In the summer of 2020 when most of the entertainment world was on an extended hiatus, Curtain Call in Stamford was providing outdoor entertainment that fed the souls of its performers, entertained thousands and provided a much needed cash infusion. Their first outdoor event – a cabaret-style event called SHAKESPEARE & SONG – replaced the full-scale Shakespeare production that had been cancelled due to the Covid crisis.
“Shakespeare really saved us,” said Lou Ursone, Curtain Call’s executive director, speaking of the 23 nights of entertainment they produced from mid-July through early November 2020. “We were fortunate that we had 16 years of experience producing outdoor events, plus, we owned the stage, lighting and sound rigs, so creating a program that was safe for our performers but still highlighted the works of “the Bard” was a perfect solution,” Ursone said. And now the theatre group is back for its 20th summer on the green with The Tempest, beginning July 13.
Directed by Kyle Runestad, The Tempest is the story of Prospero – the rightful duke of Milan – a wizard who is marooned on an island. He is a great but embittered magician who is preparing to take vengeance on those who have wronged him but is caught off-guard by the true nature of compassion and forgiveness. The Tempest is the last play Shakespeare wrote without a collaborator and the first included in the 1623 First Folio.
Performances will be held nightly at 7:30pm, July 13, 14, 15, & 16 and the following week, July 20, 21, 22 & 23, on the great lawn alongside The Royal Green Restaurant (sponsor of the event) at Sterling Farms on Newfield Avenue, Stamford. The park will open to patrons at 6 p.m. each day. Food and beverages will be available in the adjoining tent or may be pre-ordered through The Royal Green Restaurant. More information is available at www.curtaincallinc.com/ or by calling 203-329-8207.
Joining Runestad on the production team are: Jamie LaJoie – lighting and sound design, Robin Mazzola – costume design, and Peter Barbieri, Jr, – set design. Stage management is by Martha Dombroski, Jan Ursone and John Zimmerman. The cast includes: Sarah Barry, Brian Borowka, Cara Bunning, Jim Chiles, Bruce Crilly, Miranda Falk, John Kliewe, Rachel Lese, Ashley Marcinek, Justin McArthur, Christian Miller, David Nielsen, Rob Nichols, Joshua Pickel, David Pollard, Danica Roganovic, Gregory Suss, Seth von Schmidt, Erin Wallace and Robert Whitney.
“It’s hard to believe that it was at a staff birthday lunch at The Royal Green Restaurant in June 2003 that the idea was born. After gaining support from the Stamford Golf Authority, the restaurant owners and the City of Stamford, we moved forward to bringing free outdoor Shakespeare to Stamford,” Ursone said.
Curtain Call associate artistic director, Barbieri, (the birthday boy) started out by designing his version of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre stage, which took several months to build from the ground up. For the first production in July 2004, Barbieri selected Twelfth Night which only played two nights. While many pieces have been rebuilt over the years, the basic Curtain Call Globe has remained the same.
Every year on the globe’s roofline, three flags are raised to represent the various genres of Shakespeare’s canon: red for tragedy, green for history and purple for comedy. The centered and highest flag at the peak represents that summer’s choice, so people driving by will see the purple flag flying this year.
When he directed The Tempest in 2009, Barbieri noted: “While listed as a comedy when it was initially published, many modern editors have since re-labeled the play as one of Shakespeare’s late romances. The play truly is a romance. There is a beautiful love story to be told here.”
“When we first started, we had no idea if people would really come, that’s why we only did one weekend with two performances,” Barbieri said. “The response was terrific and here we are, heading back to the lawn for our 20th summer,” Ursone added.
What is unique about Curtain Call’s Shakespeare on the Green program is that many actors come back year after year – whether or not they’re in that season’s production – just helping out building the stage – something akin to an old-fashioned repertory company. In early June, it’s like a barn-raising that might have happened at Sterling Farms a hundred years ago!
“What’s also really great is that because it’s an outdoor, casual event (less threatening/stuffy) our free productions represent the first time many guests see a live Shakespeare production. While we appreciate contributions, our productions make it possible for many to see live theatre that they can’t normally afford. We are so thankful to our many sponsors and individual contributors, but without our founding sponsor Garden Homes Foundation, we may have never gotten this program off the ground, said Ursone.
“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. Curtain Call suggests contributions of $20 per person for adults; $10 for senior citizens and children. A limited amount of reserved seating is available for $25 per person.
“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” said Ursone. Additional support is from The Connecticut office of the Arts, CT Humanities, RBC, Simply Signs and many individuals,” Ursone added. All Curtain Call programming is produced in cooperation with The City of Stamford.
More information is available at www.curtaincallinc.com or by calling 203-329-8207. Curtain Call is the non-profit community based theatre company in residence at The Sterling Farms Theatre Complex. 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 2023. 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.