American Shakespeare Theatre

Definition

Theater

  • A theater in Stratford, Connecticut, that was home to a famousannual summer drama festival featuring the works of Shakespeare andother classics. The venue, an octagonal structure with a thruststage and a 1534-seat auditorium was designed by Edwin Howardto resemble the original Globe Theatre. The organizationwas founded in 1951 under Lawrence Langner as the American FestivalTheatre and opened in 1955 with an eight-week season beginning withJulius Caesar. Spring performances for students were firstadded in 1959.

    The current name was adopted in 1972. Five years later theConnecticut Center for the Performing Arts was formed to bring intouring companies and guest artists. The latter have included ChristopherPlummer, Jessica Tandy, Katharine Hepburn, James Earl Jones, and AlfredDrake. Plummer and Jones appeared together in 1981, as Iago and Othello,respectively. The following year, however, the American ShakespeareTheatre filed for bankruptcy with debts of nearly $2 million and soldthe building to the state of Connecticut. After major refurbishment,the theater opened for a short season in 1989 but this proved technicallyand financially disastrous, and has not been repeated. New plans torevive the theater were announced in the 2000s but have so far cometo nothing.

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