NEWPORT, R.I. – Newport’s historic Casino Theatre takes center stage this month when a cast of historians, actors and architects will lead a lively discussion about the venue’s fascinating history and its recent award-winning restoration.
The presentation will take place at the theatre, 9 Freebody St., on Wednesday, March 16 at 6 p.m. The program is free for members of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum and for Salve Regina students with valid university identification. Cost for non-members is $11. For reservations, visit: email@example.com or call 401-849-3990.
The program will be moderated by Suzanne Delle, artistic director at the Casino Theatre and assistant professor in Salve Regina’s department of performing arts. Joining the discussion will be actors Pat Toppa, Tom Erb and Cindy Killavey. Martha Werenfels, principal of Durkee, Brown, Viveiros & Werenfels Architects will also be on the panel.
Salve Regina University and the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum were honored last fall with a Little Rhody Award presented by the state Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission. The Project Award recognized the two institutions for restoring the Casino Theatre as a state-of-the-art facility for special events and performances.
Designed by Stanford White and opened in 1881 on what is now the grounds of the Tennis Hall of Fame, the Casino Theatre stage has hosted an impressive list of performers, including Orson Welles, Oscar Wilde, Will Rogers, Vincent Price and Lillian Gish. In its heyday, the theatre doubled as a ballroom dance hall – hosting recitals, lectures and community summer stock performances.
While the stage has been dark since the 1980s, many in the community shared a longtime dream to revive this Stanford White playhouse to its original purpose. The plan became viable when then Salve Regina President M. Therese Antone, currently the university’s chancellor, brokered an agreement by which the university would manage and maintain the theatre.
The Casino Theatre serves as an educational facility for Salve Regina’s department of performing arts during the academic year, and is available to other groups for theatrical productions, summer stock, films, concerts, lectures, and other public events.
A steering committee was formed in 2004 – the Stanford White Casino Theatre Corporation – and a fundraising effort chaired by Linda Gordon raised $4.5 million for the project. Major gifts were received by the van Beuren Charitable Foundation and the van Beuren family, the Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust, the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, and the Prince Charitable Trusts, in addition to many other donations by foundations and individuals.
Durkee, Brown, Viveiros & Werenfels Architects of Providence served as principle architect, while the restoration was overseen by James Farrar and his team of contract