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.