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Courtesy of Casey Templeton Photography


he DAW Theater restoration effort in Tap- pahannock, a project conceived with much enthusiasm and optimism less than two years ago, has slowed to a crawl in recent months, due in part to a sluggish trickle of donations and a shrinking pool of volunteers. To make matters worse, organizers fear an anticipated reduction in grant funding through the National Endowment for the Arts, which would be “catastrophic” for small theater companies, noted Jeremy Gassen, an artistic director of the DAW program. “Theater projects rely on grants for about 50 percent of their funding, and if grants become more scarce, then funding will go only to the most established companies,” he said. Progress has also been stalled by the complicated construction needs of the aging facility.


T 48


Heroes Needed By Janet Evans Hinman In spite of regular fundraising events hosted by The


DAW Foundation, formerly The Cooke Foundation, funding efforts have not risen to a level sufficient to support the renovation of the nearly 90-year-old art deco building. “The project is in a holding pattern,” said Kia Ware,


president of the eight-member board of directors. “The DAW Theater needs a hero or a group of heroes,” she said. “We’re very frustrated with the pace of progress. In spite of many encouraging words, community support has just not been as strong as we anticipated.” Located on Prince Street, in the heart of Tappahannock’s


historic downtown, the facility opened as the Essex Theatre in 1930 with about 400 seats. It changed hands a few times in the 30s and was re-introduced as the DAW Theater in 1939. The DAW closed its doors for good in 1998. It was purchased by Gene and Mary Jane Cooke, primarily so it wouldn’t be torn down. The Cookes also own Essex Inn in Tappahannock, an 1851 Greek revival manor house converted to a bed and breakfast enterprise. In 2014, the Cookes hired Gassen and Ric Jefferson as innkeepers. In


May/June 2017


The Restoration of the DAW Theater


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