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‘Rock the House’ fundraiser for Valpo Memorial Opera House set for July 13

Michelle Smith Memorial OperHouse business director audio engineer technician Scott 'Stretch' Miller hold donated Fender Squire guitars thare be auctioned

Michelle Smith, the Memorial Opera House business director, and audio engineer and technician Scott "Stretch" Miller hold the donated Fender Squire guitars that are to be auctioned off at Sunday's fundraiser. | Supplied photo

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If you go ...

What: Rock the House

When: 1 p.m. to midnight Sunday, July 13

Where: Memorial Opera House, 104 Indiana Ave., Valparaiso

Cost: $10/person or $15/couple

Information: www.memorialoperahouse.com

Updated: July 13, 2014 5:04PM



“The challenges of running a 120-year-old building are many, both fiscally and creatively,” said Scot PJ MacDonald, artistic director for Valparaiso’s historical Memorial Opera House.

Built by the Grand Army of the Republic in 1893 as a commemoration to Civil War veterans, the Opera House served as a concert hall and Vaudeville stage in its early days. Familiar names were seen there, such as the Marx Brothers, John Philip Sousa and his band, Valparaiso native and Hollywood actress Beulah Bondi, and even Teddy Roosevelt on his vice presidential campaign trail.

Later, Valparaiso’s Community Theatre Guild “acted as stewards of MOH for 40 years by bringing living, legitimate theatre to Porter County while rehabilitating and preserving it,” said MacDonald, who added that they have since established themselves in a new home — Chicago Street Theatre.

Since then, the Memorial Opera House Foundation has kept the venue running by offering a variety of performances each year, including musicals, concerts, lunchtime cabarets, special events and, for the past two years, plays — all in an effort to keep the historic place open.

“We often need to think outside the box in order to fundraise,” he said. To that end, MacDonald said the Rock the House event on Sunday, July 13, is guaranteed to be a great time.

Running from 1 p.m. to midnight, Rock the House will feature 17 bands spanning a variety of genres, as well as a full bar inside the building, outdoor family games, food offerings including Ben’s Pretzels and Valpo Viennas, and a beer garden sponsored by Figure 8 Brewing Co. Items donated by local businesses will also be auctioned, featuring two Fender Squire strats (electric guitars) from both the Guitar Center and the band Firepoint.

Bands include Charles Burton from The Carlos Ramos Band, Nick Danger, Mac McElhaney, Kenny Kensey and Friends, Buck Daddy, Dreamz, Ronn Barany, Stonewave, Ripley Street, Chris Grove of Eddie Money and Billy O of Survivor, Firepoint, Big Top, Daren Enloe, Nicole Jamrose and Mark D. Soljacich, BB & The Players (members of the Opera House orchestra), Andrew Cyrpian, and M.O.B.

MacDonald, who has been associated with MOH since 2006 as a performer and director and employed since 2012, said the idea for the event came about when the staff was brainstorming ways to raise money for the Opera House.

“We are constantly seeking ways to get new people in our doors, because once you come in the building it sticks with you,” he said. “It’s a beautiful space and we consistently raise the bar in quality and ambition; we’re always challenging ourselves to do the best we can with the resources we have.”

MacDonald credits Scott “Stretch” Miller, MOH’s audio engineer and technician, with getting the ball rolling for this event.

“Scott contacted the bands he knows through Facebook and the results were overwhelming. The same afternoon he sent the message out, he already had 75 responses from bands that were excited to be playing in our venue in an all-day concert,” MacDonald said.

He said the entire MOH staff is excited about the event and will be volunteering throughout the day in shifts, from tending bar and working the box office to cleaning. Members of the Memorial Opera House Foundation Board will also help with the silent auction or wherever needed. Several additional volunteers will assist the bands by helping manage the stage, running crew for the changes between bands, answering questions about the facility, and helping out in any capacity they can.

“It is truly an all-hands-on-deck sort of day,” MacDonald said. “Our baseline financial goal is to sell the house out once in the course of the day.”

That would require selling tickets to fill each of the 360 seats.

“Of course, we don’t intend to stop there,” he said. “The more new faces we can get into the Opera House and the more people we can get excited about coming to the venue and on board with all of our events, that’s the best achievement we can shoot for.”

Getting new faces into the building will also be helped by a generous grant offered by the Porter County Community Foundation, he said. The new program, called “Theatre for a New Audience,” will assist the MOH to work in conjunction with schools and other organizations in bringing in students, parents and citizens of Porter County who may not get the opportunity to participate in live theatre because of budget constraints.

“We offer a free preview to these folks and also try to tie something educational into it — either a quick workshop with the actors, a talk-back with the production staff, or tours of the venue,” he said.

MacDonald is also excited about the rest of the 2014 season, which includes Neil Simon’s comedy “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” in September, the musical farce “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” for Halloween through mid-November, and the classic musical “Annie” in December.

“We will be announcing our very exciting 2015 season in September,” he said. “I think it’s going to be one of our best years yet.”



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