Category Archives: Arts

Roundup: Dancing At Bedford Square, New Novel, New Spa, More


Broadway is dark. But the catchy song “On Broadway” — you know, about neon lights — inspires Westport youngsters to keep their musical theater dreams alive.

Right here in Bedford Square.

The dance floor is concrete. The kids use store windows as mirrors.

But they’ve got a real-live Rockette — 15-year veteran Stevi Van Meter — as their dance instructor.

The Saturday morning classes are the brainchild of Laura Prendergast. The Theater Camp 4 Kids Broadway Academy owner vows to keep musical theater going, whatever it takes.

Bedford Square owner David Waldman donated the space.

When the weather gets cold, the kids will just bundle up and keep dancing. Hey — they’ve already got their face masks. Click below for the video!


Westporters know L.J. Peltrop as a server at Rye Ridge Deli.

He’s also a writer. His debut novel, “Waiting Face,” is a thriller involving addiction, mental health, and the fight to “belong.”

It launches this Tuesday (September 22) on Amazon.


There’s a new holistic business a few feet over the border.

Veda Healing Spa (596 Westport Avenue, Norwalk — just past Whole Foods) is a spa. Owner Harpreet Kaur was born and raised in Punjab, India and has 20 years’ experience as a licensed esthetician in Ayurvedic skin treatments, healing and wellness.


And finally … 50 years ago, Black Sabbath’s “Paranoia” offered not-very-uplifting songs about war, corruption and trauma. Happy half-century! (Hat tip: Mark Yurkiw)

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 26 Gallery

We’ve reached the mid-year point — the 26th week — of our “06880” art gallery.

A new theme is introduced this week: wildfires.

As has been the case since March, all submissions are welcome — in any medium. The only rule: It should be inspired by, relevant to, or somehow, in some way, connected to our current world. Student art of all ages is especially welcome.

Coronavirus, social justice, politics, or just the beauty around us — have at it! Email dwoog@optonline.net, to share your work with the world.

“Wildfires” acrylic painting (Amy Schneider)

Untitled lithograph (Ann Chernow)

“Jumping for Joy” (Lawrence Weisman)

“Refuge.” Artist Mary Pat Pino’s mixed media, acrylic and fabric was inspired by the beauty of her own backyard.

Brian Keane Scores Oliver Sacks

Just as Oliver Sacks was finishing his autobiography, he learned he had 6 months to live.

The world-renowned neurologist — and author of books like Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat — had terminal cancer. He invited Ric Burns to document his thoughts, and interview colleagues.

Paul Allen backed the film. “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life” is a story of discovery, fascination, incredible human compassion, quirky humor, heartbreak, and the wonders of being alive.

It debuted as a hit at Telluride, sold out the New York Film Festival, and will air on PBS’ “American Masters.” It opens September 23 via streaming, and in art house theaters.

The documentary’s soundtrack was composed and created by Brian Keane. The 1971 Staples High School graduate has composed the music for hundreds of films and television shows, produced over 100 albums, and earned Grammys, Emmys and Peabodys.

Brian Keane and Ric Burns, at work on “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life.”

Sacks was a complicated subject to compose music for. It was a challenge to find the best ways to make the film move viewers — and move the story along.

“Oliver was quirky, but very serious,” Keane says. “He was intellectual, but extremely compassionate. His patients were strange by outward appearance, but human beings trapped in a tunnel of their maladies, viewing a glimpse of light from a distance that Oliver was at work trying to connect for them.

“Oliver was deeply troubled himself, yet uniquely gifted. There is a deep sense of wonder, and fascination with life itself and with our existence, in this story. Oliver was asking ‘who are we?,’ yet this is also a story of a man who had 6 months to live.”

Sacks was also a classical pianist and music lover. At one point in the film Keane left him playing his own, slightly out-of-tune piano. Keane used the piano as Oliver’s voice, often with a live chamber orchestra for emotional intensity.

In the 1980s, Keane produced 4 records of Tibetan Bells with Henry Wolff and Nancy Hennings, and 1 with Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart.

He thought the bells’ strange, wavelike qualities would give a scientific-like feeling of a different mind, looking at different types of conditions. They too became part of the score.

Brian Keane

“We needed pioneering electronics to devise sounds of inside-the-brain scientific discovery as well,” Keane explains. He and longtime engineer Jeff Frez-Albrecht explored their electronic creation devices to form a palette of other-worldly custom electronic sounds for the film.

Oliver was a wild child of the ’60s, so Keane included some rock ‘n’ roll — much like he played as a guitarist in Charlie Karp’s Reunion Band.

Keane scored the main theme as a waltz, for a sense of quirkiness. The melody is simple, full of wonder. It’s accompanied by the Tibetan Bells, to give a deeper sense of cutting-edge discovery, and is supported by a chamber orchestra.

The other main theme was “compassionate,” Keane says. It opens with a single note, then widens the intervals to large leaps, amplifying the emotional empathy.

Elsewhere, he says, the score simply needed to connect what was being said or felt to a deeper meaning. That’s exemplified in the credit music: a simple piano figure with chamber orchestra, and bowed metal creating eerie sounds in “a heartbreakingly beautiful, wistfully ethereal and poignant way.”

Intrigued? Click here to listen to the score. Click below, for the official trailer.

Then mark your calendar for September 23, and the release of the fascinating (and musically compelling) “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life.”

 

Roundup: Woodstock, Teachers, Movies, Music, More


Last week, Peter Gambaccini saw that TCM was running the director’s cut of “Woodstock.”

Peter was there in the Catskills hills, 51 years ago this month. Now in his early 70s, he was not ready to sit through all those hours of music and more (particularly not Ten Years After).

But he tried to time it so that he’d tune in to see some of the Westporters he knew were there (though he never saw them “live”).

In a segment showing people sliding through the mud after a torrential rain, he suddenly spotted Bill Davidson. He was a Staples High School hockey star, and drummer with local bands.

In the movie, Bill had a line about what a “mess” the hillside was. Peter had not seen him in the movie before, so he guesses that was part of the expanded version.

Then — after a brief bit of other business — Pete Krieg and Peter Cannon came into view. Cannon flashed the peace sign at the camera.

They were so close in the footage to Davidson, Gambaccini assumed they’d all gone to Woodstock together.

Nope.

In a Facebook discussion about another musical topic on Facebook, Gambaccini asked Krieg about the weekend. He said:

“I’ve gotten close to Bill in the past 10 years, since he’s the head bartender at Aspetuck Club. It was just last year (50 years later) that we realized we were 20 yards/60 seconds apart on that road, at that moment, at Woodstock.”

Far out!


Phaedra Taft — science coach at Greens Farms and Long Lots Elementary Schools — has received the Connecticut Science Teachers Association award for “Excellence in Elementary Science Teaching 2020.” 

During her 12 years in the Westport schools, Taft has been a leader in the development and implementation of the elementary school science curriculum. She has also played an instrumental role in leading the District’s adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards

In other education news, 2 Westport teachers — Staples High School’s Suzanne Kammerman and Courtney Ruggiero of Bedford Middle School — were featured on a Channel 8 story about teaching 9/11 to today’s students. Click here to see.

Phaedra Taft


The Artists Collective of Westport is helping another arts group: the Remarkable Theater.

They’re collaborating on Thursday’s drive-in movie. “Best in Show” — a biting satire about dog shows — will be shown September 17 at 8 p.m. at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. The gate opens at 7.

Tickets are $50 per car. Click here to reserve.


Westport’s Suzuki Music School is beefing up its presence. New Visiting Artist courses have been added, with Grammy Award-winning instructors like percussionist Joe McCarthy, and subjects including the history of jazz, movie soundtrack composition amd contemporary fiddling.

Suzuki is also streaming more free public events, with jazz pianist Sumi Tonooka and cellist Matt Haimovitz and more. The popular children’s Pillow Concert series continues online, and the Connecticut Guitar Festival returns for a 4th year (virtually this time).

Suzuki’s season kicks off this Sunday (September 20) with a master class by Grammy-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich. Click here for tickets to that class; click here for an overview of events.


And finally … since we’re honoring Woodstock (above), here’s a “trip” down memory lane. In deference to Peter Gambaccini, it’s not Ten Years After. It’s Bert Sommer. He was accompanied at Woodstock by local resident Ira Stone. If you’ve never heard of them — or at least didn’t know they were at Woodstock — well, they never made it off the film’s cutting room floor. NOTE: The Woodstock recording is poor. I’ve also included a studio version (I’m not sure if it includes Ira).

 

 

All That Jazz: Wynton Marsalis Plays In Westport

Earlier this month, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz Alexa Tarantino Quartet performed at MoCA Westport.

The outdoor concert — properly socially distanced, of course — was sold out, and well received.

Turns out, it was just a warm-up act.

On October 2, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet with Wynton Marsalis comes to town. The world-renowned trumpeter and composer — the managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center — is the only artist to win classical and jazz Grammys in the same year. And he’s done it twice.

The Septet’s program — “The Sound of Democracy” — features new music, played in Connecticut for the first time.

Tickets are on sale now (click here). Proceeds support the museum, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Wynton Marsalis (Photo/Piper Ferguson)

9/11: A Lost Video, Found In A Pandemic

Alert “06880” reader Robin Gusick writes:

The anniversary of 9/11 always takes me back to when I lived in downtown New York, on 14th Street and Avenue A with my husband Dave and our 6-month old baby Sam.

Early that morning, a friend called and said, “you better put on the TV – now.” We watched in horror and disbelief the footage of the first plane hitting.

Sam Gusick with his young parents, Dave and Robin.

We had plans to take Sam to his first baby music class, and wondered whether to go or not. Since we presumed the plane crash to be a terrible accident, we put Sam in his stroller and walked outside.

On the way we saw people huddling around a Radio Shack with multiple TV sets in the windows, all showing the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center. We considered heading home, but figured we might as well go to the class as a distraction.

Ten minutes in, the teacher stopped playing her guitar and said, “I’m sorry, but it just seems wrong to sing when the world is falling apart. I just heard that a second plane hit. This is not an accident — it’s a terrorist attack.”

As we rushed out and hurried home with Sam back in his stroller, we saw massive smoke rising up from further downtown. People watched TVs in windows all along Union Square. They stood silently in shock, watching both towers fall.

Back in our apartment, we put Sam in his “exersaucer” and watched TV — and watched and watched, in horror. We saw smoke from our apartment windows, and smelled the most toxic smell imaginable.

It was particularly surreal to see this innocent 6-month old baby staring at the TV, and wonder what kind of world he would grow up in. We videotaped that moment on our bulky camcorder, knowing one day we would want to show Sam.

Fast forward 18 years to September 11, 2018. Sam is a senior at Staples High School (we moved to Westport when he was 2). I told him a bit of our story of that somber day, mentioning I had a videotape somewhere. He said, “Wow, I’d really like to see that.”

I was glad he was way too young to remember that awful day. I tried to explain to him that when you go through  something like 9/11, you forever see the world through a different lens.

Sam headed off to the University of Vermont the following fall. My first baby quickly found “his people” and his “happy place” in Burlington. He came home for spring break in March. The pandemic hit, and his time in Vermont came to a screeching halt. Sam said, “My generation really has not lived through anything major like this… well, except September 11th. But I have no memory of that.”

Sam Gusick (Photo/Kerry Long)

Sam’s last 2 months of school were at home with no friends, no campus, no Burlington. He was a good sport. He was happy to have Zoom calls, and movie nights with his college buddies. There were silver linings: family dinners that never fit into his busy Staples Players and Orphenians schedule, and decluttering and simplifying our home.

During one of those long pandemic days in March, sorting through mountains of old papers while watching “Tiger King” with Sam, I felt a small item mixed in with the papers: a videotape labeled “Sam — September 11th.” It was a pandemic miracle!

However, the miracle was trapped in what seemed like caveman technology. Plus every business was shutting down. I left that tape on my night table, though.  It took until today — September 11, 2020 — for me to research how to transfer that camcorder video to a watchable format.

And so, my 9/11 “gift” to Sam (who is back at UVM now) is this video, along with a message: Life can change in an instant.

It did on 9/11/01, and it did this past March. Keep being the resilient, positive man you have grown to be. Keep smiling like you did in that exersaucer on that very, very sad day.

Even if it’s under your mask. Click below for the 9/11 video.

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 25 Gallery

This week’s art gallery features a good mix of work by regulars and newcomers, and a nice balance of paintings and photos.

As always, all submissions are welcome — in any medium. The only rule: It should be inspired by, relevant to, or somehow, in some way, connected to our current world. Student art of all ages is especially welcome.

Coronavirus, social justice, politics, or just the beauty around us — have at it! Email dwoog@optonline.net, to share your work with the world.

Karen Weingarten’s grandchildren built these cars. She came up with the idea for the photo, and the title: “The Race is On.”

“Dining Out Is In” (Ellin Spadone)

“The Coast” (Amy Schneider)

“On Compo” (Artist MaryLou Roels says, “Don’t let things become bigger than they are.
It’s about perspective.”

“Romeo and Fenestra” acrylic (Eva Sladek, age 13)

“Burying Hill Beach” (Wendy Levy)

“On Point” (Lawrence Weisman)

“The First Day of School: Summer Shoes Left Behind (Liz Blasko)

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 24 Art Gallery

Happy Labor Day weekend!

That’s the theme of a few of this week’s art gallery submissions. As we enjoy this end-of-a-strange-summer holiday, we also celebrate the wonders of Westport.

As always, all submissions are welcome — in any medium. The only rule: It should be inspired by, relevant to, or somehow, in some way, connected to our current world. Student art of all ages is especially welcome.

Coronavirus, social justice, politics, or just the beauty around us — have at it! Email dwoog@optonline.net, to share your work with the world.

“Current Issues.” Photographer Rowene Weems — who took this shot at Assumption Cemetery on Kings Highway North — says, “Initially I was fascinated by the broken edges of the tree (there are so many these days. Lightning? Wind? Crazy!). Then, by the flag in the tree. Was the flag there first or after? Then I began to see it all more symbolically. There’s a lot going on in our world right now that feels pretty shattering.”

“Compo Cove During COVID” (Roseann Spengler)

“Happy Labor Day Weekend!” (Amy Schneider)

“A Natural Horse” (Karen Weingarten)

“Cottage in the Woods” (Lawrence Weisman)

“Burying Hill” (Lisa Seidenberg)

Dracula Highlights Library’s StoryFest

From F. Scott Fitzgerald and J.D. Salinger to John Hersey and Peter De Vries, then on to A.E. Hotchner and Jane Green, Westport has long been a writer’s town.

Back in the day, a special Rabbit Hill festival celebrated the works of local children’s author Robert Lawson.

In 2018, the Westport Library introduced a new community-wide literary event. Dedicated to every genre imaginable, it celebrated the written word, in all its forms.

Because of COVID, StoryFest 2020 will be virtual. From Sepetember 15-29, more than a dozen live and pre-recorded events will feature top authors and creators in fiction, comics and young adult literature.

Highlights include:

  • A live opening: “Stoker on Stoker,” featuring Dacre Stoker — best-selling author and great-grandson of Dracula’s own Bram Stoker (Tuesday, September 15, 7 p.m.), followed by “Beyond Stoker: Contemporary Visions of Vampires in Fiction” (8:30 p.m.).

  • Bestselling thriller writes Wendy Walker and L.C. Shaw share their latest books, “Don’t Look For Me” and “The Silent Conspiracy” (Wednesday, September 16, 7 p.m.).
  • A panel with speculative fiction writers Charlie Jane Anders, Sarah Galley, Stephen Graham Jones, Tochi Onyebuchi and Paul Tremblay, diving into “The World in the Mirror: How Genre Imagines the Present” (Wednesday, September 23, 7 p.m.).
  • Josh Malerman explores the terrifying world of “Bird Box” and its recent sequel “Malorie” (Thursday, September 24, 8 p.m.).

Also scheduled:

  • “Displays of Affection: How Love Stories Reflect the World” (Thursday, September 17, 7 p.m.).
  • “What the Dark Teaches Us” (Friday, September 18, 7 p.m.).
  • “How the Story Tells Itself: The Unexpected Narrative” (Monday, September 21, 7 p.m.)
  • “In Our Next Issue: Comics and the New Worlds in Their Pages” (Monday, September 21, 8:30 p.m.).
  • “Then and Now: How History Shapes Stories for the Present” (Tuesday, September 22, 7 p.m.).
  • “Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles” (Thursday, September 24, 7 p.m.)
  • “Valuing the Spectrum of Identities in YA” (Tuesday, September 29)
  • “Finding Bravery Through Books (Tuesday, September 29, 4 p.m.).

All events are free. Click here for full details; click on an individual session to register. An email link will be sent 48 hours before the event.

Roundup: School Calendar And Kudos, Fitness, Fishing, More


The start of school may look unfamiliar — including the calendar.

But when you look at the Westport School Student Art calendar, you’ll realize that some things never change. Fortunately.

Despite disruption, the Westport Public Art Collections has produced its 2020-21 calendar. As always, it features great K-12 student art

Calendars can be purchased online (click here) and at ASF Sports & Outdoors (1560 Post Road East).

As always, proceeds support the care and maintenance of the fabulous Westport Public Art Collections. Works hang in all public buildings and are placed in outdoor parks. The most recent addition: the “Rock, Paper, Scissors” sculpture donated by Staples graduates Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler, to be installed soon near the Westport Library.

The cover of the 2020-21 Westport Public Schools calendar was drawn by Sophia Sheng, Coleytown Elementary School 5th grader.


Speaker of back-to-school: Staples High School teachers Deirdre Flores and Sarah Stanley spotted this sign on Pumpkin Hill Road.

As they stopped to take a picture, the homeowner cheered them — and thanked them from her porch. It made their day — and made them proud of what they do, and where they do it.


Missing your fitness? Wondering how you’ll survive whatever’s ahead when the weather turns cooler? Thought about taking a fitness class, but uncertain about how they work?

Head downtown on Saturday, September 12.

The Westport Downtown Merchants Association sponsors its first Health and Fitness Expo. JoyRide, RowHouse, Pure Barre and Athleta will all stage live classes outdoors, on Main Street. All will include levels of fitness and ability. All will of course follow COVID-19 requirements.

Vendors will also present health and fitness concepts. Church Lane merchants may join in too.

For more information — including how your business can participate — email events1@westportdma.com.


As summer ends, a shout-out to Alec Udell. Son of Staples grad Jeff Udell, he was visiting his grandmother Judy and went fishing at Compo, on the jetty by the cannons.

Using very light tackle, he caught this 30-inch striped bass. After a photo op, Alec released it safely back into the water.


And finally … today in 1888, George Eastman patented the first roll-film camera, and registered the name “Kodak.”