Renaissance Theater

In addition to showing movies and hosting performance art, the renovated Renaissance Theater in Princeton also plans on housing the Bob Denver Museum and being a satellite station for Little Buddy Radio.

PRINCETON — Millions of people remember the white sailor cap that a man marooned on a tropical island wore while he and his fellow castaways appeared on television every week, and the day is coming when fans can relive those memories when they get to see his hat, shirt and other items in person.

With the goal of opening its doors this year, the Princeton Renaissance Theater on Mercer Street has plans of being much more than a movie theater and performance arts center, said Carin Prescott, development director for Community Connections, Inc. In collaboration with the Denver Foundation, the theater will be the home of the Bob Denver Museum and satellite station for Little Buddy Radio.

To many people, the late Bob Denver was the title character of the classic show “Gilligan’s Island.” 

“For the past ten or 12 years, people in this area have approached me about the possibility of a Bob Denver Museum,” said Dreama Denver, who was married to Bob Denver for 30 years before he passed away in 2005. “He had a face that was known all over the world. The movers and shakers here felt there should be a way to honor the fact that Bob loved being an adopted West Virginian.”

Dreama Denver grew up in Bluefield and she and Bob moved to Princeton in 1990.

“It’s the longest he ever lived anywhere, 15 years,” she said.

A sailor hat and shirt Bob Denver wore on screen will be among the museum’s exhibits. Dreama Denver has been going through mementoes to find just the right items to display.

“I’m having so much fun going through memorabilia, the things. I have to see what we could have in the museum,” she told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. “It’s really fun. I’m running across things I’ve forgotten about. I’m enjoying it...I’m doing it little by little. I’m not diving in. I’m wading in.”

She said that fans have urged her for a long time to open a museum.

“People came to me over the years after Bob died saying that we needed to have a Bob Denver Museum, but we never had the exactly right place to put it,” Dreama Denver recalled. “And what location would be better than a theater, and a refurbished theater that Bob would absolutely love?”

Aside from playing Gilligan and appearing in other television shows such as “Fantasy Island” and “The Love Boat,” Bob Denver was also a movie actor, she added. That makes a movie theater an even better setting for the museum. He appeared in movies such as “Have You Ever Heard the One About the Traveling Sales Lady?” with the late actress Phyllis Diller and one called “The Sweet Ride” with actress Jacqueline Bisset.

There will also be pieces from other characters he played such as his breakout role on “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” Another component of the museum will be the Gilligan’s Gift Gallery, where visitors will also be able to purchase mementos, Prescott said.

The museum will be located on the first floor of the theater with its own entrance from Mercer Street. The plan for this space includes creating a Little Buddy Radio satellite station in the rear of the museum. It will be surrounded by plexiglass so that visitors can watch the live broadcast. Denver plans for the satellite station to offer educational opportunities to local college students who are studying radio broadcasting.

“It’s going to be educational in addition to just being fun,” she said. “Kids will learn broadcasting at Gilligan’s radio station.”

The Princeton Renaissance Theater is an initiative of Community Connections, Inc. as part of its mission to build strong communities. More information can be found on the theater’s website www.prtheater.org.

“The Bob Denver Museum and Little Buddy Radio station are going to be great additions to the theater,” Prescott said. “We want to give the community and tourists many reasons to come visit us once we open.”

 — Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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