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Orson Welles Festival – May 2014

In a 1960 interview that asked where “home” was for him, Orson Welles answered, “I suppose in Woodstock, Illinois, I went to school there.”  

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May 16th & 17th - Woodstock, IL

When Orson Welles made his debut as a professional actor at the Woodstock Opera House in 1934, he created quite a stir, drawing media attention throughout Chicago.   Now, 80 years later, Woodstock celebrates their famous son.

The Orson Welles Festival, running May 16-18, includes a recreation of Welle’s 1938 War of the Worlds radio presentation, panel discussions among Orson Welles scholars, a Welle’s Film Festival, book signings, photo exhibits and a walking tour of historic Woodstock.

On May 16 and 17, a series of truly special events will mark the 80th anniversary of the Todd Theatre Festival.

The program opens Friday night, May 16, at Stage Left Café:

7 p.m. Todd Tarbox, Roger Hill’s grandson, reads from his new book Orson Welles and Roger Hill: A Friendship in Three Acts which transcribes wide-ranging telephone conversations between the two lifelong friends.

7:45 p.m. Tarbox will lead a discussion of these conversations with a panel of six other Welles experts: Jonathan Rosenbaum, Joseph McBride, Mike Dawson, Josh Karp, Jeff Wilson and Robert K. Elder.

9 p.m.  Petra Van Nuis and Andy Brown will play period music from the 1920s and ‘30s.

On Saturday, May 17, on the same Woodstock Opera House stage where Welles made his debut in 1934 as an American stage director. Welles authorities will provide new insights on Welles’s life and legacy as they discuss his life and work during the 1920s and ‘30s.

Saturday’s panel discussions:

9:30 a.m. with Jonathan Rosenbaum, Joseph McBride and Mike Dawson.

2:30 p.m., the panel discussion will feature Josh Karp and Jeff Wilson. Both panel discussions will be moderated by Robert K. Elder.

8 p.m. on Saturday night, the Opera House will feature a recreation of Welles’ radio theatre scripts culminating with War of the Worlds. The radio theater production will be performed by RG (Radiogirl) Productions.

No tickets are needed for the Friday night event; a donation of $15 at the door is suggested. Each individual session on Saturday is $15 for adults and $10 for students. All-day passes for Saturday’s events will be $40 or $25 for students. Tickets will be sold through the Woodstock Opera House box office.

Here are some of  the related Welles Events running all throughout May:

16-18 May,  Orson Welles Film Festival,  Woodstock Theatre, Classic Cinemas  815-338-8555

15 May–1 June, with a Reception on May 15th,   Life at Todd School for Boys Exhibit, Woodstock Public Library   815-338-0542

1 April–18 May, Pub Crawl Featuring Prohibition and Great Depression Cocktails, Woodstock Bars and Restaurants  815-893-6280

17 May, 1-2 PM  Walking Tour of Historic Woodstock, Woodstock Historic Preservation Commission  815-338-4305

 17 May, 1-2 PM Book Signings by Welles Experts Tarbox, Rosenbaum, McBride, and Elder, at Read Between the Lynes  (815) 206-5967

Month of May, Photo and Multimedia Tribute to Orson Welles, Old Court House Arts Center  (815) 338-4525

Welles came to Woodstock when he was 11, enrolling at the Todd School for Boys. He lived there from 1926-1934, a time critical to his professional development. It was at the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock where he met his mentor and teacher, Roger Hill.

Hill helped Welles career get started by funding the 1934 Todd Theatre Festival at the Woodstock Opera House. He also teamed with Welles to publish on the Todd Press Everybody’s Shakespeare, a series of texts designed to help students bring Shakespeare to the stage. Welles also made his first film that year, The Hearts of Age, at Todd School.



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