Barbara Denyer — artist, activist, and Irvington resident for 58 years — was honored on May 31 at Clocktower Players’ spring fundraiser gala with a 2019 Bravo Award. For over half a century, Denyer’s creative vision, energy, and dedication to the arts have significantly benefitted Clocktower Players, Irvington Town Hall Theater, and the rivertowns community.
Denyer was instrumental in the restoration of the Irvington Theater after it fell into disrepair and was shut down in 1960. Built in 1902 and hailed as avant-garde for its time, the majestic theater had been the cultural hub of Irvington until the 1950’s. But after its fire escapes came off, breaking health and safety codes, the theater was condemned and closed. In 1967, Denyer introduced Micheal Penta (longtime Irvington High School theater teacher/choreographer and Clocktower Players’ founding director) to the “disaster on the third floor!” — the dilapidated theater — which Denyer envisioned as a vibrant performance space. She actively engaged neighbors and friends in the renovation effort, and secured the Junior League’s support.
In 1972, Denyer added her creative flair to Irvington’s Centennial Celebration, inspiring her Memorabilia Exhibit Committee to clean, paint, and set up exhibits in the orchestra and balcony boxes to showcase the theater’s possibilities to the public. Newspaper accounts reflect that hundreds attended. The theater officially reopened in 1980 (at which time the Irvington Town Hall Theater Commission was formed) and has presented countless theater, music, film, and community events ever since. Over the years, Denyer has generously shared many costumes from her extensive collection with local theater groups, and has donated a number of her costumes to the Irvington Historical Society.
Among Denyer’s other projects and invaluable accomplishments, she co-authored and photo researched Wolfert’s Roost: Portrait of a Village, the History of Irvington. She has given lively tours of the Old Croton Aqueduct, and strongly advocated for the acquisition of the Burnham Building for the Irvington Public Library and apartments. She served on the Village Hall Selection Committee, responsible for the renovations of the Town Hall lobby and courtroom, and worked to restore the Tiffany Reading Room to its original grandeur. Denyer’s many contributions to Irvington have consistently helped the Village move forward while preserving its rich history.