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Duo to discuss classic Shakespeare in Territorial Arizona Saturday

Louis James starred as Spartacus in this 1897 theatrical staging in Territorial Arizona.

Louis James starred as Spartacus in this 1897 theatrical staging in Territorial Arizona.

Louis James, the larger-than-life tragedian and legendary actor of his time, toured the Arizona territory during the golden age of the Arizona Theater and produced 10 different plays in all.

Tom and Wendy Collins will present a reader's theatrical discussion of the actor with a focus on four of his "classic" productions staged in Arizona. The event is featured at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20, at Sharlot Hall Museum West Gallery of the Lawler Exhibit Center, 415 W. Gurley St. in Prescott. Admission to the reader's theater presentation and book signing is free.

Tom is a professor emeritus of theater and author of two books: Stage-Struck Settlers in the Sun-Kissed Land (2007) and Arizona on Stage: Playhouses, Plays and Players in the Territory, 1879-1912 (2015).

Previously, Tom taught speech and theater at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for 31 years. He was a co-founder of the Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival for which he served as artistic director and Wendy as costume designer for 23 years. The husband-and-wife team have lived in Prescott since 2001.

It was his love for Shakespeare that attracted Tom to the subject of Louis James. To wildly enthusiastic applause, James staged Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Othello and Robert Montgomery Bird's The Gladiator with his touring company during the golden age of Territorial Arizona Theater.

His impressive stature, rumbling baritone voice and larger-than-life acting style made Louis James a Western legend. "A boyish prankster at heart, James was known among his fellow-actors for outrageous attempts to crack them up on stage," described Collins.

He and Wendy have performed reader's theater programs at Sharlot Hall Museum, the Prescott and Phoenix Corrals of Westerners, Riordan Mansion in Flagstaff and the Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum. The Collins' lavishly illustrated presentation brings this titanic tragedian back to life and examines a few of his famous productions.

For more information, contact the Museum at 928-445-3122, ext.10.

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