Category Archives: Staples HS

Sam Appel’s Alice B. Toklas Connection

As a child, Sam Appel created “menus” of cereal and yogurt for her parents — and asked them to pay for their meals.

At Staples High School, she took every culinary class she could. She served as a teaching assistant for instructor Cecily Gans; worked at her summer cooking camp; helped with her catering jobs, and assisted on a cookbook.

Sam was drawn to Chef Gans’ “personality, artistry, and beautiful food.”

She was similarly inspired by English teacher Gus Young. He introduced her to the “art and magic” of food writing.

Not surprisingly, Sam’s college application essay was about food writing.

She had thought about culinary schools. But when she discovered Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration — with its focus on hospitality — she realized that the business side of food was as intriguing as cooking it.

Sam Appel

After graduating from Cornell in 2010, she joined restaurant software company Avero as a consultant. Last May she moved to a marketing position with Chipotle. (Her territory includes Westport — so, coincidentally, she’s involved with their soon-to-be-opened restaurant here.)

Sam loves her job. But she’s just as passionate about the Toklas Society. Named for the legendary cookbook author/creative salon hostess Alice B. Toklas, the 2-year-old nonprofit provides opportunities for empowerment, networking and professional growth to women in the (traditionally male-dominated) food and hospitality industry.

As director of communications, Sam hears plenty of stories about — and is inspired by — female chefs and entrepreneurs.

The Toklas Society has just partnered with Food & Wine Magazine. The prestigious publication and Toklas will feature leaders and rising stars in the food and beverage worlds (on Twitter, follow #foodwinewomen).

Sam Appel is proud that she can support talented women in an industry she loves. She is equally proud that her passion was stirred by 2 key people — Chef Cecily Gans, and English teacher Gus Young — a decade ago at Staples High School.

 

 

Petey Menz’s Hasty Pudding

Wikipedia calls Hasty Pudding “a theatrical student society at Harvard University, known for its burlesque cross-dressing musicals.” They were described by John Wheelwright in 1897 as “a kindly association of men of all ages in a gay evening of simple enjoyment.”

The meaning of “gay” has changed a bit since then. Hasty Pudding has not.

Presented annually since 1844 — except during 3 war years — the comedy productions still feature exactly 12 male performers (6 play men; the other 6 play women). There is a live pit orchestra, but no computers or synthesizers. The plots are silly, the jokes crude, the production values low, the puns anachronistic and sophomoric.

A typical Hasty Pudding show.

A typical Hasty Pudding show. Those guys are lookin’ good!

But it worked for Hasty Pudding members of yore like Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, William Randolph Hearst, Alan Jay Learner and Jack Lemmon.

And writing the Hasty Pudding show helped launch the careers of — more recently — comedian Mo Rocca, librettist Mark O’Donnell (“Hairspray”), and Rashida Jones (“Parks and Recreation,” “The Office,” “Boston Public”).

Petey Menz hopes some of that magic fairy dust rubs off on him.

The 2011 Staples graduate is co-writing the 2015 Hasty Pudding show. In a rare exhibition of burlesque cross-dressing musical genius, he also helped pen last year’s production.

Petey Menz

Petey Menz

The 2nd and 3rd times were the charm for Petey and his freshman roommates. They entered the writing competition as a lark that 1st year. “We didn’t know what we were doing,” he recalls. “But it was fun.”

Harvard students are smart. So Petey and his pals figured out what they needed to do to succeed. In the summer of 2013 they were chosen to write the 2014 show. Last year, they were picked again.

Yeah, it takes that long to write — then produce — the show.

It’s not your average theatrical production. There are 30 or so dates in Cambridge (this year’s opening is February 6). Then it goes on the road, for more performances in New York and (I”m sure there’s a reason for this) Bermuda.

“There’s a lot of spitballing in the beginning,” Petey says of the writing process. (The term refers to brainstorming, not the juvenile game that may seem appropriate to a Hasty Pudding production.)

Eventually, Petey’s team came up with the settings: Victorian England last year, medieval Spain this time. Then they had to create scenes (making sure each character had equal stage time — another tradition), write lyrics, and make sure it was all appropriately sophomorically funny.

The bulk of the work is done during the summer. Because Petey and his co-writers were all in different places, they communicated via Skype and Google Hangouts. (I don’t think that’s the way it was done in 1844.)

Hasty pudding logo

The Hasty Pudding logo

It’s a “self-consciously antique form of theater,” Petey admits. “This is one of the last institutions in the world to do theatrical drag shows. But it’s fun to to beef up what started as a skeletal scene, and it’s rewarding to see that jokes you’ve fine-tuned actually get laughs.”

Petey hopes his 2 years as a Hasty Pudding collaborator will help get him a writing job after he graduates this spring. He’s got a joint concentration in English and art history. [Insert your own finding-a-job joke here.]

Alan Jolley’s Ultimate Adventure

In his 49 years as a Staples math teacher, Alan Jolley has earned tremendous respect and admiration. Future engineers and mathphobes alike look forward to his “Jolley calls” — phone messages to parents saying their kids have done well.

At last, he’s been inducted into a Hall of Fame.

For Frisbee.

Ultimate Frisbee is Jolley’s 2nd love. He founded Staples’ team — the 2nd in the nation — and coached it to national renown. Now he, and 1974 graduates Ed Davis, Ron Kaufman and Dan Buckley, have been recognized for their contributions, as members of the Ultimate Frisbee Hall of Fame. They’re honored as “Johnny Appleseeds,” for helping grow the sport following its founding at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey.

Dan Buckley, Alan Jolley and Ed Davis, at a Staples Ultimate Frisbee reunion several years ago.

Dan Buckley, Alan Jolley and Ed Davis, at a Staples Ultimate Frisbee reunion in 2009.

Columbia High was Jolley’s alma mater, in 1960. Six years later, he arrived at Staples. In 1970 his sister sent him rules for a new sport being played at Columbia.

Some of Jolley’s students — and other teenagers he knew from his work with Boy Scouts and a church youth group — loved tossing Frisbees. He told them about this new “Ultimate Frisbee.”

The group played on an unkempt field behind the old 9 Building, at the east end of Staples. (Field hockey players chased them away, with sticks.) With no other teams in the area, they scrimmaged themselves.

Back then, he was Jon Steinberg. Today this same guy is State Representative Jonathan Steinberg.

Back then, he was Jon Steinberg. Today this same guy is State Representative Jonathan Steinberg.

They created a “uniform” of blue jeans and a light blue turtleneck, with a Staples monogram on the front and “FriSbee” on the back (get it?). Many guys — and girls — wore red bandannas.

They encouraged Weston High to form a team, and played them on April 5, 1973. Staples won 24-9, in the 1st interscholastic Frisbee game in Connecticut. It was also the 1st known coed interscholastic sports event.

On April 14, Staples hosted Columbia High, in the 1st known interstate coed match. Staples beat the sport’s inventors, 18-8. (To be fair, the guests were missing several players.)

But Staples — in fun — declared themselves “National Champions.” The National Observer sent a reporter from Washington to write about the team. His article appeared on May 12, 1973.

Ron Kaufman today.

Ron Kaufman today.

After graduation, the 3 players inducted recently with Jolley continued to evangelize for the sport.

Kaufman has been particularly active. He founded the Ultimate team at Brown University, then sold “flying disc” equipment by mail, through a California store and online.

Kaufman organized a national series of Frisbee festivals (with Wham-O sponsorship), and created World Peace Tours to China and the Soviet Union featuring Frisbee demonstrations, festivals and tournaments.

He asked, “How can you drop a bomb on somebody you’ve played Frisbee with in Red Square?”

By that time, though, Staples’ Ultimate Frisbee team was just a memory. Jolley disbanded it in the late 1970s, after issues with school administrators over issues like insurance.

What a buzzkill.

1973 frisbee team

Staples’ 1973 Ultimate Frisbee team. Alan Jolley is at far left.

 

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead

From the 1920s “lost generation” expats in Paris to the beat poets of 1950s’ Greenwich Village, cultural history resonates with moments in time when great, creative people came together unexpectedly. Without planning to, they created movements of outsize influence.

Perhaps the most famous National Lampoon cover of all time.

Perhaps the most famous National Lampoon cover of all time.

That’s what happened at the National Lampoon in the 1970s. A wildly outrageous, semi-demented group of men and women joined forces to whack social taboos, from politics and race to sex and religion. Nothing was sacred.

Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and like-minded talents used an irreverent magazine to launch records and movies (“Animal House,” “National Lampoon’s Vacation”) that changed the face of comedy, culture — perhaps even America itself.

For years, filmmakers — including an Oscar-winner — tried to capture that special moment. All those projects imploded.

Now Westporter Doug Tirola and Susan Bedusa have done it.

Their company — 4th Row Films — is in the final, frantic post-production days of “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon.” The 93-minute documentary weaves never-before-seen archival footage with the magazine’s beautiful and often shocking art, in a film that is already drawing praise and attention.

The National Lampoon crowd, in the 1970s.

The National Lampoon crowd, in the 1970s.

There’s much more to come. It premieres this Sunday (January 25) at the very prestigious, make-or-break-a-movie Sundance Film Festival.

As a kid in Westport, Tirola saw “Animal House” twice at the Fine Arts Theater. He scavenged for new issues of National Lampoon at Bill’s Smoke Shop. He hauled the now-legendary Lampoon 10th Anniversary Anthology from grad school to his 1st apartment to his home here, when he moved back.

Susan Bedusa and Doug Tirola.

Susan Bedusa and Doug Tirola.

After batting around the idea of a Lampoon history film, Susan Bedusa — a fellow Staples graduate, and Tirola’s longtime producing partner — convinced him to contact the Lampoon‘s owners. At a meeting in Los Angeles, they said they’d cooperate — if the original magazine owners signed off on the concept.

Coincidentally, at the height of its popularity, Lampoon publisher and “Animal House” producer Matty Simmons owned a summer home on Lamplight Lane. Belushi, Radner and other stars came here for parties.

Tirola got the rights to the story — including the artwork that was an important part of the magazine. National Lampoon launched the careers of artists who went on to work at the New Yorker, and for “The Simpsons” and “Home Alone.”

Now it’s a race to finish the sound mixing and color correction. Then it’s on to Sundance, and the Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead premiere.

Afterwards, there will be a party.

Togas are optional.

 

Laura Loffredo Offers Adoption Hope

Laura Loffredo is a child of Westport. Her father was the hard-working, generous owner-operator of Belta’s Farm on Bayberry Lane. Her mother helped out there too.

From childhood on Laura wanted to have kids, and be a mom like her own mother.

Laura first babysat at 14. She continued until graduating from Staples in 1995, then earned a BA in psychology at the University of Connecticut and a master’s in community counseling from the University of Bridgeport.

Laura Loffredo

Laura Loffredo

She worked as a mental health counselor and case manager, then went back to school for a 6th-year degree in education. She’s been a teacher for the past 7 years, while also working for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

To this day, Laura remembers crying at TV commercials showing starving children in Africa. At 14, her parents helped her sponsor a little boy overseas. She still recalls his name: Saul Hormiga Donu.

When she got married, Laura and her husband John expected to have children right away. Instead they endured a 6-year struggle that included thousands of dollars spent on 8 failed fertility treatments, and a miscarriage.

“I prayed every night for a baby. The longing inside my heart was unbearable,” Laura says.

“I didn’t understand why God was denying me the one thing I wanted more than anything in the world. I was angry, bitter and heartbroken. I couldn’t breathe.” She calls this “the darkest time of my life.”

When Laura and John finally made the decision to adopt, it was “like a light in the darkness.” For the first time, Laura felt hope.

Laura and  John Loffredo, with their daughter.

Laura and John Loffredo, with their daughter.

The first time she held her minutes-old daughter in her arms, Laura was overcome with emotion. All the pain washed away.

“At that moment, I understood the reason for everything,” she says. “This little girl was always meant to be ours. It just took her a while to come to us.”

But she agonized over all the people who did not have $40,000 to adopt a baby. The thought of not being a mother was overwhelmingly painful.

So Laura adopted a new cause: adoption advocate. She began forming ideas for what is now the Adoption Hope Foundation. Its mission is to provide grants to people who hope to build families through adoption.

The Adoption Hope Foundation is seeking non-profit status. It’s inaugurated a GoFundMe campaign, to cover start-up expenses and initial grants. The goal is to award the 1st funds by the end of the year.

“Adoption is a beautiful gift,” Laura says. “It is a life-altering experience that has allowed me to feel the deepest kind of love imaginable.”

That love extends from her daughter, out to the birth parents who selflessly placed her with Laura and John.

Now, Laura is paying it forward. She’s spreading that love — and the funds needed for it — as far as she can.

(For more information, or to support Laura’s work, click on the Adoption Hope Foundation’s GoFundMe site. To contact Laura directly, email loffredo.laura@gmail.com, or call 203-354-4971.)

Laura and John's daughter. Her outfit says "And baby makes 3."

Laura’s daughter. Her outfit says “baby makes 3.”

Broadway Stars Benefit Orphenians

Adam Kaplan has not forgotten his roots.

Adam Kaplan

Adam Kaplan

The 2008 Staples High School graduate scored some prime roles — Martin Delancey and a newsboy, plus understudy for lead Jack Kelly — in the popular Broadway show “Newsies.” But he has returned to Westport often, enjoying Staples Players productions and  visiting Greens Farms Elementary School music classes.

Now Kaplan is donating his talents to a fundraiser for the Orphenians, the elite high school singing group that helped boost his career. The a cappella musicians have been invited to San Francisco — the only East Coast group to participate in the famed Chanticleer National Youth Choral Festival, this March.

Kaplan has put together an all-star Broadway cast, for a benefit performance. Set to appear with him in the Staples auditorium on Monday, January 26: “Newsies” Tommy Bracco and Molly Jobe; Matt Shingledecker (“Wicked,” “West Side Story,” “Spring Awakening”); Steffanie Leigh (the final Mary of “Mary Poppins”); Robin de Jesús (current star of “Wicked”; 2-time Tony nominee for “In the Heights” and “La Cage aux Folles”); Barrett Wilbert Weed (“Heathers the Musical,” “Lysistrat Jones”) and Kara Lindsay (“Wicked,” “Newsies”).

Proceeds will help all Orphenians be able to make the trip. Click here to order tickets ($40 for adults, $20 for students and seniors). If you can’t attend but would like to contribute, click here.

The 2014-15 Orphenians

The 2014-15 Orphenians

Food For Thought: Who Sits Where In The School Cafeteria

Martin Luther King said that 11 a.m. Sunday was the most segregated hour of the American week. He was referring to the segregation of white and black churches, of course.

But 11 a.m. weekdays may be the most segregated hour in American schools. That’s lunchtime — and day after day, week after week, the same friends sit at the same tables.

In Westport, the separation is not racial or religious. But it is segregation by friend groups.

In nearly every cafeteria, the same groups sit together every day.

In nearly every cafeteria, the same groups sit together every day.

That self-segregation is the basis for this year’s TEAM Westport “Diversity Essay Contest.”

Open to all high school students attending any Westport high school, and Westporters who attend high school elsewhere — and carrying prizes of $1,000, $750 and $500 — the contest asks entrants to describe barriers that prevent students from reaching out to others different from themselves. They should then “identify specific steps you and other students in your high school” can take to help students break down those barriers — “especially in the cafeteria.” Entrants are also asked to discuss the “risks and benefits” of making that effort.

TEAM-Westport-logo2The contest follows last year’s very successful inaugural event. Students were asked to reflect on demographic changes in the US — describing the benefits and challenges of the changes for Westport generally, and him or her personally.

Applications for the contest are available here. The deadline is February 27. “06880” will highlight the winners.

(TEAM Westport is the town’s official committee on multiculturalism. The Westport Library co-sponsors the contest.)

A Christmas Gift At Saugatuck Church

Yesterday marked the 1st day back at Saugatuck Congregational Church, following a devastating fire more than 3 years ago.

The bells sounded wonderful. The feeling was warm and loving. And the 1st service — a Christmas pageant — couldn’t have started better: A beautiful harp piece, played by Staples junior Nicole Mathias.

Merry Christmasand welcome home!

If “Jingle Bell Rock” Makes You Want To Set Your Hair On Fire…

… and you seriously think about moving to North Korea every time you hear “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”: Help is at hand.

From now through Christmas, WWPT-FM is broadcasting 20 hours of Candlelight concerts. The newest is last week’s. The oldest stretches back 50 years.

To avoid “Hallelujah Chorus” overload, after every 3 Candlelights ‘PT runs this year’s Players/audio production broadcast of “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

A collage of Candlelight Concert album and CD covers. The 1964 and '66 concerts are in the top row, starting at left.

A collage of Candlelight Concert album and CD covers. The 1964 and ’66 concerts are in the top row, starting at left.

This is not the 1st time the Staples radio station has provided a holiday listening treasure. But new this year are the old 1964, ’65 and ’66 Candlelight Concerts.

Media production instructor Jim Honeycutt digitized, edited and exported Barbara Sherburne’s vinyl records of those 3 performances. There are 17 Candlelights in the rotation: The 3 from the ’60s, then 2001 through 2014.

WWPT-FM can be heard locally at 90.3 FM. But the livestream is available everywhere. Just click on www.wwptfm.com, then go to “Listen Live” and “Click here to access the district stream.”

If you want to actually see the 2014 Candlelight concert — and you’re a Cablevision customer in Westport — it’s on Channel 78 nightly at 7:30.

And here’s a gift for out-of-towners: “It’s A Wonderful Life” is now on YouTube, too. Just click below.

Happy holidays — from George Bailey, Jim Honeycutt, WWPT and Staples to you!

 

Caroling, Caroling…

The Candlelight Concert is over, but the holiday season continues for the Staples a cappella choir.

This week, Luke Rosenberg’s singers wandered the halls of the school, spreading good cheer and great vibes. Click below to listen!