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Greater Hartford Shakespeare Festival returns with ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

The state's longest running outdoor Shakespeare festival begins July 14 on the grounds of the University of Saint Joseph Grounds.

“I wanted to tell a story about love."

That's how Capital Classics Theatre Company Director Geoffrey Sheehan described choosing this year's production,  which will again be held on the beautiful outdoor grounds of the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford from July 14–31, 2022. 

When pondering this year’s selection for the Greater Hartford Shakespeare Festival, the company wanted to avoid Shakespeare’s tragedies, he said. In the past the group would alternate between comedy and tragedy, but since returning from the pandemic hiatus, comedy and love have been the way to go.

“Looking at this year, I knew I wanted to direct and I wasn’t ready to tell a hard story myself,” Sheehan added. “I wanted to tell a story about love and community healing.” 

Sheehan, a longtime theater arts professor at Housatonic Community College, founded the company in 1991 with his wife, Laura. She has performed in every single show since. 

“We did it together, and we are still doing it. She’s been in every single one while working and raising four kids,” he said. 

The nonprofit company thrives on grants, donations, and ticket sales. Although not directly affiliated with other outdoor Shakespeare producers, they do try to talk so their show choices don’t overlap, Sheehan said, as they tend to get crossover audiences. 

“Much Ado About Nothing” is a play of wits and wills featuring one of Shakespeare’s most iconic (and argumentative) couples, Beatrice and Benedick. Witty banter, false accusations, broken promises, and romance dominate this popular play.

While similar companies sometimes change the original productions to modernize or turn the tables on the theme, Sheehan’s productions stick to the traditional locations and costuming. 

“We stay within the play’s artistic framework and aesthetics,” he said. “We strive in our work to dig into and uncover the universal, timeless and human truths, and we trust our audience is smart enough to get it.”
He added, “We don’t need to stick the play in a boardroom or a high school classroom — we like the colorfulness and the renaissance of it all.”
The festival also offers original music, sometimes incorporating lyrics written into the plays by Shakespeare himself. 

“We go to the ground floor, the fundamental essence of what Shakespeare is. He has it in there already — we don’t need to dress it up in contemporary clothes,” Sheehan said. 

Capital Classics Board Members Edwin Thrower and Kathleen Fischer wrote a book to celebrate the company’s longtime history. During the festival on Sunday, July 17, at 5 p.m., the authors will discuss “Love’s Labour’s Won,” which documents the company’s roots and successes. 

Thrower and Fischer interviewed more than 40 designers, musicians and actors for the book and shared their own experiences with Capital Classics. They also interviewed Sheehan’s children for a fun chapter about growing up near the Shakespeare stage. 

The book will be sold at the shows and is also available on the company’s website, Sheehan said every penny from book sales goes back into the productions. 

Those attending are encouraged to bring family and friends and a picnic or meal amidst what Sheehan called a beautiful location with free parking. 

“It’s small campus designed by the Olmsted Brothers back in the day, the same people who designed Central Park,” he said.

The dedicated fans, he said, are “amazing.”

“There are people who get there before us, some of the spreads and set ups are so impressive. People have a wonderful time — they come in groups and just have a great time socializing before the show,” he said. 

For more information or to purchase tickets to the state’s longest-running Shakespeare festival, visit