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An Arrant Knave

Butte Opera House - Cripple Creek, Colorado

A Summer Melodrama Set in Medieval Times

Classic Cripple Creek melodrama will take the stage again this summer at the Butte Theater. This year's show, An Arrant Knave, will open June 6 and run through the end of July, and is directed Steve Hornibrook, a man who is no stranger to the Cripple Creek Melodrama scene as he performed as an Imperial Player for quite a few summers back in the 70s and 80s.

The story is set in a Medieval forest. The Duke who rules the land is a harsh and evil man who has been ruling with an iron fist for over 15 years, after arranging to have his older brother (who was the ruler) killed. He also systematically killed the older Duke's sons, who would have been the rightful heirs.

The show starts in the cabin of a woodsman, where the woodsman's daughter is speaking with Hugo (one of the employees of the woodsman, who we later discover is a surviving son of the older Duke and true heir). We learn that Hugo loves the woodsman's daughter and that the woodsman's son is in love with and secretly seeing a beautiful girl that is cloistered away in the monastery. The beautiful girl turns out to be Hugo's long lost sister whom the younger Duke plans to marry to secure his Dukedom.

Enter Chiqui, played by veteran actor Mel Moser, the somewhat bumbling Captain of the Guard with a heart of gold in search of an enemy of the realm. The play moves to the monastery, where the young Duke is preparing to force Hugo's sister in marriage against her will. Along comes the woodsman's daughter and switches places with Hugo's sister and coaxes Chiqui to help Hugo's sister to escape into the forest.

Once in the forest, in order to disguise his identity (as he is now an enemy of the young Duke) Chiqui is convinced to dress up like a woman. As the plot unravels, it is Chiqui who cons the young Duke, inadvertently reveals the identity of Hugo as the rightful heir and reunites Hugo and his sister. This allows Hugo to assume lordship and marry his love (the courageous daughter of the woodsman) while Hugo's sister is betrothed to her love (the woodsman's son). There is also a sub-plot of the older Duke's hidden treasure.

"An Arrant Knave", the summer melodrama, Friday, June 6. through Saturday, July 26 with show times: Wednesday 1 & 7 p.m.; Thursday 1 & 7 p.m.; Friday 7 p.m.; Saturday 1 & 7 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m. Tickets are $14.75 adults/$12.75 seniors/$9.75 children.

Group rates are available as well as dinner, theater and lodging packages. For more information or to make a reservation, visit
Butte Opera House

Butte Theater History

The stage for drama was set when gold fever hit Cripple Creek in 1890. A gold rush of major proportions was underway at the turn of the 20th century and a boomtown atmosphere called for entertainment galore.

Tired, thirsty and hungry, miners preferred the society of the gambling halls and saloons that lined the streets of the mining district. Madams, dance hall girls and medicine shows were the preferred entertainment of the less cultured, working element. Booze, gambling and debauchery prevailed.

But there was also a more sophisticated lot who still yearned for the niceties of a society that they had left behind. Moving West, where social dress and fine dining was as scarce as running water, was quite a hardship for the socially inclined.

Early on, Cripple Creek and Victor both sported grand opera houses, providing much needed access to theatre, music and art. Such notable acts as Texas Guinan, Lily Langtree and Groucho Marx all performed in early Cripple Creek at one time or another.

Located on Meyer?s Avenue in the heart of the red light district, The Grande Opera House produced some of the most elegant, refined and tasteful entertainment in the whole of the district. Its ruins remind today?s visitors of the gold days gone by when going to the opera was a typical mining camp social event. There was also the Lyric Opera House where in 1913, the lowest of miners and highest of society rubbed elbows to watch George Coplen fight the famed Jack Dempsey.

Another historical venue that began in the heyday of the gold rush still houses live entertainment today, in the form of live melodrama and professional theater. The "Butte Concert and Beer Hall" premiered in 1896, when proprietors Halbekann & Hertz featured nightly entertainment with a Ladies' Vienna Orchestra. Some time later the theater re-premiered as the Butte Opera House under the management of D.R. McArthur. Within two years, numerous clubs and lodges were sponsoring parties and benefits at the Butte on a regular basis.

The opera house experienced limited success, and over the next several years underwent a series of makeovers; first it was transformed into the Butte Hall Dancing Academy, followed by The Watt Brothers Furniture Company, back to a theatre (this time under the name Teller Hall,) onto a skating rink, a secondhand store, a weapons cache (the space was then called The Armory,) an auto garage, home of the Cripple Creek Auto Company, and eventually fell into disuse, mainly a storage facility for the fire department located below.

Early in 1999, the city of Cripple Creek brushed aside some of the dust and saw a lost jewel hidden amongst the rubble. The City began extensive renovations to refurbish the Butte with fresh paint, Victorian-era wallpaper, and period chandeliers. A 1,350-square foot stage spans the main room, with seating for 174 guests. The sound booth is equipped with state-of-the-art movie projectors and sound equipment. A snack bar and roomy dressing rooms complete the theater's amenities.

The tradition of presenting classic melodrama in Cripple Creek dates back to the late 1940?s. In 1949 Wayne and Dorothy Mackin purchased the Imperial Hotel and began producing original melodramas in the basement of the hotel. They called their theatre The Gold Bar Room. For 60+years the Mackins and their acting company, The Imperial Players, performed to summer crowds and helped to revitalize the town of Cripple Creek with a new tourism economy. The award winning dinner/theater venue was a hit and such notables as Victor Borge, Arthur Godfrey, Walt Disney, Mary Tyler Moore and Lowell Thomas visited the theater. Famed ragtime pianist Max Morath got his start at the keyboard in the Imperial. In the early 1990s the last Imperial show was performed as the Imperial became a casino and the Gold Bar Room closed.

After a few dark years, the traditional Classic Cripple Creek Melodrama was granted a new lease on life. When final renovations were completed on the Butte Opera House in 2000, the summer melodrama moved to its new home after 60+ seasons at the Imperial. In a brand new theatre, the melodrama was produced by Steve and Bonnie Mackin. Stacy Mackin, the third generation of Mackins to produce melodrama in Cripple Creek, managed the theater until the fall of 2006.

The melodrama is a fun-filled family outing with professional actors, stunning hand-painted sets and period costumes. Audiences can boo at villains and cheer for heroes in this traditional form of melodrama, just as audiences have in Cripple Creek since the 40?s.

The Butte as added professional shows and community theater and expanded its venues in the past few years.

This year the Butte takes on an exciting new venture - a partnership in producing professional theater year-round with the Thin Air Theatre Company, a new group of veteran Cripple Creek melodrama actors. The partnership has brought to the Butte all new professional shows including an all new melodrama, comedy and Shakespeare. More information is available on our Season Calendar page.

The foundation plans to continue to produce additional community theater and small venue concerts.

The Butte is located on Bennett Avenue next to the Cripple Creek Fire Department. Butte Opera House Foundation, 139. E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, CO 80813

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