As the Iron Springs Chateau kicks off its 2020 season, it will also be celebrating a rather special anniversary — theater’s sixtieth year bringing incredible melodrama to visitors and locals in Manitou Springs and the Pikes Peak region. That’s a mighty accomplishment for this little theater on the mountain — but one it has worked hard to earn. Finding any theater that does melodrama these days is nearly impossible. Iron Springs Chateau is the last of its kind in Colorado and, coincidentally, it’s the last for-profit theater company in the state. The Denver post even made its way to Manitou Springs 10 years ago on the Iron Springs Chateau’s 50th anniversary just to learn what has attendees so interested in the show. The reason? Well, melodrama, of course.
The History of Melodrama
Melodrama is, as the youth put it, extra. Everything is exaggerated — the emotion, the dialogue and the action. The next time you tell your flailing, crying child to quit being so dramatic, turn it up a notch and tell them to quit being so melodramatic. It’s more accurate.
The art of melodrama dates back to medieval times, when performers would put on morality plays that taught the audience lessons about proper behavior and navigating society through a very obvious portrayal of good versus evil. The exaggeration of the performance made it easy for the audience to follow the lessons the performers intended to convey. Good characters were exceptionally good and evil characters were undeniably dastardly. The overt dialogue and bold emotion made the material accessible to a broad audience.
Melodrama evolved quite a bit over time, adding in music, dance and other features that still remain in modern performances. They got longer, a little more complex, but no less dramatic. They also began to become more humorous — that was actually the law in British theaters at one point. No joke.
Today, melodrama revolves around an evil villain, a shining hero or heroine and a crew of sidekicks to help move the plot along. Audience participation is highly encouraged with lots of booing and cheering. That brings us to our raison raison d’être, the Iron Springs Chateau in Manitou Springs.
The 60th Anniversary of Iron Springs Chateau
The building that the stage is housed in today — the Iron Springs Chateau — first started its life as a cigar and candy shop, which was pretty convenient considering the amount of tourists that would flock to Manitou Springs for the health benefits. We’re not quite sure how traveling to Colorado for the fresh air and then buying cigars go together, but it was the 1800s, things were weird.
The location changed ownership multiple times before being purchased by a mineral water company. Yes indeed, there was an actual spring, in fact, the theater sits right over the top of it today. If you venture into the Goldmine Room of the theater, you will be in the remains of the original theater sitting right over the now-capped font. You can still visit the Iron Springs Geyser, though.
Speaking of the theater, it was built by J. G. Hiestand who launched the dinner theater which attracted a lot of fans looking for entertainment. Hiestand purchased the property in 1887 but it would be a few decades before the troupe the Pikes Peak region has come to know and love would form. Today, you’ll find great talent performing scripts often written by local playwrights and entertaining audiences from all over the country.
“Honesty Always Wins … or … This Mine Is Mine
This year’s first show is no exception to the theater’s love of using local playwrights. The melodrama “Honesty Always Wins … or … This Mine Is Mine” was written by Manitou Springs actors and playwrights Ms. Vicki Kelly and Mr. Bruce Littrell. Opening night is Friday, March 13th, 2020.
The story takes place in the Colorado mountains. The lovely Worthmore women have worked their behinds off to pay back an evil widow named Ena Pinch who owns a percentage of their restaurant. As villainous folks often do, however, Pinch plays the lovely ladies dirty and evicts them before they finish paying her back and without relinquishing their share of the restaurant. What are these damsels in distress to do? It’s melodrama — they await their hero, of course.
Enter Big Buck Brawny, who is recruited by the nerdy accountant Pomeroy to save the day. Brawny is a very lucky man — the luckiest man in Colorado. Will he save the day? That’s what you’ll find out if you attend.
The melodrama includes a singalong intermission and a 1960s, Laugh In-themed musical review complete with jokes, songs, dancing and lots of audience inclusion. The show is always family-friendly so no worries about explaining awkward jokes to the kids. You can even enjoy a nice dinner first if you book ahead.
Melodrama is hard to find these days. It’s hard to say where the opportunity to catch a show as fun or as steeped in history as the ones you’ll find at the Iron Springs Chateau in Manitou Springs. There’s a reason this theater has been running strong for 60 years — why not find out why for yourself?