Actress loves ‘extraordinary’ Shakespeare Theatre

Actress Linda Thorson, center, looks off the stage at Stratford's Shakespeare Theatre during a brief tour of the facility. — Melvin Mason photo

Actress Linda Thorson, center, looks off the stage at Stratford’s Shakespeare Theatre during a brief tour of the facility. — Melvin Mason photo


Linda Thorson stands on the stage, looking out into the expanse that may soon hold an audience. She speaks to test the acoustics and imagines those seeking entertainment will enjoy the sounds as much as she does.

Thorson even performs her usual pre-show routine, kicking her legs out and saying, “They love me, they came to see me.” And the renowned television and stage actress, can imagine how things could look inside Stratford’s Shakespeare Theatre if the “extraordinary facility” is  renovated and opened once more for performances.

“You could have it described to you, but until an actor stands on the stage and has the feeling, you instantly have the feeling of being embraced by the audience and of longing to get out here and deliver performance to them,” she said during a Thursday morning tour of the lobby, stage and main seating area of the theater.

Thursday was Thorson’s first visit to the Shakespeare Theatre and the Stratford Stage Group plans to make sure it’s not her last. The group hosted a brief tour of the theater, closed since 1989, to let people know about what they plan to do if given the go-ahead.

Stratford Stage Group is still in negotiations with Stratford to renovate the theater. SSG wants to fix the 1,500-seat theater and bring theater companies from all over the world to the space. There are also plans to build an inn on the theater grounds off Elm Street and expand the current theater by adding two smaller performance spaces. But no work will begin until the town and SSG can finalize a land use and lease agreement.

Visitors stand in the main seating area of the Shakespeare Theatre, now without seats. — Melvin Mason photo

Visitors stand in the main seating area of the Shakespeare Theatre, now without seats. — Melvin Mason photo

Dan Wolgemuth, a spokesman for Stratford Stage, said the renovations may cost about $18 million. That includes improving lighting, sound equipment, air conditioning, heating and bathrooms.

“The last time it was done was 1985 and the codes have changed,” Wolgemuth said.

The contract negotiations are ongoing, he said. SSG attorney Barry Knott and Town Attorney Tim Bishop are hashing out the details, and any agreement they reach would have to be approved by the Town Council.

A portable stage is already in use for events outside the theater, including the ShakesBeer Festival taking place on Saturday. David Reed, who heads the Stratford Stage Group, say she plans to bring some big names to Stratford once it opens. He expects they can open Shakespeare in about two years after starting the renovations.

Thorson expects to be a frequent visitor if the main attraction is up and running again.

“I plan on coming back for the opening night and for every opening night and being in the plays and also in helping this theater in any way I can and making everyone aware of it,” she said, adding that actors “will be dying” to perform in Stratford.

About author
Editor for the Stratford Star. Former reporter for the Darien Times.

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  • George Mulligan

    break a leg

  • Peter Harmen Burke

    Tara King comes to save the Theater ,. is John Steed ghost with her.

  • Lest we forget–the only reason these visitors were able to enter the Theatre, walk around, and experience its wondrous acoustics is the the effort made by volunteers led by Matt Catalano and Ed Goodrich, who devoted countless hours towards cleaning up the inside of the building. So now others, who’ve contributed nothing, will want to take credit, and bamboozle the public with their talk of a cinderblock sheraton on the sound. It’s well past time for them to “show us the money” and cease in their efforts to: a) grab funds earmarked for the Theatre by Shakesbeer; b) undermine the Mighty Quinn Foundation’s work at the White House; and c) attempt to besmirch Goodrich and Catalano regarding their prudent action to safeguard the priceless artifacts of the Theatre’s heyday, which would have disintegrated like all the rest of the Theatre’s legacy. It’s been six months now, and it’s time for more than a pretty face on the proscenium. Let’s hope the next article in the Star regarding the Theatre can divulge some of the finer points of those “negotiations” ongoing between SSG and the Town of Stratford.

  • Allison

    The re-opening of the theatre will put Stratford back on the cultural map. Let’s do this!

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