All About The Woodland Opera House

Our History

Built in 1885, the original Opera House burned down in the 1892 fire that destroyed much of downtown Woodland. It was rebuilt on the same site, using some of the remaining foundations and bricks from the walls, reopening in 1896. WOH became the stopping place for such performers as Nance O’Neil, James A Herne, and Harry Davenport. The great Polish actress Madame Helen Modjeska, John Philip Sousa and his band, comics Weber and Fields, George M. Cohan’s troupe, “Gentleman Jim” Corbett and John L. Sullivan (who appeared in theatrical production followed by exhibitions of “Fistcuffs”), and such up and coming young motion picture stars as Sidney Greenstreet, Walter Huston, and Verna Felton.



Over 300 touring companies have appeared on its stage by 1913 when the opera house, due to the encroachment of motion pictures in the valley and partly as a result of a lawsuit over an injury, was closed and remained boarded up until 1971. The Yolo County Historical Society purchased the building in 1971 to ensure that it did not fall to the wrecking ball and bulldozer. Declared a state historical park in 1976, the Historical Society gave the property to the State of California in 1980; and in 1981, the restoration began.

The Restoration: California State Historic Landmark #851, reopened in January of 1989 after a seven-year, $2,000,000+ restoration project. For the first time in nearly eight decades, the venerable brick building in the heart of California’s fertile Sacramento Valley, began to offer live entertainment on a year-round basis. From its first season beginning in the fall of 1989, WOH has consistently captured regional Elly and Local Chesley theater nominations and awards. The WOH is made up of actors and technicians from throughout the area with some commuting up to 70 miles to perform. WOH mounts 5 Mainstage productions from August to June, a youth theater camp in August, and the Theatre for Families program throughout the year, each production running from 2 to 4 weekends.


During the restoration, the building was made structurally safe and “earthquake proofed”. Central heat and Air-conditioning, a sprinkler and alarm system and handicap access were added. An annex was built to house the mechanical equipment necessary for the above and for administrative office space, a will-call counter, the Mid Level Lounge, and rooftop exterior deck. In 1990 with the help of Woodland Rotary Club, the south side grassy “Rotary Court” was added to compliment the City’s Heritage Plaza. The interior of the Opera House has been painstakingly restored to the grandeur it enjoyed at the turn of the century. Careful attention was paid to reproduction of the wallpaper friezes, paint colors and carpeting. The main floor carpet was manufactured in England and shipped to the Opera House for installation. Comfortable main floor theater seating was built on the East Coast for installation and the historic pew-like benches in the balcony area were repaired or carefully replaced.

The stage contained a modern, computerized lighting system and was capable of handling most sound needs through a 12 channel sound board with CD player and tape player. Stage microphones are available although not often needed as the original acoustics of the building are excellent. A hemp-line system, using historically correct rope and sandbags, was used to rig W.O.H.’s stagehouse instead of the computerized and counter-weighted system more modern theatres often utilize. The WOH sometimes used the “wing and drop” scenery one associates with pre-20th century theatrical productions.


The theatre now contains a modern, computerized lighting and a sound system.  Stage microphones and body microphone enhance the excellent acoustics of the historic theatre. The historic hemp-line and sand bag fly system has been replaced with a modern counter-weighted system to provide safety and ease of use.  One hemp-line and sandbag remain as a sample for tours of our historic theatre.


The building is owned by the State of California but management is by a professional staff hired by the Woodland Opera House Board of Trustees. The Board is made up of arts lovers, theatre buffs, historians and business persons. Although the building is owned by the State of California, it receives no financial support from the state, the county or the city. WOH is completely self sufficient. The WOH brings in 50% of the total income, other programming and rental brings in about 15%, fundraising totals another 15% and the remainder of the budget is balanced with donations, corporate underwriting, foundation grants, etc.


WOH is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (1971), inventory of Historic Sites in Yolo County (1972), was on the Historic American Building Survey (1966) and listed in the Woodland Historical Zone (1971). Named California Registered Historical Landmark #851 in 1973, the Opera House was made a state historical park in 1976, even though no park rangers are on the premises.


The Woodland Opera House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a California Historical Landmark, is one of four fully functioning 19th century opera houses in California.[3] It is a contributing property to the Downtown Historic District of Woodland, California.



Click here for oral histories of people who worked and visited the Opera House at the turn of the century

General Information

Monday |  Closed
Tuesday – Friday  | 10:00 am – 1:00 pm  & 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Box office opens 2 hours prior to show times.

The WOH doors open for seating 30 minutes prior to curtain time. Refreshments are served 1 hour prior to show time and at intermission in the Mid-Level Lounge accessible by stairway or elevator. Food and drink are not permitted in the auditorium. We strive to begin all shows on time. Please turn your mobile phones and pagers off before entering. No videotaping or photography is allowed without permission of management. Flash photography is never allowed.

Promotions: WOW Pass tickets are a special phone promotion that are sold through the approved Woodland Opera House vendor Tom Johnson.

Age restrictions: Due to the nature of the shows, and for the comfort of our patrons and actors, we do not allow children under the age of 4yrs old.

Late Seating Policy: Late arriving audience members may be held out until the first appropriate seating opportunity.  Late seating holds are in place for the convenience of the performers and audience members who are seated at show time.  The length of seating holds vary by production and are set in consultation with production artistic staff.

Physically Challenged: The theatre can easily accommodate wheelchairs. However, only on the main floor. Please notify the box office when you purchase your tickets that you require special seating.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: Sound enhancement headsets are available for all performances and can be picked up at the will-call counter in the main lobby at no charge.

Intermission: During intermission and before the show starts snacks and drinks are available for purchase in the 3rd floor intermission lounge. Cash only.

Parking: Unrestricted parking is available during all regular show times in the lots to the North and East of the building. On-street parking on Main Street is permitted on weekends and evenings with no time restriction. Handicapped parking is available on the East-side parking lot of the WOH.

Dress: Shoes and shirts must be worn. The WOH is cooled or heated depending on the weather, but you may want to bring a light sweater or jacket for your own comfort. Casual to formal dress is appropriate. We want you to be comfortable.

School Outreach: Other programming includes the School Outreach Program. W.O.H. showcases artists during the school year that local schools bring their students, grades K-12, to see for a very small fee per attendee. Selected special events artists and programs are booked in by the opera house throughout the year and there are also numerous rental events by local organizations for the public’s entertainment.

Open Tours of the Opera House are given each Tuesday, 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, by the WOH Guild along with group hours by special arrangement.

Lost and Found: We keep things for a long time. If you think you may have lost something at a show please call the box office at 530-666-9617.

Click on the photo to enlarge
Rows A – G are below the Stage
Rows H – O are eye level with the Stage and sloping up
Row O is for Handicapped
Rows Q – W are Balcony seats looking down on the Stage

Virtual Tour