Curtain Call: Valley Shakespeare Festival to stage ‘Cyrano’ production live in Shelton
Believe it or not, a live production of “Cyrano” is headed our way. Instead of the word “virtual” attached to its announcement, the word “LIVE” appears in all caps. The Valley Shakespeare Festival (VSF) will produce the show at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in Shelton on Sept. 3 through Sept. 6. Both Tom Simonetti, the founder and artistic director, and Kaleigh Mihalko, the chair of the board decided it was time for live theater to once again take to the stage.
“I’m Zoomed out!” said Simonetti who laughed at the pun, but had produced a virtual production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in May. “While it was fun, it’s nothing like live theater,” said the director, who as an actor said he has been involved in all facets of theater. “We wanted to do “Cyrano” in such a way that everyone involved onstage, backstage and in the audience could be safe,” said Simonett,i who is originally from Shelton. He considers that doing the show with a minimal cast and creating bubbles (circles) for audience members to sit in that are at least 6 feet apart, outdoors is by far a safe way to do theater.
“Our cast of three will play all the characters,” explained Tom who is so enthusiastic about getting an actual production ready. Usually, the performances feature live music, but because of the coronavirus, this year it will feature music, but not live. “Every production has its challenges,” said Simonetti; “However, the coronavirus is one challenge none of us expected.”
Both Simonetti and Mihalko are from Shelton. “Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to do something like this in Shelton,” said Simonetti.
“The valley is small and more intimate,” added Mihalko, pointing out that they wanted to stay within their hometown community. Thanks to three major grants, the park productions are free to the public, but $10 donations are appreciated.
“We don’t have a permanent theater location, so we tour a great deal,” stated Simonetti who said they work closely with the town of Shelton. Essentially, they tour their productions to homeless shelters, schools, farms and bars. At some of these locations that are not free a $25 dollar fee per ticket serves as a fundraiser for the next production.
What sets the VSF apart from others is that it likes to place Shakespeare productions in modern times or make it stand out with a unique quality. “We are very excited that we are able to continue our outdoor free theater series in Veteran’s Memorial Park in our 8th year,” said Simonetti. “We are taking proper precautions both onstage and backstage by using health policies that align with the state of Connecticut, CDC guidelines and the latest scientific research. Each of these three policies have highlighted proper social distancing practices such as staying 6 ft apart, PPE usage, and regular disinfecting of any high touch surface areas that are keyways to minimize the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.” He also went on to say that two understudies have been hired in case any of the three actors for the upcoming production should get sick or for some reason are unable to fill their roles.
“Cyrano” is one of few that the VSF has produced that is not a Shakespearean play. It has been chosen because most people are familiar with the plot that revolves around a man with a very large nose who has fallen in love with Roxane. However, Christian, a handsome gentleman, uses Cyrano’s passionate and romantic words to woo the maiden. Between swordplay and word play, the question remains as to whom Roxane will choose as her true love. Ahh, what could be better than a September evening in a park and a wonderfully romantic play? Bring your lawn chairs, blankets and/or picnic baskets and sit back and enjoy real performances by live actors.
The production is at 7 p.m. and runs for 75 minutes with no intermission. For more information, visit vsfestival.org.
Joanne Greco Rochman is a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.