His­toric the­atre con­sul­tant wants to res­cue State The­atre

‘We save neigh­bor­hoods and com­mu­ni­ties not just build­ings’

Rappahannock News - - NEWS - By John Mc­caslin Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

Could a Chicago-based his­toric the­atre prop­erty con­sul­tant come to the res­cue of the 1938 vaude­ville-style Culpeper State The­atre, which is in fore­clo­sure and set to go on the auc­tion block next Wed­nes­day?

“From what I read and sur­mise the loans and bad pro­gram­ming drove this project into a fail­ure,” says Paul War­shauer, a founder of Wheaton, Ill.’s Grande Venues, Inc. (GVI), who tells the Rap­pa­han­nock News that he is anx­ious to “come to town and try to save the place.”

GVI’s strat­egy for his­toric theatres like the one in Culpeper is to cre­ate a pro­gram­ming for­mat that pro­vides qual­ity en­ter­tain­ment with­out the high risk of con­tin­u­ally hir­ing top tal­ent acts. Al­though top tal­ent is not ex­cluded from a typ­i­cal GVI pro­gram­ming for­mat, they are pre­sented in spar­ing fash­ion.

“GVI fo­cuses on spe­cific cat­e­gories of live en­ter­tain­ment and movies that ap­peal to a broader au­di­ence — kid’s pro­grams, clas­sic movies, vaude­ville style acts, cul­tural mu­sic, and teen band con­certs among many oth­ers,” the com­pany states. “It is GVI’s opin­ion that per­form­ing arts and other forms of en­ter­tain­ment truly need to be in­te­grated into the com­mu­nity in or­der for to­day’s theatres to suc­ceed.”

War­shauer con­tacted the Rap­pa­han­nock News late last week for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion sur­round­ing the State The­atre, ex­plain­ing his mes­sages left for the the­atre’s vol­un­teer board of direc­tors, in­clud­ing chair Jerry Whit­lock, went unan­swered. Whit­lock also did not re­turn pre­vi­ous calls from this news­pa­per.

The con­sul­tant said his staff read about the the­atre’s fi­nan­cial straits in this past week’s e-edi­tion of the Rap­pa­han­nock News.

War­shauer and his busi­ness part­ner Mike Novelli cre­ated the com­pany, ac­cord­ing to a busi­ness pro­file, “be­cause they shared a deep pas­sion for pre­serv­ing his­toric theatres as well as pro­mot­ing live per­form­ing arts.”

“Our par­tic­u­lar spe­cialty is in de­vel­op­ing the­atre, school and ho­tel prop­er­ties with in­di­vid­u­als . . . small lo­cal com­pa­nies, not-for­profit clients and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties,” the com­pany states.

“We save neigh­bor­hoods and com­mu­ni­ties not just build­ings.”

GVI says it serves to fill a grow­ing need for his­toric prop­erty ex­perts and de­vel­op­ers to re­vi­tal­ize many projects across the coun­try like in Culpeper, tak­ing “a prac­ti­cal ap­proach in de­ter­min­ing the vi­a­bil­ity of a prop­erty. Rather than spec out any build­ing im­prove­ments or changes, GVI fo­cuses at­ten­tion on de­vel­op­ing a suc­cess­ful busi­ness and pro­gram­ming for­mat rather than on the bricks and the mor­tar.”

The bricks and mor­tar of the State The­atre could hardly be in bet­ter shape. The 500-seat show­house un­der­went a re­ported $13 mil­lion restora­tion in 2013.

This news­pa­per wrote of the Culpeper the­atre’s demise upon learn­ing that un­named in­di­vid­u­als from Rap­pa­han­nock County had gen­er­ously opened their wal­lets to keep the his­toric prop­erty afloat. De­tails were first re­ported by the Culpeper Star-Ex­po­nent.

Al­though their iden­ti­ties are not known, the Rap­pa­han­nock res­i­dents re­port­edly made a to­tal of $5 mil­lion dol­lars in loans to the the­atre on two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions, the news­pa­per re­ported, once through a lim­ited li­a­bil­ity com­pany, Mel­bell, LLC, which was or­ga­nized on March 9, 2011.

“As the at­tor­ney that was in­volved for both of the lenders to the State The­atre any of my in­for­ma­tion is con­fi­den­tial and I wouldn’t be at lib­erty to dis­close any iden­ti­ties with re­spect to Mel­bell, LLC,” Wash­ing­ton at­tor­ney Michael T. Brown told the Rap­pa­han­nock News. “That’s the rea­son that was done through an LLC, so that the iden­tity would not be a mat­ter of pub­lic record.”

As is cus­tom­ary, the LLC lists as its ad­dress Brown’s firm, Walker Jones Law, 211-A Main Street, Wash­ing­ton.

“Dear Culpeper Com­mu­nity,” a large no­tice from last September reads on the door of the the­atre. “It is with great sad­ness that the State The­atre Foun­da­tion Board of Direc­tors an­nounce that we will be sus­pend­ing the op­er­a­tions of the the­atre un­til fur­ther no­tice . . .

“We had hoped that with the changes in staffing, our new di­rec­tion of di­verse pro­gram­ming, and our com­mu­nity part­ner­ships and ed­u­ca­tional out­reach that we would be able to cre­ate re­newed in­ter­est for the com­mu­nity and the re­gion to pro­vide the con­trib­uted in­come nec­es­sary to sus­tain op­er­a­tions. Un­for­tu­nately, while we saw a trend of pos­i­tive re­sults, we fell short of our fundrais­ing goals to keep us mov­ing for­ward . . .”

BY JOHN MC­CASLIN

The venue has been shut­tered since last fall.

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