The newly-renovated Texan Theater on Lee Street in downtown Greenville started life as the King Opera House.
“It was opened in 1890,” said Texan Theater Manager Lana Barker Dollgener prior to the recent JD Souther show. “The Marx Brothers, the Mighty Mastedon Players and Houdini played here. Helen Keller spoke here.”
The building burned in 1894. It reopened with traveling vaudeville acts, but World War I came and the theater went dark.
It reopened as the Texan in 1935, stopped showing movies and closed in 1975.
There was a home furnishing store in the lobby of the theater.
Dollgener, who manages a staff of 38, was visiting with guests while we waited for a summer thunderstorm to pass so Souther could land at D/FW. He was flying in from Amarillo and would ultimately get to the stage about two hours late.
Barbara Horan, an Austin attorney who grew up in Greenville, bought the building in 2010 and spent next four years doing an extensive renovation, staying true to the building’s art deco decor.
They saved pieces of old vaudeville posters and reglued them to the back wall of the stage.
“We left the lobby’s restrooms as they were,” Horan explained during Souther’s weather-related delay. “The men’s room is salmon and the women’s room is mint green.”
Horan also purchased the adjoining building, turned it into a coffee shop and added ADA-compliant bathrooms.
The coffee shop is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., serving breakfast and light lunch.
The real attraction to The Texan is is spacious theater which serves as a Vegas-style showroom for musical/theatrical acts and the perfect setting for large business meetings. We had 110 people here from Abilene recently,” Dollgener explained. “We have quite a few business conferences here. We offer free Wi-Fi right at the tables. And we can feed everyone at a buffet.”
When hosting musical or theatrical artists, the theater seats 140.
When you purchase a ticket to “The Texan Experience,” parking, an open bar, appetizers, a three-course meal (we had a delicious steak), coffee, dessert, all gratuities and the night’s entertainment are included.
The lobby and bar open early. About 30 minutes prior to the performance, guests are ushered into the theater, with staff lined up offering their welcome.
Guests are assigned a waiter, who has been trained to be “attentive, but not intrusive,” according to Dollgener.
“I tell them to be little Ninjas,” she said with a laugh.
Staff moved in and out with little notice during our evening. Courses arrived and left without fanfare. Refills were offered quietly. Coffee and dessert appeared without asking.
It made me think of a dinner show in Las Vegas.
Upon learning that Souther would be late, Horan called in a favor from local musician Mike Castleberry, who performed for an hour or so without an intermission, taking requests from the audience and sharing stories of his performing career.
Horan interrupted Castleberry to tell guests to get on their phones and invite their friends to come down and see Souther. She’d provide free tickets and dessert for them.
Once Souther arrived, staff really kicked it into gear. The production people made a few adjustments as the set progressed, but that seemed fair since they didn’t have time for a sound check.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more enjoyable dinner and a show in our neck of the woods.
Follow The Texan Theater on Facebook or visit their website at www.texanexperience.com for more information.