The history of the Sorg is a microcosm of 19th and 20th century American entertainment presented to audiences through the forms of traveling road shows, minstrel shows, vaudeville and motion pictures. Many performers in early comic and dramatic productions presented at the Sorg were later stars of the movies – names such as Sophie Tucker, Charlotte Greenwood, Eddie Cantor and Will Rogers.
The Sorg was also a cultural center for the community where audiences could hear the stirring band music of the famous John Philip Sousa Band or classical symphonies performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Local political rallies were held at the Sorg as well as major speeches by national political figures such as William Jennings Bryant and Nicholas Longworth.
When the motion pictures took over the entertainment world, managers of the Sorg adapted to the new media by announcing in the local newspaper on May 18, 1915 that the Sorg was now the “Photoplay House.” In August 1929 the first “talkie” in Middletown was shown at the Sorg and for the next 50 years it was a movie theater.
In the 1980s the Sorg had a rebirth of live entertainment presented by Friends of the Sorg, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the Sorg’s rich history.In 1990 a new opera company, the Sorg Opera Company, was formed and staged operatic classics for the next 15 years. After a few years of struggle under new ownership and then vacancy, the Sorg was purchased by the Sorg Opera Revitalization Group in 2012, and a dedicated group of volunteers under the leadership of Chuck Miller, Denise Brodsky and Ken Bowman began to raise funds and mount efforts to revive the theater.
One hundred and thirty-two years after Paul J Sorg’s generous gift to the Middletown community first opened, Sorg’s Opera House is alive again with concerts and live theater. Music and laughter once again delight audiences as they did so many years ago.