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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 66.0° F  Fair
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Arts Beat: Stoughton Opera House boasts impressive lineup
That other performance center

(l-r) Patty Loveless, Iris DeMent and Junior Brown visit the southern burb.
(l-r) Patty Loveless, Iris DeMent and Junior Brown visit the southern burb.
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Iris DeMent, Suzanne Vega, Jeff Daniels, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society. These and more than 20 other acts are on the venue's 2010-2011 schedule.

Wisconsin Union Theater? Overture Center? Insert the sound of a discordant game-show buzzer here to signify wrong answer. The correct one: Stoughton Opera House, which opens its season Saturday, Sept. 11, with classic folksinger Ramblin' Jack Elliott.

Since its 1990s restoration and grand reopening in 2001, the venue has established a niche. Event coordinator Christina Dollhausen and director William Brehm know what sounds good on this stage. According to Dollhausen, this is "not somebody who needs a lot of extra fog and laser lights."

That means acts like the jazz-oriented Esperanza Spalding Chamber Music Society (Sept. 19), country artist Junior Brown (Sept. 24), and the comedy troupe Capitol Steps, who bring their "Liberal Show of Horrors" to the venue on Oct. 2.

It's an eclectic mix. Single-ticket prices cluster in the $20-$35 range, topping out at $45 for country singer Patty Loveless (Oct. 17) and dipping to $8 for the animal act Amazing Acro-Cats (Oct. 3).

The Opera House has 475 seats, and Dollhausen notes that 60% of last year's shows sold more than 400 tickets each. Three-fourths of the audience comes from outside Stoughton, including Madison, Janesville and smaller communities like Oregon and Evansville. Visitors also come from Milwaukee, Dubuque and Minneapolis.

Both in their 30s, Dollhausen and Brehm share a deep affection for the music they showcase. "These musicians, who are legends to me - being able to meet them and making people happy, that's the most gratifying part," Dollhausen says.

Right up there, she adds: the fact that the Wailin' Jennys' Oct. 16 show is already 10 seats shy of selling out. She also expects Loveless, Daniels (Nov. 13), Riders in the Sky (Dec. 18) and Del McCoury (March 4) to fill the house.

"There's one show," Dollhausen says, "the Emmitt-Nershi Band - the two main members of Leftover Salmon - we kind of threw in there to see if a younger crowd would come and see it. I think once they learn about it, they're gonna be all over it."

If they do, Dollhausen hopes they'll join the growing audience for what she calls "a really special, unique, magical place." Visit for a complete listing.

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