her, watching her play the piano, which makes her feel uncomfortable.
* Stage workers/builders know when a ghost has arrived, because they always feel a "blast of cold air."
* One stage worker was busy painting a backdrop for an upcoming production on the stage, with his back to the auditorium. All of a sudden he heard an unseen presence walk across the stage, between him and the auditorium, making a bead clanking sound, as if it was dressed in a costume. He turned around to look at the area where the sound was coming from, and he felt a cold blast of air, that made every hair on his head and arms stand up. He made a hasty exit, and washed his paint brush at home!
Funny Business Occurrences with the lights
* The very first production that was performed by The Barn Community Theatre Company on the first opening night in 1986, was George Cohan's "Tintypes," in front of a packed, enthusiastic audience, excited about the reopening of The Grand Opera as a live, stage theater once again. As the play began, suddenly all the lights in the place went out, except the lights on stage. The show, of course, went on, while electricians tried to find the problem. Nothing was physically wrong with the wiring. It was unexplainable.
* During another play production, the spot lights rose up and down at will, and a spotlight kept falling from its stand.
* Light switches have been known to go on and off by themselves.
Strange Behavior Exhibited by Technical Equipment
* A camera man's movie camera started to act abnormally, zooming in and out at will. After viewing the tape filmed with this camera, he was surprised to see an apparition on tape, just before the camera went wacky. Another lady who was taping the show also had the same camera trouble, at the same time he did.
* While rehearsing the dance numbers for the production of "Gypsy," the choreographer used a tape recorder to play the songs used in the dance numbers. She often had to rewind or fast forward the recorder to find the correct song, as the songs weren't recorded in order. Imagine her surprise when the next song needed had already been found for her, by a ghostly helper.
Other Unexplained Incidences
* Shuffling foot steps have been heard in an empty building.
* Objects left in one place, have reappeared in various hiding places.
* While putting up Christmas decorations in the lobby, one community theatre member witnessed a box of decorations move by itself to the other side of the lobby.
* Doors in and around the lobby area have been known to open and close by themselves, like someone is going through them.
* While doing a photo session with a fellow actor, the psychic Mr. Schneider felt a presence standing next to him. Looking, he saw a male apparition with red hair, about 5'7." He heard the name, David, in his mind, and felt that he had been an actor when he was alive.
* During a rehearsal of the play, "Anything Goes," Mr. Schneider saw a small group of apparitions, who appeared in flashes, all in the back of the empty theatre, wearing old fashioned clothing from a different era.
The director of The Barn Community Theatre Company says that they love their ghosts because they don't do anything scary and enjoy live theatre as much as the living.
Historical Opera House photos from TheGrandOperaHouse.com/Renovation.htm