‘The only way we could go was up’: Woodstock Opera House gets set for renovations

Venue will close during work, open house to explain projects Wednesday

Woodstock Opera House on Wednesday May 23, 2024. The opera house will host a special Pre-Renovation Open House on Wednesday, May 29th, from 5 to 7 p.m., before the renovations, made possible by a Rebuild Illinois Grant totaling $2,964,553 for the Downtown Square & Opera House Renovation Projects.

The Woodstock Opera House will soon have a third story in the portion of the space facing Calhoun Street – but one part of the Opera House renovations that are scheduled to close the building from July through September.

“The only way we could go was up,” Opera House Director Daniel Campbell said of putting the third story in the south annex.

The renovations affect nearly every portion of the building, from reflooring the stage to tuckpointing on the exterior. Campbell said the Opera House received a $2.9 million grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in 2022 plus another $1.6 million from the city, which owns the Opera House.

“We were ecstatic,” Campbell said.

He added the Opera House hired consultants to review the building, and that $7 million in projects have been identified. With renovation funding less than that, the Opera House had to “cherry-pick” projects they felt were best for the community. Campbell said those had to benefit three areas: the public and patrons, performers or staff.

One of the more visible renovations is the installation of a additional set of stairs to ease movement through the building.

“We don’t really have a vestibule” like other theaters, Campbell said.

The new stairs will allow people to have easier access to the community room. The community room has a bar that Campbell said isn’t large enough to meet demand. An expanded bar is also part of the renovations.

The third floor that will be added to the South Annex will house four new dressing rooms and a new crossover corridor that will link stage left with stage right and will provided ADA access to stage right.

Unofficially, renovation-type work has already been underway, with some windows having been taken out. Campbell added the stage, which is getting new equipment and reflooring in the renovations, recently got an LED wall.

“We got our LED wall at half-price,” Campbell said. “It’s been a huge game-changer.”

The Opera House plans to host an Open House from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the renovations with the public, who will be able to tour the building and ask questions about the plans. Campbell said the renovations have come up in presentations at city meetings, but Wednesday is the “first opportunity for people to set their sights on” it.

“We’re hoping for a good turnout,” Campbell said.

As for Elvira, the resident ghost inhabiting the Opera House, Campbell said he was “sure she’ll be miffed” at the construction, but was sure she’ll survive. “Everybody likes Elvira.”

But officials expect the public will be more enthusiastic about the project.

“People are excited and receptive” about the changes, Woodstock Marketing and Communications Director Heather Arnold said.

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