The new State Theatre: Culpeper reopens a cultural landmark after a decade-long wait

The historic State Theatre of Culpeper will wrap up its reopening celebration tomorrow, Saturday, May 11, with a special evening with country music legend Lyle Lovett and His Acoustic Group. The historic State Theatre of Culpeper will wrap up its reopening celebration tomorrow, Saturday, May 11, with a special evening with country music legend Lyle Lovett and His Acoustic Group.

After nine years and an estimated $9 million renovation and expansion, the historic State Theatre of Culpeper has reopened its doors for a week-long 75th Anniversary Celebration and a future filled with renowned musicians, film, dance, and live theater.

“Some of the theater’s most stunning features are the reproduction of the original carpet and the beautifully reproduced wall sconces that grace the auditorium walls. The original proscenium arch embraces the stage as it did 75 years ago,” said the theater’s Executive Director Ed Bednarczyk.

The extensive revamp didn’t come cheap.  Builders and planners were charged with the delicate task of returning the circa 1938 theater to its former Art Deco glory, installing $1 million in state-of-the-art sound, lighting, and projection equipment, and expanding the lobby and reception areas, all while adhering to strict Department of Interior guidelines for restoring historic treasures. The building retains the quaint original touches of a theater built during the golden age of Hollywood, like the brightly colored marquee proudly advertising the luxury of air conditioning, and the painted farewell over the exit, “Y’all come back!”

The developers relied heavily on $3.24 million in federal and state Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits, according to Erica Stewart, public affairs manager with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, as well as an ongoing community fundraising effort.

The theater’s founders, Culpeper residents Greg and Liz Yates, also happen to be the parents of Cameron Yates, editor of the four-time Academy Award nominated 2012 film, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and director of the documentary The Making of Beasts of the Southern Wild.

The theater’s 560 seats, which were donated by the Kennedy Center, were nearly filled for a special screening of both films on May 5, hosted by the Yates family. Dr. Mike Mashon, the Library of Congress director of film preservation at the Packard Campus in Culpeper, led a question and answer session with Yates and Philipp Englehorn, the executive producer of Beasts of the Southern Wild, whose company, Cinereach, owns the film.

Davis Street, Culpeper’s main drag, has seen an almost complete transformation in the last fifteen years. The road, once lined with boarded up warehouses and vacant storefronts is now a vibrant tourist destination filled with wine shops, art galleries, boutique reclaimed furniture stores and gourmet restaurants. Bednarczyk is sure that the town will only benefit further, culturally and economically, from the presence of the stately new theater and the big name acts on the lineup.

The 75th Anniversary Gala began with a sold-out performance by Williamsburg, Virginia native and Grammy Award-winner Bruce Hornsby on May 4, and The Courage to Lead, a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on May 6. The reopening celebration will wrap up tomorrow, Saturday, May 11, with an evening with actor, country music legend, and ladies’ man, Lyle Lovett, performing with His Acoustic Group. To purchase tickets for 2013 season events, visit the State Theatre’s website (which is also making its debut), at



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