King Opera House
The King Opera House is a performance hall and historic landmark located on
Van Buren, Arkansas' Main Street. Since it was built in the late 1800s, the opera house's stage has hosted many plays and performers.
The Victorian-era structure first opened its doors in the late 1800s, and has since undergone extensive restoration prior to reopening for use in 1979. The auditorium of the opera house has several seats below and on the balcony areas with an intricate design. Large and well-sized for performances on its stage, the opera house below consists of a basement with two couches, and two small closet-sized dressing rooms. The basement can be highly cramped in its relatively modest changing area and
green room, particularly for productions with large casts.
King Opera House Today
The King Opera House is a performance space of Fort Smith's Young Actors Guild, whose past productions have included "
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", " The Best Christmas Pageant Ever", " Peter Pan", " Winnie the Pooh", and " Alice in Wonderland".
The Ghost of the Opera House
Believers in spirits have stated that a ghost will drift back to what anchored it to earth. As the local legend in Van Buren goes, a young actor with the King Opera House during the early 1900s fell in love, and had planned an escape via train at the Van Buren depot while trying to run away with the daughter of a local doctor. Some friends of the doctor saw the couple at the train station, and phoned the doctor to inform him of what was going on. The doctor instantly ran to his horse and buggy to retrieve his daughter from the train station. Before the evening ended, he ended up whipping the young man to his death. The daughter ran off, never to be seen again.
Janice Cochrane, a previous owner of the opera house and writer/director of an original play based on the legend, told the state Parks & Tourism Department that the actor's ghost was first seen by a musician and set designer during the first production of the reopened theater in 1979. Other sightings, including one by the director of another play, have been cited as recently as 2000. At least one director is said to have also visited with the spirit.
The ghost is said to materialize, dressed in a top hat and Victorian style coat with a long cape. Cochrane has stated that once after all the actors left from a rehearsal of her play, and only she remained, that she felt as if someone else was in the theater with her. The feeling she described was that it was almost as if the hairs were standing up on the back of her neck. Though Cochrane said she felt like the ghost was present, whether the King Opera House is haunted or not may never be known.
* [http://www.arkansasmediaroom.com/news-releases/listings/display.asp?id=210 "Arkansas History Goes Bump in the Night"] , article by Jill Rohrbach, Arkansas Dept. of Parks & Tourism, October 17, 2000
* [http://www.youngactorsguild.org/ Young Actors Guild]
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