Orson Welles Stage dedicated at Woodstock Opera House
The Illinois stage where a 19-year-old Orson Welles launched his professional theatrical career was dedicated in his honor on Sunday, February 10.
About 40 people, including members of Woodstock Celebrates Inc., attended the afternoon dedication of the Orson Welles Stage at the Woodstock Opera House in Woodstock, Illinois.
Woodstock Celebrates, which spearheaded the dedication effort, is planning events in May 2014, marking the 80th anniversary of the Todd Theatre Festival during which Welles made his directorial debut, and May 2015 to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Mayor Brian Sager and Woodstock Celebrates president R.B. Thompson were among the speakers.
A camera crew from the upcoming Chuck Workman documentary on Welles, "The Magician," was on hand to capture the event.
A movie theater marquee across the square at the historic Woodstock Theatre stated simply: Congratulations Orson.
The Woodstock City Council voted unanimously on November 6, 2012 to place a plaque on the 124-year old opera house stage. It reads: “Orson Welles first mined the vein of his golden talent in Woodstock as a student at Todd School for Boys. In 1934, at 19, he made his American debut as a professional theater director upon this stage, now named in his honor.”
Under the direction of mentor Roger Hill, headmaster of Woodstock’s Todd School for Boys, Shakespearean plays starring Welles and English actor Michael MacLiammoir were performed at the opera house during the summer of 1934. That same year, Welles co-directed his first film, an eight-minute short “The Hearts of Age,” in Woodstock.
Although born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Welles expressed a deep fondness for Woodstock. “I have lots of homes … I suppose its Woodstock, Illinois, if it’s anywhere. I went to school there for four years, and if I think of home, it’s there.”
In an October 1945 Los Angeles Times interview uncovered by biographer Simon Callow, Welles spoke to Hedda Hopper about his desire to return to Todd School in Woodstock. "My real interest in life is education. I want to be a teacher ... One day I shall leave all this behind me, go back there, and give full rein to my ideas. That's when life will really begin for me."
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