By Kate E. Stephenson
In honor of The Great Kate, the residents of Katherine Hepburn’s native town and state have opened a cultural arts center in her name. In 2009 the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, affectionately known as The Kate, opened its doors to welcome eclectic performing artists and discerning culture aficionados of all ages. The website is brimming with information about the new center, events, artists and links to all things Kate.
The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center is a non-profit performing arts organization located in an historic theatre/town hall on Main Street in Old Saybrook. Originally opened in 1911 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Center has been renovated with public funds from the Town of Old Saybrook and donations raised by the Trustees of the Center. It includes a 250-seat theatre and a small museum honoring Katharine Hepburn, Old Saybrook’s most celebrated resident. As befits an organization born of such a public/private partnership, programming is eclectic, offering something for all ages and income levels on the Connecticut shore and in the lower river valley.
In his welcome letter to the public, Executive Director, Chuck Still says:
The Center is unique, in my experience, as it was born not of a singular artistic vision or a single philanthropist’s largesse, but instead of an entire town’s desire to reclaim some of their history and pay tribute to its most celebrated resident. Sure, there are lots of famous home museums that do this, but the Center is not some homage to the past. It is instead a living, breathing organism, touching lives, educating, entertaining and enlightening people all along Connecticut’s shore and up and down the river valley.
Or at least, we hope it will be all these things. As a young organization, we have yet to prove ourselves and really take this place in people’s lives. We are new born, fledgling, no longer a dream, but not yet a reality either.
Chuck goes on to say that the inaugural season is to be dedicated to the generous benefactors of the center whose hard work, commitment, and funding is the lifeblood of the center. Then comments:
And we must also, of course, dedicate this season to our namesake, the ever-luminous Katharine Hepburn. If we can catch just a sliver of her spirit, find just a bit of her fire, the Center will glow unrivalled along the shore. Her life flared so bright and glowed so long that it sets a strong standard, a high threshold, to which to aspire, but it is our name and thus our standard. We can not aspire to less.
The Center offers throwback classic movie cinema featuring Kate Hepburn, live and simulcast musical performances ranging from folk to opera, live and simulcast theater introducing new plays and playwrights, and programs for children. Ticket prices are extremely reasonable ranging from $8 for movies to $65 for live performances, with an average of $25 for most performances. And, it seems that theatergoers are enjoying the new offerings and the arts space. TripAdviser reflects a 4.5 star rating, along with reviews that tout the excellence of the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center experience. The venue seems to be succeeding in living in the spirit of its namesake.
The Kate wears the name well.