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Fire Destroys Historic American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford

The theater had been a Connecticut landmark since the 1950s and was poised to undergo renovations.

The American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut was destroyed by an early-morning fire on January 13.
(© Gottscho-Schleisner Collection / Wikimedia Commons)

Early Sunday morning, a fire tore through the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut, burning the building to the ground. According to various reports, firefighters were called around 1am and the building collapsed while they fought the fire from the outside.

Just two days prior, State Representative Joe Gresko had applied for a grant to renovate the building, which has been vacant since the 1980s. The theater was formed in the early 1950s by Lawrence Langner, Lincoln Kirstein, John Percy Burrell and philanthropist Joseph Verner Reed, and the program opened on July 12, 1955 with a production of Julius Caesar. During its operations, the theater housed performances by iconic actors including, Katharine Hepburn, James Earl Jones, Fred Gwynne, Lynn Redgrave, Christopher Plummer, among many others.

In response to the tragedy, Representative Gresko said, "It always was a symbol of the town, and now I'm hoping that we can all be galvanized around this tragedy, and make something good happen here."

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