Over this long Labor Day weekend, I am happier than usual to say goodbye unofficially to summer and usher in autumn. Yes, I love colorful foliage and ankle boots and even the occasional pumpkin-spice treat. But most of all, I am eager to kick off the 30th season of the WYO Theater.
Over the past century, the longstanding theater has led a storied life in its spot on Main Street. It originally opened as The Lotus in 1923, dubbed “Wyoming’s Wonder Picture Palace” in these pages. The theater screened silent films alongside a live orchestra, canaries singing in cages, live flower gardens and more. A few years later, The Lotus drew hundreds from across the state for the first talkies.
The theater continued to evolve, transforming into the Art Deco-inspired “Fox-Lotus,” then “The Western Theater for Western People” and finally, in 1941, “the WYO.” For the next 41 years, the WYO was the Sheridan community’s movie theater. But, in 1982, due to the changing economy, it closed.
Enter: A group of thoughtful, energetic Sheridanites. These concerned citizens recognized the importance of a theater for a community. So, they formed the nonprofit Save the WYO. After years of events, fundraising and remodeling, the WYO Theater reopened as a full-service theater in the autumn of 1989.
In the 30 years since, the theater has expanded its horizons physically (incorporating the two buildings on either side to add performance and rehearsal spaces) and philosophically (becoming a regional center for performing arts and education).
In the next 30 years, the WYO will only continue to grow. I am lucky enough to serve on the theater’s board, which, inspired by our executive director, Erin Butler, is constantly exploring new possibilities.
We understand that all of this is possible because of you, the community. Thousands of you have supported the WYO, starting with the original Femmes Finales and Raisins, who danced and sang across town to reopen the theater three decades ago. Today, Sheridan County is full of kids who grew up with Tandem Productions, past board members who remember giving up weekend hours and late nights to patch the ceiling and paint sets (my dad included!), dedicated staff members, generous sponsors and — so key — everyone who has ever purchased a ticket to a show.
So, the WYO has decided to thank the community with a free, family-friendly event. We are throwing ourselves a 30th Birthday Bash on Thursday, Sept. 12, from 5-8 p.m. The entire theater — new spaces and old — will be open for you to explore. Get ready for magic, music, theatre performances, dance workshops, behind-the-scenes tours, film screenings, storytelling and so much more.
Bonafide is creating the complimentary snacks, courtesy of Bruce Burns; a cash bar will serve a signature cocktail, the Lotus Flower, in addition to wine and beer. And because it is the WYO’s “birthday,” we will offer a theatrical dessert enjoyed with, we hope, plenty of singing.
Visit wyotheater.com for details on the birthday bash and the jazzy lineup of the 30th season.