In response to the destruction of the American Shakespeare Theatre, and in the hopes of continuing a legacy of performance in Stratford, Connecticut, the Mighty Quinn Foundation—a Stratford-based not-for-profit dedicated to the local flourishing of the arts and to providing young artists with the tools to learn, grow, create, and perform—is raising funds towards the creation of a dedicated theater space in Stratford.
Early on the morning of January 13, 2019, the historic American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, CT caught fire and was ultimately destroyed. This grand old space once housed the likes of Katharine Hepburn, James Earl Jones, Christopher Walken, Ed Asner, and many others. After its opening in 1955, it was the premiere national destination for Shakespearean performance and led the way for many organizations like it. Though the theater ceased operation in the mid-1980s, standing empty ever since, the building remained a beautiful landmark and a communally meaningful monument to a legacy of art-making in Stratford.
In 2014, the Mighty Quinn Foundation sought to continue this legacy by founding Shakespeare Academy @ Stratford. Entering its sixth season this summer, SA@S is a unique and vital residential training and performance program for college-aged actors. For the past five years, SA@S has kept the spirit of Shakespeare and ensemble alive in Stratford by bringing exhilarating summer performances of Shakespeare’s plays to the grounds of the American Shakespeare Theatre. SA@S is dedicated to site-specific performances—from Hamlet in a parking lot to The Tempest in a wooded glade—and never performed inside the former theater, which has been shuttered and unsafe for performance use for many years.
As we mourn the loss of a richly storied, beloved theatrical monument, we also look forward to the future of Shakespeare and the performing arts in Stratford. Like its sister cities in England and in Canada, Stratford, Connecticut has been and should continue to be the home of truly great theater. The Mighty Quinn Foundation (which, alongside SA@S, supports several projects that foster local arts and arts education) is in the early stages of planning for the creation of a dedicated theater space. While SA@S remains committed to the joys and discoveries of outdoor and site-specific theater, we also believe that Shakespearean performance deserves a bricks-and-mortar home in Stratford, and that the town deserves a great theater.
Our project is long-term. We ask for your support in order to launch the complex process of planning for a dedicated theatrical space. We are not proposing to rebuild the American Shakespeare Theatre — “Vex not his ghost; O, let him pass.” Rather, we are moving forward in the spirit in which that theater was originally built, a spirit of creative adventure and communal joy in the possibilities of Shakespeare, ensemble, and shared artistic experience.
In supporting our campaign, you support the arts in Stratford. You support arts education and the continuation of a thrilling theatrical legacy. You support Shakespearean performance and new works. You support us in the crucial planning stages as we embark upon a big, new adventure, towards creating a way forward for a theater in Stratford.
A building is gone, but theater is alive and well in Stratford, and with your help, it will continue to thrive.
“Be cheerful; wipe thine eyes. Some falls are means the happier to arise.”
—William Shakespeare, Cymbeline
For more information about Mighty Quinn Foundation Inc., please visit our website: https://www.mightyquinnfoundation.org/
The Mighty Quinn Foundation honors Quinn Rooney's passion for learning and love of theater by providing scholarships, training, artistic programming and creative opportunities within its community. Our goal is to provide young artists with the tools to learn, grow, create, and perform.
For more information about Shakespeare Academy @ Stratford (SA@S), please visit our website:
(Cover Image: An SA@S actor performs on the grounds of the former theater. Photo by Buck Lewis Photography.)