SHELTON, Conn. — Tom Simonetti had toyed with the idea of starting a theater company in his former hometown of Shelton for years.
But it wasn’t until the Sandy Hook School massacre in 2012 that the New York City resident decided it was time to make his dream a reality and bring something positive and hopeful to Connecticut.
“The lower Naugatuck Valley loves the arts, but it doesn’t get them too much,” Simonetti said. “When that happened, I just froze. I thought, ‘Something needs to be done.’ So I did something. That’s the only way I know how to work.”
And thus the Valley Shakespeare Festival was born.
Area residents can get a sneak peek at the fourth season of this burgeoning company on Tuesday, May 3, as they bring their lively production of “Pericles: Prince of Tyre” to Shelton’s Plumb Memorial Library for a free 7 p.m. performance. Donations are greatly appreciated.
One of Shakespeare’s most popular plays in his own time, “Pericles” is the story of a prince whose life is threatened after he solves the puzzle of a murderous king. Forced to flee across the seas, he embarks on an odyssey with plenty of unpredictable twists and turns.
The production will be preceded by "An Afternoon Tea With the Queen,” a free 2 p.m. English teatime with a special musical performance by Gary Harger, and a 5 p.m. session of “Jester’s Jeopardy.”
Simonetti, an actor who has worked off-Broadway and in regional theater, said he christened the festival in 2013, holding auditions for both Connecticut and New York actors, who often play several parts.
The eight actors in “Pericles” will embody a full 25 characters, with speedy costume changes a must.
The festival has grown with each year, adding school-based performances, summer productions in Veterans Memorial Park along the river, even performances — complete with Shakespearean drinking games — in an upper room at a Shelton bar, Porky’s Cafe.
The group has already taken on “As You Like It,” “Macbeth” and “A Comedy of Errors” and Simonetti plans an outdoor version of “Taming of the Shrew” for the summer.
“Shakespeare’s work has so much humanity,” he said. “I’m so happy the work has been embraced.”
For more information on Valley Shakespeare Festival, tickets, donations and more, visit www.vsfestival.org/ .
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