Plummer comes to aid of Stratford Theater

Burke to host fundraising concert

STAMFORD, Conn. — In his years-long attempt to reopen what is now known as the Stratford Festival Theater, artistic director Louis Burke is presenting one of the theater’s strong supporters, Connecticut-based actor Christopher Plummer, in a fundraising concert at the theater on Saturday.

The concert will feature Plummer with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Lankester, and a 150-voice choir of local singers.

Plummer will perform as “Henry V” in excerpts from William Shakespeare’s play against the backdrop of music by William Walton and the overture from Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

Seeking grant

It’s part of Burke’s attempt to gain a “serious” grant (believed to be as much as $5 million) and potential low-interest loans from the state of Connecticut to go ahead with his elaborate plan for a three-theater complex and an acting academy at the Stratford site, once known as the American Shakespeare Theater, that has been mostly dark for over a decade.

Plummer, who is donating his services for the fundraiser, was in the very first production at the Stratford theater, “Julius Caesar,” when it opened in 1955.

In a letter to founding members and friends of the SFT, Plummer points out that the state is asking for proof of interest from the public sector, major corporations, philanthropists and benefactors by June 15. That’s the date at which Burke and his SFT expect to take the venue over from the state, before it commits itself to a grant or loans to the theater.

In addition to the benefit concert, with tickets ranging from $50 to $150, the AST is asking for annual patron gifts ranging from $100 for an “angel” contribution to $1 million for a “platinum” contribution.

Reopening delayed

Burke had hoped to mount his first season at the reopened theater this summer, a hope he’d also professed for previous summers as the long process of negotiating with the state continued.

But the closing on the venue, which was to have taken place last December, still has to be achieved. The upcoming fundraising concert is another step in that direction.

In the meantime, Burke is still hoping for some sort of summer season at the theater or, at the very least, a fall one.