Category Archives: Arts

Last Call For Candlelight

For 74 years, tickets to Staples High School’s Candlelight Concert have gone faster than you can say “Sing We Noel.”

For this year’s extra-special 75th anniversary performances, they’re going even quicker.

Just a few remain for the 3 shows: Friday, December 18 (8 p.m.) and Saturday, December 19 (2 p.m. and 8 p.m.).

Candlelight logoTickets are available by mail. They must be postmarked by Wednesday, December 11. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope and the ticket order form (click here). Send to: Candlelight Tickets, Staples High School, 70 North Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

And … tickets are almost gone for the special alumni gala (Saturday, December 19, 5-7 p.m., Westport Inn). Those tickets include a reserved seat to the concert, hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, an exhibit of photos and posters since the 1950s, 75th Candlelight logowear, and a 4-CD set of recordings of concerts from the ’50s to the present.

All proceeds from the alumni gala help celebrate Staples High School music. To purchase tickets, click here

Don’t let those hosannas ring without you!

From Westport To Anatevka And Syria, With Love

For the past 2 weekends, Staples Players’ production of “Fiddler on the Roof” awed and inspired packed audiences.

The show’s run ended last night. But its magic lives on.

The plight of early 20th century Russian Jews resonated with the teenage cast and crew. They made connections with world events today. At each performance, Players collected money for Save the Children’s Syrian Children’s Relief Fund.

At the end of last night’s final show, Players president Vig Namasivayam announced that audiences had donated $4,750 to the cause.

Staples Players:  Take a bow!

The symbolic check, presented to Save the Children after last night's performance.

A symbolic check, presented to Save the Children after last night’s performance.

(To add your own donation, click here.)

Happy 100th, Howard Munce!

Mark your calendars, Westport. On Friday, Howard Munce turns 100.

Howard Munce at work.

Howard Munce at work.

In a town long known for its great artists, illustrators and painters, he’s a towering figure. Howard’s resume — advertising director, graphic designer, sculptor, cartoonist, book author, teacher — ranks him with the most prominent creative folks in our history.

He served his country in World War II, seeing action as a Marine platoon sergeant at Guadalcanal.

He’s served his town too. Howard has been an honorary board member of the Westport Arts Center. For over 25 years, he volunteered as graphics director for the Westport Library.

Whenever he was asked to help — donating dozens of paintings and illustrations to the Permanent Art Collection; curating exhibits for the Westport Historical Society; mentoring young artists — he always said “of course.”

Howard Munce epitomizes 2 of our community’s proudest traits: our arts heritage, and our spirit of giving back.

He’s been a proud Westporter since 1935. He came here to live with family friends, while commuting to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. One of his first jobs was modeling for famed artist Harold von Schmidt.

Westport has been an important part of Howard’s life ever since. And he’s been an even more important part of ours.

What do you give a man who has seen and done everything? How about a townwide ton of birthday wishes?

(Birthday card/Denise Woods. Photo on right/Lawrence Untermeyer)

(Birthday card/Denise Woods. Photo on right/Lawrence Untermeyer)

Just click “Comments” below. Howard does not get on the computer much, but his daughter and home health care aide look forward to reading them to him.

Here’s my contribution:

Howard, happy hundred! Thank you for all you have done, for all of us. You have made Westport a far better place, and my life is far richer for knowing you. May your momentous day be as bright as your ever-present smile!

What’s yours?



Tommy Greenwald Hangs At The White House

Tommy Greenwald spent Monday practicing his command to the taxi driver: “The White House, please.”

When he actually got in the cab, he added: “And not for the tour.”

He and his wife, Cathy Utz, were headed for the Alexander Hamilton gate on 15th Street. After 3 airport-like security screenings — and an “unglamorous” entrance through a tent area, rather than “strolling through the front door,” as he’d imagined — the Westport couple entered the White House.

Tommy — a longtime Westporter and Staples Class of 1979 grad — is a co-founder of Spotco. The New York agency specializes in Broadway and entertainment advertising. A client is fellow Westport resident Harvey Weinstein.

Tommy Greenwald invitationThe film executive helped arrange “Broadway Day” at the White House. Students from across the country came together to enjoy performances, and learn about acting, singing and dancing. Andrew Lloyd Webber was there. Kristin Chenoweth served as host.

Michelle Obama welcomed everyone to her home. (Her husband was on a business trip, to Turkey.) Among the guests — thanks to Weinstein — were Tommy and Cathy. He got them tickets, because Tommy had created a pro bono video for the event. It airs Thanksgiving night on TLC (Optimum channel 28, 8 p.m.).

Cathy Utz and George Washington.

Cathy Utz and George Washington.

Neither Tommy nor Cathy had been in the White House before. He borrowed a tie from his son Joe. “I hadn’t worn one in 7 years,” Tommy notes. “That was the most stressful part — figuring out what to wear so I wouldn’t get tossed out.”

After being herded into a holding area — filled with things like “Benjamin Harrison’s dinner setting,” Tommy says — the group filed into the East Room. Tommy says it’s “just like any other small performance space, except for all the military people there.”

Three days after the Paris attacks, he and Cathy felt grateful to meet the men and women who protect America.

Michelle Obama - photo Tommy Greenwald

First Lady Michelle Obama enters the East Room. (Photo/Tommy Greenwald)

The First Lady strode in. “She looked fine!” Tommy says.

She gave an introductory speech; then the hour-long concert began. That was followed by a “big nosh cocktail reception.”

It was like any other social event, Tommy says, “except every room was ridiculously gorgeous, with portraits of presidents and first ladies.”

There was nothing saying “White House” that he could steal, he says — “just napkins in the bathroom.” He took a few, for his office staff in New York.

“I was hoping for better tchotchkes,” Tommy admits. “Still, it was great.”

Being around Broadway and film stars, Tommy says, “I’m usually pretty jaded. But sitting 5 feet from Michelle Obama was pretty cool. My wife said she’s never seen me so wide-eyed.”

Tommy Greenwald at the White House piano. I asked if it was the same one Richard Nixon played. Tommy did not know -- but it was definitely the one Andrew Lloyd Webber sat at just a few minutes earlier.

Tommy Greenwald at the White House piano. I asked if it was the same one Richard Nixon played. Tommy did not know — but it was definitely the one Andrew Lloyd Webber used just a few minutes earlier.

Once the concert was over though, all the “incredible organization” ended. Tommy calls it “an interestingly informal free-for-all.”

Soon enough, it was back in a taxi. I did not ask Tommy what he told his driver on the return trip.

Time For A Mystery

Over a year ago — as Max’s Art Supplies was ready to close, and everything inside was for sale — I posted a story.

Miggs Burroughs wanted the iconic Karron’s Jewelry clock. Rescued once from another Westport store, it had served for years as a symbol of the famed art store.

He was a minute late. Sherri Wolfgang — a close friend — had already bought it. She told Miggs she’d wanted it since she was 8 years old, and bought her first sketch pad at Max’s.

At least Miggs got this memorable photo:

Max's famous Karron's clock with (from left) Nina Royce, Rita Ross Englebardt, Sherri Wolfgang, Shirley Mellor and Jay Cimbak.

Max’s famous Karron’s clock with (from left) Nina Royce, Rita Ross Englebardt, Sherri Wolfgang, Shirley Mellor and Jay Cimbak.

After staying in one spot for decades, the clock has now taken on a life of its own.

The other day, Ron Hofaker emailed me. He is not an alert “06880” reader. The only reason he knows about this blog is because — well, let him tell it:

Recently a friend called me at home in Hannacroix, New York. He said he was at a sale in Pleasant Valley, New York. I have been in the market for vintage midget race car parts. He believed he had found some.

He hadn’t. Not wanting to leave empty-handed after my hour-plus drive, I spotted a clock in the kitchen. After a bit of negotiation I purchased it.

Curious about its origin, I googled the name and found your site. Wish I had more to tell you about it.

Ron sent a photo. It sure looks like the same clock:

Karron's clock

It has no sentimental value for Ron . He’s offering it to any Westporter (or former resident) who wants it.

If you’re interested, email me:

But Miggs gets first dibs.

Sholem Aleichem Lives On

Most people don’t know their great-grandparents.

Then again, most great-grandparents are not Sholem Aleichem.

Sandy Rothenberg is the famed Yiddish writer’s great-granddaughter. The longtime Weston resident grew up hearing his stories — and attending performances of “Fiddler on the Roof,” the musical based on his tales of Tevye the Dairyman.

She’s seen the original on Broadway, and its several revivals. Her daughter Lindsay was in the show, at Weston High School.

Sandy looks especially forward to this month’s “Fiddler” production by Staples Players. “They always do a wonderful job,” she says. (They do. The show opened last night, to rave reviews.)

Sholem Aleichem

Sholem Aleichem

Every year on his yahrzeit (anniversary of his death), Sandy and her extended family celebrate Sholem Aleichem’s ethical will — a document that passes values, blessings, life lessons, hopes and dreams, from one generation to the next. They read his stories, in a ceremony that’s grown from a small gathering to one held at the Brotherhood Synagogue in New York (with professional readers).

2016 marks the 100th anniversary of Sholem Aleichem’s death. How appropriate that a few months early, in a town next to her own, Sandy Rothenberg can watch her great-grandfather’s story live again.


(Thanks to robust ticket sales, Staples Players has added one more date for “Fiddler on the Roof.” It’s Thursday, November 19, 7 p.m., with reduced ticket prices of $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for students. The show also runs this weekend and next. For times and ticket information for all performances, click here.)

The staging, acting, choreography and sets of "Fiddler on the Roof" is spectacular -- as Staples Players shows always are. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Staples Players Riley  Andrews, Julia Mandelbaum, Jordan Goodness, Jacob Leaf and Caroline Didelot perform “The Sabbath Prayer.”(Photo/Kerry Long)

Sunday’s TEA Talk: Where Are Our Arts?

You’ve heard of TED Talks. They cover global topics, in intriguing, inspiring ways.

Westport’s TEA Talks are just as important. And they touch on topics that, while broad in scope, are intensely personal.

This Sunday’s event (November 15, 2 p.m., Town Hall, free, with reception to follow) focuses on the arts. Specifically, it examines how changes in the state mandate toward STEM — science, technology, education and math — might affect our school district’s flexibility to take full advantage of the strong arts curriculum and programming we’ve spent decades nurturing.

This TEA Talk — it stands for Thinkers, Educators, Artists — is sponsored by the Westport Arts Advisory Committee. They celebrate our wonderful artistic and cultural heritage — and keep them thriving.


Where will the arts fit in our schools? Will future students have the same opportunity to embrace them? What about students in neighboring communities, not as fortunate as ours? Those are some of the questions Sunday’s TEA Talk will address.

Despite Common Core requirements, Westport educators have found ingenious ways to enhance the curriculum even more, in subjects far beyond visual art. In subjects like math, English and social studies, teachers are utilizing town collections to develop students’ analytical thinking and communication skills.

For example, starting this year every Westport 3rd grader will look at Robert Lambdin’s “Saugatuck in the 19th Century” mural. They’ll explore the painting, and tie it in with many aspects of their curriculum. For instance: How have our town and Connecticut changed — and stayed the same — over time? And what influence does geography play on development?

Robert Lambdin's Saugatuck mural.

Robert Lambdin’s Saugatuck mural.

Sunday’s TEA Talk includes the state commissioner of education; 2 Westport educators, and world-renowned pianist (and local resident) Frederic Chiu. He’ll lead a discussion of the differences in music education in Westport and less affluent districts.

Anyone can watch a TED Talk on the web. But TEA Talks — those are what make this town (like our arts) special.

(For more information on Sunday’s TEA Talks, click here.)

Candlelight Concert Tickets Now Available — Special 75th Anniversary Edition!

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

But there is a free Candlelight Concert. The catch: You have to order tickets now.

This year’s 75th annual holiday event will be a classic. Special guests with long ties to the Staples High School music department have been invited. And a special alumni reception is planned prior to the last of 3 performances — the traditional “alumni show.”

Candlelight is set for Friday, December 18 (8 p.m.), and Saturday, December 19 (2 p.m. and 8 p.m.).

Candlelight logoGeneral admission tickets are available by mail. They must be postmarked by Wednesday, December 11 — but he who hesitates may not be singing “Hallelujah.” Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope and the ticket order form (click here) to: Candlelight Tickets, Staples High School, 70 North Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

The alumni gala (Saturday, December 19, 5-7 p.m., Westport Inn) includes a reserved seat to the concert, hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, an exhibit of photos and posters since the 1950s, 75th Candlelight logowear and a 4-CD set of recordings of concerts from the ’50s to the present.

All proceeds help celebrate Staples High School music. To purchase tickets, select the button to the left. Click here for alumni gala ltickets and more information.

Now let hosannas ring…

(For 75 years, the Candlelight Concert has been presented as a gift to Westport. However, tax-deductible contributions made out to “Staples HS Music” are gratefully accepted, and may be sent along with ticket requests. To advertise in the Candlelight program book, click here. For the main Candlelight website, click here. And search “SHS Candlelight 75th Anniversary” on Facebook for an event page.)

The "Sing We Noel" processional -- a part of every Candlelight Concert since 1940. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The “Sing We Noel” processional — a part of every Candlelight Concert since 1940. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Players’ “Fiddler” A Show For The Ages

David Roth always liked “Fiddler on the Roof.” He just didn’t love it.

The longtime Staples Players director chose the show as his acclaimed troupe’s fall mainstage production.

Now he’s fallen in love with it. And — thanks to all that’s happening on the world stage — his high school actors are passionate about it too.

Jacob Leaf as Tevye in

Jacob Leaf as Tevye in “Tradition.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

“I knew ‘Fiddler’ was important because it exposes teenagers to what was happening at that point in history,” Roth says of the musical that opens this Friday.

“But I never expected it to resonate so much with the contemporary world.”

In the months since the show was chosen, the Syrian refugee crisis has exploded. The parallels with “Fiddler’s” story line — families and communities torn apart, then scattered all across the globe — help students connect yesterday and today.

They’re doing more than just talk about it. At the show this weekend and next, Players will raise funds to help female Syrian refugees. Women were chosen in part, Roth says, because “Fiddler” is a story of matchmaking.

“In the beginning, it was hard for kids to relate to that concept,” Roth notes.

Samantha Chachra (Tzeitel) and Remy Laifer (Motel) in

Samantha Chachra (Tzeitel) and Remy Laifer (Motel) in “Miracle of Miracles.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

When they studied the role of Chava — the eldest of the 3 daughters, who marries a Christian — he and his actors talked about religious tradition. None of the Staples students could really relate to the distress over intermarriage, epitomized by Tevye’s harsh comment, “You’re dead to me.”

But they did connect that to the current issue of same-sex marriage. Roth’s actors know that even in 2015, people are ostracized for marrying a same-sex partner. “Kids do understand what it means to go against norms and traditions,” the director says.

There’s another reason Roth has grown to love “Fiddler.”

“I’ve realized it’s an almost perfect, musical,” he says. “There’s great storytelling, songs and dance, and a fantastic balance of humor and pathos. That’s why it’s one of the most popular shows of all time.” The 5th Broadway revival opens soon.

But you don’t have to travel that far to see “Fiddler on the Roof.” The Staples curtain rises on Friday.

(“Fiddler on the Roof” runs Friday and  Saturday, November 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are set for Sunday, November 15 and Saturday, November 21 at 3 p.m. Ticket sales are strong — so to order online now, click here.)

Nile Rodgers: A Man For These Times

Today’s New York Times Men’s Style feature on Nile Rodgers — nominated 9 times for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but never an inductee — starts off this way:

“My attitude is that there are plenty of buildings that want to have me. Why would I want to live in a building where they don’t?” said Mr. Rogers, drawing a metaphor from Manhattan real estate, where he learned over the years that he was sometimes too famous or too black to appeal to everyone’s tastes.

As it happened, Mr. Rodgers was milling about on a recent afternoon not in his Upper West Side co-op but in his six-bedroom compound in Westport, Conn.

The view of the Long Island Sound stretched for miles, the furniture included Louis XIV chairs and ancient Chinese beds, and the walls were covered in platinum records he earned producing hits for Madonna, David Bowie, Chic and Sister Sledge.

The story is an intriguing look into our neighbor’s recent collaboration with Kylie Minogue, Janelle Monae, Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams and Hugh Jackman; his gig next spring at Coachella; his past encounters with cocaine (it’s been replaced with stevia), and his Westport life since 1994 (including his battle with prostate cancer).

To read more about the full story about this fascinating — and very stylish — Westporter, click here.

Nile Rodgers

Nile Rodgers