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…

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