William Shatner spent three seasons at Stratford Festival in 1950s; to receive theatre’s Legacy Award


William Shatner

By Donal O’Connor, The Stratford Beacon Herald

August 6, 2013

William Shatner will be the 2013 recipient of the Stratford Festival’s Legacy Award.

“I am proud and happy to be a Canadian and proud and happy to receive this Canadian award,” Shatner said in a release from the Festival.

Shatner will be honoured Oct. 21 at a gala at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel.

“As a screen and television actor, William Shatner has had a legendary career,” said Festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino. “He is known around the world for his iconic portrayal of ‘Star Trek’s’ Captain Kirk and for a host of other leading roles, including T.J. Hooker and ‘Boston Legal’s’ Denny Crane. But many people may not realize that he has also won acclaim as a classical actor.”

Cimolino said one of his favourite pieces of Stratford lore is the story of Shatner going on as the understudy for Christopher Plummer’s “Henry V” in 1956.

“He became an overnight sensation. In fact, Chris later reflected: ‘I knew then that he was going to be a star.’”

Shatner was a member of the Stratford Festival company for three years beginning in 1954 when he played Lucentio in “The Taming of the Shrew”, the Young Lord in “Measure for Measure” and a member of the chorus in “Oedipus Rex”.

In 1955, his roles included Lucius to Lorne Greene’s Brutus in “Julius Caesar” and Gratiano in “The Merchant of Venice”. The following year he famously understudied Plummer and played Gloucester in “Henry V” and Fenton in “The Merry Wives of Windsor”.

He later toured to Broadway, playing Usumcasane in the Festival’s production of “Tamburlaine the Great”.

Shatner continues to tour with his one-man show, “Shatner’s World”.

He was last in Stratford in 2009 for a screening of the documentary “Gonzo Ballet” at the Avon Theatre as part of DocFest.

Apart from his many acting and directing successes, Shatner is the author of nearly 30 best-sellers, both fiction and non-fiction, and of a comic book series. A longtime dedicated breeder of American quarter horses, he founded the Hollywood Charity Horse Show that is held annually in support of Los Angeles-based children’s charities.

Tables for the Festival’s Legacy Award presentation are available at two levels — silver at $25,000 and bronze at $15,000. Rachel Smith-Spencer is taking reservations at 519-271-4040, ext. 2402.

Last year the award was presented to Maggie Smith, who was a Festival company member for four seasons between 1976 and 1980. Plummer was the first recipient in 2011.

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