Pic Of The Day #942

Old Mill Beach bench (Photo/Molly Alger)

Friday Flashback #168

In 1958 — prodded by a student named Christopher Lloyd* — Staples High School English teacher Craig Matheson directed “You Can’t Take it With You.”

Staples Players was born.

In the 61 years since, the drama troupe has earned national — even international — renown. (Their original production of “War and Pieces” was included in a United Nations traveling exhibit.)

But Players was not Staples’ first drama group.

For decades, individual classes put on plays. They were modest affairs.

In 1950 — the year after the juniors and sophomores joined together to put on “Our Town” — the 12th, 11th and 10th grade classes combined to produce “Blithe Spirit.” Led by legendary English instructor V. Louise Higgins, they called themselves the Masque and Wig Club.

The entire cast included 7 students.

Because Staples — then located on Riverside Avenue (the current Saugatuck Elementary School) — had no auditorium,  the play was staged at Bedford Junior High (today, Kings Highway Elementary).

Little is known about that early effort, or any that followed. But alert “06880” reader — and Staples grad/Players fan/producer Fred Cantor — dug up some photos.

Director V. Louise Higgins (foreground) and cast member Lucia Kimber.

The entire cast of “Blithe Spirit” (from left): Hope Collier, Jane Schmidt, Wendy Ayearst, Lee Moulton, Priscilla Planten, George Barton and Lucia Kimber.

The simple, 4-page program for “Blithe Spirit” notes:

By the time the present Sophomores are Seniors, if the club continues, they will be a reasonably well-trained group.

Perhaps even by that time the school will have some sort of drama department, for before any more real progress can be made, a speech teacher and proper facilities are needed.

Tonight, the curtain rises for Staples Players’ elaborate production of “Mamma Mia!” Choreography, acting, the pit, lighting, sets — all will be near Broadway-quality.

Thanks in part to the Masque and Wig Club, our high school indeed has “some sort of drama department.”

* Yes, that Christopher Lloyd

(Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

Half of the Masque and Wig Club program for “Blithe Spirit” …

… and the other part.

Single-Use Plastics Ban: It’s Now The Law

Alert “06880” reader and RTM member Andrew Colabella writes:

As we embark on the 6-month anniversary of the first single-use plastics ban east of the Mississippi, I extend a big thank you on behalf of my co-sponsors: P3, the Conservation Department and Westport Weston Health District.

Last May, the Representative Town Meeting passed an ordinance that prohibits food establishments from distributing certain plastic food service containers to customers. Food products produced and packaged off-site are exempt.

We lead 46 states, along with cities in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. It takes a village to clean a village, but it takes a town to lead the world. Our intent was to lead with perseverance, ease, and informative alternatives to make the transition smooth.

On November 7, the ordinance took effect in Westport. This means that single- use plastic items such as straws, stirrers, plates, cups, to-go containers, and all expanded polystyrene products such as Styrofoam cannot be distributed to patrons of food service establishments in town.

However, PLA (plant-based) containers are allowed.  In addition, plastic straws will still be available upon request to those who need them for a medical or physical reason.

New straws at Pink Sumo.

The ordinance tried to be realistic in its wording, taking into consideration whether acceptable alternative options for certain products are available. This is why utensils are not covered under this ordinance: There are no viable, cost-effective alternatives readily available.

Plastic utensils for take-out orders are available upon request. Plastic lids are also allowed.

The purpose of the ordinance is to collectively change our behavior, to steer us away from increasing our individual carbon footprint, reducing waste, and incentivizing new product development. This should also result in the added benefit to our food service establishments of reducing their garbage output, and extending the length they hold inventory of these products.

Establishments throughout town have already started switching over to more sustainable serving products. However, the Conservation Department — which is responsible for enforcement — has agreed that all establishments which still have an inventory of single use plastic products may be allowed to use and distribute them past the November 7 date.

It would be counterproductive to force establishments to throw out products that can still serve a purpose. Please be patient and respectful of these businesses, as we all work together.

Single-use plastic is everywhere. (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

The transition will take time. You may note that some newer products look and feel like plastic, but actually are not. This polylactic acid material is a plant/leaf –based product allowed under the ordinance. PLA is beneficial because, if it is incinerated along with other garbage generated in Westport, no toxic fumes are emitted.

PLA is not recyclable with other recyclable plastics, but it is compostable under the right conditions. Unlike plastic which is made from petroleum, PLAs contain no benzene or styrene, which are carcinogenic products, and are made from a renewable resource.

Out of 78 million metric tons of plastic produced yearly, only 14% is actually recycled. At one time China, India, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and other Asian countries purchased our plastic recyclables. They have now ended up in their tributaries, creating floating garbage islands around the world.

These countries no longer accept our recycled plastic products. Westport has always led the East Coast as an agent of change for advancing environmental protection, education, innovation, safety, and reducing waste fiscally and physically. This ordinance is one more example of that effort.

As we change the way we use these products provided by our businesses, which are often disposed of frivolously, we are committed as a town to reduce our waste.

We also expect private industry to introduce more environmentally friendly, harmless alternative packaging products. In the end, reducing usage, reducing demand and increasing inventory lifespan will reduce our waste.

 

Pic Of The Day #941

First Selectman Jim Marpe (right) and artist Mark Yurkiw, at at the PoP’TArt pop-up gallery , 1 Main Street. The current show — with plenty of provocative work — is called “Words Matter.”

“Persona” Of The Week: “Mamma Mia” Cast And Crew

Staples Players‘ “Mamma Mia” opens tomorrow. It’s another fantastic show, from the nationally known high school troupe.

If you’re like me, you go to Players’ musical every year and wonder, “Who are these kids? And how do they put on such an amazing show?”

Persona’s Rob Simmelkjaer went backstage to speak to some actors and crew members, as they get ready for opening night.

LoveSac: Popular Furniture Store Coming To Westport

Some engineering majors go into aerospace. Others design bridges, buildings, cars, medical devices or motherboards.

Jessie Schwartz creates beanbag chairs and couches.

Very, very cool ones.

That was not exactly her plan, of course. At Staples High School, the 2004 graduate was involved in many different activities: ski team captain, Players, Inklings newspaper.

She majored in physics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, then added a bachelor’s in engineering and master’s in engineering management, both from Dartmouth.

Schwartz spent 6 years with Accenture, doing strategy consulting. With Estee Lauder, she worked with a variety of brands.

After marriage, she wanted to cut down her brutal travel schedule. Schwartz and her husband bought a foreclosed house in Weston. She quit Accenture; they spent 3 months making the abandoned home livable.

When it was time to re-enter the workforce, she looked for project manager positions. She found LoveSac through LinkedIn. Now based in Stamford, it was launched in 1995 by Shawn D. Nelson, who hand-make beanbag chairs for fellow students at the University of Utah.

The company took off after patenting a modular furniture system called “sactionals” (ho ho). The pieces combine into couches — and, importantly, are very easy to ship.

Jessie Schwartz and friend, with LoveSac “sactionals.”

Most of LoveSac’s business is done that way. Customers learn about the chairs and sofas online, or in over 70 mall “showrooms.” Like Apple, LoveSac sells a lot of goods using a very small retail footprint.

Last year however, they opened a stand-alone location in the Flatiron district. A second store followed last month in Greenwich.

Opening tomorrow (Friday, November 15): LoveSac in Westport. They’re next door to Restoration Hardware, on the Post Road downtown.

Schwartz can’t speak to the why and how of the beanbag company coming to her hometown. She works on the product end.

However, she says, “I’m very excited. Now all my family and friends can see our brand, and understand why I love my job.”

(The grand opening is set for today through Sunday, November 17. Included in the festivities: a chance to win a free couch.)

Pic Of The Day #940

These boots are made for Woody Lane

Unsung Hero #123

Oops!

This one almost slipped by us.

Earlier this month, Nell Newman was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.

The ecologist, conservationist, biologist, organic farmer — and founder of Newman’s Own Organics, and the Nell Newman Foundation — joins a long list of amazing Nutmeg State women, including Helen Keller, Marian Anderson, Clair Boothe Luce, Ella Grasso and Katherine Hepburn.

Nell Newman

Her work in organic food was inspired by her youth in Westport. When she learned that her favorite bird — the peregrine falcon — was headed toward extinction because of the pesticide DDT, she began studying ecology.

In 2014 Nell received the prestigious Rachel Carson Award from The National Audubon Society, for her environmental leadership.

Westport is justly proud of Nell’s parents, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Both were active in a number of important causes, far beyond stage and screen.

We are proud now too that this Westport native is paying it forward. Congratulations, Nell, on your Hall of Fame honor!

(Hat tip: Kathie Motes Bennewitz)

Remembering Lou Dorsey

To generations of Westport students, Lou Dorsey was phys. ed.

The Saugatuck native, Staples High School graduate and longtime teacher died November 2, in Florida. He was 93 years old.

Dorsey was a member of Staples’ Class of 1943. He left school after the basketball season, to join the Navy. “It was more important to get in the war before it ended than to get my diploma,” he said in 2004.

Nine classmates (out of a graduation class of 100) also left school early, for the war. Dorsey received his diploma eventually, on leave, in a special ceremony with principal Douglas Young.

Dorsey served in the Pacific Theater, as a radioman third class. After his service he received his undergraduate degree at Arnold College (now the University of Bridgeport), and his master’s at Columbia University.

Lou Dorsey

He taught physical education for 33 years at Saugatuck and Burr Farms Elementary Schools, and Staples High School.

He was inspired to teach by his high school coaches, particularly Roland Wachob at Staples.

“Rollie would put me in charge of his 9th grade class when he’d go off on a baseball trip,” Dorsey said. “If you did that nowadays you’d get sued.”

Dorsey and his wife Pauline spent 60 summers in the western Maine mountains. They moved to Cocoa Beach, Florida 33 years ago, where Dorsey was an avid golfer.

He is survived by 4 children: Judith Dorsey and her husband Kenneth Gomberg; Kimberly Slimak and her husband Michael Slimak; Jiliane Dorsey and Louis Dorsey, Jr. and his youngest sister, Patricia Dorsey Wood, as well as 3 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held in Rangeley, Maine next summer. Click here to leave condolences.

Michael Friedman Enters The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

You saw them in a pop-up gallery on Church Lane.

You know the photographer: Michael Friedman. The Staples High School Class of 1961 graduate had a long career in music. He managed Todd Rundgren and Kris Kristofferson — as well as (with Albert Grossman) Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Band, Odetta, and Peter Paul & Mary. He did publicity for the Dave Clark 5 and Herman’s Hermits.

Nearly 3 years ago, he discovered an astonishing series of photos he’d taken almost 50 years earlier.

Mick Jagger (Photo copyright Michael Friedman)

The Stones. Janis Joplin. The Band. Johnny  Winter. Gordon Lightfoot. James Cotton. Ian and Sylvia. Rita Coolidge. Tom Rush. Professor Longhair. Paul Butterfield — all were artists Friedman worked with in the 1960s.

Friedman spent several months printing, restoring and mounting the photos. Each was up close, and personal.

Michael Friedman in the Church Lane pop-up gallery. His photo shows Levon Helm, legendary drummer for The Band.

After the Westport show, the photos headed to the California Heritage Museum in Los Angeles.

Now they’re in Cleveland — at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The exhibit includes the guitar that Janis Joplin played on “Me and Bobby McGee” in concert. Friedman’s photos of her with the instrument — which she used onstage only twice, and only for that song — are the only ones known.

Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” guitar, with his photo of her.

It took more than a year for the exhibit to come together. His wife Donna Vita provided invaluable help.

Now it’s up, and attracting great attention. After the ribbon-cutting, Friedman was interviewed live by chief curator Karen Herman, at the Hall.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame interview.

Friedman’s exhibit runs for 6 months. Yet when it ends, it’s not over.

His entire collection of over 100 images will be archived, in perpetuity.

Which makes sense. As Neil Young sings, “Hey hey, my my/Rock and roll can never die.”

(Click here to see many of the photos on exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.)