SOUTHBURY, Conn. — Tony Randall and Jack Klugman will reprise their roles in “The Odd Couple” in a benefit for the former American Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, Conn., on Oct. 28. Staged reading will take place at New Haven’s Shubert Theater.
The fundraiser has been planned by a new organization, the Shakespeare Theater Project, established by two existing Connecticut orgs, Dandelion Prods. and Brickhill-Burke Prods.
The leaders of the Shakespeare Theater Project are Dandelion’s Ellen Lieberman, sister of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, and Brickhill-Burke’s Louis Burke, who has been attempting to reopen the Stratford theater for nearly 10 years but was fired as its artistic director in January by the theater’s nonprofit board.
Meantime, that board has decided not to go ahead with any attempts to reopen the theater and is in the process of transfering the property back to the state of Connecticut which acquired it shortly after it went bankrupt in 1982 and has been at a loss as to what to do with it ever since, apart from designating its ample grounds as a state park. According to Richard Clifford, chief of the state’s Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, “The ultimate disposition of the theater is not known at this point.” Burke continues to work toward regaining control of the theater and move forward with a suit against the board that fired him, believing that it did so illegally.
The Shakespeare Theater Project’s Lieberman says she, project exec producer Bert Garskof and Burke plan “to bring together the best talent on the American stage, supported by actors trained by each parent company. We will present the works of Shakespeare, other classics and contemporary drama, initially in this series of stage readings but later in full productions.” Burke says: “Make no mistake about it, this series of staged readings will demonstrate the Shakespeare Theater Project’s ability and determination to reopen one of the great theaters of this country.”
According to the Project, such well-known performers as Brian Dennehy, Keir Dullea, Mia Dillon, Celeste Holm, Nafe Katter, Jerome Kilty, Christopher Plummer and Douglas Sills, along with members of Burke’s academy and members of Dandelion’s acting company, will appear in later staged-reading benefits for the Stratford theater, details of which will be announced “very soon.”