Free Shakespeare returns to Stamford

Crowds gather for Romeo & Juliet (contributed photo)

One of the best-known pieces of literature in the world – Romeo and Juliet – and likely William Shakespeare’s most-produced tragedy, marks Curtain Call’s 18th summer of Shakespeare on the Green playing outdoors in Stamford, July 15 through August 1.

Performances will be held nightly at 7:30pm on the great lawn alongside The Royal Green Restaurant (sponsor of the event) at Sterling Farms on Newfield Avenue, Stamford. Kyle Runestad, who last directed Much Ado About Nothing in 2019 as well as the previous four years of Shakespeare on the Green productions, is directing.

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Runestad has appeared on stage in nine Shakespeare on the Green productions and has also appeared in several regular season productions including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Man of la Mancha and Shakespeare in Love. “I’m thrilled to have Kyle back with us,” said Lou Ursone, Curtain Call executive director. “He’s passionate about Shakespeare and really knows how to work with actors to get the most out of them,” he added. Others on the production team include Robin Mazzola as costume designer with set design by Peter Barbieri, Jr., and lighting and sound design by Jamie LaJoie. The stage management team, led by Jan Ursone, includes Martha Dombroski and John Zimmerman.

Dante and Olivia (contributed photo)

Playing the teen lovers are two long-time Curtain Call performers, Dante DiFederico and Olivia Lapine. Both have performed with Curtain Call’s Summer Youth Theatre as well as in regular season productions. “Working on this show has been a dream come true in so many different ways. Our cast is truly amazing, they make every rehearsal a joy and to finally be back on a stage after lockdown, performing with such wonderful people feels almost too good to be true,” said Lapine. Speaking about lockdown, Ursone noted that in light of the health crisis, a requirement for participation this summer was that all cast and crew members needed to be fully vaccinated.

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“Working at Curtain Call once again is like a breath of fresh air! I am overjoyed that after the past whirlwind of a year, we are able to hit the ground running with one of Shakespeare’s classics,” said DiFederico. Lapine added: “Curtain Call has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and the people there are like a second family to me; to be back at the theater after the fear and isolation of the pandemic feels like I’ve finally come home. There’s nowhere I’d rather be spending my summer.” DiFederico chimed in, “Curtain Call has certainly revived and awoken the theatre community from its long slumber and I am proud to be a part of it!”

It’s unlikely that most people attending will not know the ending, but to avoid spilling too much, this tale of star-crossed lovers, set in Verona, features two noble families – the Capulets and Montagues – who have been feuding and sworn enemies for ages. When two Capulet servants brawl in the street with two Montague servants, the Prince of Verona vows that further public violence will result in death for the perpetrators. And death does occur – but for whom?

The cast of 24 also includes, 16 veteran Shakespeare on the Green performers and eight others here for the first time. In addition to DiFederico and Lapine, other cast members include: Roderick Adams, Azra Ahmed, Autumn Raye Arthur, Humza Asim, Will Bruno, Lynn Carbino, Jim Chiles, Sarah Chute, William Kenyon, Jordan Kulick, Jacob Litt, Kimberley Lowden, Julia Maggiola, Richard Mancini, Daniel Mann, Chris Miller, Rob Nichols, Alana Pawlowski, Michael Stack, Kevin Thompson, Ashley (Ash) Vister and Mallory Zabrocky.

This year’s free (contributions appreciated) outdoor production will play on Curtain Call’s own version of the Globe Theatre stage (designed by Curtain Call’s associate artistic director, Peter Barbieri, Jr.), July 15, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, 29, 30, 31 and August 1 at 7:30pm each day. The park will open to patrons at 6:00 pm for seating. Food and beverages will be available in the adjoining tent or may be pre-ordered through The Stillery/Royal Green Restaurant – 203-998-7225. (Alcoholic beverages may not be brought into the park.). Parking is available across the street at Davenport Ridge School.

“Outdoor Shakespeare is a terrific way to introduce audiences to the works of Shakespeare,” Ursone said. “The casual atmosphere makes the entire event less intimidating – more accessible – and ultimately more enjoyable,” he added. “From Shakespeare aficionados to those hearing his words for the first time, young and old alike can enjoy this production,” he said. Ursone noted that many families of all ages have been in attendance in past years. Patrons are encouraged to bring blankets and/or chairs. A limited amount of reserved seating is available.

Nestled among the pine trees of the Sterling Farms complex on Newfield Avenue, this is a unique experience for the community to participate in and enjoy the works of Shakespeare. Curtain Call’s annual outing is much akin to an old-fashioned repertory company: many actors return each year either on stage or off, to be a part of it. The entire cast (along with many past performers) were on hand to help build the stage in early June.

Free outdoor Shakespeare is a summer ritual all around the world, but hadn’t been a part of the Stamford cultural landscape until Curtain Call launched this program in 2004. “We’re thrilled to be joining other great area presenters in adding to the wonderful opportunities in the arts that Fairfield County is known for. As Stamford’s longest-running and only year-round, non-profit producing theatre organization, this program was a natural extension of our expanding base of programs” Ursone said. Barbieri added “I cannot believe that this is our eighteenth year. It seems like only yesterday that we were building the actual pieces of The Globe. Our audiences have continually grown with many new people showing up each year to enjoy the experience.”

This program is the result of a major collaboration on the part of Curtain Call, The Stamford Golf Authority and The Stillery/Royal Green Restaurants. “It’s an absolutely amazing time for all of us here at Sterling Farms,” Ursone noted, adding that for many years, people talked about having free Shakespeare in Stamford and now it’s a summer tradition for many. “We are thrilled to be able to provide this annual event free to area residents through the generous financial support of several sponsors like our lead sponsors The Garden Homes Foundation and The Stillery/Royal Green Restaurant.

Additional support is from The Connecticut office of the Arts, RBC, Simply Signs and many individuals,” Ursone added. All Curtain Call programming is produced in cooperation with The City of Stamford.

“We are thrilled to offer this free event each year to the community,” Ursone said. “Of course, we appreciate contributions from our guests, but all are welcome…whether they can contribute or not. We especially want families to come and enjoy this production,” Ursone concluded. Curtain Call suggests contributions of $20 per person for adults; $10 for senior citizens and children.

More information is available at or by calling 203-329-8207. Curtain Call is the non-profit community based theatre company in residence at The Sterling Farms Theatre Complex, 1349 Newfield Avenue in Stamford. Year-round productions and workshops are presented by and for area residents in The Kweskin Theatre and The Dressing Room Theatre.

Curtain Call was voted Fairfield County’s BEST LOCAL THEATRE GROUP 10 years running in the Annual Readers’ Poll of Fairfield County Weekly and has received similar BEST OF awards from Stamford Magazine and StamfordPlus magazine for 2008 through 2021. Curtain Call received The Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2011 and the ACE Award for Excellence in Arts & Culture from the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County.

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