Poets and performers headline fundraiser for Piper’s Opera House | NevadaAppeal.com

Poets and performers headline fundraiser for Piper’s Opera House

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Steve Kern, of Pacific Grove, Calif., performs during the 'A Day at Piper's' fundraiser in Virginia City on Saturday. Kern performs in tribute to John Denver.

With William Shakespeare looking down on the proceedings, Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City was again filled with music and revelry Saturday. Across the stage, under the famous playwright’s portrait, came a parade of performers.

There was country and ragtime, cowboy poets and even an appearance by John Denver during the fundraising event at the opera house. Seven acts volunteered their services to Piper’s to help raise money for restoration and operating expenses.

Executive Director Margo Memmott said the historic house is in need of at least $50,000 to finish the restoration and make necessary repairs. She said the goal is to complete the renovations in the next four years.

“We have dragged our feet in the past but we aren’t dragging anymore,” Memmott said. “We want to get this done.”

Andy Miller, a student from the University of Nevada, Reno, helped organize the event after visiting the opera house. He began by recruiting the Sierra Express Band to play, not a difficult task since he’s the guitarist.

“I love history and it’s important for me to preserve it,” he said “Within the Nevada community there is a lot of respect and love for Virginia City, but it needs a little help sometimes.”

Diana and Harold Miller were glad to share some of their cowboy poetry to help Piper’s.

“It’s a good cause, to help them restore a landmark,” Diana Miller said. “We are happy to help.”

The Millers also recruited John Denver tribute artist Steve Kern to lend his voice.

“I travel the world talking about mental health and performing John’s music. I just happened to be in the area and (Mr. Miller) asked if I would like to sing,” Kern said. “I love doing benefit concerts.”

The fundraiser also served as a way to premiere a new exhibit on the life of actress Maude Adams, who performed at Piper’s beginning at the age of 5.

Even after she left the stage and ultimately died, Adams’ impact on the opera house continued. In the 1970s, an author by the name of Richard Matheson came to the opera house and saw a picture of Adams from her performance in J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan.”

Matheson became enamored with the photo, so much so that he used it as the basis for a book titled “Bid Time Return.” The story is about an author who falls in love with a long-dead actress and then travels back through time to be with her. The book later became the film “Somewhere in Time,” starring Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour.

Memmott said that when the lobby is reopened later this month, the photos and related materials about Adams will be put on more permanent display.

“The main purpose of the lobby will be to introduce people to Piper’s Opera House. We will have museum space and historic advertising posters,” Memmott said.

Even though it will be a challenge to get the historic building restored, Memmott said, it is always worth it.

“Piper’s is one of those things that has always been a part of the community. It’s the heart of Virginia City and we want to get it beating again,” Memmott said.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.