All American Melodrama Theater and Music Hall
2009-07-06 · By Editor
EverythingLongBeach.com recently spoke with Ken Parks, Owner of The All American Melodrama Theater and Music Hall, via email. They talked about inspirations, challenges and what’s it’s like having a business in Shoreline Village.
How long has the All American Melodrama been in business?:
We celebrated our first year in business June 28, 2009.
Describe your business:
The All American Melodrama presents evenings of “Old Fashioned” fun! Ragtime piano tunes fill the air of our Victorian style theater, that features comfortable seats and cozy cabaret tables.
The whole family can share in the Melodramatic fun as they cheer our hero, boo our villain, and sing along. As an additional treat, audiences have the pleasure of being seated and served by the very same group of actors who are performing for them on stage. To top off the evening, every Melodrama show includes an Olio: “a little something extra.” At the All American Melodrama our Olios are vaudeville revues full of song, dance, comedy and lots of audience participation.
Our theater’s entertainment line up also includes ‘late night”, improv comedy shows, performed by our resident group of talented improvisers.
Most folks on arrival head straight for our in house pub featuring tasty jumbo hot dogs, nachos, soups, salads and hearty chili. Guests can satisfy their thirst, by selecting from our impressive list of premium beers, ciders, soft drinks, teas and coffee. Tasty snacks include fresh popcorn, hot soft pretzels, fresh roasted peanuts, and jumbo dill pickles. For the sweet tooth, we offer a variety of scrumptious candies and desserts. The pub is open 30 minutes prior to show time and during our two intermissions, and the great prices are always family friendly.
The All American Melodrama is the perfect place to celebrate your special occasion. At every performance, guests celebrating a birthday or anniversary are recognized with a special musical moment performed by our talented cast.
Our “Come as you are” atmosphere allows families to enjoy an evening of fun without having to get dressed up. The All American Melodrama”s casual surroundings and staff will make you feel like part of the family.
We offer Kids Free & Birthday Free promotions
Why did you start The All American Melodrama Theater and Music Hall?
The company started operating in June 2008. Owner and artistic director Ken Parks is a long Beach resident, who worked for years with Knott’s Bird Cage Melodrama Theater.
“The Bird Cage was one of my favorite acting gigs,” says Parks.
He also has fond memories of going to the theater as a child. The Parks family, he says, would make special trips from Central California just to see its shows.
“As a kid, my siblings and I would play Bird Cage theater on my grandmother’s back porch and I would always play the villains. They always have all the best lines .”
The Bird Cage, he adds, introduced him to, and fostered his lifelong affection for, the melodrama genre.
“It’s an art form where the audience is always involved,” he says. “I really enjoy the audience interactivity; it’s constantly breaking the fourth wall.”
What makes The All American Melodrama Theater and Music Hall stand out?
“It’s really about family entertainment.” Parks says. “People are finding us and realizing there’s nothing like it. … As far as I know, we’re one of three in the state. We’re not just unique to the area, but unique to everywhere.”
Parks started the season with a production of “The Drunkard.” seven productions have followed, all staffed with actors who are veterans of melodrama and, in many cases, of the Bird Cage.
Parks also bought artifacts from the defunct theater, and fans are likely to recognize the odd touch here and there.
What is the biggest success The All American Melodrama Theater and Music Hall has had?
The All American Melodrama continues to build it’s audience. Our biggest success has been increases we have seen in returning families and the number of visitors who travel from around the country to visit our unique theater.
What is your favorite part of running a theatre in Shoreline Village?
The families. It is so wonderful to know that we provide an entertainment venue that allows families to be entertained together.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
Getting the word out. In putting the theater together, I visted the two other Melodramas in California. I asked how they advertised. I was told that the melodrama experience is so unique that it is difficult to explain in a simple print ad. They did say that once people walk in the doors and have a great time, they will be back. This has been the case, but it is difficult in these economic times to draw new people.
How is The All American Melodrama Theater and Music Hall involved with the community?
The Melodrama has worked with many groups in providing a space for events, and fund raisers. Some groups include, Go Fame Children’s Theater, Community Hospital of Long Beach, The Convention and Visitors breau, and The YMCA.
Do you have any future plans for The All American Melodrama Theater and Music Hall?
We are in the process of creating summer comedy camps for children, a touring educational show, a song writers festival.
What is the best advice that you received and who did it come from?
Dave Goelz (Gonzo of the Muppets) told me that Jim Henson never worried about where the money was going to come from. He felt that if the audience could see how much he loved the work he was doing the money would follow. Easier said than done, but I try.
One Last Thing about the All American Melodrama:
I hope that Long Beach finds this great little gem and makes it a part of their family’s traditions.
The All American Melodrama Theater and Music Hall Details:
- Address: 429 Shoreline Village Drive
- Phone Number: (562) 495 – 5900
- Website: www.allamericanmelodrama.com