Couple's Senator wedding set to aid struggling theater

April 01, 2009|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,

Artist Dan Keplinger, subject of the Oscar-winning 1999 documentary King Gimp, will be married Wednesday at the Senator Theatre in a ceremony he and his wife-to-be hope raises awareness of the fight to preserve the 70-year-old North Baltimore landmark.

Keplinger, a Towson native whose struggles with cerebral palsy and triumphs as a painter were chronicled by filmmakers Susan Hannah Hadary and William Whiteford, will marry Dena Huggler, a former nanny who has lived in Baltimore for 20 years. The ceremony is set for 6 p.m., and the public is invited.

"We wanted to have media attention to help save the Senator," says Huggler, 38. "It is a special place for Danny because his film, King Gimp, premiered there and a [sidewalk block] was made to honor this time."

In addition to the nuptials, Keplinger, 36, will auction one of his paintings. Proceeds will go toward maintaining operations at the Senator.

The theater is slated for a foreclosure auction April 20. Neighborhood residents, hoping to see the Senator transformed into an educational and cultural center, are trying to raise the $70,000-plus needed to bring the building's mortgage up to date and keep the theater from being sold.

"Dan has always appreciated and been very supportive of what the Senator represents," said owner Tom Kiefaber, whose family has owned and operated the theater since it opened in 1939. The couple approached him about getting married at the Senator about a year ago, he said. The idea of auctioning a painting, however, was broached to him at a town hall meeting held at the theater last month.

"That was a surprise to me," said Kiefaber, who has said he wants to pass ownership of the Senator to a group or individual dedicated to keeping it open and operating, though probably not as a first-run movie theater. The theater is set to resume limited operations this weekend, he said, with showings of Cabaret (1972) and Horror of Dracula (1959).

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