by Patricia Grandjean
Aug 12, 2011
02:51 PMBox Office
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It’s the Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, in the spotlight with its doors open after being shuttered for more two decades, in Festival! Stratford. The annual two-week arts festival is currently underway on the grounds of the storied theater through Aug. 21.
In 1955 the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre opened in Stratford with a presentation of Julius Caesar starring Raymond Massey, Christopher Plummer, Earle Hyman, Roddy McDowall, Jack Palance, Jerry Stiller and Fritz Weaver. Afterward, between 1955 and 1989, not only theater lovers flocked to the plays but busloads of students from Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts were introduced to William Shakespeare’s work here, which showcased the talents of luminaries including Katharine Hepburn, Helen Hayes, Lillian Gish, Paul Newman, Jessica Tandy, Jane Alexander, Hal Holbrook, Nina Foch, James Earl Jones, Fred Gwynne, Christopher Walken and Will Geer. John Houseman served as its artistic director during the late 1950s. Theatergoers from all over the Northeast have fond memories of attending the Bard’s plays at the theater, and the event is expected to attract many of them.
A packed schedule features professional theater presentations, musical performances and visual arts exhibitions, but the theater itself may steal the show in the Stratford Arts Commission’s Open House public tours of the historic site. The tours, the first since the lights went dim in 1989, are scheduled throughout the festival’s run on Thursdays & Fridays 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.; Saturdays 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. to7:45 p.m.; and Sundays: 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.
Highlights on Aug. 12 include Doug Taylor’s monologue, “Tea with the Bard” and the SquareWrights playwriters group presentation of one-act plays, “Quickies at the Festival.” On Aug. 13 at 2 p.m., The Hudson Shakespeare Company presents Timon of Athens, and Shakesperience stages A Midsummer Night’s Dream Aug. 13 & 20 at 8 p.m. And on Aug. 14, Shakesperience presents The Jungle Book. On Aug. 18 "Broadway Meets The Bard, A Night of Music, Magic, and More!" is hosted by magician Mark Goldstein and features Jerold Goldstein, Annie Edgerton, improv by Nat Angstrom, Mike Racioppa and Justin Harris and more.
The Putney Players, the Bridgeport Theatre Company, the Temple Players and Jazz for the Spirit are also on the bill with an exhibit of art by the Stratford Art Guild on display in the theater. A theater camp for children with Shakespearience and morning yoga classes are also scheduled.
All events take place on the grounds of the American Stratford Shakespeare Theatre at 1850 Elm St., Stratford. Bring chairs, blankets & picnics (on-site food will be available from Dutchess Diner and VFW Post 9460 will serve wine and beer). Donations asked ($20 suggested); parking is free. For further information and complete schedule visit festivalstratford.org/calendar.