opera house

The Sheridan Opera House recently installed new seats. (Photo by Jessica Lackey/Telluride Daily Planet)

Through generous support and funding from the community, the Sheridan Opera House is now home to 186 brand new seats that closely resemble the original seating used when the theater first opened in 1913.

“We’re constantly trying to upgrade and improve the best that we can to serve the community’s needs,” said Ronnie Palamar, executive director for the Sheridan Arts Foundation (SAF).

The need for new seating is a long time coming, she added. The previous seats were reportedly 65 years old and came to the opera house in used condition. The SAF removed the old seats for the winter season, and used alternative seating offered by the Telluride Theatre and Telluride Film Festival, along with their own wooden seats.

“Our old seats were not up to our standards for our patrons,” explained Maggie Stevens, opera house public relations and marketing director. “We got rid of them before we started our fundraising campaign because we had to.”

The fundraiser for the new seats began in January, when the SAF put an ad in the paper asking the community for help. As a nonprofit, the SAF relies on money generated through fundraising, grants and donations. The community responded in a huge way.

“We raised $100,000 in 10 weeks,” Palamar said.

Stevens added, “We were surprised in the best way possible that we had the support from the community that quickly.”

The opera house is on the National Register of Historic Places, and as such, the SAF strives to maintain its original features. To continue these efforts with the new seating, the SAF worked with Irwin Seating Company, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“They’re the only seating company that specialized in historic theaters,” Palamar explained.

The new seats were made to order, featuring beautiful warm wood, burgundy JB Martin velour fabric and ornate cast iron. Every element of the seats was handpicked by the folks at the SAF, from the curvature of the seat backs, the color of the wood and upholstery, to the shape of the arm rests.

To show appreciation, plaques will be put on the seats recognizing those who donated.

“All of the seats come with a little insert and we just had all of the plaques engraved,” Palamar said. The plaques will stay on the seats for at least 10 years.

Since the opera house holds dance shows and private events, it is essential that the seats are removable. The new seats have detachable bases and can be deconstructed and rebuilt more easily. To give back to the community, the SAF offered the old seats to the public for free.

New seating isn’t the only upgrade at the opera house. Because seats were being removed on the balcony for the upgrade, the SAF took the opportunity to replace the 18-year-old carpet as well.

The new carpet features gold medallions on a navy blue background with burgundy accents that match the new seats. Palamar and Stevens explained that they looked through several carpet samples before they found the right one, with an ironically serendipitous name, “The Sheridan,” Palamar said.

“Spelled the same way,” Stevens added.

In addition to new seats and carpet, the gold staircase was also touched up.

“It really has had a nice facelift,” Palamar said.

Last year, the SAF invested in a new roof and truss work. The Telluride Film Festival also helped fund the refurbishing of the oil curtain hanging on the stage, originally painted in the early 1920s.

“In the last couple of years, everything has really come to fruition in terms of being cohesive throughout the building,” Stevens said.

The folks at the SAF thanked the community for the overwhelming amount of support. The new seats will remain in place at the theater until they are moved just before the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June. The SAF encourages the public to stop by and check out the theater’s new features.

For more information on shows and how to support the Sheridan Opera House and SAF, visit sheridanoperahouse.com.