Hometown Proud: Philipsburg's summer theatre is oldest in Montan - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Hometown Proud: Philipsburg's summer theatre is oldest in Montana

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The McDonald Opera House in Philipsburg  has been operating live theatre for almost 125 years, and also happens to be the longest running theatre in the entire state.

But it took a windy path to get there.

Tim Dringle used to work in the opera house in the 80’s, but he never knew he’d get a chance to own it. The theater first opened in 1891, running live theatre among other events.

“Live boxing matches, heavyweight boxing matches, they were into contortionists and such,” said Tim on Thursday. “It was basically a Vaudeville house.”

The theatre shifted gears after about 40 years, showing films beginning in the 1930s. But when Tim took over in 1988, he said he wanted to bring live theatre back.

“We have people that say they know it’s truly summer when the actors show up,” said Tim’s wife Claudette, who is also part owner of the theatre.
And the big changes started when Tim married Claudette, who jumped on board immediately.

“In it’s heyday, this was it. This was the entertainment,” said Tim. “I fell in love with the building, and i said ‘Lets bring it back to its glory.’ And that's what we’ve been striving at for, well it’s been 17 years now.”

“It’s original and the acoustics were built perfectly for live theatre,” said Claudette. “You don’t have to mic a thing.”

Tim and Claudette moved in to the loft upstairs, but also built individual rooms and a living space for the summer’s cast and crew.
Claudette said on Thursday that it truly became a family theatre at that point.

“Someone once said ‘You teach them to act, but you can’t teach them to be good people,” Claudette laughed. “Well, we’ve been really lucky. We’ve gotten the package.”

The theatre can only support a small cast of 8 people: 3 males, 3 females, one light technician and one musical director. But Claudette sees plenty of actors- and audience members- return every summer.

This summer’s full calendar of shows at the McDonald Opera House is included below.

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