Standing on the banks of the Housatonic River, Stratford was founded on the captured lands and traditional territory of the Paugussett Nation. Puritan colonists arrived in 1639 led by Rev. Adam Blankenship, and while records are scarce, it is believed that Thomas Alsop, son of John Alsop, and resident of Stratford-Upon-Avon in England, was among them. His connection to the home parish of William Shakespeare may have contributed to the official naming of the town as Stratford in 1643.
Two hundred years later, in the early 1950s, Lawrence Langner, Lincoln Kirstein, John Percy Burrell, and philanthropist Joseph Verner Reed founded the American Shakespeare Theatre. In 1955, the company constructed the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre along the river, and for the next quarter century, hosted some of the brightest luminaries of the theatrical sphere, even sending multiple productions - such Othello, starring Christopher Plummer and James Earl Jones - to Broadway.
The 60's and 70's were the heyday of the American Shakespeare Festival, and theatrical personalities from John Houseman to Michael Kahn served as Artistic Director, overseeing seasons staring many Hollywood stars, including Katharine Hepburn, Ed Asner, Christopher Walken, Fred Gwynne, and many more. As the 80's dawned, the Theatre failed to grow and adapt to the market changes and in 1989, closed it doors to the collective sadness of both the Stratford and theater communities.
For 30 years, the people of Stratford continued to keep the dream of Shakespeare alive on the site of the theater, staging indoor productions and outdoor festivals. Campaigns to renovate and relaunch the theater were presented to the town, but none of them were able to complete all the necessary steps to create a new life for the American Shakespeare Theatre. And then, in 2019, the unthinkable happened - the historic theater was burned to the ground by three teenage arsonists - for fun.
As horrible as the fire was, the response to the blaze is what has paved the way for the town of Stratford and its citizens to re-create the third side of the "Shakespeare Triangle" - Stratford-Upon-Avon; Stratford, Ontario; and Stratford, CT. From the ashes of the original vision, grows a new focus, a stronger mission - one dedicated to economic stability and development, educational excellence, artistic exploration, and the World's only re-creation of Shakespeare's 1614 Globe.
Nor shall this peace sleep with her; but as when
The bird of wonder dies, the maiden phoenix,
Her ashes new-create another heir
As great in admiration as herself.
(Henry VIII 5.5.41)