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Opera House stage to be named for Orson Welles

WOODSTOCK – The Woodstock Opera House will dedicate its stage to Orson Welles early next year in a ceremony that will be shot for a documentary by an Oscar-winning filmmaker.

Welles, the multitalented theater and film guru responsible for “Citizen Kane” among other masterpieces, got his start in 1934 at age 19, directing on the stage that soon will be called “The Orson Welles Stage at the Woodstock Opera House.” Welles attended the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock.

“Obviously, Orson Welles had quite a big history here,” Opera House Director John Scharres said. “This is where he really got his start as a performer.”

Chuck Workman, who won a 1986 Academy Award for Live Action Short Film, will film the dedication – preliminarily scheduled for February – for use in “The Magician,” a documentary about Welles’ life. It is expected to debut late in 2013.

Woodstock Celebrates, a newly formed group to plan events recognizing the history of Woodstock, is organizing the dedication in conjunction with the city as a part of plans in the next three years to celebrate a couple of Welles anniversaries. Welles’ directorial debut was 80 years ago in 2014. And May 6, 2015, would have been his 100th birthday.

Once Woodstock Celebrates reached a group of Welles enthusiasts online, plans took off.

Workman contacted the upstart organization with the idea to dedicate the stage.

“It’s very exciting,” said John Daab of Woodstock Celebrates. “For the first several months, it was discouraging. We were just not making any headway. ... I kept saying we are going to reach the critical masses with this.”

Daab said his organization hopes to get out the word about an underappreciated part of Woodstock’s history.

Details of the 2014 and 2015 events are still being planned, but interest has poured in recently. The group is hearing from Welles enthusiasts across the country who plan to attend.

Daab said some of the top international historians on Welles have confirmed their attendance.

“This is snowballing,” he said. “We don’t know how big this is going to be, but we already know it’s bigger than we had anticipated just a couple months back.”

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