By Mark Whetzel
The accolades continue for the restored State Theatre in Culpeper, Virginia. “I can’t wait to go back”, “Acoustics and sight lines are superb”, “Comfy and super friendly staff”, and “Love the nostalgic feeling the minute you walk in the door,” are just some of the comments from recent visitors. Patrons unanimously agree that this renovation project successfully incorporates contemporary elements while retaining the charm of this historically significant Culpeper landmark.
Originally called the Pitts Theatre, it was constructed in 1938 and was one of thirty theaters built by State Senator Benjamin Pitts. It is one of only two of these theaters originally built by Senator Pitts that is still in use. Ownership of the theater has changed several times over the years. Initially leased to Regal Cinemas in 1973 by the Pitts family, the newly renamed State Theatre was eventually closed in the early 90’s as a public venue although it was still used periodically to host private events (currently the theater is once again available for conferences, retreats and social events). However, it was eventually closed entirely and came precariously close to being demolished. Eventually like-minded citizens who appreciated the value of the State Theatre to the local community began taking steps to preserve the landmark.
Working with the State Theatre Foundation, the community financed a portion of the $9.3 million renovation project using federal historic tax credits. Seventy five years after it’s initial construction and after nearly a decade of being vacant, the theater reopened again in May 2013. Since then the State Theatre has been named a Great American Main Street Award winner as well as being listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places.
Although updated with several contemporary features, the State Theatre still retains many elements which add to it’s nostalgic charm. A state of the art sound system, 35-foot stage and a 50-seat black box theater not only enhance the quality of the theater goer’s experience, it also greatly expands the variety of productions that the theater can offer. However many aspects harken back to the early days of the theater including reproduction wall sconces and carpet, a neon marquee as well as the utilization of the original proscenium arch enveloping the stage.
Theatre manager Jodi Stone has been with the State Theatre since June of 2013. She and her husband moved to Virginia from southern California in 2008 after he accepted a job with the Library of Congress facility in Culpeper. Her accounting background led to her initial work with the theater. She elaborates, “Through a series of staffing changes and the growing pains of operating a historically restored 1938 arts venue I have come to be the Theatre Manager. I am excited and humbled at the responsibility of leading this wonderful performing arts venue in its mission of Showcasing The Arts To Everyone. The State Theatre Foundation, Inc. is a 501 c(3) nonprofit organization and we are working in conjunction with other non-profit organizations and individuals in our community to provide arts entertainment and education to the entire Piedmont Region.”
Currently, the State Theatre offers a full calendar of events. Theater, film, music and dance are all well represented with a diverse lineup which in the past has featured notable performers such as Bruce Hornsby, Lyle Lovett, Eddie Money, and the Manassas Ballet. The Fall 2015 schedule will include classical pianist Hyojung Huh, Marty Stuart, the Charlottesville Ballet, Gaelic Storm, the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Hunger Games Trilogy. Comedy, educational opportunities, school tours and various special events are also well represented in the upcoming season. A complete list of performances and other events is available on the State Theatre website at: