Milford man delves into Shakespeare’s words

In As You Like It, William Shakespeare writes, “All the world’s a stage.” But for the 200 people who regularly attend Nights with Shakespeare the only stage that really matters is the one on which Milford’s Bob Smith stands every Tuesday night at Shelton’s Enterprise Corporate Park.

Smith’s an award-winning author, director and consummate storyteller. He’s been profiled on the front page of The New York Times. He’s been featured on The Today Show and radio and TV across the US, Canada and Great Britain. In 2002 the BBC produced an award-winning documentary of Smith’s Shakespeare work. He’s been a sold-out speaker at New York’s 92nd Street Y for two decades.

Locally, for just under three years, he’s been delighting the Tuesday night regulars in Shelton with his good-natured journeys through the Bard’s masterworks. He describes his program as a weekly, hour-long line-by-line exploration of Shakespeare’s master works.

A high school English teacher who has attended Smith’s lectures for over a decade said, “I can’t count the times I’ve carried Bob’s brilliant and innovative insights back to my students.”

Nights with Shakespeare is sponsored by Robert Scinto, chairman of R.D. Scinto Inc. It’s free and open to the public.

When starting the program, Scinto said, “For eight years my wife Barbara and I attended Bob’s sessions at the Stratford Library. The insights we gained made us eager to share this very special Connecticut man. Smith is compelling and sharp. His insights and playful observations give participants a much deeper understanding of the world of Shakespeare. Bob Smith helps you see that these plays are completely relevant today.”

A life-long arts enthusiast, Scinto recently installed a monumental sculptural interpretation of da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man at 1 Corporate Park, where a full scale copy of Michelangelo’s David has also found a home.

Consistent with Scinto’s passion for great visual art, Nights with Shakespeare uses an innovative and often breath-taking device to illustrate Shakespeare’s texts. For each play the works of a world-class artist are displayed though a state of the art projection system. John Singer Sargent for The Merchant of Venice, Rembrandt’s self-portraits for Hamlet, the artful splatters of Jackson Pollack for Macbeth are just a few of the artists that have helped illustrate 18 of Shakespeare’s masterworks.

Every Tuesday night Ralph Famiglietti and a friend drive from Prospect and Cheshire to attend. Famiglietti said, “Before taking this class, I never understood Shakespeare. Someone told me to try Bob. . .that was two years ago!”

Lynn Todd Reid, of Shelton, agreed. “Bob’s class is completely different from what you’d expect. It feels as if he’s telling you a wonderful story and you just need to keep coming back. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Smith discovered Shakespeare at the Stratford Library when he was 11. Fascinated, he started to memorize Shakespeare line-by-line. During his teens he worked as a dresser and on stage in numerous plays produced during the heyday of the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. His award-winning memoir, Hamlet’s Dresser, chronicles his time working with theater legends like Bert Lahr, Katherine Hepburn and Jessica Tandy. In addition to the US, Canada and Great Britain Hamlet’s Dresser is also published in Germany, Italy and Spain. Smith recorded his book for Blackstone audio.

Nights with Shakespeare is held Tuesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. It is free and open to the public at the Enterprise Auditorium, 3 Corporate Drive, Shelton, CT. For more information, go to nightswithshakespeare.com

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