The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Sunday, May 27, 2018

Historic Rhode Island Theater Designed by Stanford White to Reopen after Restoration

Peeling paint and an empty seating area are seen from a balcony inside the Newport Casino Theatre, in Newport, R.I., Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009. After years of vacancy and deterioration the 1880 building, owned by the International Tennis Hall of Fame and located at the Newport Casino complex, is being revived through a $4.6 million facelift that will return it to a functioning theater. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

By: Eric Tucker, Associated Press Writer

NEWPORT, RI (AP).- The stage has been dark and the curtains closed at the Newport Casino Theatre for more than 20 years, but a little imagination can conjure up images of Will Rogers spinning a monologue here or Orson Welles or Oscar Wilde entertaining the crowd.

The building was designed by Stanford White, a New York architect for the rich and glamorous whose murder by a girlfriend's jealous husband became a tabloid sensation, and contributed to the glimmering landscape that made Newport a popular summer resort for affluent industrialists and their families during America's Gilded Age.

Now after years of vacancy and deterioration, the building — owned by the International Tennis Hall of Fame and located at the Newport Casino complex — is being revived through a $4.6 million facelift that will return it to a functioning theater.

"The theater itself is a gem of its age," said Bill Gale, a theater critic for WRNI, Rhode Island's public radio station, who has reviewed New England performances for about 30 years.

This fall, workers will install heating, air conditioning and new electrical systems, make the building handicapped accessible, restore the exterior and touch up other signs of structural defects that led the building to close in 1987. The theater is expected to reopen as soon as next summer.

It will be managed and maintained by Salve Regina University, a nearby Catholic college whose students will put on plays there during the school year.

"At times we've talked about restoring the theater, but we never had an operating plan," said Mark Stenning, chief executive of the tennis hall of fame. "Now the operating comes via Salve, so it will be a living theater."

The theater, built in 1880, occupies prime Newport real estate on the grounds of the Newport Casino, a National Historic Landmark home to the tennis hall of fame and the traditional venue for the opening night performances of the city's heralded folk and jazz festivals. It lays claim to being the first — and last standing — of Stanford White's theaters.

An architect responsible for Fifth Avenue mansions, the palatial Rosecliff property in Newport and one of the original incarnations of Madison Square Garden, White also occupied high-society circles around the turn of the 20th century.

Evelyn Nisbet, an actress and model who became one of White's lovers as a teenager, famously recounted swinging nude for him on a red velvet swing he had installed. She went on to marry Harry Thaw, who shot White at close range in 1906 during a rooftop performance at the old Madison Square Garden. Thaw's first trial ended with a hung jury, and he was later acquitted by reason of insanity.

"Many people think that the O.J. Simpson trial was the trial of the 20th century, but in fact if I were asked for my vote, I would say that the Stanford White trial was the trial of the 20th century," said Wayne Craven, a retired art history professor at the University of Delaware and author of "Stanford White: Decorator in Opulence and dealer in Antiquities."

The Newport Theater doubled as a ballroom dance hall, hosting recitals, lectures and summer stock performances. By 1927, after a major expansion to accommodate a larger audience, the theater hit its stride — putting on Shakespeare and attracting a one-night performance from Will Rogers, among other luminaries.

Big-name acts followed off and on into the 1950s, including Vincent Price, Lillian Gish and Olivia de Havilland. But interest in the theater waned, with only sporadic performances before it closed for good more than 20 years ago.

The theater will serve as Salve's main performing arts space, but will also be available to the Newport community and to the tennis hall of fame for lectures, meetings and other programs.

Newport takes pride in maintaining its historic buildings, but efforts to restore the theater stalled until Salve agreed to take the lead and maintain it.

The building, which will seat roughly 300 people, maintains its original touches, from grand curtains and an orchestra pit beneath the stage to green-fabric chairs with spaces below for men to stow their top hats.

A walk along the theater balcony reveals gold-inflected woven wickerwork on the ivory walls and intricate renderings of scallop shells and flames.

"It's a wonderful thing; it really ought to be done," Gale said. "You can't really have a good theater scene without these small theaters popping up all over the place."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

The Newport Casino Theatre | Will Rogers | Orson Welles | Oscar Wilde | Rhode Island |

Today's News

September 25, 2009

Sotheby's Provides Further Details and Presents Paintings of Lord Attenborough Sale

Michelle Obama Hosts Spouses of World Leaders at Andy Warhol Museum

Thieves Make off with Magritte Painting from a Small Museum in Belgium

UK Triumphs with 4 out of 5 of 2009 Praemium Imperiale Laureates

Exhibition of Rare Du Paquier Porcelain at Metropolitan Museum

Historic Rhode Island Theater Designed by Stanford White to Reopen after Restoration

Largest Hoard of Anglo-Saxon Treasure Found in the United Kingdom

George Segal Papers Donated to Princeton University Shed Light on Life of Artist

Hermitage and Saatchi Gallery to Present Some of the Most Exciting Artists to have Emerged in the UK

Yale Center for British Art Reassembles Horace Walpole's Pioneering Collection

Arkansas Arts Center to Present the Exhibition World of the Pharaohs: The Treasures of Egypt Revealed

Freize Art Fair Announces Call for Entries for The Cartier Award 2010

New American Friends Organization Formed to Support the Danish National Gallery

Kiki Smith to Be Honored at the Brooklyn Museum's Women in the Arts Fundraising Luncheon

Dia Presents a New Project by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster

Egyptian Minister Blames Jews for UNESCO Loss

Miami's Longest Running Contemporary Art Fair Returns to Midtown Miami

Winning Project for the Kunsthaus Zürich Extension Optimized

'Lion King' Costumes Headed to Smithsonian

Akron Art Museum Names Jon T. Trainor New Director of Development

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- New Rembrandt found after being bought at London auction

2.- Exhibition at Fotohof focuses on groups in society who are at risk of marginalisation

3.- John Brennan collection of Rock n Roll memorabilia offered at RR Auction

4.- A Bob Dylan guitar fetches $495,000 at auction

5.- Exhibition in San Francisco focuses on the latter half of René Magritte's career

6.- 'Mad' king Ludwig II of Bavaria lost gift to composer Richard Wagner gets rare show

7.- New Royal Academy of Arts opens in celebration of its 250th anniversary

8.- Researchers uncover Anne Frank's 'dirty jokes'in her diary

9.- New York art sales near $3 billion in two weeks as uber-rich hunt trophies

10.- Berlin's Ethnological Museum returns grave-plundered artefacts to Alaska

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful