Connecticut man pleads guilty to setting fire to Shakespearean theater

BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut -- A Connecticut man has pleaded guilty to setting fire to a renowned Shakespearean theater and several other structures in four towns.

Christopher Sakowicz, 20, of Stratford, faces 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to arson charges Friday in Bridgeport Superior Court, the Connecticut Post reported. Sentencing was set for Sept. 10.

Sakowicz admitted taking part in setting the blaze on Jan. 13, 2019, that destroyed the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, whose stage was graced by the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Christopher Plummer and James Earl Jones. He was a teenager at the time.

The theater, built in 1955, was modeled after London's Globe Theatre, which famously burned in 1613. Playwright Lawrence Langner came up with the idea for the Connecticut theater in 1950 as a way to capitalize on the region's connection to Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon in England. It last hosted a play in 1989.



Two other teens were charged in connection with the theater fire and other blazes. Police said the teens admitted on SnapChat that they set the theater fire and posted an incriminating video that was circulated around their school, Bunnell High School.

Prosecutor Howard Stein said the theater fire put firefighters at risk, threatened neighboring homes and caused more than $1.7 million in damage, much of which was covered by insurance.

A group of theater and business professionals said last year that it is hoping to rebuild the theater.

Sakowicz also admitted to setting fires the same year at a vacant building at the Southbury Training School, the former Bilco Co. in West Haven, Good Earth Tree Care in Stratford - where a truck was destroyed - and construction trailers at Silver Sands State Park in Milford.

Sakowicz's public defender said he would not be commenting until the sentencing.

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