Rural Missouri - April 2022 - 60

The Historical
The historical Finke Theatre in California, Missouri has offered entertainment for nearly 140 years. Showcased here is a recent performance by
the Missouri-based band of siblings Dawson Hollow.
Community theatre at its best since 1885
by Heather Berry | hberry@ruralmissouri.coop
I
f the idea of traveling to large cities to attend events
still seems a bit daunting these days, look no further
than some of the small towns in your area. You might
be pleasantly surprised at the talented individuals or
groups performing nearby.
The historical Finke Theatre in California, Missouri happens
to be one of those marvelous small-town discoveries.
" The fact that this theatre has been around
since 1885 speaks volumes as to how important
local arts of all levels are, especially in
rural towns like California, " says Sara Holtsclaw
the administrator for Finke Theatre.
For the Finke (pronounced Fink), revival has
come in several versions since opening night as
the California Opera House in August of 1885. The
grand fi rst performance was a musical concert of
local talent followed by a ball. Through the years the
auditorium went through several reincarnations - Finke
Opera House, serving as home for stage shows, plays,
musicals from 1897 to 1922, then as Finke Theatre until
1937 becoming known for vaudeville and motion pictures.
60 RURAL MISSOURI | APRIL 2022
The Finke name comes from local businessman, Henry
C. Finke, who owned a brick business in 1857 and ran
the Finke Mercantile. When he passed away in 1925, his
widow and daughter ran the business until selling in 1937.
" That's when the theatre was renovated from its Victorian
style to a more art deco style, " says Sara. " It became
the Ritz Theater until 1978 when the doors closed. "
The building sat empty for nearly 25 years and was set
California
to be demolished until members of California Progress Inc.
took action to save the historical local icon. A fi ve-year
plan of action was created and through donations,
grants and community support, the Finke Theatre
was restored and renovated, reopening to the
public as a performing art venue once more in
September 2009.
Listed on the National Register of Historic
Places in 2004, the architectural standout
offers guests of every age an opportunity to
attend performances in an historical location
lovingly preserved for generations to come.
" You'll probably be hooked after your fi rst visit, " says
Marj Friedmeyer, former volunteer board member and season
ticket holder of Finke Theatre. " It's not only a beautiful

Rural Missouri - April 2022

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