|Working in the professional theater for over 40 years on four continents,
Louis has performed, produced and directed on stage, screen, radio and
television. Born in South Africa, he studied the violin for many years.
His mother, Poppins Salomon, danced with Anna Pavlova, and instilled a
love of theater and the dance in her son. He worked for two years in an
accounting firm, which held him in good stead when he started producing,
and keeping to budgets. He acquired his BA at the University of Natal,
is a Licentiate of the Trinity College of London, and studied at the Stanislavski
An accomplished classical actor, his many great roles include Oberon, Shylock, Iago, Cassius, Brutus, Mercutio, Petruchio, Macbeth, and Valere in Moliere's Miser, The Husband in Rashomon, Haemon in Antigone, Tegeus-Chromis in A Phoenix Too Frequent & Rudolpho in A View from the Bridge. Other productions in which he appeared include Murder in the Cathedral, Therese Raquin, Ardele, Edward II, People at Sea, The Gentle Rain, Arsenic & Old Lace, My Three Angels & A Taste of Honey. Musical theater credits include Tony in The Boy Friend, Dick Trevor in Lady Be Good, Dream Curly in Oklahoma!, Peachum in The Beggar's Opera; Justice Squeezum in Lock Up Your Daughters, and fifteen months playing Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Producing & directing stopped his career as an actor.
With his wife of 50 years, actress Joan Brickhill, they ran the Brickhill-Burke Academy, training hundreds of students, with a large staff of teachers. Their multi-faceted talents encompassed every aspect of theater: acting, directing, producing, choreographing and lighting. With a host of musical spectaculars, they were instrumental in raising the standard of South African theater to international heights, and worked for African Consolidated Theaters for many years, devising many of their own shows, and touring the largest theaters in the country, making millions for ACT and themselves. . Their African musical Meropa ran for two years in SA, then moved to London's West End as KwaZulu. Nominated Musical of the Year, it was chosen for the Royal Command Performance at the Palladium before Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
They ran His Majesty's Theater in Johannesburg for eight years, and their Shakespeare for Schools program brought thousands of children to the theater during the day to see first class productions of the Bard, while producing and directing major musicals at night. With a show at His Majesty's, another on tour and still another in rehearsal, the company employed over 350 people. Unfortunately, the theater was replaced with a shopping center in the early 80's, and a supermarket now stands in its place. With the demise of His Majesty's, the company moved to New York in 1985. Since moving to America, Mr. Burke co-produced and directed his first major American production, the Broadway musical Meet Me in St. Louis. This beautiful show opened at the Gershwin Theater, and ran for nine months before touring for over two years. It was nominated for four Tony Awards including Best Musical, and Best Choreography for Joan. This past decade, Mr. Burke has taught Master Classes in Shakespeare in New York and Connecticut, and lectured at the University of New Haven, where he directed Rashomon, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Babe - the Sheep-pig, Anouilh’s Antigone, T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, My Three Angels, Moliere’s The Miser and The Crucible, and adjudicated various scholarship programs across the country.
He was invited by the Kennedy Center to adjudicate and lecture to the
American Theater College Festival, and has been working and advising
many new playwrights with their New Works. A member of The American
Society of Stage Directors & Choreographers, and The League of American
Theaters and Producers, he is President of Brickhill-Burke Productions,
and Founder and Artistic Director of The Stratford Festival Theater
in Connecticut. Some years ago, he moved to Stratford, to concentrate
his resources on developing the new Stratford Shakespeare Festival Theater,
to become a year round three-theater operation on the banks of the Housatonic
River, a cultural center and entertainment destination to rival their
sister cities of Stratford-on-Avon in England and Stratford, Ontario
in Canada. He recently established his new company Festival Enterprises
to develop a Resort Destination surrounding an International Theater
and Film Festival, including new Film, TV and recording studios. Besides
spearheading the Academy, he has been building and training a Young
Company of local actors ranging from 7-70, who will be in the SFT School
Musicals and Spectaculars:
"NEW WORKS" CELEBRITY PLAY READING SERIES FOR
• *Monsters by Michael T. Folie - with James Earl Jones & James Naughton
• O, Cursed Spite by John A. Churilla - with John Glover, Christian Camargo & Louis Burke
• *Whitechapel by Marty Martin - with Julie Harris, John Tillinger & Maureen Anderman
• *Voodoo Mambo by T. Wayne Moore - with Millicent Martin & Douglas Taylor
• Apollo's Fire by L.J.Schneiderman - with Len Cariou, Simon Jones & Jeffrey Donovan
• *The Adjustment by Michael T. Folie - with Stefanie Powers & Ron Rifkin
• *Shaviana by Marty Martin - with Tammy Grimes & Norman Allen
• Don Juan in Hell by G. B. Shaw - with Jerome Kilty, Keir Dullea, Mia Dillon & Louis Burke
• To Be Continued by Maggie Williams – with Elaine Stritch, Timothy Jerome & Louis Burke
• *The Ebony Ape by Charles E. Pogue - with Douglas Sills & David Cromwell
• Bishop of Darkness by Marty Martin - with Keir Dullea, Louis Zorich & Louis Burke
• The Last Station by Blake and Conan Robison - with John Cunningham & Jerome Kilty
• Toes by Anne Ellwood - with Celeste Holm, Norman Allen & Louis Burke
GALAS, SPECIAL EVENTS AND FUND RAISERS :
Christopher Plummer in "Henry V"- at The Stratford Festival
"From Around the Globe" at The Stratford Festival Theater
*"Murder in the Cathedral" by T. S. Eliot
*”The Odd Couple” by Neil Simon at The Shubert Theater in New Haven
John Barton Workshop at Stratford
Chekhov Workshop - with Professor Murray Biggs, Yale University
VARIOUS BANQUETS, VICTORIAN TEAS, RENAISSANCE FAIRS, ETC.
*Directed by Louis Burke
I love Connecticut. I’ve lived here a great part of my life. I still live here and I hope I always will. Connecticut has just about everything, except the one thing that would put the icing on the cake - a Festival of the Arts, a summer and winter festival dedicated to the plays of Shakespeare and all classic writers ancient and modem.
It did have one once. I was in it back in 1955, the first year that noble building went up and for the next few years it enjoyed huge success. Some wonderful performers played there, some really tremendous work was done people came from all over the land. The proximity to New York didn’t matter a damn, in fact, it enhanced and encouraged the success.
Tourists love to get out into the countryside and become part of a festival atmosphere. They came in droves and they left, enriched; so were the community and the state enriched - not merely through culture and entertainment (one and the same) but by the coffers its revenue poured in. Connecticut had something different of its own to be proud of, for the American Shakespeare Theatre was recognized and respected the world over.
But the old leader vanished and it began to falter. A few attempts were made to rekindle its spirit but nothing stuck and it faded away. It wasn’t the people’s fault - the people loved it, wanted it, needed it. It was questionable leadership or total lack of it that eventually closed its door, a misconception of the importance of theater and an absence of the necessary devotion and courage to maintain it. I know! I sat there at several meetings — and the building sat there too - waiting!
Now we have a man whose very countenance spells “leader.” Enter Louis Burke. Don’t be afraid. Burke thinks big. And that’s the only way to think if this tremendous project is to get off the ground once more. The cautious, penny-pinching method has been tried and has failed. So I’m behind Burke and so should we all be. I don’t think we have a choice. It will be a long time before anyone comes forward with his knowledge, experience, daring and massive enthusiasm.
Would it not be wonderful to breathe life into that remarkable building once more, that noble structure that stands waiting to go into action? England has one, Canada has one, why shouldn’t we? We deserve it. Connecticut deserves it. Why? Because it gives us something beyond our ordinary, comfortable, somewhat complacent daily existence. It brings joy and beauty; it educates and entertains the young, re-educates and inspires the old, heightens our aspirations and our dreams and, most important, now more than ever, it immeasurably improves the quality of life.
Mr. Plummer appeared at the Stratford Festival Theater in a Gala performance
of his Henry V with Michael Lankester conducting the 65-piece Hartford
Symphony in the William Walton score from the Laurence Olivier film,
with a local choir of 120. Produced by Louis Burke, the program opened
with Tchaikowski’s Romeo & Juliet Overture. Many members of The
Young Company appeared in the performance, which raised over $100,000
in one night for SFT.
Jane Alexander – Norman Allen – Maureen Anderman
Elizabeth Taylor is an honorary member of the Artistic Advisory Board
The night I saw Margot dance Juliet at Covent Garden was amazing. I
had arrived in London after a few days in Germany, and called her to
say 'hello'. She said she was opening in “Romeo & Juliet” that night,
and did I have black tie? I did and she said she'd try to get me a ticket.
She called back later and said to pick it up at the box office, and
come back after the show and ask for Tom at the stage door.
“Oh, you must be Mr. Burke. Dame Margot is expecting you. Follow me!” He proceeded to take me behind the cyc, and I realized they were still taking calls. When we got to the other side, he said to wait there; I looked onto the stage, where they were knee-deep in flowers. Margot saw me, whispered to Rudi, and the next moment, ran into my arms.
“How wonderful to see you. We must get to my dressing room. The Chinese Ambassador and his wife are expected, and I need you to open the champagne and serve them while I change. Then you can join us for dinner.” We ran to her dressing room, and her dresser helped her while I was shown the small fridge. I laid out six glasses on the tray, and struggled to open the Veuve Clicquot. Margot disappeared behind a screen, and moments later emerged in a simple black dress. A knock on the door heralded the Ambassador, and I popped the cork and poured, offering everyone drinks. Margot had styled her hair in a bun and looked radiant. While drinking, Rudi swept into the room, dressed in a grey snake-skin suit, a grey mink draped over his shoulders, and thigh-high grey suede boots. Margot introduced me, reminding him I was Poppins' son, who had danced with Pavlova, and that merited a smile. However, he said it was time to eat; the Ambassador and wife left. Margot, Rudi and I followed to the stage door, where Tom ushered us out to the waiting Rolls Royce. The problem was it was surrounded by hundreds of screaming fans, all pushing autograph books at the stars. They signed a few, but Rudi soon said it was time to go, and we climbed into the Rolls and rolled away from the fans.
We soon found ourselves at the Caprice Restaurant, and were shown to a table in the middle of the room, where we were seated and a waiter poured more champagne. Menus were thrust at us, and we ordered – Margot her usual rare steak and salad. Then I realized we were sitting next to Princess Margaret, who never stopped complaining all night. How sad to be so unhappy! Margot handled her beautifully. We had a great time, and they later asked if I would care to join them at class the next morning. Sadly I had to decline, as I had so many appointments, but it was a memorable night in every way, and always a joy to be with Margot.