2 teens charged in fire at American Shakespeare Theatre in Connecticut

STRATFORD, Connecticut -- Two Connecticut teenagers have been arrested in connection with a fire that destroyed a historic theater where Katharine Hepburn, Christopher Plummer, James Earl Jones and other stars performed.

Police say the teens, ages 18 and 17, were charged with arson Monday for setting fire to the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford and to a truck.

Police believe the students at Stratford's Bunnell High School set six fires in all, including one that damaged the former Southbury Training School.

The teens' names were not released because both were juveniles at the time of the fires.

The theater burned to the ground in January and had not hosted a play since 1989. It was built in 1955 and modeled after London's Globe Theatre, which famously burned in 1613.

Playwright Lawrence Langner came up with the idea for the theater in 1950 as a way to capitalize on the region's connection to Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon in England.

The American Shakespeare Festival Theatre held its final full season in the building in 1982, and the final play, "The Tempest," was performed in 1989. The last performance of any kind inside the building was a 2005 concert by the Hartford Symphony, with Plummer giving readings from Henry V, town officials said.

The state deeded the property to the town that year. There had been interest in renovating the theater in recent years, but no consensus could be reached on a plan. The building was sealed in 2017.

The town's deed requires the property be used for entertainment purposes, and town officials said it cannot be sold to a developer without state consent.

The Shakespeare Academy at Stratford said it plans to continue to stage outdoor performances at the property during the summer.

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