NEWPORT, R.I. – Salve Regina University and the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum will be honored on Thursday, Oct. 21 with a Little Rhody award distributed by the state Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission.
The Project Award recognizes the two institutions for restoring the Casino Theatre as a state-of-the-art facility for special events and performances. The ceremony will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Casino Theatre, during which eight other Little Rhody awards will be presented to recognize projects from throughout the state.
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 have 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.
Martha Werenfels, a principal at Durkee, Brown, Viveiros & Werenfels Architects of Providence, served as principle architect, while the restoration was overseen by James Farrar and his team of contractors.