Carly Simon raises the curtain on newly restored Capawock theater

Carly Simon, joined by son, Ben Taylor and daughter, Sally Taylor, provided a musical score to the gala opening of the long moribund theater.

Michael Cummo

Carly Simon, joined by son Ben Taylor and daughter Sally Taylor, reopened the newly restored Capawock Theater in Vineyard Haven in style on Friday night. There was no red carpet, but the night had the feel of a premiere. The star was the building, and the herculean effort behind it.

Every newly upholstered seat in the iconic theater was filled when Ms. Simon, a Vineyard Haven resident, took to the stage in the long-dormant building. There was a sense of intimacy as she greeted the guests, there by invitation only.

Her son, Ben Taylor, played beside her throughout most of the performance, the two bantering between songs. Twice during the inaugural performance, Ms. Simon sat back to let her children perform without her. Both Ben and Sally Taylor performed their own music.

“This is such an amazing event,” the famed singer and song-writer said to the audience. “We’ve all been here before — many, many years ago. Everybody has their favorite memory of this place.”

“The Capawock is yours again,” Ms. Simon said. Once the applause died down, Ms. Simon sang the praises of Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation (MVTF) co-founder Mark Snider, and credited him with spurring the restoration. “He did it. It was his idea.”

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think Carly Simon and her family would be an opening act for me,” Mr. Snider said.

Finishing touches were still going on just hours before invited guests arrived, Gwen Snider, MVTF co-founder and wife of Mr. Snider, said.

“It feels a little bit like sand in an hourglass,” Ms. Snider said before the show began. “We knew this was the day we had to pull everything together. By five o’clock we were pretty happy.” Ms. Snider said the certificate of occupancy was granted just that afternoon.

The theater has a stage as well as a movie screen which, when not in use, hides behind two black curtains. Though the theater is designed to host lectures and concerts, as well as to show movies, Ms. Snider said, no stage performances are currently booked. But she said she hoped the revived theater would bring some life back into downtown Vineyard Haven.

Though the Capawock was modernized with a new sound system, new lights, and a new heating and air conditioning system, the restoration took care to preserve what Mark Snider called the “historic look” of the building. Mr. Snider also asked the audience to continue donations to the foundation, which has raised $825,000 of its $1 million goal. Mr. Snider took care to thank all of the involved parties who worked to reopen the Capawock.

“There were some days throughout this last winter when I thought we might not make it,” Mr. Snider said.
“So where are we today? We are open.”

Cut, camera, and lots of action

The Capawock and its sister theater, the Strand in Oak Bluffs, had sat unused and at the center of controversy over their deteriorating condition until Mr. Snider arrived on the scene.

Mr. Snider, co-owner of Winnetu Oceanside Resort in Edgartown, began informal talks with the Hall family, owners of the theaters, last summer. In February, he announced the creation of the Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation, and said had that he reached an agreement in principle on two long-term leases for the Strand Theater, as well as the Capawock Theater. He said he intended to have the iconic Island movie houses renovated and operational by Memorial Day of this year.

“Since I was a little kid, I have loved these movie theaters,” Mr. Snider told The Times in February about his reason for getting involved. “I have always loved what they represent to the towns, and when they closed down I was really heartbroken about it. I just waited, hoping things would happen, and they didn’t. I was inspired by an editorial that ran in The Times about a year ago (June 11, “Forge a partnership”), and I decided to do something. I want to see these theaters alive and meaningful and part of the communities and filling the need that I think they do.”

Mr. Snider began assembling a board of directors. In February he announced that Ms. Simon had joined the board.

On a cold February day and standing in front of high snowdrifts, Ms. Simon met Mr. Snider at the Capawock Theater to formally shake on the deal.

Standing in the foyer of the theater that opened in 1913, Ms. Simon told The Times that she has a longtime affinity for the Capawock. “I think I started coming to this theater from the age of 2,” she said. “I saw lots of teddy bear movies here. I saw lots of Disney movies here; I saw E.T. for the first time here. I also saw Heartburn here, which I wrote the soundtrack for, and Working Girl, too.”

Ms. Simon won the 1988 Academy Award for the song “Let the River Run” from Working Girl.

In April, Mr. Snider announced that he signed a 20-year lease with the Hall family with incremental opportunities for the foundation to break its agreement, a provision to financially protect nonprofits from going bankrupt.

For more information on the Foundation go to Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation (MVTF),