King Louie Decides

Theater "Renovation" Tool

Theater “Renovation” Tool

Officials propose amphitheater to replace Shakespeare building
By Greg Reilly on January 7, 2015

“Three elected officials have come together to present an alternative plan for bringing a live entertainment venue to the town’s 14-acre Shakespeare Theatre park overlooking the Housatonic River. Jim Connor, 8th District town councilman and the Republican majority leader; Lou DeCilio, registrar of voters, arts commission alternate member and Republican Town Committee chairman; and Dave Fuller, zoning commission chairman,”

Before we start, let us parse this a little bit. “Three elected officials”. Elected? Who ran against Lou Decilio? Who ran against David Fuller? That’s like saying Kim Jong-un is an elected official in North Korea. Now that that’s dispensed with let us move on.

So the “new” proposal, asked for by no one, is that the Shakespeare Theater be torn down and a what? Amphitheater? Be put up in it’s place? Seriously? Do these three “elected officials” realize that this is New England? An amphitheater? It gets kind of chilly here for well attended outdoor productions.

Now we must admit, we have never been a big fan of the Andy Hardy “Let’s put on a show” plans (Younger readers can google “Andy Hardy”) that seem to get submitted over and over again. But this plan makes no sense whatsoever. Tear it down and build an amphitheater that will sit empty for 6-8 months a year?

We are not theater experts by any means, but this is just ludicrous. Perhaps what bothers us the most is the circumvention of any procedure. We are all aware of the lengthy and laborious process a variety of groups have gone through just to submit proposals. These three “elected officials” can tell the Council to vote on their proposal ( Is there even a Powerpoint presentation?) just because it is from them? If you are King Louie and every member of the Republican Town Committee shakes in their boots at the thought of you, the answer is “yes”.

We suppose that during the last five years we have all been missing the target. We have been wasting our time with councilmen and mayors. We should have just asked King Louie.


26 Responses to “King Louie Decides”

  1. 1 jezebel282

    “…the plan calls for the town to maintain control of its park. Any financing requirements …would be the town’s responsibility.”

    Really, Lou? How many times can you sell land to the WPCA? What else do we own that you can you sell to fund this? And we are going to leave the operation of the facility to Town “officials”?

  2. 2 Casey

    Maybe the three ‘elected’ stooges have plans for a skating rink in the middle of the amphitheater in the winter months and a soccer goals at either end during the weekdays in season. Regardless, I’m betting the local contractors who tend to run and be backed by the RTC are salivating over this one….

  3. What else can we sell and ruin? Stratford is beginning to look and feel like Bridgeport. Small businesses are closing, BIG corporations are leaving town, and now we want to tear down a historically, internationally recognized and celebrated, cultural gem and money maker for the town? Where is our pride? Long-view? Who are the decision-makers in this town? The taxpayers or three people working in isolation, changing their minds every three months, and claiming that they work for the people of stratford? Who is paying for the proposed demolition, new construction, and future maintenance? Who will be in charge of the amphitheater, venues, and sponsorship? How much are the proposed costs? What happened to the other proposals that are already on the table? What happened to democracy? Public forums? Taxpayer input? This is one shady move and one very bad idea.

  4. 4 shanliss

    For a generation, Stratford was mistreated by the bully known as “Big Dick” Miron, leaving residents poorer and resentful. Now for much of a second generation, we’ve been similarly mistreated by “Little Dick” Lou, as he is known, apparently. You can see his results in your property assessment. For a brief interim period, there was Mayor “Little Jimmy” Miron who, in retrospect, is looking better every day; think about that rain-halting roof on the Theatre, for one thing. Now, as it’s already been established that Stratford officials may act with impunity, we have this awful dance of death (of the Town’s economy and reputation) led by none other than Little Dick himself, a noted authority on…well,…there must be something…perhaps flouting election law??

  5. 5 jezebel282


    “Who is paying for the proposed demolition, new construction, and future maintenance?”

    King Louie has already stated who would pay for it. The same people who always pay for his maneuvers: you and me.

    It’s amazing that he has the time to devote to this given his myriad duties as a full-time Registrar of Voters. He must be incredibly busy…

  6. 6 appalledandamused

    Paid for via the WPCA?

  7. 7 appalledandamused

    Lou “little Dick” DeCilio. What’s not to love about that?

  8. 8 Lisa Donnelly

    Hello, this is the letter I sent to the Mayor, Town Council and the editors of both the Stratford Star and CT Post earlier this afternoon.

    Mayor Harkins,

    I am writing you to express my concern over the recent submission and public announcement of a third theater proposal for operating the Shakespeare Theatre. Given there was a proper RFP process put into place which provided ample time for those interested to submit their proposals by the deadline of June 15th (which I understand had been extended to allow for more time) why is this one now being put forth and even considered? The deadline was over six months ago. I don’t recall hearing or reading anywhere that the RFP process had been re-opened. If it was then how was it communicated publicly? How can you knowingly accept this submission when it has not been submitted within the proper guidelines as outlined in the actual RFP posted on the Stratford Website? How can this proposal have already gained two committed votes from the Town Council? As a Stratford taxpaying resident I feel there is a conflict of interest on behalf Councilman Jim Connor and his vote. Given he is one of the creators and presenter of this proposal should he not recuse himself from the deciding body? This proposal also does not meet one of the specific duties as outlined in the RFP. Listed under Specific Duties, Number 12: Oversees the renovation and rehabilitation of the Theater building. This proposal as written and shared via the Stratford Star, Jim Connor, Lou DeCilio and Dave Fuller would like to see the current theater building torn down and replaced with an amphitheater. If the RFP criteria has changed than should it be re-written to include this and therefore allowed to be re-bid upon? This is a big game changer with regards to what was originally asked for in the RFP document and not a minor detail to be overlooked especially where finances are concerned. Perhaps an addendum should have been issued and all interested parties notified? This is flat out unfair and unjust to those who already submitted their proposals by the proper deadline and especially so to Elm Street Theater given they were recommended by The Shakespeare Theater proposal review committee. I know I do not appreciate my time being wasted and I am sure that none of the individuals involved in this RFP process do not either. I have worked on RFP’s as part of my job responsibilities and I do understand how the process should work. How is it possible for Councilman Poisson to fully support this amphitheater proposal when the Town Council has not yet heard directly from Elm Street Theater Co. and from the runner-up, Stratford Stage Group? As published in the Stratford Star – as of Jan. 2 Ciccarelli had not been contacted by one council member to learn from his committee’s work and analysis. Explain to me how anyone on the Town Council and yourself included can come to and make a honest and well informed decision on this (hot button) topic when it appears that full due diligence has not yet been completed? Don’t these two groups deserve their day to be heard after all of their hard work? I also take issue with Councilman Poisson’s comment published in the Stratford Star and I quote: “I believe that most of the people of Stratford want to finally end the endless saga of the theater. I believe that there is a ‘silent majority’ out there who just want to get it over with, and they don’t want any more of their tax dollars being spent on yet another attempt to save a building that hasn’t been used since the 1980s. There are people who want to go see a show along the majestic Housatonic River. The amphitheater proposal will give them the venue to do that.” Well for the record I am NOT part of the silent majority. Who does he think makes up this silent majority? It is a rather broad and general comment which I am sure many others like me do not agree with. One thing I do agree on is not having any more of my tax dollars wasted, however I would like to start with Town Hall and those extra large raises you handed out to various employees. Can you give me a job in the Town of Stratford, perhaps then I can more easily afford the mill rate increases we are forced to bear each year. I will also agree with Councilman Poisson’s comment that there are people who want to go see a show along the majestic Housatonic River, however I would like to see that show in the majestic and revitalized Shakespeare Theater. As published in the Stratford Star as well from Councilman Jason Santi and I quote: “There has always been a third option. I am going to wait and see, keep open-minded.” Really? Is this proposal the third option as he so mentions? If so, then this RFP should have been submitted right along with the other ones and in a timely manner. And as for your lack of commenting, do you ever speak for yourself? The residents of this Town voted you into office, not your Chief of Staff.

    With regards,
    Lisa M. Donnelly
    Stratford Taxpaying Resident

  9. 9 jezebel282

    Great post!

  10. “And as for your lack of commenting, do you ever speak for yourself? The residents of this Town voted you into office, not your Chief of Staff.” Spot on!

  11. 11 Rockannand

    Yes great post Lisa, but here is the fly in the anointment. The Council has been set up here to REJECT the RFP responses in total. This new proposal will be positioned not as a response to the RFP, but as a new approach. How they will justify voting on it without having an RFP process is the question.

  12. 12 jezebel282


    9-1 majority. Well, 8-2. They will never get Catalano to agree with this. Not after the thousands of unpaid hours he put into this. The rest will just vote whatever way King Louie tells them to. That way Harkins can avoid all responsibility.

    You know, a strong mayor who is accountable to the voters? What a great idea!

  13. What a stark contrast from the giants of theater who performed at our Shakespeare to the “aim low” approach of this small-minded threesome who would prefer that we demolish the building. Hardly inspirational leadership.

  14. 14 jezebel282


    The King responds:

    “Before they see the details, they reject it,” said Lou DeCilio, registrar of voters, one of three elected officials who have brought forth the amphitheater plan.”

    Details? What details? We may get grants? We may get State funding? We may lump anything we can think of into an “art” collection? The only thing that was certain in the King’s plan was that the Town (you and me) would be writing the checks. Maybe up to $2+ million.

    “DeCilio said that University of Hartford student Tom Szarkowicz, a senior majoring in Architectural Engineering Technology, did the drawings for no charge to the town or anyone else.”

    We certainly hope this kid got some credit hours for this and bumped his GPA up a bit. But we don’t think we should turn a construction company loose with these drawings just yet.

    “…possibly using funds already bonded for the White House for White house expansion.”

    This is the plan? That’s like saying “I’ve got $1,500 of credit left on my Mastercard and I’m making the minimum payments. Let’s go shopping!”

    “Using rough numbers, DeCilio suggested that if White House expansion were to be…”

    “Rough numbers”? Oh! This must be one of the “Details” the King was referring to.

    Who is this guy anyway? And who voted for him to decide the direction of the Town?

  15. 15 jezebel282

    But wait! Is this really Harkins plan? Is Harkins simply getting King Louie to take the heat? Now that would make more sense than the plan itself.

  16. 16 matpcat

    Oh where to begin….the reason our theater sits dormant is a direct result of the Republican majority under Mr. Decilio’s control, period. We have owned the theater for 10 years now and Mr. Decilio Etal have blocked every attempt to reasonably restore our asset.
    In the last round we had Randall Kim here, one of the foremost classical actors and theater developers of our age. With a track record of successful start up theater operations. He was treated like a beggar at the gate. He is now operating out of a $23 million dollar facility in New Jersey. Money raised primarily on his name alone.
    We also had Paige Newmark here, an accomplished producer and director with many credits. He has since started the Australian Shakespeare Festival in 2 cities in conjunction with the University of Hobart. He’s drawn over a million people to that Festival once he left Stratford.
    Mr. Kim even showed up for the last round but we had to settle on a consultant because that was politically palpable at the time. Arts Consulting Group was hired and we spent 180,000 for work and advice the administration had no intent on listening too. The Admin and economic development did not engage this consultant and the study suffered because of it. The task force was assembled at the request of ACG with 2 major jobs to perform. They were to help with community engagement and fundraising feasibility. They were tasked with helping distribute the survey and provide a list of people to interview for fundraising. They did neither. The Town did not help generate the survey to as many people as possible nor did they provide any names for interviews. A failure in leadership.
    The first thing Willem Brans asked when he arrived was “is there a Not for Profit in place.” Of course the answer was no, so on a 10-0 vote of the town council we created the Stratford Center for the Arts a not for profit. Seemingly as window dressing because they did nothing to engage board development and set up a vehicle for fundraising.
    I brought Timex to town and they were excited about being part of this historic renovation as corporate sponsor. They were treated like nobody’s and their $40k gift of the sundial was downplayed to a point where the Mayor’s chief of staff had to ask if we wanted the Mayor at the unveiling of this very expensive gift. Ridiculous.
    Tom Yemm and the Historic District Commission worked very hard at engaging the Connecticut State Trust for Historic Preservation. They applied for and were awarded a gateway grant worth upwards to $250k and more probably. The Mayor did not accept the grant on our behalf. This is because as Mr. Decilio stated at a recent Arts Commission meeting that “we don’t want any historic designations there because it restricts what we can do with the buildings”. I know one thing for sure, it restricts our ability to raise funds for sure and I wonder who he was speaking for. It certainly wasn’t the people of Stratford.
    So when we got done with ACG in the Mayor’s finite wisdom the only logical thing to do was issue an RFP. The good news is he learned enough to know that we needed to attract an entity who could set up as a Not for Profit entity. And the RFP was written to attract such an entity. The RFP was poorly written and in my opinion designed to fail but the town got lucky and a viable entity showed up. The selection committee’s recommendation was a good one and the folks on that committee should be thanked for their work under difficult circumstances.
    For Mr. Decilio to characterize their proposal as a failed model is either a bold face lie or just shows his true ignorance as to how every not for profit arts organization in the country operates.
    The idea that a brand as strong as Stratford and Shakespeare be ignored is a marketing disaster and sells us short.
    For politicians in Stratford to suggest that no one around here knows anything about theater is disingenuous and a lie. Since this theater closed, Stratford residents have played a large role in American theater. Having their hand s on shows like, the original Les Mis, Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera and the American version of Riverdance. All these shows were built locally, installed on Broadway and toured the country with local residents at the helm. But what do we know? Local stagehands with names like, Patria, DeLuca, Catalano, Pistey, Paternoster.
    Go see Phantom on Broadway tonight and you will ride the train home with about half the crew because they all live in Stratford , Trumbull, and Bridgeport. The mark Stratford made on American Theater is indelible and permanent.
    This whole 5 year charade led by Mr. Decilio Etal has been an embarrassment to the Stratford taxpayer and an insult to our collective intelligence.
    For our state delegation to tell us there is no money at state for our theater-is a lie as well. ACG identified money at state that seemingly is just going elsewhere because no one seems able to bring it home.
    The Schubert in New Haven just finished a 10 plus million dollar renovation with help from state. The palace in Stamford just finished a 2.5 million dollar upgrade including new seats. And they spent 11 million in Westport on the Levitt. But we here in Stratford get zilch. Another failure in leadership.
    The hypocrisy of saying there is money to tear our theater down but none to restore is just paramount to the arrogance with which Mr. Decilio operates, again an insult to our collective intelligence.
    As far as my motives which Mr. Decilio calls into question, they are this. Restore our building and create an entity which will feed our retail base by tapping into the $600 billion dollar culture and tourism industry. My motives were to strive for excellence and reclaim our place as a true Stratford of the world. Creating jobs and creating a return on investment worth tens of millions to the town and region. My motive was to invite the world back to Stratford as a world class destination.
    But of course if we let the world in, the greedy teet suckers will vanish into the shadows. And they know it.

  17. 17 jezebel282


    I’m still not clear how a Registrar of Voters (that we pay $68K/year plus full benefits) is an expert on Economic Development and is able to get the Council to vote on whatever sketchy idea pops into his head.

    And by the way, where is the Economic Development Director that we just gave a $32,000 raise to? You’d think that for $250,000 for a three person department they’d have something to say about the only thing that could possibly be developed.

  18. 18 stratfordvillageidiot

    Nothing is going to happen until the town has a Mayor and a real economic development director who are going to be champions for the theater. Until then this is the neverending story.

  19. 19 stfdprofessor1

    “And by the way, where is the Economic Development Director that we just gave a $32,000 raise to?”


  20. Matt ~ thank you for your very informative post! We can always on you for your honesty which is why you catch so much “heck” from the other members of your respective party!

    The “masterminds” behind the latest, but not greatest, of Stratford’s schemes make me want to just park myself on the “Group W” bench and just stay there for a while. They absolutely don’t have Stratford residents best interests in mind. Jim Connor goes from a sports complex 2.5 years ago to this? Yet Lou DeCilio said it’s been tossed around for years. Would that be 2.5 years or less? Because Lou, your boy, Jim Connor, had other things in mind before that. Oh, they’re not talking out of either side of their face as normal bureaucrats do, they’re talking out of their…..

    And, Jason Santi, although a Democrat, drinks the DeCilio Party kool-aid! His latest proposal – eminent domain. Is that because – correct me if I’m wrong – the theatre is now in his district after the redistricting? They wanted control of the waterfront – redistricting gave it to them, didn’t it! So, that’s where that eminent domain proposal is slated to be put to work? Hmm, just thinking out loud there.

    Stratford has more brownfield than it knows what to do with – so – they can’t do much with the open land that’s available – they’ve got to take what doesn’t belong to them….. steal what we work so hard for, like they always do.

  21. 21 Rockannand

    The more you read about the theatre high jinks down at Town Hall and the Arts Commission, the more the spot light falls on the manipulative actions of the Chairman of the RTC who is also the RTC registrar and the Mayor’s recent campaign manager. Seems he is hell bent on tearing down the theatre. The question that should be asked is why?

  22. 22 jezebel282

    Who knew that a Registrar of Voters had that much power?

    “We’ve given a lot of different chances to a lot of different organizations to revive this, but there’s a lot of question as to whether they have the money to do it, whether they can fiscally sustain this through the years without having to come back to the taxpayers,” DeCilio said. “That’s my concern.”

    That’s his concern? I recall Louie Burke as the only one the Town had ever selected. And that choice was only made after Doc Gunther (another Republican) ran interference for him.

    Maybe if a member of the RTC stood a chance to make a buck, King Louie would change his mind?

  23. 23 matpcat

    Actually Jez, the town has not ever given anyone a chance as we have only owned it since 2005. The Louis Burke thing was a state deal. That’s the difference today, previous to 2005 the town did not own or have any interest in the theater. It was privately held and then the state owned owned it. Now is a new day. That’s what makes comments from the Registrar and Adminstration annoying. This our first shot, not the last. The art has not failed here, the politics has failed here.

  24. 24 jezebel282


    We’ve got the Town Council siphoning our overcharged sewer fees out of the WPCA, tearing down the Shakespeare Theater and giving themselves the authority to seize anything in Stratford on the slightest whim. We even have the Town going back to Berchem Moses and Devlin to bill us exorbitant fees for cases everyone knows the Town will lose.

    It sounds like your buddies on the Town Council are out of control.

  25. 25 Rockannand

    Now the “King” is speaking on behalf of the Board of Ed on the renovation plan for SHS that included that ridiculous “Shakepeare-like” theatre. AYFKM?
    What’s next? Will he be advising Kaiser on economic development of Brownfields? DOH!! Forgot he’s already doing that …

  26. 26 jezebel282


    Hiding an amphitheatre in the BOE budget is actually a brilliant idea. The BOE didn’t even bother to publish an approved budget last year. They probably won’t publish one this year either. An amphitheatre can just appear like magic one day. Like trailers instead of classrooms!

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