By William Faricy Condee
A serious appreciation of the opera condominium within the coal-mining area of Appalachia from the mid 1860s to the early Thirties, Coal and tradition demonstrates that those have been multipurpose amenities that have been used for touring theater, live shows, spiritual occasions, lectures, commencements, boxing suits, merits, union conferences, and - if the auditorium had a flat ground - skating and basketball.
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Extra info for Coal and Culture: Opera Houses in Appalachia
Some opera house performances featured female impersonators, which could be considered transgressive today but seems to have been readily accepted by nineteenth-century opera house audiences. According to Laurence Senelick, female impersonators were a common part of variety theater by the mid–nineteenth century: “audiences accepted, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, the ambiguous figure of the adult male decked out in seductive feminine frippery. . ” Female impersonators were especially prominent in minstrel shows, which had all-male casts, and were interpreted as simply another of the wide variety of white caricatures of African Americans featured in minstrelsy.
The writer was also critical of latecomers to the ceremony: “Another inconvenience, and more than that, annoyance, is to have persons coming in after the exercises have commenced. It is disturbing to those present who desire to hear and enjoy the program, and worrying to the performers. Miss Ames’ salutatory was marred greatly by the noise of persons entering late, and the reading of her original poem . . ”52 The role of women at the opera house demonstrates the gendered nature of this struggle over behavior.
In Winchester, Kentucky, M O R A L I T Y A N D T R A N S G R E S S I O N AT T H E O P E R A H O U S E 39 Ariel Opera House, Gallipolis, Ohio (1895), where the management of the opera house became an issue of public debate. Photo by author. ”69 Finally, the management of the opera house was central to this social understanding. While the opera house may have been in a privately owned building (commercial or fraternal), the opera house manager was a de facto public official, in that he (generally) was in charge of booking touring events and acting as a gatekeeper for locally produced events.