Enter stage left: Woodland Regional High School gets new theater director

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By Jessica D’Aniello Citizen’s News

BEACON FALLS — Thomas Simonetti is an actor and director who has performed on stages around the world and has probably seen a few things go wrong once the curtain goes up.

Now he has brought that experience to Woodland Regional High School as its new theater teacher and is directing students in “The One-Act Play That Goes Wrong.”

Simonetti, 38, was directing his high school actors as they prepare for the show during a recent rehearsal at the school’s auditorium, captivating their attention with energy and passion.

“I still work as an actor, but my time teaching, directing and producing has taken over,” Simonetti said. “And I am super happy about that.”

Simonetti started working as Woodland’s theater director this school year. He replaced Bailey Gartmen who had filled the role for two years after longtime Woodland teacher Susan Cinoman left after teaching theater at Woodland from 2008 until 2019.

Before he came to Woodland, Simonetti was directing the Drama Club at Masuk High School in Monroe.

Principal Kurt Ogren called Simonetti to offer him the job before he had finished the application for the Woodland job.

“Woodland hit a home run hiring Mr. Simonetti,” Ogren said. “He has real world experiences that he can bring directly to Woodland students.”

Some of that experience includes managing the Valley Shakespeare Festival, which has been putting on Shakespeare plays free in Veterans Memorial Park in Shelton since 2013.

The Valley Shakespeare Festival also takes its show on the road with a fully staged 70 minute prediction.

“We tour schools, farms, libraries, homeless shelters, prisons and bars throughout the year, too,” Simonetti said.

Directing his first play at Woodland, “The One-Act Play That Goes Wrong,” Simonetti has seen ambition in his students as it’s a physically demanding play with surprises and mess-ups written in.

“He tries to make learning more fun,” student Tiana Preston said. “He tends to teach in a way where we are all included.”

Simonetti splits his time between Trumbull and New York City. He has family in the lower Naugatuck Valley region.

To Simonetti, teaching students is just as challenging, but rewarding, as directing his own plays or productions.

“Controlling a theater of 2,500 people, or a class of 10 wise-guys, is about the same thing,” Simonetti said.