Category Archives: Arts

COVID-19 Roundup: Student Theater And Art; Medical Heroes; Baseball, Masks, More

The Westport Country Playhouse is dark. But it lights up on both Facebook and the Playhouse’s own YouTube channel on Friday, April 17 (7 p.m.).

It shines with Westport’s own Kelli O’Hara, and 10 randomly selected Fairfield County High School students. They’ll chat with the Broadway star, and perform musical theater selections.

Students can click here between tomorrow (Sunday, April 5, 10 a.m.) and Wednesday (April 8, 10 a.m.). Upload a video of yourself performing any musical theater song.

In addition to the 10 students chosen, 10 “understudies” will be selected to submit a question for Kelli to answer during the show.

“I’m a firm believer in the healing magic of the arts,” the Tony Award-winning (“The King and I”) actor says. Most recently, she earned a Tony nomination for “Kiss Me, Kate.”

All videos submitted will be featured in a compilation, released on Playhouse social media channels. For more information, email education@westportplayhouse.org.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)


First “06880” encouraged Westport students to do artwork while they’re home from school.

Now Friends of Westport Public Art Collections is doing the same. Here’s the hook: If your work is accepted by Friends, it will be featured in the public schools’ 2020-21 calendar.

Submissions can be new — or something already painted, drawn, photographed or digitally created. Click here for details.


Many people have seen this photo from Yale New Haven Health. Front line personnel are pleading with everyone to keep physical distance.

But you may not know that the nurse in the far left of the front row is Nick Kiedaisch. The 2012 Staples High School graduate — and varsity baseball star — is among the medical heroes. Let’s do all we can to make his and his colleagues’ jobs easier. (Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)


Lifelong Westporter Deborah Johnson is a well-known designer and decorator, with her own drapery business.

Over the years she has assembled plenty of extra fabric. Now she’s using it to make face masks. If you’d like to help, or know someone in great need, email wsptgirl@yahoo.com(Hat tip: Steve Crowley)


Speaking of masks: Yesterday’s Roundup story on Virginia Jaffe’s project raised immediate funds, delivered 4 sewing helpers — and brought a request from the director of STAR Lighting the Way. Today, Virginia and her crew are donating 80 masks for their staff. Well done!

Virginia Jaffe, in her workroom


It’s looking increasingly unlikely that the spring high school sports season will happen.

That’s devastating news to hundreds of Staples athletes — and hundreds of thousands more across the country.

Which brings up this local/national news: In a just-released preseason poll, the National High School Baseball Coaches Association ranked the Wreckers 31st, in the entire country.

They’re defending state champions. But they may never get their chance to defend their title.

They might also lose the opportunity to see how much further they’d climb in the rankings. Normally at this time of year, anticipation and excitement would be high.

Opening day was supposed to have been today.

Instead of “Play ball!” it’s “Keep away!”

So right now, guys, we’re sorry. Congratulations on being #31 in the nation will have to suffice. (Hat tip: Vince Kelly)


And finally, what’s Saturday without a dance party?

C’mon! It’s time to throw down. Nobody’s watching! And even if they are …

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 3 Gallery

Welcome back to “0*6*Art*Art*0.”

Every Saturday, we share readers’ artwork. Professional, amateur, old, young  — send us your painting, collage, sketch, photo, sculpture, chalkwork, cartoon, whatever.

The only rule is it must be inspired by, reflective of, or otherwise related to the times we’re going through. We’re all experiencing tons of emotions, and art is a wonderful way to express (and share) them. Email your submission to dwoog@optonline.net.

Here is today’s gallery.

PS: Keep the submissions coming. If yours is not posted yet, be patient. There will be more next Saturday. And, unfortunately, for some time to come.

Nell Waters Bernegger took this Winslow Park photo last summer. She calls it “the gateway to hope.”

Susan Joy Miller explains, “These are Tai chi moves I miss doing as we shelter in place. Fair Lady works her shuttle, hands moving like clouds, white crane spreads its wings, sweep the lotus with a kick, repulse the monkey and snake creeps down.”

“Monet Moment on the Saugatuck” (Tom Kretsch)

“Still Life with Sanitizer” (JoAnn Davidson, former Westport teacher, age 89)

“Social Isolation is Getting Old” (Beth DeVoll, who notes that the Kewpie Doll was created by Westport’s own Rose O’Neill in the early 1900s).

This represents Hugo Arber’s full house, and all the card games his family is playing. He’s a 3rd grader at Coleytown Elementary School — and today is his 9th birthday! 

“Anxiety” (Lawrence Gordon)

The Mannino kids’ chalk art message.

East 1st Street, New York City (Susan Thomsen)

Nina Bentley

“Is baking art?” asks Amy Saperstein. “Some meringues and Oreo chocolate chip cookies were made completely independently by Myla Saperstein, age 11, but eaten by all the Sapersteins.” The “06880” answer: This is GREAT art! 

Irene Mastriocovo says, “My yard is now my go-to for walks. I’m enjoying the little things in life, like the birth of spring. The budding plants and flowers bring hope.”

Special Staples “Seussical” Streams This Weekend

The coronavirus put an abrupt end to countless events. Many were months in the making.

But few came to a more crushing close than “Seussical: The Musical.”

Over 100 Staples Players cast and crew members prepared for the spring production since December. Just 2 days before opening night, Westport schools closed.

Sets, choreography, lighting, music — poof! It all vanished, into the infectious air.

Seussical” is fun …

Fortunately, Players videotaped the Tuesday night rehearsal show, performed before an audience of 100 parents.

Tomorrow (Saturday, April 4, 7 p.m.) and Sunday (April 5, 2 p.m.), Players will broadcast that now-historic recording.

Anyone who bought tickets to any of the scheduled performances will receive an email link on Saturday to the livestreams. Intermission features special video appearances by former Players, all now involved in the arts.

But — in typically creative Players fashion — you don’t have to have had a ticket to see this “Seussical.”

The organization set up a GoFundMe page. Though a few staff stipends are paid by the town, the rest of the award-winning program is funded almost entirely by ticket sales.

… for all ages. (Photos/Kerry Long)

They pay for lumber, paint, lighting equipment purchase and rental, costume construction and rental, props, set designers, sound equipment and microphone rental, pit musicians’ salaries, makeup, wigs — and much, much more.

An average show — though Players are far from “average” — costs well over $50,000 to produce.

That’s a lot of money. But it’s also an amazing educational experience for hundreds of Staples students. Plus of course, a wonderful treat for the community.

Players has been on solid financial ground for over 15 years. Because of sellout audiences and great support from Westporters, they consistently recouped the money they spent. They seldom ask much financially from the community.

Now — having lost the opportunity both to produce “Seussical,” and benefit financially from it — they’re asking for help.

The Players know: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

This weekend, we can smile along with them. How lucky we all are that the one performance happened.

(Want a special “Seussical” preview? Click here!)

In Historic Times, Documenting Family Histories

A few years ago, Jeri Johnson’s husband Ed was dying. She had one request: Could someone document his life story?

The Legacy Project could.

The brainchild of longtime Westporters Suzanne Sheridan and Rozanne Gates, it’s a chance to do something we always talk about but seldom find time for: document our lives, for our families and all who will follow.

Thanks to his wife’s determination — and the talents of Suzanne and Rozanne —  Ed told his life story. His children and grandchildren now have a fuller understanding of how he became the man he was.

Others can learn about him too. The book the Legacy Project USA created — “A Tale of Courage in Red, White, and Blue” — is now in the Weston Library.

Suzanne Sheridan and Rozanne Gates

For more than a decade, the Legacy Project has documented other local residents’ stories too, including Dick Pauker (businessman, sculptor and an original founder of the Westport Arts Center); Colleen Plantinga (mother of Prill Boyle, prominent member of the Westport Garden Club and Saugatuck Congregational Church), and Sally Sellars (whose husband Howard Lathrop designed the new Museum of Contemporary Art).

The Legacy Project offers many options. Life stories can be documented and preserved as audio or video recordings, photo albums or authored biographies.

As many people stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic now understand, many things we’ve always done in person can now be done by phone, or remotely. That’s true of Legacy Project USA interviews too.

In these self-isolating days, we’re finding time to go through those long-delayed projects. We’re also realizing that when life is precious, documenting our histories becomes more important than ever.

Suddenly, The Legacy Project is at the top of our to-do lists.

(For more information, click here or call 203-222-1441.)

Ari Edelson: Coming Out Of A 2-Week COVID Battle

By this point, nearly everyone in Westport knows someone who has suffered from COVID-19.

And by now, everyone should know that it does not strike only the elderly, or those with underlying health issues.

If you don’t believe that — or don’t think you know someone affected by the coronavirus — think again.

Ari Edelson is a 1994 graduate of Staples High School. After starring with Staples Players — including directing their groundbreaking production of “Falsettos” — and graduating from both Yale and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, he earned international fame as a producer and director in the US and Europe.

A few years ago, Ari Edelson was honored with a Westport Arts Center Horizon Award. (Photo/Emily Hamilton Laux)

On Sunday, Ari — who is in his mid-40s, and has been in excellent health — posted this on Facebook:

Hi, folks. Many of you have been amazing over the last 2 weeks as I dealt with being both home quarantined and put totally through the wringer with COVID-19. I just wanted to share my most heartfelt gratitude as I’m coming out the other side of it.

On March 15, I started having a minor elevated temp and cough, which then fully exploded into 8 days of delirious fevers of 103, coughs, and drenching sweats.

After a 2-week nightmarish battle, I have now been afebrile for 2 days, comfortable and gaining strength.

Julia Levy has been a superwoman through it all, not only taking care of me, but also somehow also keeping Eliot and Leo on their best behavior, coordinating care with my father (my forever medical hero), not to mention coming up with home school ideas for hundreds of thousands of other families through her work at Sparkler and Noggin.

Ari Edelson, Julia Levy and their son Eliot, in 2017.

She is truly phenomenal, as is the rest of my family. I am so thankful to the generous folks at Weill Cornell and Yale New Haven, who provided me and my family desperately appreciated guidance.

I am more than happy to answer questions for anyone, if my experience can be helpful. To one question I am getting already: Even though I went through New York State’s intake process to be tested on March 20, I was never able to get a test, and never even got the promised return phone call.

I cannot blame the state for it — they are more than overrun. But the failure of full national leadership to address this one fundamental issue and own up to it should give anyone pause about how you take care of a populace that you cannot even test.

If you cannot test, you cannot plan, and the data we are all seeing currently is faulty at its core. I will continue to be one of the likely hundreds of thousands of COVID cases that are unreported, an entire quadrant of data that may entirely shift understanding of the disease and our planning for it.

One other thing that we learned through this process was the importance of acquiring a pulse oximeter, a tiny little finger meter used to measure 02 circulation. With consistent use it kept us on top of this horrible virus as best we could, highlighting my luck in maintaining sufficient lung function and providing the light and sanity that kept us focused on convalescing and not taxing precious healthcare resources.

We were lucky that my O2 levels never went beneath the 92% threshold, but having the tools to monitor them made all the difference. If I can recommend anything to the many of you who have yet to have this virus hit your house, it is to say that knowledge is power, and science is to be heeded and trusted. Science is real.

And go get yourself a pulse oximeter to be safe.

And then — proving the coronavirus could not conquer his sense of humor — Ari posted this:

COVID-19 Roundup: Farmers’ Market Supports Vendors; Aid For Small Businesses; Videos, Art, And More

The Westport Farmers’ Market is between seasons. But they never stop helping their shoppers — or their farmers.

At a time when healthy, fresh food is especially important; when supermarket shopping carries risks, and purveyors — like all of us — have been rocked by COVID-19, the Farmers’ Market has a plan.

Just click here. Scroll down; click on a logo to select a vendor (there are 8: Calf & Clover Creamery, Seacoast Mushrooms, Wave Hill Breads, Farmers & Cooks, Two Guys from Woodbridge, Paul’s Custom Pet Food, Herbacious Catering and Ox Hollow Farm).

Place your order. Pay directly on their site, by Wednesday noon.  You’ll receive info about your scheduled pickup time by 8 a.m. Thursday. (Delivery is available too — but only in Westport.)

If you’re picking up, at the appropriate time head to the Winter Farmers’ Market site: Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens, 7 Sylvan Lane South. Your order will be bagged and waiting outside. Only the vendor and you will touch your bag.

Bring your own totes, if you’ve ordered several bags. “Bring your patience too,” the Farmers’ Market says. “We will figure this out together.”

Seems like the Farmers’ Market has already figured out most of it. Now all we have to do is order — and thank them, and their awesome farming partners.


Alert reader Marshall Kiev passes along a great summary of the relevant small business relief portion of the recently enacted CARES Act.

“This relief package should be an important  lifeline to many small businesses in Westport – coffee shops, butchers, hair salons, etc.,” he says. “Let’s get the word out to everyone. Many of these businesses are shut down, and owners may not be aware of the available funding.”

Click here to view — then forward far and wide!

Many shuttered Westport businesses can benefit from recent legislation. (Photo/Katherine Bruan)


I’ve written before about Cup of Sugar: the fantastic local group providing deliveries of food, medication and anything else for people in need. (Just click here, then click “Request a Delivery.”)

Nick Ribolla was ready to graduate this spring, from Columbia University. He’s finishing online, but wants to help his home town. He signed up with Cup of Sugar. Still, he is eager to do even more.

He has a lot to offer. He’s sharp, multi-talented, funny and fun. (He’s also got plenty of experience with kids, as a longtime camp counselor).

Nick can help youngsters via Zoom with humanities (“especially English and creative writing”), and Spanish. He’ll also help them manage their workloads. “Whatever I can do, I’ll do,” he says simply.

Call or text: 203-451-9453. And of course, say “gracias.”

Nick Ribolla


The Westport Police Department has put together some great videos. A variety of Westporters (see how many you know!) offer messages — “stay strong!” “keep your distance!” “keep buying local!” — via their Facebook page.

Just search on FB for “Westport Police Department.” Or click here for the latest (with a cameo by yours truly); click here for another, and click here for the first.


Once again, Dr. Scott Gottlieb appeared on a Sunday morning news show, direct from his Westport yard.

This morning, the former FDA commissioner told “Face the Nation” that coronavirus restrictions should remain in place ahead of a “difficult April,” and that the US might have “millions” of cases over the next few months.

Click here for the interview.


Coleytown Elementary School art teacher Deb Goldenberg is working with her colleagues around town to help every school share positive messages — through art, of course.

Students are drawing or making designs, then adding brief ideas like “Spread kindness and love.” They’re encouraged to experiment with patterns and fonts. Messages will be included with the school’s Morning News.


In today’s Persona interview, Jimmy Izzo discusses why shopping local is more important than ever. Click here for a clip, then download the app for the full Q&A.

Jimmy Izzo


And finally, if you’re missing a loved one — well, in a pandemic, just follow doctor’s orders.

PS: Sure, get up and dance. No one’s watching!

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 2 Gallery

Last week, “06880” debuted “0*6*Art*Art*0.”

Every Saturday, we’ll share readers’ artwork. Professional, amateur, old, young  — send us your painting, collage, sketch, photo, sculpture, chalkwork, cartoon, whatever.

The only rule is it must be inspired by, reflective of, or otherwise related to the times we’re going through. We’re all experiencing tons of emotions, and art is a wonderful way to express (and share) them. Email your submission to dwoog@optonline.net.

Here is today’s gallery.

Keep the submissions coming. If yours is not posted yet, be patient. There will be more next Saturday. And, unfortunately, for some time to come.

Joanie Landau’s “Hope” was inspired by Robert Indiana’s “Love.”

Brandon Malin’s medium is photography. The Staples High School senior’s drone shot of downtown Westport — empty at night, in the midst of the pandemic — is striking.

Untitled, Beth DeVoll

Artwork by Merri Mueller’s young Fillow Street neighbors Addie and Nora (ages 4 and 6)

“Compassion” (Miggs Burroughs)

Ellen Greenberg made “The Birds and the Bees” for a friend’s first baby shower (postponed now until after the birth). She dropped it in a sealed bag at her friend’s house. The expectant mom is a beekeeper. “I want her to remember their joy, and the love of all their friends during these challenging times,” Ellen says.

Amy Schneider’s collage expresses how she feels these days.

“Peaceful Valley” (Laura Loffredo, age 8)

“The Low Hum of Anxiety” (Jennifer Sabella)

“Comforting” (Lawrence Weisman)

Julie Van Norden painted this last year. “Prophetic about social distancing,” she says.

Emma Nordberg, age 15, took this photo during the first week of quarantine. “Despite the virus, it’s a beautiful spring,” she says.

COVID-19 Roundup: Great Landlords; CNN; Pet, Art, Food News; Devil’s Den Closed; More

Beth Schaefer leads off with some great news!

She owns Westport Yarns. Her shop is considered “non-essential” — though everyone could do with some soothing knitting these days — and she’s completely shut down. Not even curbside pickup.

Yesterday, her landlords — Edward and Joan Hyde — suspended her rent for April. They did the same for her shopping center neighbors Body Quest and Party Hardy.

If conditions don’t improve, the Hydes will consider doing the same for Beth in May.

“This could make all the difference whether I can survive or not,” Beth says gratefully. “It’s not a guarantee, but it puts me in a much better place.”

The Hydes are not Westport’s biggest or wealthiest landlords. Plenty of Westport commercial real estate is owned by large corporations.

But Edward and Joan Hyde made that first generous, community-minded gesture. Will others do the same, to help other businesses survive?

When they do, let me know. I’ll give them the shout-out they deserve.


First it was the New York Times. Then Fox News. Now CNN has reported on Westport’s state-leading 79 coronavirus cases.

The story mentions the now-infamous party that may have contributed to the spread of the disease. But it also includes cautionary quotes from Yale New Haven Health System’s chief quality officer Dr. Steven Choi — a Westport resident.

“There was no social irresponsibility with the party,” he says. “It could have been any party.”

The spread is now “past the point of contact tracing,” State Senator Will Haskell — a Staples High School graduate — adds. “The most productive thing people could do right now is not point fingers, but stay at home as much as possible.”

For the full story, click here.


Everyone loves healthcare professionals, and pets. But who can care for the latter, when the former is at work?

Town House for Dogs and Cats, that’s who. Owner Sandy Goldman offers free “daycare” for healthcare workers. Email sandylee@optonline.net, or call 203-227-3276.


In related pet news, Westport-based Connecticut Humane Society is hosting a Zoom webinar tomorrow (Thursday, March 26, 3 p.m.).

It’s a PetTalk (the animal version of a TedTalk) about busting pet boredom. Participants will learn how to keep pets’ minds and bodies active. Click here to sign up.

The Humane Society adds, “thankfully everyone here is doing fine. Most pets have been moved to foster homes. Our Fox Memorial Clinic in Newington is seeing veterinary emergencies by appointment.”


In addition to being a frequent “06880” commenter, Rich Stein runs a catering business. He writes now about the sudden, complete end of work for all caterers and private chefs. No more galas or gallery openings; no more private parties. Justlikethat, they’re gone. (As is business for the vendors — including local farmers and markets — they buy from.)

Rich says that he and other caterers — he mentions Dash of Salt, AMG Catering, Along Came Carol, along with his own What’s on the Menu Event Services — have posted very tasty menus on their websites and social media, for anyone who wants meals prepared and delivered (and frozen). They are always scrupulous about cleanliness and health.

Remember: Easter and Passover are coming. You may not have your traditional gathering — but you’ll still want to eat well.


Speaking of food, Brian Lewis is doing all he can to help his dedicated restaurant staff.

All takeout orders at OKO support a new meal train for the employees who are temporarily out of work. He’s providing full dinners for them and their families, twice a week.

“Every dollar from takeout orders that members of the community are so graciously placing supports this meal train,” Brian says. “Each dollar also helps me keep 9 people employed. and our doors open.”

Brian also plans to help feed first responders, and medical workers.

To help OKO help others, click here. For a list of all restaurants and markets offering curbside and takeout delivery, click here; then scroll down.


Speaking even more of food, Stew Leonard Jr. was on Fox News yesterday, talking about his family’s business.

Panic buying seems over, he says. They’ve adjusted to spikes, like selling 40,000 cans of tuna fish a week, up from the usual 10,000.

He also noted changes, like eliminating loose bagel bins and (aaargh!) all those free samples.

Oh, yeah: Stew’s is paying employees an extra $2 an hour now.

Click here for the full interview.

 


The Nature Conservancy has closed Devil’s Den. A “dramatic increase” in visitors — combined with their lack of social distancing, and “not heeding the town of Weston’s request to refrain from parking on roads which can block emergency access for our neighbors” — sparked the decision.


Bridgeport Rescue Mission offers food, shelter, clothing, addiction recovery services and education to a desperate population in Bridgeport — and does it 24/7/365, with no city, state or federal funding. A number of Westporters are deeply involved in the Mission’s work.

COVID-19 hits the low income, homeless and mentally ill populations hard. Meanwhile, both food donations and financial support is down. Packaged food or wellness kits with hand sanitizer, tissues, soap and cough drops can be dropped off at 1069 Connecticut Avenue, Bridgeport (Tuesdays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Click here to donate online, or mail to: BRM, PO Box 9057, Bridgeport, CT  06601.

 


Beechwood — Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito’s innovative, immersive arts salon series — offers intimate, personal encounters with music, paintings, sculpture, dance, the written word and more.

It’s the opposite of social distancing.

But you can’t keep Beechwood down.

From 6 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday in April, they’ll provide an hour of art, music, performances and special guests. And they’ll do it while connecting communities around the globe. Audiences don’t just tune in; they’ll interact too.

Each Wednesday has a theme. There are live performances, special guests, and excerpts from amazing performances over the past 9 years of salons.

Mark your calendars. Then click on facebook.com/beechwoodarts. For more infromation, click here.


And finally, a few wise words from Bill Withers:

Cynthia Gibb’s Triple Threat For Aspiring Actors, Writers, Dancers

As Westport teens and tweens settle down to life in a pandemic, they’re learning how to learn online.

Academics and extracurriculars are all done virtually now. But it’s one thing to learn math or history that way, or do your judo or piano lessons.

What about all those theater kids? When Mickey Rooney said “let’s put on a show!” he wasn’t talking to himself.

Cynthia Gibb rides to the rescue.

The 1981 Staples High School graduate sure has the credentials. She’s starred in “Search for Tomorrow” and “Fame”; played Karen Carpenter in her biopic; starred with Shirley Jones, Dick Van Dyke, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze and Burt Reynolds, and been on “Law and Order/SVU” and “Criminal Minds” too.

Cynthia Gibb earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Gypsy Rose Lee in “Gypsy,” with Bette Midler.

Cynthia worked with Oliver Stone, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins. Her credits include 13 features, 3 network series, 24 TV movies, countless TV pilots, commercials, voiceovers and print work.

A decade ago she returned to Westport, and opened Triple Threat Academy. It’s nurtured and inspired hundreds of young and adult actors, singers and dancers. Many have gone on to schools like Tisch and Carnegie Mellon, and careers on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Cynthia Gibb, at the “Fame” reunion in Italy.

When the coronavirus pandemic turned “Contagion” into reality, acting teacher Nick Sadler (“True Grit,” “Scent of a Woman”) brainstormed how to keep youngsters — so many of whose shows were canceled just days before opening night — engaged. It had to be more than a watching-and-waiting scene study class.

Cynthia had an idea: a pandemic monologue play.

Students could journal about their experiences during this crazy time, and craft a monologue. At the end of 6 weeks, it will be performed via Zoom. With Triple Threat’s help, actors might take the resulting play to a real stage or screen — even on tour — once people can congregate again.

Westport native Jamie Mann (right) and Josie Todd (middle), last summer in “Because of Winn Dixie” at the Goodspeed Opera House. The pair will perform together again — this time virtually — in Triple Threat Academy’s upcoming online plays. 
(Photo/Diane Sobolewski)

Cynthia’s “Monologue and Play Development Class” meets for 6 weeks, starting next week (high schoolers on Wednesdays, middle schoolers on Tuesdays, from 5 to 6 p.m.).

Monologues will be good, bad, fearful funny. (Remember, “A Chorus Line” started out as monologues too.) Enrollment already includes teenagers with extensive — even professional — experience.

“Art always reflects what is going on in life,” Cynthia says. “Just think about ‘Rent’ and the AIDS crisis. We now have an opportunity to find the light in dark times, the humanity behind the grim news, and the positivity to push forward — all through the powers of creativity, collaboration and storytelling.”

Meanwhile, Nick has organized a hybrid of traditional radio theater and today’s podcasts. (Remember when Americans huddled around the radio, listening to plays? Hey — we’re back huddling together.)

Nick Sadler (center) with Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Scent of a Woman,” starring Al Pacino. Sadler landed this supporting role shortly after graduating from Juilliard.

His “Virtual Play Series” will teach students how to stage a fast-paced play (or two). Each week the cast will meet via Zoom to read, rehearse and ultimately “release” the play to an online audience.

Students will take on multiple roles, challenging them to invent a variety of characters. It’s a collaborative effort — just like all great theater. (An adult version is in the works too.)

It runs for 7 Sundays, from 3 to 4 p.m. for high schoolers, and 5 to 6 p.m. for middle schoolers. The first session is this Sunday (March 29).

Meanwhile, the third part of Triple Threat — dance — heads online too. Kim Porio offers a class this Sunday (10:45 to 11:45 a.m.) for young actors and singers. It’s “Bring a Friend Day,” so even those not enrolled can try it out.

It all should be quite a show.

(For more information about Triple Threat Academy’s offerings, including registration, click here, email TripleThreatAcademyCT@gmail.com, search on Facebook, or follow @TripleThreatAcademy on Instagram.)

Remembering Richard Marek

Longtime Old Mill resident Richard Marek died yesterday of esophageal cancer. His wife, Dalma Heyn, children Alexander Marek and Elizabeth Marek Litt, and 4 grandchildren were by his side.

Richard Marek and Dalma Heyn (Photo/Pam Barkentin)

During his half-century in book publishing he published the final works of James Baldwin; The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris; the first 9 books of fellow Westporter Robert Ludlum, and many other bestsellers.

Marek began his publishing career at Macmillan, refurbishing its backlist, but soon moved to acquiring original titles and to another house, World Publishing. There he edited Ludlum’s first thriller, The Scarlatti Inheritance, which sold to Dell paperbacks for the highest price ever paid at the time for a first novel.

He was quickly hired as editor-in-chief of the Dial Press by publisher Helen Meyer. “I turned down The Scarlatti Inheritance when I first read it in manuscript,” she said, “but wound up paying $155,000 for the paperback rights. I figured I’d better hire its editor, too.”

At Dial Marek, working with his lifelong colleague editor, Joyce Engelson (“The hottest Platonic relationship in publishing,” a friend called it), published 4 bestsellers in 1974. Among them was James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk.

His relationship with Baldwin began disastrously. On Marek’s first day at Dial, Meyer told him that Baldwin had signed an unauthorized contract with a different publisher. It was Marek’s job, she said, to make sure that no Baldwin book would be published by any house but Dial.

Baldwin was living at his home in St. Paul de Vence, France. Marek wrote him every day for months. He never replied.

Marek was sent to track down the author in person, first in Paris where Baldwin never showed, and then to the Negresco Hotel in Nice, where he did — flanked by a lawyer, an agent and a lover.

“This nigger ain’t never goin’ to pick another bale of cotton on Helen Meyer’s plantation,” he announced. A drag-out fight ensued, and the two men fled to the hotel restaurant.

There, oiled by several bottles of wine, they became friends. At the end of the night Baldwin handed Marek some words scribbled on a napkin, guaranteeing him free passage from New York City on the day the Revolution took over. Meyer got her author back, and Marek and Baldwin remained friends the rest of their lives.

Impatient with the stodgy ways of publishing, Marek took chances. On receiving the first novel brought in by Joyce Engelson about 4 doctors going through their residencies at a mythical hospital called, as was the book, The House of God.

Marek’s sales manager at Dial said it was so bad, he’d have to give it away.

“Terrific idea!” Marek said, and did the unthinkable. He printed 10,000 copies with their jackets stamped so they couldn’t be returned, and gave them away to booksellers. In exchange, they had to agree to display the book in their front windows.

The industry was aghast. Marek was accused of trying to bankrupt Dial. But the promotion cost far less than a full-page ad in The New York Times, and people began to rave about the book. It sold to paperback and, while Marek promised not to try such a stunt again, the book has now sold over 2.5 million copies.

Marek was a novelist himself. His 1987 Works of Genius concerns the psychological takeover of his literary agent by a great (and narcissistic) modern writer. Readers suspected the writer character was based on Ludlum, but Marek denied any such association.

Marek was born on June 14, 1933. He married Margot Ravage in 1956, and had 2 children, Elizabeth and Alexander. Four years after the death of his wife in 1987, Marek married author Dalma Heyn. They maintained joint offices in their Westport home. Together they wrote How to Fall in Love: A Novel, which was published last year.

“Love is more important than anything else in this world,” Marek said shortly before he died. “If you’re lucky enough to have it — and write about it — you will have a happy life.”

(Hat tip: Pam Barkentin)