Love of Shakespeare motivates Shelton native to start festival

Tom Simonetti at a recent fund-raising event for the Valley Shakespeare Festival, the troupe he helped form that will perform an outdoor Shakespeare play this week in Shelton. Simonetti grew up in Shelton.


Shelton native Tom Simonetti still remembers reading William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on his own when he was in the fifth grade.

Shelton-Shakespeare4“I devoured it,” said Simonetti, who now works in theater in New York City, where he lives.

He also recalls the impact an outdoor Shakespeare play he saw as a teen in New Haven had on him. “It showed how powerful theater can be — and how amazing as well,” Simonetti said.

Simonetti’s love of Shakespeare led him to form the Valley Shakespeare Festival (VSF), a nonprofit troupe that will put on its first-ever production later this week at Shelton’s Veterans Memorial Park (the Riverwalk).

“I’ve wanted to do this since age 17,” Simonetti said.


Other reasons as well

Other motivating factors for starting the local theater company were the impact of Hurricane Sandy and the Sandy Hook tragedy on the region as well as a milestone birthday, Simonetti said.

“I was coming up to the Big 3-0, and thought, ‘Let’s do it,’” he said.


Performances Thursday to Saturday

The VSF outdoor performances of “The Comedy of Errors,” free to the public, will take place at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 18; Friday, July 19; and Saturday, July 20.

Audience members are welcome to bring blankets, lawn chairs and picnics to watch the play on the lawn at the riverfront park downtown.

Valley Shakespeare Festival cast members performing in “The Comedy of Errors” include, from left, Adam Kezele of New York City, Steve Mazzoccone of New York City, Megan McGarvey of New York City, Jeremy Funke of New Haven (in back), Amy Strachan of Monroe (in front); Jess Breda of New York City (her family recently moved to Shelton), Kristen Kingsley of Shelton, and Tom Simonetti of New York City, who grew up in Shelton.

The VSF version of the play will be set in the 1920s “with an Americana/vaudeville twist,” Simonetti said. More than two dozen people are involved in the VSF production, including cast, crew and other volunteers.

Funding has come from various sources, including a Valley Community Foundation grant.

Learn more about the troupe at