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Stratford's Theatre History Shines at Fairfield Gallery

Archives from the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre dominate an exhibition currently open to the public at the Fairfield Museum and History Center.

Relevant.

That's the word Stratford Councilman Matt Catalano keeps repeating as he guides me though priceless archives of theatre at the Fairfield Museum and History Center.

What's relevant, he says, is the history behind all the archives that have been unearthed from Stratford's "White House" and the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre, and that are now on display at this museum's exhibition, Bravo! A Century of Theatre in Fairfield County.

There are archives from other area theatres, but Stratford's collections "dominate the exhibition," says Catalano, a former stagehand himself and current Festival! Stratford committee member.

Katharine Hepburn steals the show when it comes to Stratford's contribution to the exhibition that will run to March 18, 2012. There's countless photos of the star, dresses she wore while performing at Stratford's theatre, and even a commissioned bust of her head inspired by her performance as Cleopatra in "Antony and Cleopatra," a 1960 production at the Elm Street theatre. 

"All this neat stuff, we're going to move home, where it should be," Catalano says, pointing to display cases and caption-marked cutouts. The 3rd District Republican and others are leading the campaign to convert the "White House," located at 1850 Elm St., into a center for the arts.  

"We are just starting to put together the history of what this means."

To learn more about the exhibition, including upcoming lectures, please visit the museum's website.

All photos in the above gallery can be credited to the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre and Academy Archives, Town of Stratford.

Judy Samelson November 01, 2011 at 05:22 PM
I'd read about the exhibit online, so this past weekend, on our way up I95, my friends and I took a detour and stopped in Fairfield. As we pulled into the parking lot, I expressed the hope that there would be more than just a few artifacts on display. My wish was exceeded a hundred times over as we spent a couple of hours poring over the wealth of material about Fairfield County's very rich theatrical history. What a sensational exhibit! We loved reading all about the history of the White Barn and Westport Country Playhouse. But for us, the main attraction, as noted in this article, was the area devoted to the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre. Being fans of Katharine Hepburn but too young to have seen her at Stratford (just by a hair) we were thrilled to see all the terrific rehearsal photos and letters regarding her two seasons there. I remembered the Fran Rich sculpture of her as Cleopatra from many trips to the theatre all through my high school years and beyond. I'm so glad it has survived. Anyone interested in the theatre should make the trip to Fairfield. You won't be disappointed. As Mr. Catalano says, it's all "neat stuff." That's an understatement.
George E. Mulligan November 01, 2011 at 08:57 PM
Fairfield recognizes what most Stratford politicos want ignored & torn down. There are whispers .. they multiply... they grow louder ... more people start to hear the truths ... more people want improvement ... slowly it will dawn on people THEY NEED to BECOME INVOLVED !! - SUPER HEROES existin comic books, movies, TV, Radio, & mythology. - GOD helps those... who help themslves. - TIMES to ACT ...
max November 02, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Alas poor Stratford Theatre! I knew it well. Isn't it ironic Fairfield developed the exhibit and not Stratford. Again we are left out of the "look see what Stratford holds" equation. Perhaps saying something about the Stratford Theatre effort, let it slip away (and let other towns pick up the entertainment initiative).
Jason Santi November 03, 2011 at 11:36 AM
Councilman Catalano, as are a lot of people in town, are dedicated to reopening this Theater. This one small step, can help those who have never seen items from the Shakespeare Theater, see the various items on display. The Theater needs to be rebuilt and a museum must be made at the White House, despite the naysayers that advocate for destruction of our history.

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