In the fall of 1946, Westport artist Stevan Dohanos invited 5 students from the 40-member Staples High School band — led by John Ohanian — to be models. Dohanos was creating a Saturday Evening Post cover, and needed musicians.
The quintet — Ed Capasse, Bob Nash, Evelyn Bennett, Steve Sefsik and Robert Barker — came to his studio. He paid them $30 each — over $400 today — to sit still for 30 minutes, as if playing their brass instruments. The cover ran on October 19, 1946.
In 2001, Staples Players director David Roth selected “The Music Man” as a mainstage production. His promotional poster was a takeoff on Dohanos’ iconic painting. Cast members Jonathan Adler, Trey Skinner, Samantha Marpe, Steven Fuertes and Hayden Moskowitz modeled.
This year, “The Music Man” returns. So does the poster. This time Julien Zeman, Tucker Ewing, Maggie Foley, Nick Rossi and Colin McKechnie sat for a photo. (You can see Jacob Leaf — who plays Harold Hill — in the sousaphone reflection.)
Now – in honor of the upcoming performances of “The Music Man” — Dohanos’ painting is back in a position of honor.
In 1946, the artist donated the original to the Westport schools. For decades it hung in the Staples band room. Later it could be seen in the principal’s office, then outside the first selectman’s office in Town Hall.
Now a treasured masterpiece of the Westport Public Art Collections Committee, in 2014 the organization raised funds to have the painting conserved and returned to full brilliance.
Yesterday, it was unveiled and hung in its new position of honor: the Staples auditorium lobby. On hand were Players co-directors Roth and Kerry Long; First Selectman Marpe (whose daughter posed for the 2001 poster), and principal James D’Amico.
“Music Man” audiences this weekend and next will enjoy the restored painting (along with the other posters). So will theatergoers for years to come.
But now anyone can enjoy the painting in their own home. Recently, Art Collections Committee members found a trove of prints that Ann Sheffer made for a fundraiser in the late 1980s.
They’re on sale again, as a fundraiser for 3 worthy organizations: Friends of Westport Public Art Collections, Collections, Staples Music Parents Association and the Westport Historical Society.
Sales take place at “Music Man” performances this weekend and next, as well as online. Just click here to own a piece of Westport (and musical) history.
(“The Music Man” performances are Friday and Saturday, November 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m., with 3 p.m. matinees on Sunday, November 13 and Saturday, November 19. Click here for tickets. They’re also available 30 minutes prior to the performance in the Staples High School lobby, as available.)
Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!