What happens during the Summer at the Opera House? Summer is a good time for politics. In the last 20 years, the Opera House has hosted at least 20 debates for political candidates, according to the sharp minds in the Administration Office. That number does not include the use of the facility by a political candidate or party for stump meetings, meet and greets, fund raisers or general party functions. The ability for candidates and political parties and affiliations to utilize the Opera House is at the core of the building’s soul. After all, this was the town hall and opera house for a thriving Newberry for decades. Conversations centered on the future of the city, county, state, region and country feel right and comfortable inside the Opera House. We are open anytime for these types of conversations.
The Midlands is certainly a pivotal player in the landscape of politics for South Carolina, but also the Nation. John McCain and Mike Huckabee both used the stage to rally presidential support; Newt Gingrich did a town hall and who can forget the S.C. Governor’s debate when Nikki Haley rose above her opponent. Our local elections have recently been on stage with Council seat ups for voters, sheriff, coroner and other county offices as well.
Recently we hosted the run off debate for the Governor’s seat between current Governor Henry McMaster and his run off appointment John Warren. It was a busy day for the Opera House, with Newberry being center stage for the day and well into the evening. Many details have to be checked off even before the candidates arrive. Site meetings happen weeks before to ensure every little detail of the actual debate is taken care of: lights, sound, where are they going to stand, where are the cameras, are the cameras blocking the seats, where are members of the press going to sit, is there enough Wi-Fi strength for press, can we get the signal out, where is makeup going to be, which dressing room is each candidate going to use, lifeboats and oxygen masks; I added those last two this past week, and we all had a good laugh. These questions are long before security details, and family members start becoming involved. The biggest issue: where will the family sit? That one always trips each camp and security detail up. Then the press wants to stay late to file their stories, which frankly, I had no idea they needed to stay later. No biggie, we know how to roll and wiggle here at the Opera House. After all, this is just another production, and we do those well!
I would like to dive into the political history of the Opera House before the re-opening 20 years ago. I wonder who did stump speeches on our stage? Mayors? Senators? House members? Any presidential hopefuls? I am positive the stage has seen many in her 136 year history, but who?
As we move into another great political year, we are sure to see the stage used more and more. After all, Newberry is the center of the universe. I ’m back to scheduling the season and see if the Opera House can secure a Governor’s Debate!
Molly Fortune is the executive director of the Newberry Opera House. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.