STRATFORD, Conn. (AP) — For the first time since the 1980s, a troupe of professional actors is expected to take the stage of the town's historic Shakespeare Theater.
The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival theater group is tentatively scheduled to perform "Romeo and Juliet" for students from Stratford and Bunnell high schools May 17 on a makeshift stage inside the Elm Street theater , according to Edward Goodrich , of the Stratford Arts Commission .
A representative from the theater group said the performance is likely, but has not been confirmed.
If the show goes on as planned, the students will be among the first theatergoers to enjoy a Shakespeare performance inside the old building in nearly three decades.
"The Bard is back," said Goodrich. "This will be the first real performance inside the theater in maybe 25 years. We kept our promise about Shakespeare. We battled our way back into the theater. Things are going to start to move pretty fast from here."
Built in 1955, the town-owned theater once drew big-name actors like James Earl Jones and Katharine Hepburn . Those glory days were cut short when the theater closed upon the death of a wealthy local man known to shore up the theater's finances. The building has stood vacant since it closed for good in the mid-1980s.
There have been several attempts over the years to reopen the theater. All have failed.
Matt Catalano, a town councilman who has been a driving force behind the theater's most recent revival attempt, says this time will be different.
"The place is going to come alive this year," he said, adding, "Ultimately my goal is to be doing Shakespeare bigger and better than anywhere else in the country, like we used to."
Proponents of the planned revival hope theatergoers will rejuvenate the local economy through increased spending on food, shopping and lodging.
The town council in 2010 spent $200,000 to hire Arts Consulting Group , a business management firm, to assess and recommend a nonprofit business plan and fundraising program for the theater.
When completed, the five-phase study will indicate whether plans for the theater's renaissance are financially viable, said Willem Brans, the company's vice president.
In preparation for the theater's impending reopening, the council voted unanimously last month to designate the waterfront property a nonprofit organization to be called "The Stratford Center for the Arts at The American Shakespeare Theater Festival."
Information from: Connecticut Post
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