Teens Charged in Arson of Shakespeare Theatre

What to Know

  • The Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford opened in 1955. Katharine Hepburn, James Earl Jones and Christopher Walken all performed there.
  • The historic theatre burned to the ground on Jan. 13, 2019, after sitting vacant since the 1980s.
  • The town of Stratford is looking to breathe new life into the property in line with restrictions in the deed.

Police have arrested two juveniles and charged them with arson in connection with the fire that destroyed the historic Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford in January. Police said the teens have also been charged in burglaries in town.

Both juveniles, who were arrested after a lengthy investigation, were charged with arson in the first degree, burglary in the first degree. criminal trespass in the second degree, reckless endangerment in the first degree, conspiracy to commit arson in the third degree, criminal trespass in the third degree, burglary in the third degree and criminal mischief in the third degree, police said.

Stratford Mayor Laura Hoydick said the town is still moving forward with plans to rebuild in some way.

“It’s really heartfelt that people were so connected to that building and what happened there, the memories that they had there," she said. She added that while the plan isn't necessarily to rebuild the theatre itself, she hopes they will be able to do something around culture and arts with the property.

They are collecting input from the community and are waiting to hear back on the insurance claim to decide what's next.

She said she believes the suspects are students at Bunnell High School.

"It’s good knowing what happened to the theater but it’s also sad at the same point because it's our youth that were involved in it and I feel very badly for them and for their families and what they’re going to be going through in the near future," she said.

“As a community, we are distressed that our students were engaged in such serious behaviour,” Dr. Janet Robinson, superintendent of schools in Stratford, said in a statement. “ We focus so much of our attention on educating our young people to be responsible, caring, and thoughtful citizens. So many of our students are engaged in community service and contribute to our community in amazing ways. We are extremely disappointed that these young people allegedly made such poor choices, and hope our youth in Connecticut learn from this experience and continue to advocate for actions that improve their communities.”

Shakespeare Theater opened in 1955 and was mostly vacant since the 1980s. The town acquired the theatre from the state in 2005 and it burned down on Jan. 13.

Authorities have not named the suspects because of their ages.

Police said the investigation is ongoing and more arrests are expected.

West Haven Fire Marshal Keith Flood said Monday that they believe the suspects are connected to two cases out of their city and that charges are forthcoming.

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