Today we have a special post for you! A few weeks ago, we posted a couple of things about the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, whose fate is to be decided soon. We contacted David D. Reed, the wonderful Producer who is leading the charge to save the Festival—who better to tell you all about it?
REDEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL, THE AMERICAN SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL THEATRE
Stratford is synonymous with William Shakespeare and the Town of Stratford, Connecticut, may well count itself proud to have hosted and embraced in 1955 the founding of The American Shakespeare Festival Theatre, thus joining the internationally renown Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, England, and the Canada Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Canada, dedicated to memorializing the enduring works of the world famous dramatist.
When Lawrence Langner, one of America’s leading theatrical producers of the 20th century, first dreamed of creating an American National Theatre in which to present the plays of William Shakespeare and other works by the world’s great playwrights, he wanted to provide a showcase for American actors which would rival England’s world renown Royal Shakespeare Company. Thus was born The American Shakespeare Festival Theatre and Academy.
The Festival Theatre opened its doors in July 1955 to the accolades of audiences and critics alike who greeted the theatre’s founding as one of the greatest theatrical innovations since the ‘Bard of Avon’ opened the original Globe Theatre in London in the year of 1599. Sadly, after an illustrious ‘run’ of some thirty odd years during which the ‘tragedies, comedies and histories’ penned by the greatest playwright of the English language were beautifully presented by the most prodigious list of ‘who’s who’ among America’s leading actors, the Festival Theatre was forced to close its doors in 1985 after years of operational deficits plunged the theatre into the abyss of bankruptcy.
Now, after dark and closeted years, like the proverbial ‘phoenix rising from the flames’, The American Shakespeare Festival Theatre in this new and challenging 21st century is once again poised to take its place as a national showcase for the great plays of the world.
In respect to Lawrence Langner, the founder of the Festival Theatre at Stratford, Connecticut, which opened in 1955, and in keeping with his original creation of a national theatre dedicated to producing Shakespeare’s plays and other classical dramas, The Stratford Stage Group proposes to restore the theatre under its original name, The American Shakespeare Festival Theatre. Precepts set by Langner in his distinguished career as Producer of the famous American Theatre Guild will be guiding milestones for the reestablishment of the theatre’s operation.
The Stratford Stage Group intends to redevelop The American Shakespeare Festival Theatre and its grounds into a multipurpose cultural facility with the establishment of a national classical theatre as a central activity as well as a significant venue for the production and presentation of a variety of important theatrical activities and professional theatre training in concert with leading educational Drama institutions accompanied by the development of renovations, improvements and additions to the physical theatre plant.
Along with the extensive updates to the existing theatre building, The Stratford Stage Group intends to construct, in phases, new additional audience facilities including restrooms, concessions, lounges, an enlarged lobby, scenic workshops, rehearsal and classroom areas and staging spaces.
Another activity will be directed toward promoting the theatre site and facility as a Conference Center and Film-video Production Center in line with the state’s objective of promoting Connecticut and its resources as a convenient and economical base for film and TV production.
Upon completion, the various phases of the proposed American Shakespeare Festival Theatre redevelopment will provide:
- First class professional theatre presentations of world classics, Shakespeare’s plays, contemporary works, musicals, new plays, operas and symphony orchestras, and, particularly, in a “Festival” format, the works of other notable national and/or regional theatre offerings.
- Arts educational outreach programs designed to encourage and develop school audiences in both public and private education systems, especially throughout the neighboring eastern states.
- The on-site distinctive asset of a 5 star Inn of 132 rooms (The Shakespeare Inn) to accommodate theatre patrons and, in conjunction with off-season use of the theatre (1500 seat capacity), for use as a conference center for business and industrial interests, adding to Stratford’s tax base and revenue.
- Development and maintenance of theatre grounds with provision for public access and use.
- Substantial economic impact as a major tourist attraction of national significance.