Doozie and I were out for dinner a few weeks ago and Tony Callendrello walked past our table. I asked him if the IOKA effort was over as it’s been awhile with no reports and he said, “Yes, we will be returning your donation”

Though this was news and certainly  of interest to many, I wanted to wait for the organization to  prepare their formal statement.

They worked very hard to try and pull this together .  There never was a white knight in my opinion, just a speculator who probably was very difficult.

Here is the note I received  from the Exeter Theater Company.

Discussing this morning with Doozie we are just rolling our refund out over the many holiday requests for donations locally.

There’s really  nothing to say but “what a bummer” and that’s how I feel today, despite  having known for weeks.



Dear Friends,

As you may recall, we at the Exeter Theater Company promised you, our generous supporters, that if we were unable to successfully acquire the IOKA Theater and raise the funds to restore and reopen it, we would return your money. After much consideration and after exploring numerous options, we have made the difficult decision to suspend our efforts to acquire the IOKA and return your donations.

This chapter of our story has come to an end. We came together, supported by thousands of our friends, neighbors and members of the greater Exeter community in an attempt to bring film and live entertainment to Exeter at the historic IOKA Theater. Cherished for its folklore, its beauty, and personal stories, the IOKA offered the potential to create a lasting place where these memories could be relived and new ones made.

The Exeter Theater Company is and has been served by wonderfully talented individuals who have given of themselves to achieve the vision of reopening the IOKA. There have been untold hours, interrupted personal and family schedules, favors sought and received, strategies, tactics, fundraising, speeches, articles, interviews, surveys, videos, projections, philosophies, costs, donations. Along the way we made new friends, visited other similar venues, developed conceptual designs, and came up with estimates for the needed renovations and equipment. Throughout this entire effort, high expectations were established and a sound vision was created. I truly appreciate our past and present Board members and volunteers that worked so closely to try to realize this vision. Their creativity and imagination was staggering.

So what happened? A lot of factors conspired against us but, in the end, the economic climate and timing wasn’t right. We had many productive conversations with major donors and potential partners in this venture. All of them expressed their sincere desire to see the IOKA returned to life but various obstacles and circumstances prevented them from providing financial backing.

Throughout it all, we never compromised our values. There were moments when we could have risked your money on agreements with a low likelihood of success. We made the often-difficult decision to hold your donations securely, wanting to commit your money only on a fair and sustainable option. We tasked ourselves to be careful and reliable stewards of your money and I feel we’ve succeeded in that.

Our friends in the local business community could not have been more supportive. They understood the benefit a thriving theater would bring to this downtown and shared our passion. They gave what they could and encouraged us every step of the way. To the vendors who provided materials, talent, expertise, and advice – we thank you and yearn to have paid you back twofold.

We are beginning the administrative task of printing and mailing your checks. We anticipate having them out to you in by the end of the year. Please note that if your donation was $600 or more, you will also receive a W-9 form so that we can satisfy the requirements of the Internal Revenue Service.

Obviously, we are all disappointed at this outcome but remain committed to our mission of restoring the IOKA to its former glory for the enjoyment of Exeter and the NH Seacoast. We can only hope that some future opportunity to do so presents itself.

As always, feel free to contact me directly with questions at


Tony Callendrello

Chair, Board of Directors

Exeter Theater Company

Our mailing address is:

P.O. Box 275

Exeter, NH 03833-0275

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