The nation’s largest melodrama publishing company, Pioneer Drama Service in Englewood, Colo. (pop. 31,727), offers about 100 of the old-fashioned plays among its inventory of 850.
Two of the company’s top-selling melodramas are Shakespeare Goes to Gravel Gulch and The Paper Bag Bandit Rides Again, according to owner Steven Fendrich, 54. His late father, Shubert Fendrich, founded the company in 1967 in Cody, Wyo. (pop. 8,825), and always called it “The House of Melodrama.”
“There was a small theater in Cody and Dad would write melodramas, which were relatively short, usually 30 to 45 minutes,” Fendrich says. At first, his father gave away his entertaining scripts, but soon realized the need for a theater publishing house. Today, 17 employees work at Pioneer Drama Service.
The company sells about 600 melodrama scripts each year to theater groups, schools and churches. In addition to buying the scripts, groups pay royalty fees for each presentation.
“The modern-day melodrama is a fun, charming way to bring a community together,” Fendrich says. “At schools, the principal or a favorite teacher is often cast as the villain, and it makes a great fundraiser.”