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    Tuesday, April 16, 2024

    Shakespearean theatrical group explores whether Norwich could host replica Globe Theater

    Sara Young, with the American Globe Center, performs “Shakespeare’s Villains and Clowns at The Globe” at Chestnut Street Playhouse in Norwich on Monday, April 1, 2024. The AGC has plans to build the world’s first timber-framed replica of Shakespeare’s 1614 Globe Theater along with an expansive modern performing arts campus and is looking at Norwich as a possible location. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Jason, right, and Sara Young, with the American Globe Center, talk to audience members as they perform “Shakespeare’s Villains and Clowns at The Globe” at Chestnut Street Playhouse in Norwich on Monday, April 1, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Sara Young, with the American Globe Center, high-fives an audience member as she performs “Shakespeare’s Villains and Clowns at The Globe” at Chestnut Street Playhouse in Norwich on Monday, April 1, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Jason and Sara Young, with the American Globe Center, perform “Shakespeare’s Villains and Clowns at The Globe” at Chestnut Street Playhouse in Norwich on Monday, April 1, 2024. The AGC has plans to build the world’s first timber-framed replica of Shakespeare’s 1614 Globe Theater along with an expansive modern performing arts campus and is looking at Norwich as a possible location. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Jason, left, and Sara Young, with the American Globe Center, perform “Shakespeare’s Villains and Clowns at The Globe” at Chestnut Street Playhouse in Norwich on Monday, April 1, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Norwich Director of Planning and Neighborhood Services Deanna Rhodes, foreground, directs representatives of the American Globe Center into the Donald Oat Theater at Norwich Arts Center on Monday, April 1, 2024, during their tour of downtown Norwich sites. The former Central Baptist Church, on left, and City Hall, center, are in the background. (Claire Bessette/The Day)
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    Norwich ― When a plan to build a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and surrounding performing arts campus fell through in Stratford last summer, state arts and tourism officials steered the group across state to Norwich.

    The American Globe Center has an ambitious plan to build the world’s first timber-framed replica of Shakespeare’s 1614 Globe Theater, along with an expansive modern performing arts campus. Tom Evans, executive director of American Globe Center, said the group hopes to become a destination tourism attraction, drawing 300,000 to 500,000 visitors per year.

    On Monday, leaders of a Stratford-based Shakespearean theater group toured parts of downtown Norwich with their eyes on the current downtown arts scene ― the Chestnut Street Playhouse, Norwich Arts Center and small art galleries ― and buildings potentially suitable for performing arts.

    They attended a lunch meeting to hear a presentation by Randy Cohen, vice president of research at the Washington, D.C.-based Americans for the Arts, on a recent nationwide survey study of the economic impacts of nonprofit arts in communities across the country.

    The study showed that in Connecticut alone, nonprofit arts groups spent $606 million in 2022, and their audiences spent another $348 million on arts-related purchases not including tickets, Cohen said. These included items such as food, drinks, souvenirs and parking. Breaking down the New London County numbers, the report said arts organizations spent $82 million and their audiences spent over $101 million, for a combined total of $183.2 million in 2022.

    Following the tours and presentations, American Globe Center’s actors Jason and Sarah Young performed a portion of their original work “Shakespeare’s Villains and Clowns at The Globe,” based on characters in Shakespeare’s plays, at Chestnut Street Playhouse.

    Evans said the group is exploring potential sites after Stratford rejected the plan last year. The group is looking at funding sources ranging from private investment to tax credits, construction loans and grants. In the Stratford proposal, the city had owned the land that was being considered.

    “We’re a nonprofit with a business for-profit mindset,” Evans said.

    Deanna Rhodes, Norwich director of planning and neighborhood services; Mary Riley, program manager at Norwich Community Development Corp.; Bobbie Braboy, director of Global City Norwich; and Faye Ringel, president of Norwich Arts Center, walked with the group along downtown streets.

    The tour guides pointed out historic sites such as City Hall, historic churches and the planned Jubilee Park on lower Broadway, along with the arts venues.

    Rhodes said the former Central Baptist Church in Union Square is for sale, prompting theater group members to pull out the cellphones and take photos of the stately red brick church and bell tower.

    At Norwich Arts Center, Ringel said major renovations from the basement to the roof are about to get underway, thanks to a $500,000 state grant. The theater hosts a variety of plays and musical performances and will remain open through spring, as work begins in the basement, she said.

    Mayor Peter Nystrom, who attended the lunch presentation on arts as economic development, said the city welcomes the American Global Center’s interest in the city and appreciated state officials’ suggestion the group look at Norwich.

    “We like looking at opportunities,” Nystrom said Monday. “It’s something to explore, take a more detailed look at it.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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