Nov 10, 2011 7:32 PM by Jeanette Trompeter

No Place Like Home: The Great American Melodrama

I know you've said it. "We ought to pay a visit to that place one of these days." There are so many great places to check out along the central and south coast. but some are simply must-do's if you are a local. And the Great American Melodrama in Oceano is one of those.

Anyone who's ever been there will tell you it's more proof There's No Place Like Home.

But don't go beating yourself up if you never been. It's not like Oceano is a mecca of entertainment hot spots. But it is home to one of the best bangs for your entertainment buck around.

The minute you walk in the door, you walk into a different world. The old-time piano playing, the actors in costume showing you to your seats and the saloon-type feel of the place are a long cry from what's all around the theatre.

Life appears lighter inside the doors of this place. And the spirit of celebration that seems to thrive here is contagious. If it doesn't hit you immediately, it will by the time the sing along starts.

The folks at the Great American Melodrama put on more than stage productions. They provide an experience. By the time the actors take the stage, you'll have forgotten where you are, or why you don't do this more often.

The place has been around since 1975. It was John and Lynne Schlenker who came up with the idea of turning the old Rexall drug store into a melodrama. "I was thinking more of a hobby." says John. "He was trying to live out a dream put a live theatre in downtown Oceano!" adds Lynne.

John fell in love with melodrama as a performer in other areas of the country. "Virginia City, Montana, The Virginia City Players, Mountain Air Players, Buckskin Joe, Colorado..." he lists them off. "The gold rush area of the United States is full of melodramas."

They are simply plays that tell stories through comedy, heros and villans and usually some audience participation. You'll likely hear some booing and hissing if you go. "They were based around American folklore, around happenings that in the Old West, in streets of New York, and that sort of thing." explains John. "And because they were about political issues, people would stand up and yell things, and say things or try to correct things, and they got a little bit rowdy."

They were often performed in bars, or saloons...and the atmosphere of the theatre in oceano reflects that heritage. And peppered within each performance are references to central coast history, places and personalities.

A cast of 6 to 8 performers does it all: provide the music, seat the guests, write a lot of the shows, and work the snack bar during breaks. And they are entertaining the entire time.

Any kid who's been will talk about the thrill of seeing the actors up close and getting an impromptu performance at the cash register. "A tip into the jar, a tip into the jar, what a glorious feeling, I need gas in my car." the actors sing when someone puts a buck in the tip jar. "Somebody will bring a kid and they'll hand him a dollar or something, and the kid runs down there, and the kids eyes just light up when they see the kid down there. dad, can I have more money?" Lynne laughs.

The Great American Melodrama is an Americana classic, a throwback to the wild wild west. Tourists book tickets before they book their vacations on the Central Coast. Yet as often the case, locals can miss out on the fun knowing it's always an option. "We run into people all theme and we ask 'how long have you lived here?' says Lynn. They'll tell us they've lived here all their lives, and we ask "Have you ever been to the Melodrama?" They'll say no, but that they've always planned on coming there and can't explain why they haven't done so yet.

Even though that's the case, the Melodrama has survived and thrived in it's unlikely location because rarely do people come here just once.

It's nice to walk into a place where you can forget where you are for a few hours. If you haven't done so in awhile, consider paying a visit to Oceano, and the entertainment gem that exists there. Right in our own backyard.

Each performance includes a melodrama, which changes every couple months, a vaudville review, and of course the sing-a-long. There's beer, burgers and popcorn so you can eat there and just enjoy an evening appropriate for all ages.

We are heading into the busy season, though. The holiday show is a tradition for a lot of families around the central coast, so if you've been thinking about going, give 'em a call and book it.

For ticket information, click here.

There's also a new wine festival happening in Paso Robles this weekend. The Garagiste (pronounced Gair-ah-jeest) festival focuses on quality over quanity. It's a wine festival that focuses on the smaller wineries around here. That means you'll be tasting wines you might otherwise not be able to.

There are about 40 artisan wineries participating and all produce less than 1200 cases a year. Most don't have tasting rooms, or big marketing budgets, but they do have some great wines.

The main tasting is Saturday afternoon. For more information, click here.

And if you like pie, consider heading to Los Alamos on Sunday. Bell Street Farm is hosting it's first Holiday Pie Event. They're be having pie and pie-baking demonstrations, plus wine-parings. It's from 3 to 6 on Sunday. Bell Street farm is at 406 Bell Street, Los Alamos. You can give them a call at (805) 344-4609 or visit their website by clicking here.



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