William Shatner gets Stratford Festival legacy honour

William Shatner is getting this year's legacy award from the Stratford Festival, where he was a member of the venerable theatre festival's company in the 1950s.
William Shatner, seen hosting the Juno Awards in Ottawa in 2012, is the 2013 recipient of the Stratford Festival's legacy award. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

William Shatner is getting this year's legacy award from the Stratford Festival.

Before the Star Trek hero became known as Captain James T. Kirk, he was a member of the southern Ontario theatre company for three years, beginning in 1954.

Artistic director Antoni Cimolino says one of his favourite pieces of Stratford lore is the time Shatner understudied for Christopher Plummer in Henry V in 1956. He says Shatner became "an overnight sensation."

"It gives us great pleasure to pay tribute to William Shatner and his legacy at the Stratford Festival," Cimolino said Tuesday in a press release. "We look forward to creating a tribute worthy of his illustrious career."

A gala will take place in Toronto on Oct. 21.

Although Montreal-born Shatner is best known for a long career in film and TV, he also won acclaim as a classical actor, said Cimolino. Last year, the award was presented to Dame Maggie Smith, who was a festival company member for four seasons between 1976 and 1980. The first recipient, in 2011, was Plummer, a member of the company for 12 seasons, beginning in 1956.

Shatner's new album, Ponder the Mystery, will be released in October. His one-man show, Shatner's World, is set to air on the Movie Network and Movie Central on Oct. 27.

"I am proud and happy to be a Canadian and proud and happy to receive this Canadian award," Shatner said in the same press release.

"I guess I am just proud and happy."