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Walken Recalls Shakespeare Theatre Days During Visit to Stratford

Academy Award-winner actor says he'd like to perform again at the famed Stratford theatre.

More than 30 years after he played Hamlet at the American Shakespeare Theatre in 1982, Christopher Walken was back in Stratford on Sunday.

"To be back here is a thrill," Walken, 69, said after being presented with a Distinguished Alumni Plaque from the Stratford Center for the Arts (SCA), a nonprofit that has been raising money for the theatre's revival.

The 1982 season, in which Walken also performed the lead in Henry IV, would be the last full season presented at the Stratford theatre, according to Mark Graham, communications director for the SCA.

Graham said that fact took Walken by surprise as the Academy Award-winning actor was guided on a tour of the theatre's premises before an interview with a Hartford Courant arts critic later in the day.

"The theatre should be used, it's a great place," Walken said as he explored the insides of the long-shuttered Elm Street venue that once was a national attraction for theatre lovers.

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Courant arts writer Frank Rizzo moderated the afternoon interview with Walken at the Scottish Rite Theater. Walken, who has been involved in more than 100 films, was greeted with a standing ovation by a standing room-only crowd, Graham said.

The conversation spanned Walken's early days appearing on live TV as a child in the 50s to his time on Broadway as a dancer to what Shakespearean role he'd like to take on next, which was Prospero, Shakespeare's protagonist in "The Tempest."

"I look at and study the text nearly every day," Walken said.

The audience gave Walken a healthy cheer when he ended his interview saying he'd be game for performing at the Shakespeare Theatre sometime in the future.

The Walken event raised $6,000 for the SCA and the Stratford Arts Commision, according to the commission's Chairman Edward Goodrich.

The benefit was the second occasion in as many months that a notable Hollywood star came to Stratford as part of the American Shakespeare Theatre Alumni Talks. Last month, noted TV, film and stage actor Ed Asner came to town to talk about his respected acting career.

The next honored guest in the series has yet to be determined.

"We are working on other alumni talks but nothing is set at the moment," Graham said.

EddieGin February 20, 2013 at 12:50 PM
Yeah, I have a Question for Chris, what really happen on that Yacht with your boy Wagner the Day Natalie Wood was killed. Another Hollyweird Cover-up, because moronic people look up to these degenerates.
Bob E. Peel February 20, 2013 at 04:30 PM
I notice all these luminaries that praise the Shakespeare theater never donate money to the cause. That's because they know that it's a money pit. How come the folks promoting it here in Stratford can't wake up and smell the coffee? The theater never made any money and never will and all the politicos should start looking at reality. Stop beating a dead horse.
max February 20, 2013 at 05:52 PM
I'm sure these honored actors get some sort of $ for their trip to Stratford. Why should they donate as they are looking to make a few $ and restart their fading careers?
Matthew Catalano February 20, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Mr. Walken and Mr. Asner donated their time to our cause. That speaks to the importance of the project. Wake up and smell the fact that culture and tourism is a 600 billion dollar business in this country and I see it as my duty to tap into that to relieve the strain on residential taxpayers.
OpportunistWatch February 20, 2013 at 08:43 PM
I don't see anything happening soon enough.
Peter February 20, 2013 at 10:14 PM
Mr Catalano,I think your enthusiasim for this cause should be applauded,however,please clear you mind for a moment and look at this overall..The theater needs close to a million dollars worth of work just to get clearance to open it's doors,Who's paying for that?,after the doors open,the theater and grounds will need upkeep,who's paying for that?...Let's say a production company comes in and produces a play for a couple weeks in the summer,are their enough people to actually want to go?,now in your world you may think because 40 years ago the theater did ok...Well this is a different world now,people are struggling to put food on the table nevermind pay $75 to see a play in Stratford.Just asking you to look at the big picture,we need to put that piece of land back on the taxrolls and make it a viable destination spot YEAR ROUND...If that theater had any potential of making money,there would have been potential investers lined up already..in your heart,I believe you know this is true...Like I said,your enthusiasim should be applauded,but this cause is a dead end..
Mike Reynolds February 21, 2013 at 12:40 AM
If Mr. Walken, who I like, and Mr. Asner, who I despise, are so supportive of SFT, I'm sure they have the financial wherewithal to solve a lot of problems with getting SFT up and running. In other words, put your money where your mouth is.
Bob E. Peel February 21, 2013 at 03:45 AM
Hey Mat, have you forgotten all the money thrown into this venture, over. $500,000 to put in a new parking lot about ten years ago because there was going to be a performance that year. Off course there wasn't. Then there was the new roof a year or two ago, that was about $150,000 I believe, how about the money spent on remodeling the interior, it stopped as soon as the money dried up. Who knows how much other funds were spent on Stratford's white elephant. There may be 600 billion dollars of tourist money in this country but I notice that none of the smart folks are throwing it at the Shakespeare theater. If you notice Mat, all the comments are negative.
Tommy MacKay February 21, 2013 at 09:42 PM
I applaud Mr. Asner's & Mr. Walken's effort to help bring attention to the SFT. It should have been up and running years ago. These celebrities come out to lend their support- and guys like Mike Reynolds want their hard earned money as well. Here is Stratford's problem in a nutshell. As a local small business owner - the so called "Economic Development Commission" asked me a couple years ago to work for FREE "in the spirit of the town". You see, Stratford sings the " Brother, can ya spare a dime?" refrain when it suits them. But the reality is politics and cronyism is why the SFT remains dark. The money is there for a lot of things in this town. And it is time for Stratford to wake up and push to revitalize this moneymaker for our town- and it will be a moneymaker if it's done right!
Rusty Nail2 February 22, 2013 at 08:23 PM
I need more cowbell!
Patricia Clark Sperling February 22, 2013 at 08:41 PM
The fundraising efforts by all those involved have been incredible. Keep up the good work and forget about the naysayers! This is such an opportunity to jump start economic growth in Stratford and, in the future, to relieve the tax burden that has been on the shoulders of the property owners for far too long!
Charlie Brown February 25, 2013 at 07:30 AM
Glad to see Sgt. Toomey came to Stratford. Thanks Matt and Ed.

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