(Fairfield Mag - We’ve Got Answers column – Sept Oct 2011)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.
Q: Where can I see theatrical costumes and other local theater history?
On September 25, the Fairfield Museum and History Center (FMHC) debuts “Bravo”, an exhibit that will run through March 18, 2012, celebrating regional theater in Fairfield County. It will focus on three regional showplaces – Westport Country Playhouse, White Barn Theatre and the American Shakespeare Festival of Stratford – and include such memorabilia as costumes, props, scripts, original set designs, scale models, photographs, show programs, posters, film clips and recordings.
These three institutions hold a special place in the history of American theater as spaces where playwrights, actors and designers have been able to experiment and refine their work before presenting it on Broadway.
The Playhouse was opened in 1931 by producer Lawrence Langner as a summer stock theater, which then became a year-round host for incredible talent and performances.
Westport-based White Barn, founded by producer Lucille Lortel, staged the premiere of 134 American plays and 50 American premieres of international works. Lortel will be spotlighted in the Museum’s exhibit, with regard to her roles as glamorous hostess, caring benefactor, inspired entrepreneur, creative patron and hard-working producer. Today, Lortel’s legacy continues through the Lucille Lortel White Barn Center and White Barn Theatre Program at Westport Country Playhouse.
The Shakespeare Fest, founded in 1955, also by Langner, was among the first equity theaters in the U.S. dedicated to the English playwright’s work and was active until 1982.
In addition to the exhibit, the Fairfield Museum is developing a five-month-long series of collaborative programs that explore and celebrate the regional history and impact of the performing arts. The project’s chief goal is to involve visitors in the experience of live theater and inspire the artists and audiences of tomorrow. In highlighting the regional rich theatrical heritage, FMHC is partnering with more than 30 other organizations to encourage visitors to learn about the stories of regional theater history and its impact on local communities, strengthen residents’ civic pride, build appreciation for the arts and connect regional theaters to the broader history of America theater.
A gala reception opens the exhibit Saturday, Sept. 24.
For more information: www.fairfieldhistoricalsociety.org