Midwest Living Review
Visitors from near and far venture to this historic theater, located just north of Ohio University in southeastern Ohio, to see big-name musicians perform on a small yet modern stage. Artists such as Lucinda Williams and Richard Thompson have jammed here, drawn by the pleasure of playing in the cozy 395-seat theater. Eight box seats on either side of the stage put guests a mere 10 feet from the performers. Tickets are affordable: An upcoming concert runs $15 for advance balcony seats and $25 for advance box seats (add $5 for at-the-door entrance). Evidence of the opera house's storied past are etched into its brick foundation and scattered about its renovated interior. Smoke-stained bricks are relics of an electrical fire that nearly destroyed Stuart's Opera House in 1980. A first-floor arts space, dubbed Gallery 1879, recalls the year Nelsonville resident George Stuart built the two-story structure to present vaudeville acts and minstrel shows to this once bustling coal-mining community. Some may be tempted to bypass this Appalachian nook of 5,200 on the way to Athens. But Nelsonville, the hometown of Sarah Jessica Parker, is too hip to be avoided. A popular draw is the annual Nelsonville Music Festival, a three-day jamboree held on the grounds of nearby Hocking College. Featured artists in 2011 include George Jones, the Flaming Lips and Neko Case. Stuart's also offers free summertime concerts in its parking lot and partakes in Final Fridays on the Square, when stores and galleries extend their hours from 6-9 p.m. on the last Friday of the month.