Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Grand Birthday!

It's no secret that I love birthdays. Not just mine, but those of my family, friends and certainly our Grand. Each year, on January 3rd, we open our doors to the public for complimentary tours and yes, birthday cake! After all, what's a birthday without cake! On January 3, 2011, The Grand 1894 Opera House will celebrate its 116th. And while that doesn't quite compute with the 1894 in our name, (for those of you who can't help doing the math) it signifies the actual opening night, covered in detail by the Galveston Daily News way back when.

We've certainly had some interesting birthdays along the way. None was more powerful however than the one on January 3, 2009. Remember that one? One hundred and twelve days after Ike hit and only ninety-two days of construction and The Grand reopened for business with over two thousand people dropping by to have a look and say congratulations, followed by a sold-out performance by Jerry Jeff Walker. There were plenty of tears mixed with smiles that day. Good friends like Steve Smith and Rob Landes provided stories and music that touched hearts and perhaps comforted those who were there. We had no idea what to expect, but clearly our friends and neighbors from on and off the island were thrilled to see a return of a Galveston icon after the devastation we had experienced; and we had to send out for extra birthday cake six times before we sang and cut the decorated cake in front of the stage!

Some things never change. Jerry Jeff appears the first Saturday of January (whatever the date may be), The Grand celebrates a birthday and the shows go on. It's a time for memories and we've had too many to count. Victor Borge made The Grand part of his 90th birthday tour and we discovered his birthday was......January 3, but just a little younger than us. I'll never forget his falling off the piano bench and the entire audience gasping in fear. It was part of his act, but no one expected a ninety-year-old to take a prat fall. Then there have been the animals: in the early years, camels with fleas and an elephant for Aida; later a pony for Il Pagliacci as well as a Momus King; and Marilyn Maye brought her puppy onstage for a song. The Karamazov Brothers brought chickens with them, on the most psychedelic painted bus I'd seen traverse the Galveston streets; and my visit with them after the show is memorable in a whole different way and must be told only in person!

When we talk about The Grand as a jewel in Galveston's crown and even the state, we lay claim to a history as diverse and exciting as can be imagined for a theatre. First dates, premieres of new plays, budding dancers of all ages are all part of our rich and colorful fabric. Do you realize that we've premiered two new works in the last few years: Tuna Does Vegas starring our great friends Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, and Money, Marbles and Chalk, starring Holland Taylor. What a privilege for The Grand and Galveston to be tapped for those. Don't look now, but there's a possibility for yet another this summer, but mum's the word until we have it inked in.

We began this season, The Best of Times, with a line from a Spamalot song..."Always look on the bright side of life." That's not to say that we aren't struggling along with everyone in our country who is challenged by the economy. Tickets are harder to sell than ever and usually come more slowly, donations considered carefully by friends old and new. Theatres, and perhaps especially historic theatres, have an instinct for survival much like our island. We find ways to roll up our sleeves and step onto the stage of life and very soon we'll be doing that with our new sidewalk of stars. As we begin this new year, our wish to each of you is to celebrate with us, step back in time as we look to a future that's brighter and filled with promise. See you at The Grand!

Maureen M. Patton

Executive Director, The Grand 1894 Opera House

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Meaning to A Pounding Headache

I've been out of town for the past week, first at a Conference with our Executive Director in San Antonio, and then for a couple of days readying my son for a Scout Camp. While I was gone, the demolition phase of our The Grand's long-awaited "Sidewalk of Stars" began. My co-workers tried to explain the noise caused by the demolition equipment - but nothing could prepare me for the loud pounding that started today as they began to demolish the old sidewalk.

You've heard folks say they have a pounding headache? Well, now I know where that saying comes from. The machinery literally pounds on the concrete to demolish it - and not only makes a horrible pounding noise, but also shakes the building, our desks, our teeth... you name it!

It's all for a Grand cause - as we will be installing our Sidewalk of Stars in the coming weeks. Want your name to be on a star? - visit for more information and a star application. It will truly be a magnificent constellation in downtown Galveston when finished!

If you would like to read our press release on the construction and the Sidewalk of Stars, visit

Thankfully, the pounding won't last for long!

Kathy Van Dewalli
Marketing Director

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Grand at Mardi Gras in Galveston!

This past Sunday, The Grand 1894 Opera House and The Grand Kids Festival sponsored a float in the Galveston Firefighter's Children's Parade. Wow! The weather was fantastic and the crowds were huge! We tossed beads, water bottles, special Grand Kids Festival cups and beach balls to thousands of parade watchers! The theme for the children's parade was "Salute to Hollywood" and we selected "Snow White and the (Seven), (Ten) Bunch of Dwarfs" because we had about 20 folks participate with our float! A great time was had by all, and if you look closely at the photographs... you just might find our Executive Director Maureen Patton. (the Queen to her real-life daughter's Snow White!) Thanks to all the Grand Staff and Kids Festival Committee members for putting this all together! All this fun to let folks know about The Grand Kids Festival, coming up on Saturday April 10, 2010 from 10am-5pm. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

ArtWalk At The Grand A Huge Success

Last night The Grand hosted our second big ArtWalk event and it was a huge success! We had about 300-400 folks come through our exhibit titled "Galveston Trees - Turnery Splendor" that featured hand turned wooden bowls and vases created by Galveston trees that had to be cut down following Hurricane Ike. Money raised from the sale of these bowls and vases will be used to purchase and plant new trees in Galveston.

The exhibit will be open tonight (Sun. Nov. 29th) and tomorrow (Mon. Nov. 30th) from 6-9pm if you missed it at ArtWalk.

And... The Gulf Coast Wood Turners group will present more bowls and vases created from Galveston trees at our ArtWalk event on April 17, 2010. (Just in time to celebrate Arbor Day 2010!) Join us for this event and help raise more funds to re-plant Galveston!

Galveston is an exciting place to be (and visit) right now. Everyone has a renewed sense of community, purpose and revitalization that makes for very postive energy to be around.

The Grand 1894 Opera House will be packed tonight and tomorrow with two performances by Texas favorite Willie Nelson and we will host City Ballet of Houston's The Nutcracker for the 25th year on Saturday and Sunday Dec. 12-13th. We also will feature our Nutcracker Afternoon Tea on Dec. 12th.

Another fantastic holiday treat we've just added.... the Broadway musical "Cats" will be at The Grand on Dec. 26-27th - a purrfect treat for all your visiting family and friends.

Hope to see you around town (and especially at The Grand!)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Smokey Robinson selling fast!

Just wanted to give everyone a heads-up that Smokey Robinson tickets are selling very quickly. We have very limited seating left - so go online at as soon as possible or call 800-821-1894 to buy tickets.

Many other performances are also close to sell-outs - don't miss your chance at one-of-a-kind, world-class entertainment, right here on the Gulf Coast!

Pre-season happenings are ongoing at The Grand as well - right now we have the "Ike Challenge Quilts" presented by the Island Quilters Guild. They are on display (on stage!) on Friday Aug. 28th from Noon to 5pm, Saturday August 29th from Noon to 5pm and will also be presented as part of the City of Galveston's "Revival and Reflections" events marking the first anniversary of Hurricane Ike.

I urge you to come see these quilts and read the stories behind their creation - they are all very moving.

During the "Revival and Reflections" events - they will be on display Friday Sept. 11th from Noon to 5pm and then again as part of the Poetry Reading Evening that night from 7-9pm. The last chance to view them on stage at The Grand will be Saturday Sept. 12th from Noon-5pm. Visit for a complete listing of Revival and Reflections events.

Kathy Van Dewalli, marketing director

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Shows Go On At The Grand!

It's hard to believe that it has almost been a year since Hurricane Ike postponed our 2008 Fall season! Since that time, The Grand has continued to clean up and repair from Ike's visit and we were very pleased to reopen on our 114th birthday (Jan. 3, 2009) - just three short months following the hurricane! As we've said around here - we were ready for performances, but not finished with our repairs.

Throughout the year we have continued with repairs, using the summer months to install a new hydraulic orchestra pit lift system, and to replace the damaged stage surface. We continue with final repairs to our Box Office as well as other cosmetic repairs.

We've just finished up with 13 performances of "Tuna Does Vegas" - and for those of you who missed "Tuna" this go-around, you missed a huge helping of laughter! Joe Sears and Jaston Williams added new characters and dialogue to this hilarious favorite - and kept the crowds laughing.

Next week (August 24th, 2009) our single tickets go on sale for the 2009-2010 season - and I urge you to get your tickets now - many of the shows have very limited single tickets - subscribers have snapped them up!

We open our season this year with Smokey Robinson on Friday September 18th at 8pm and he promises to be a sell out - so get your tickets today!!

And... we've just added a really fun performance to our schedule - The B-52s! This high energy group from the mid-70's will have you bouncing in your seat with hits "Rock Lobster," "Love Shack," "Deadbeat Club" and more! Spread the word on this one - it should be a blast!

Check out the rest of our fantastic 2009-2010 season at - and get down to The Grand today!

See you there!

Kathy Van Dewalli, marketing director

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fall performances to be rescheduled

A Letter from Maureen M. Patton,
Executive Director of The Grand 1894 Opera House
Galveston Island, Texas

Dear Friends,

For twenty-seven years, I have told The Grand's story to countless patrons, tourists, media, you name it. A central theme was about The Grand as a survivor, notably the 1900 Storm. It was only a year after that fateful day in September of 1900 before The Grand was up and running, serving our community as a place to gather and celebrate the island's rebirth but also to share the sorrow of so much loss. It was clear then, as it is now, that Galveston Island and its citizens possess an indomitable spirit that simply doesn't give in or give up.

Now we name our hurricanes, and presenting "Ike" at The Grand was not supposed to be our opening act. Our Grand has been damaged, as was virtually all of downtown, but we're "fixable" and on the road to being clean and dry. I know that all of you are anxious about our season and your tickets for shows that have already missed their scheduled dates. I hope I can answer some of your concerns here. One of the most important points is that is the official site for our information and I ask that you get your answers here rather than through random comments, which may or may not be accurate. While we currently have limited access to updating our website, we will provide information here as soon as possible in order to keep all of you informed. We will update it regularly about our status.

The fall portion of the 2008-2009 Season has been suspended for the time being until we can get a more accurate estimate of when the theatre will be ready to re-open. I have begun the process of rescheduling those dates so that we can announce all changes just as soon as possible. My hope is that we will be ready to re-open by January and celebrate our 114th birthday together with an open house and sing-a-long with our good friend Rob Landes at the piano. Won't it be "Grand"!

We ask for your patience as we get The Grand's website updated and our office at full strength. Happily, our offices and all computer records are secure and undamaged. We will be emailing and calling all of our ticket holders with information about our performances and your options regarding your tickets. I am hopeful that the re-scheduled dates will be convenient for you and you will join us at The Grand for those shows.

We have generators going full time and have power for our offices, but not internet service so far. Most of our staff is operating from "satellite" locations so that we can stay connected. We're a microcosm of the island as personal damages ranged from none at all to total loss. This is an amazing group of people and they are all managing home and work responsibilities so that we can take care of business - and each of you.

Many of you have expressed an interest in making a donation to The Grand to help with the repairs. We will gratefully accept your support and can receive donations by check or credit card at any time. As of now, all our mail is being held at a satellite station and we're picking it up daily.

On behalf of all of us at The Grand, thank you for your concern, prayers and support. Call us at our office phone numbers which seem to be working or on the verge - those are: 800.821.1894; 409.763.7173; 409.765.1894, or by email at I look forward to greeting each of you when you return for your first performance. As I have said over and over these last two weeks, I am and always have been "hard-wired" with a strong sense of optimism. My glass and those of all of us at The Grand, are still half-full, albeit with salt water.

Best wishes and with heartfelt thanks,

Maureen M. Patton