History of The 1903 Jansen Opera House:
In 1902, a raging fire destroyed the two main blocks of downtown Reedley. Instrumental in the rebuilding of downtown was local Danish grain merchant, Jesse Jansen. He organized the downtown merchants to work together to rebuild most of the structures in brick.
In 1903, Jansen built a half block of brick buildings, which included Reedley's first bank, real estate and insurances offices, and of course The Jansen Opera House. Built at Jansen's own expense, The Jansen Opera House was to serve as a cultural and community center for the Reedley area.
The Jansen Opera House was the forerunner of today's multipurpose community center. The Reedley Exponent archives mention traveling stage shows, operettas, community plays, political speeches, grand balls, square dances, band concerts, town meetings, box suppers, graduations, and church revivals as the types of activities at The Jansen Opera House. For four years, The Jansen Opera House even served as a Catholic church. However, its heyday ended in the early 1920s with the introduction and popularity of movie houses.
The remodeling of The Jansen Opera House began in 1983 and took nine months to complete. In 1986, The
Jansen Opera House was featured in Sunset Magazine.
In the same year, it was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In early 2001, Makiji and Ruth Hase and Art and
Pat Bergthold donated the fully restored Jansen Opera
House to the City of Reedley for use as a cultural
arts center dedicated to family entertainment and as a
facility for community and private events.
Today, the 1903 Jansen Opera House (commonly reffered to now as the Reedley Opera House) is home to Reedley's River City Theatre Company. RCTC was founded by local theatre legend Mark Norwood, with its year-round theatre offerings officially beginning in 2003. With the help of his wife Denise, Mark spent many years as RCTC's Artistic Director building a reputation of professionalism, love and respect for his craft and those around him.
This laid the foundation for the community he fostered, bringing together both his past and current students along with many, many other members of the Reedley community who were drawn towards his goal of creating not just a successful company, but a theatre family.
In the Summer of 2016, Mark Norwood officially announced his retirement as Artistic Director of RCTC, his final project with the company being the Directing of RCTC's hit production of The Buddy Holly Story. The reigns of the company are now in the hands of Executive Director Steve Jones, as well as the rest of RCTC's hardworking staff, dedicated performers, and skilled crew. We at RCTC wish Mark Norwood all the best in his retirement, with all of the rest and relaxation he so richly deserves for his years of dedication and unwavering leadership. As they say, the Captain has gone ashore, so it's up to us to continue the voyage.
For a detailed history on the building itself, visit the links below for a two part article on the history of the 1903 Jansen Opera House presented by our friends over at Kings River Life Magazine!