Best of Wyoming
9:29 am
Wed May 2, 2012

WYO Theater - Sheridan

History

When the WYO Theater opened in 1923 as the Lotus, newspaper headlines proclaimed it "Wyoming's Wonder Picture Palace!" Entering the theater through an arched brick and stone exterior lobby, the opening night capacity crowd was greeted by canaries warbling in cages suspended above the live flower gardens that flanked the stage. Pompeian-red wall panels, their borders decorated with striking fantastic birds in bright colors, pilasters and beams stenciled in Oriental designs, multicolored lighting effects, and lighted tanks of tropical fish all contributed to the exotic atmosphere of the Lotus.

Sinking into the plush, leather-upholstered seats, the opening night audience was entertained by a program of singing, dancing, and comedy acts, musical selections by the 15 piece Lotus Orchestra, and feature movie, Enemies of Women, starring Lionel Barrymore and Alma Rubens.

On April 19, 1929, talkies arrived at the Lotus. The Sheridan Post Enterprise newspaper headlined, "Hundreds of people are planning to spend a night in Sheridan this Week - coming from all parts of Northern Wyoming."

In the early 1930's, the exterior was remodeled adding a prominent Art Deco marquee, and changing the name to Fox-Lotus. During 1935, when Sheridan had become a mecca for dude ranching, the Lotus closed for a week, and re-opened as "The Western Theater for Western People." The theater was trimmed in log slabs, both inside and out, had huge murals depicting western scenes, that covered three walls of the auditorium and a lobby that was decorated with buffalo heads and Indian rugs.

In the early 1930's, the exterior was remodeled adding a prominent Art Deco marquee, and changing the name to Fox-Lotus. During 1935, when Sheridan had become a mecca for dude ranching, the Lotus closed for a week, and re-opened as "The Western Theater for Western People." The theater was trimmed in log slabs, both inside and out, had huge murals depicting western scenes, that covered three walls of the auditorium and a lobby that was decorated with buffalo heads and Indian rugs.

Fox Intermountain Theaters undertook a major renovation of the theater in 1941, transforming it into the modernistic look of the post-depression era. The new look called for a new name. A contest was held and Mr. Thomas P. Kelly won with his entry: The WYO.

The new WYO had a streamlined facade with stucco fins concealing neon lights. Letters, each seven feet tall and connected by a running neon tubing, ran the length of the facade. The original rear wall of the theater was moved back and second floor offices removed to accommodate stadium style seating with a larger audience capacity.

Opening night at the WYO was a gala affair with fireworks, bands playing, and dancing in the streets. A host of dignitaries was on hand to congratulate the people of Sheridan on their beautiful new theater. The Mayor proclaimed August 14, 1941 to be WYO Theater Day.

When the theater ceased operations as a movie theatre on March 1, 1982 and was threatened with demolition a group of people, armed only with a dream and a commitment, took a 90-day option on the property, formed a charitable not-for-profit corporation (Save the WYO, inc.) and launched a campaign to see that the building would remain standing and that the WYO would be renovated and live on as a facility for quality entertainment and community use.

A grass roots fund drive yielded enough community money and support to impress the Sheridan City Council who then voted to contribute the remaining amount needed to purchase the property in March of 1983.  After its purchase, the theater was leased by the City of Sheridan to Save The WYO, Inc.

During the next six years enough money was raised from individuals, businesses, and private foundations to renovate the theater.  On November 10, 1989 the doors of the newly renovated (art deco) WYO Theater opened once again to serve the area and its people.  With that reopening, the WYO became the oldest operating vaudeville theater in Wyoming.

The last twenty plus years have been successful ones for the theater in terms of development and growth.  They have shown that the WYO Theater is a facility that fulfills a need in the community, not only as a space for professional artists and productions, but also for fine local productions, debates, meetings, lectures, seminars, recitals, beauty pageants, and panel discussions, to name just a few.

Many events at the Theater have been collaborative efforts between the WYO and other local organizations, such as Sheridan College, Civic Theatre Guild, the YMCA and Tandem Productions.

The WYO has also been an affordable rental option for many community organizations including Sheridan Memorial Hospital Foundation, Normative Services Inc., Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Kiwanis, Easter Seals, the Sheridan Youth and Children’s Chorales, The Miss Wyoming Scholarship Pageant and even local churches (Cornerstone, Valley Lutheran, Hope Community, et. al.).

The theater's ticketing services, through the box office, have been used more and more frequently by organizations in need of a ticket outlet for an event being held elsewhere, including the Sheridan Wyo Rodeo, the Civic Theatre Guild and the Big Horn Mountain Festival.

The WYO's range of use is almost limitless.  To date (2012), well over 2,200 events have graced the theater's friendly stage.

Because, like many not-for-profit theaters, the WYO's earned income covers only approximately 35% of its expenses (approximately $500,000 annually), the Theater depends upon the contributions of businesses, individuals, foundations and other granting organizations to make up the difference.  Each October, the WYO presents the Gala musical production to celebrate the anniversary of its reopening and as a benefit for the theater itself. 

The WYO Theater, Inc. strives daily to fulfill its' mission to "inspire, educate and entertain" by bringing quality entertainment of all kinds for all ages to the community and surrounding area it has pledged to serve.  For the future, the WYO Theater's vision is to build on its success and become a major regional performing arts center.

WYO Theater 2012 Upcoming Events

Click on an underlined event to learn more…

Signstage Theatre: Stuart LittleMay 2, 2012

Wyoming Plays the WYOMay 5, 2012

Sheridan County Chorales Spring ConcertMay 9, 2012

The Mack & Jamie Comedy Road Show!May 10, 2012

University of Wyoming Happy Jacks May 11, 2012

Studio 48 Annual Recital: Broadway BoundMay 18 & 19, 2012

John Quarterman Tribute June 1, 2012

Tandem Productions: Seussical, Jr. June 13-16, 2012

Miss Wyoming Pageant June 23, 2012

Greenhorse & Karen Clift July 5, 2012

Jake Shimabukuro July 6, 2012

Justin McBride July 10, 2012

The New Vaudevillians July 11, 18 & 25, 2012

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band July 22, 2012

The New Vaudevillians Aug. 1, 8 & 15, 2012

John Anderson Aug 14, 2012

Please visit wyo@wyotheater.comfor additional information.

Copyright © 2006-2010, WYO Theater Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

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