Fridays with Friends: The IOKA Theater, star of Exeter, shines again

Image courtesy Exeter Theater Company
Image courtesy Exeter Theater Company

The IOKA Theater brings back warm memories for many who have lived in and around Exeter, NH for any length of time. I still feel the intimate power of a tremendous performance by jazz couple Tuck and Patti, even from a balcony seat, twenty some years later. In recent years, while the IOKA’s doors have been closed, the building itself remains an icon of downtown Exeter.

I recently caught up with Allison Battles and Dianne Wieler, two very busy members of The Exeter Theater Company, a community-based organization established to preserve and operate the historic IOKA Theater as a vital center for arts and culture. In addition to her work on behalf of the IOKA, Allison has worked at Phillips Exeter Academy for the last seven years in the Office of Institutional Advancement. In her interactions with alumni of the school, she has learned what a valuable part of the community the IOKA once was and what it can be once again. Dianne is passionate about community involvement and has held positions at Leadership Vancouver, the Canadian Breast Cancer Society and Simon Fraser University, in Vancouver, Canada. As a resident of Exeter for the past 8 years, Dianne is an active member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, and has held the positions of Membership Chair and Corresponding Secretary.

I was thrilled to hear more about their new vision in which “The historic Ioka Theater is the star of the Exeter area, a financially sustainable cultural center presenting a wide range of theater and arts programs that creates excitement, pride and support within our community.”

Kelly:   Who/What was the inspiration for restoring the IOKA?

Allison and Dianne: The inspiration to renovate and reopen the IOKA was born out of the Exeter community’s desire to have their ‘star’ of Exeter return and be enjoyed for generations to come.

KB: When the restoration is complete, what performers/shows/types of films do you envision on the marquee?

A & D: Visioning sessions were held in the Spring of 2012.  From those, we’ve gleaned that the community would like to see a few first-run titles here and there, but there is also a demand for independent, foreign, and documentary films that one wouldn’t be able to see at a national theater.  In addition, the community would like children’s programming and other daytime/weekday options.  There will also be live entertainment such as musicians, theater groups, comedians, author talks, and poetry readings.

KB: How can readers of All Nine support the efforts to purchase and restore the IOKA?

A & D: All Nine readers can visit our website, www.exetertheater.org, where they can sign up for our mailing list to receive the enewsletter and make a donation.  For more frequent updates, find and like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ExeterTheaterCo.  We’re having a rally in front of The IOKA (55 Water St, Exeter) this Saturday 3/30 from 12-12:30 pm.  Come on down and show your support!

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