Arson not suspected in Shakespeare Theatre fire

Posted: Updated:

Flames ripped through the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford over the weekend, leaving charred rubble where the decades-old building once stood.

Fire officials say the call came in shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday. Crews arrived to find the theater almost fully engulfed in flames. Fire crews from several neighboring towns responded to help fight the flames.

The building was a total loss.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Fire Marshal Brian Lampart says it does not appear to be a case of arson.

MORE: 'Devastating': Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford burns to ground 

Lampart says the building had a sprinkler system. It had active power running to it and a space heater was inside, but that's not believed to be the cause at this time.

"At this point we're going to treat just like any other fire that we investigate. It's a science, so we're going to take our time, we're going to do it carefully," Lampart says.

Investigators say most of the damage appears to have started from the stage area. They're reaching out to state police to assist with the probe.

The theater had not been in use since the early 1980s, but had remained a community landmark.

In 1955, a production of "Julius Caesar" was the first show to ever hit the stage of the Shakespeare Theatre. For years following, it drew big names to its stage, including Katharine Hepburn and Christopher Walken.

Mayor Laura Hoydick says it’s a shame that the building had sat in disuse for so many years.

"Our lack of a cohesive vision, say it that way, was the roadblock. There were many who were impassioned about what should happen there and there were many who had individual efforts," Hoydick says.

The mayor says the building was insured by the town. The cost of the damages is not yet known.

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