Telluride’s ‘Crown Jewel’ Opera House Turns 100
by Martinique Davis
Dec 16, 2012 | 815 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LIGHTS UP - Holiday decor sparkled outside the Sheridan Opera House last week. (Photo by Dale Kondracki)
LIGHTS UP - Holiday decor sparkled outside the Sheridan Opera House last week. (Photo by Dale Kondracki)

TELLURIDE – On July 3, 1913, what is now the Sheridan Opera House opened its doors for the first time, ushering in an era of culture and entertainment for the Telluride community.

Now, nearly 100 years later, the “Crown Jewel of Telluride” continues to serve as the community’s cherished cultural center, as home to live theatre, music, movies, and more. This quaint and historic building has weathered Telluride’s booms and busts, touted in the beginning as the “Broadway of Telluride,” through financial crises that pushed it nearly to the brink of obscurity, to its modern-day revival as one of Telluride’s best-known historic landmarks.

To celebrate the Sheridan Opera House’s storied past, as well as to support its sustainable future, the building’s nonprofit operator, the Sheridan Arts Foundation, is rolling out a slew of events in this, the building’s 100th year, beginning with a Vaudeville-themed fundraiser December 30.

The Vaudeville Variety Show will be the launch pad for a year-long centennial celebration, with an old-fashioned vaudeville show featuring local actors in a Telluride melodrama (written by local playwright and SAF Young People’s Theatre director Jen Nyman-Julia), magicians, can-can dancers, stilts-walkers, and a flurry of other entertainers of the likes that graced the Opera House stage back in its early days. 

“We’re bringing in a lot of local talent… it’s going to be a really fun event,” says the SAF’s Event Director Ronnie Palamar, who has been at the helm of the SAF’s programming since 1995.

Other 100th-anniversary events include “The Dawn of Telluride,” a 70s Ski Party, on February 16, which coincides with the 14th annual Comedy Fest. 

“Steve ‘n Steph Tie the Knot” is an 80s/90s wedding costume party slated for March 16, and is a nod to the marriage of the Sheridan Arts Foundation and the Sheridan 

Opera House in 1991.

“The Crown Jewel Jubliee” takes place during the SAF’s annual Wild West Fest, on June 7, and will highlight Telluride’s western heritage. 

The big anniversary event of 2013 is “The Speakeasy Gala,” a prohibition era party full of costumes, the Cab Calloway Orchestra, gambling, an auction of 1913 relics, and much more, taking place on July 6. 

The SAF will also be offering its traditional packed calendar of events during its winter holiday concert series, boasting five back-to-back shows beginning December 27 and featuring such stars as Peter Yarrow, Shawn Colvin, Marc Broussard, the Wailers, and Who’s Bad, a Michael Jackson Tribute Band.

A full schedule of centennial anniversary events is available on the SOH’s website at

All of the events will combine with other fundraising endeavors, including a “sponsor a seat” campaign in which the SAF will resell all of the Opera House seats for between $500-$1000 apiece, in an effort to set a solid foundation for this historic building’s future, Palamar says. 

Among the projects the SAF hopes to undertake in the near future are the construction of an historically styled vestibule, designed by local architect George Greenbank. The vestibule will be reminiscent of the vestibule that once graced the Opera House’s front doors, and will function not only as an historically accurate addition to the building but will also help with energy conservation.   

As Palamar explains, the regal theatre is also continually in need of maintenance, both on a large and small scale, and that the SAF undertakes fundraising in order to help assist with these endeavors. The organization was able to take on a nearly $30,000 project to replicate the interior’s original early 1900s-era floral stenciling. But the group has many more cosmetic renovations on its wish-list. Those kinds of upgrades often go by the wayside, however, because the building requires regular maintenance and repairs to keep it safe, Palamar explains.

“There were many, many years it was shut down, because people couldn’t maintain it,” she says, noting that SAF founders Sandra and Keith Carradine had hoped to uphold the Opera House’s tradition as a community-supported performing arts center. That tradition continues with the SAF’s board of directors and their commitment to keeping the Opera House’s doors open and seats full. 

“It was named the ‘Crown Jewel of Telluride,’ and I really feel that it serves that name greatly. There just isn’t another building in Telluride like this,” Palamar says. 

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