Exhibit on “Presidents and Broadway”

How Presidents have been portrayed in Off-Broadway and Broadway musicals and plays is the theme of an exhibit now showing at the Silas Bronson Library in Waterbury, CT during the month of February. The display will feature Playbills, LPs and CDs from the collection of Dr. Stuart Brown, Director of Student Services at the Waterbury Campus of the University of Connecticut and President of the CT Critics Circle. “I’ve been attending Off-Broadway and Broadway productions for over 45 years,” said Brown, who has hosted the radio program “On Broadway,” which airs every Sunday night from 5:30-6:30pm on WRTC-FM, 89.3, at Trinity College in Hartford. The show can also be heard via live stream at wrtcfm.com.

“Many of the shows I’ve seen have had subject matter we associate with Presidents and politics. Notable examples include Hamilton, Frost/Nixon, and 1776,” he said.
“The most well-known Presidential musical is probably 1776, which will be represented,” stated Brown, who has been with the University since 1989. “The Hamilton Playbill will be in the exhibit since you have George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison in that blockbuster show.”

Some of the material spotlights shows with fictional Presidents. “Of Thee I Sing is a musical with a score by George and Ira Gershwin that lampoons American politics,” said Brown. “The original Broadway production was a critical and commercial success. It was also the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.” Read More…

Memories & Reflections on Straford’s American Shakespeare Theatre

It was an audacious idea and its ending was equally spectacular.

The American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford is no more, consumed by fire.

While its beginning was auspicious, perhaps the seeds of the problems that would haunt theater were also present.

In 1950, Lawrence Langer had the vision and proclaimed that a theater patterned to some extent on the Old Globe would be built on the banks of the Housatonic River. It would be the third Shakespeare theater/festival in towns named Stratford. Besides the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford on Avon, there was a successful festival in Stratford, Ontario.

Langer was a man of multiple talents and interests. A patent lawyer who founded the National Inventors Council, he was also a playwright (Sunrise at Campobello) and had established with Theresa Helburn, The Theater Guild. Langer enlisted other people into his project, most notably Joseph Verner Reed, another wealthy business man with deep theatrical interests.

The funds for building the 1600 seat theater came mainly from large private donations. Opening in 1955, it quickly became a major tourist attraction in Connecticut. It operated only during the summer months and often people would travel by boat, via Long Island Sound, docking a short walk from the theater. Read More…