Woodstock Opera House stage dedicated to Welles
The Woodstock Opera House stage was dedicated in honor of legendary film actor and director Orson Welles during a ceremony and celebration Feb. 10.
The dedication is part of a multi year commemoration of Welles by Woodstock Celebrates Inc. The dedication of the stage coincided with the filming of a documentary being undertaken by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Chuck Workman. In 1986, Workman won an Oscar for best live action short film for “Precious Images.” The documentary he is currently filming, which depicts Welles’ life, is titled “The Magician.”
Woodstock Celebrates Inc. is a nonprofit organization made up of Woodstock residents aiming to better associate famous Woodstock figures with the city they once called home.
“In the late 1970s after living in Woodstock for a decade, I became more aware that Woodstock was a very, very special town with a rich historical past and present,” said RB Thompson, president of Woodstock Celebrates. “Also, I noticed that Woodstock didn’t brag about itself, though it had a palpable community pride and spirit. Over the decades, that sense of history has abated noticeably.”
In November, the Woodstock City Council approved the dedication of the Opera House stage and the placement of a plaque to commemorate the dedication. 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 theatre director upon this stage, now named in his honor.”
During the dedication ceremony, Thompson explained why Welles was chosen as the first person honored by Woodstock Celebrates.
“Because of his international stature in so many areas, we decided to honor him over a two-year period,” Thompson explained. The organization has an eight-page list of potential honorees for future events.
Events on May 16 and 17, 2014, will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Todd Theatre Festival at the Woodstock Opera House, where Welles began his career as a theater director. The year also marks the 80th anniversary of Welles’ first film, “Hearts of Age,” an 8-minute short filmed in Woodstock, as well as the Todd Press publication of “Everybody’s Shakespeare,” by Roger Hill and Welles. Events on May 16 and 17, 2015, will commemorate Welles 100th birthday. During this event, Welles experts will explain why they believe “Chimes at Midnight” is his greatest film. During both years, the Woodstock Theatre will screen many films Welles starred in or directed.