How Shakespeare helps two very different people recapture their lives

Around Town

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It’s a story about two people struggling at different stages of their lives and how William Shakespeare helps open the door to a new, better chapter.

The Hummingbird Theatre Company will present “Taking Shakespeare” by John Murrell at Rochester’s Multi-use Community Cultural Center, or MuCCC, from October 28-31.

Director Don Bartalo and the show’s stars, Denise Bartalo and Miles Harrison, discussed “Taking Shakespeare” Monday during News 8 at Noon.

“It’s about two characters who are pretty unlikely as characters together,” said Denise Bartalo. “I play an older professor at a college, university, and maybe should have retired a while ago. The Dean of my department sends her son to be tutored in Shakespeare because he’s not doing well in school. He’s 24 years old, just starting university, and he likes to play video games and I am a Shakespeare expert, so you can see there’s an immediate disconnect between the two of us.”

For Harrison, a student at the University of Rochester, the role of the Dean’s son presented a unique challenge.

“In my real life I love Shakespeare,” he said. “I’ve been doing community theatre for several years. Shakespeare is one of the backbones of the Rochester Community Theatre scene, so I’ve acted in quite a few shows and I love it, personally. The stretch was playing the character at the start before that sort of fascination develops.”

For anyone caught in a rut, there’s a powerful message in the performances.

“I think the essence of the show is that – it’s about two people who have fallen out of fascination with life and find something fascinating in these shows by Shakespeare, these tragedies, about how to experience something larger than life,” Harrison said. “I think that’s the main takeaway that I hope people take – is to always be striving to live life beyond the fullest.”

For Don Bartalo, this was a directing challenge on his “to-do” list.

“I saw it in Stratford, Ontario a few years ago with Denise and it was a show I really wanted to know,” he said. “At the time I didn’t realize what an honored playwright Mr. John Murrell is and he, unfortunately, passed away about a year and a half ago. So we are probably one of the first, if not the first, companies in the United States to do it.”

Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required for all shows at the MuCCC. Get your tickets to see “Taking Shakespeare” online at

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