The Philipsburg Theatre, better known as the Opera House Theatre of Philipsburg, has changed hands in recent years and changed its name and updated its vision – but it’s still the oldest continuously operating theater in Montana and offers fantastic live theater performances for audiences today.
Under the new ownership, the Philipsburg Playhouse Productions (a nonprofit) is dedicated to inspiring and supporting the hamlet of Philipsburg with cultural enrichment, education, and, of course, amazing entertainment opportunities.
The theater showcases both local talent and touring productions while providing educational opportunities for locals through creating performance space for schools and hosting a variety of opportunities through community concerts, workshops, storytelling events, live music events, movies, productions, community open-mic nights, and more.
According to its website, the Philipsburg Theater “envision[s] a thriving town of Philipsburg where businesses and community ideas collaborate into vibrant opportunities of artistic expressions showcased in the town’s magnificent Theatre as a warm, inclusive space for residents and visitors to enjoy film, music, and the arts.”
The theater is located in downtown Philipsburg, in the original building, which was built in 1891.
Philipsburg Theatre History
The Opera House Theater/Philipsburg Theatre was established in 1891 under the name of the McDonald Opera House.
The theater has remained open and functioning continuously as a live theater since its opening night, making it Montana’s oldest continuously operating theater.
But that doesn’t mean this building hasn’t seen some changes over the years. In fact, at various stages in the life of the theater, portions of the building have housed numerous other companies, including the Philipsburg Commercial Club, a bank, Carmichael’s Livery Stable, and a soda pop bottling company.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, a painter by the name of Edgar S. Paxson created six beautiful backdrops and scenery flats for the McDonald Opera House.
The artist was born in Buffalo, New York, but migrated to Montana in 1877, working as a shotgun rider, military scout, and cowboy. He and his wife and son settled in Deer Lodge where he was able to take on the mantle of a professional painter.
The backdrops did not remain with the theater but changed hands many times over the years. However, in 1998, the theater celebrated by returning the backdrops to ownership of the Opera House Theater – and five of those six original backdrops remain in their possession.
The unique performance space with it’s front stage performance with its balconied aprons has been a beautiful part of the Philipsburg community all this time, but it was under threat of demolition in the early 1980s.
Recognized pianist, Andrew Crow, saved the property from destruction and later sold the theater to Tim and Claudette Dringle (current owners) who planned to restore the incredible theatrical space to its former glory.
Of course, 2020 put things on hold for the active life of the theater, but now, things are all go and performances are going on at the incredible theater once again.
Philipsburg Theater Details
As you consider grabbing a show at the Philipsburg Theatre, be sure to check their website or Facebook page for updates and special showtimes.
- 140 S Sansome St, Philipsburg, MT
- Seating capacity: 300 seats
- Season: Fall & Summer, plus year-round for events and tours
- Open Hours: Varies, depending on events
Shows & Events
The Philipsburg Theatre offers exciting performances in the spring and vaudeville shows in the summertime.
Currently, they don’t have anything firmly on their calendars, but as the spring melds into summer, their calendar is expected to start filling up again.
In past, they’ve hosted a wide range of guest performances as well as produced their theatrical works. Some shows they’ve hosted include The Red Elvises, The Pirates of Penzance, See How They Run, One El of a Town, The Messiah, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Christmas Carol, and Jeremy McComb.
To stay up to date on their shows as the season is announced or gigs are booked, check their website or Facebook page.