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Port Chester Man Performs Shakespeare for Seniors

RYE BROOK, N.Y. – When longtime Westchester Community College professor and Shakespeare enthusiast Richard Miller retired from his post as chair of WCC’s art department, he — like many other retirees — wasn’t sure what his future held.

“I eventually retired from full-time and taught some adjunct, but it wasn’t what I expected,” Miller said. “I started thinking about doing other things that would satisfy my performance bug.”

That’s when one of Miller’s friends at WCC told him about a college-sponsored program that tours county senior centers, delivering lectures on Shakespeare. Miller said the program, which was a big hit, took him all across the county until it became too pricey for the senior centers to manage. When the college cancelled the program, Miller took the contacts he had made and decided to conduct the program himself.

“I was a teacher for a long time and that was no accident,” Miller said. “Teaching is about helping people come to an understanding. That’s been a great joy in my life and this is a situation where people are there who want to come; when you get an interested and motivated audience, that’s the greatest thing about teaching.”

Miller’s performance brochure features 10 to 11 two-hour-long, unique lectures. Last week, Miller visited the Anthony J. Posillipo Senior Center in Rye Brook to deliver a lecture on The Merchant of Venice.

“When I bumped into Rick at the grocery store, I asked him if he would be able to work with our center on some programming,” said Senior Coordinator Liz Rotfeld. “We had about 25 participants and they really enjoyed it!”

“We had a good discussion on the nature and origin of anti-Semitism, the climate of Venice and where all the attitudes came from,” Miller said. “A number of people were surprising … in their grasp of the history. They were a very good audience.”

Miller is looking forward to returning to deliver a presentation on Othello at 12:30 p.m. May 15.

Miller, who has an eclectic background in theater, said the language and prescience of Shakespeare’s work is what makes it such a popular and rewarding topic.

“I certainly appreciate the language that he gives you, as an actor, to use,” he said. “People come to me and say ‘I don’t really like Shakespeare,’ and usually when we’re done they realize that it’s extremely complex and pertinent to modern-day life.”

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