Category Archives: Arts

Roundup: Maine, Save Cockenoe Now, Melissa Joan Hart, More


Who doesn’t love Maine?

Tom Kretsch sure does. The longtime Westport photographer has just published “Touching Maine.” The hard-cover book’s 93 pages of images and text capture the essence of that special state: its water, rocks, fog, islands, structures, dinghies and abstract impressions.

A signed copy is $50. For $100, you’ll get a signed copy plus one of the 8×10 prints shown below. Email tom@peacefulplacesphoto.com, or call 203-644-4518.


Lindsay Shurman is searching for a holiday gift for her husband. And she needs “06880” readers’ help.

She wants to give him Walter Einsel’s iconic “Save Cockenoe Now” poster (below). Back in the 1960s, it was everywhere — and played a role in the town’s purchase of the island off Compo Beach, saving it from becoming a nuclear power plant (!).

A few are still floating around. But The Flat sold the one they had. And Lindsay just lost a Westport Auction bidding war.

“Any idea where I may find an original?” she asks.

“Maybe someone is willing to part with it for a price. Or a donation made in their name to a favorite cause. I could even settle for a reproduction. I just need an original to scan.

“Any help would be so appreciated. I’m obsessed with this poster, and gifting it to my husband this holiday season!”

If you’ve got a lead, email lindsay.shurman@gmail.com. And sssshhhh …  don’t tell her husband!


Melissa Joan Hart has been very busy lately.

The Westport resident produced, directed and starred in 3 new Lifetime holiday films.

“Feliz NaviDAD” — yes, the name of the classic song by Westonite Jose Feliciano — premiered Saturday. “Dear Christmas,” with James Priestley, airs this Friday (November 27, 8 p.m.). “Once Upon a Main Street” follows on Sunday (November 27, 8 p.m.). (Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein, via Connecticut Post)

Jason Priestley and Melissa Joan Hart, in “Dear Christmas.”


Distance education isn’t new to Taylor Harrington. The 2015 Staples High School graduate works at Akimbo, a company that creates online learning experiences.

The pandemic — as awful as it is — has created opportunities. Taylor and her team saw a chance to help young people looking to grow.

They created The Emerging Leaders Program, a free, 5-day online workshop for people ages 16-25,looking to make a difference in the world .

The first 2 sessions were powerful. The next is set for January 4-8. Young leaders — or anyone knowing one — can click here for details. Applications close December 1.

Taylor Harrington


And finally … back in 1961, teenagers were doing (supposedly) the “Bristol Stomp.” Len Barry, lead singer of the Dovells — the band with that hit — died earlier this month, at 78. Four years later, he had another smash with “1-2-3.”

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 35 Gallery

Thanksgiving is (almost) here. Submissions to our Saturday art gallery are starting to include some familiar holiday themes. Keep ’em coming!

Each week, we welcome submissions from all artists. You don’t have to be a pro, or even experienced. We want it all!

Works should be inspired by, relevant to, or somehow, in some way, connected to our current lives. Student art of all ages is especially welcome.

Email dwoog@optonline.net, to share your work with the world. Then enjoy your turkey!

“With Thanks for All Our Memories” (Ellin Spadone)

“Emaskulation” (Miggs Burroughs took all these photos during a 20-minute walk in Parker Harding Plaza)

Untitled (DIane Lowman)

“Welcome” (Lawrence Weisman)

“Morning Sky at Saugatuck Elementary School” (Olivia Whee, age 7)

“We Are Family” (Karen Weingarten)

“Happy Thanksgiving” (Amy Schneider)

“Falling Leaves” (Judith Koffsky — a giant Japanese red maple on Compo Road South)

 

Drew Angus’ Snow Globe Christmas

As a 5-year-old in 1994, Drew Angus first heard Harry Connick Jr.’s “When My Heart Finds Christmas.”

The iconic album — and the longstanding tradition of family Christmas Eve parties in the Anguses’ Westport home — were important parts of his childhood.

Christmas is his favorite season. Christmas songs play a huge role. And — now that Angus is a professional musician — timeless music like Connick’s inspires him artistically.

For years, the 2007 Staples High School graduate wanted to provide others with the joy he felt. Now — with the release of “A Snow Globe Christmas” — he’s done exactly that.

A busy touring schedule and other commitments kept him out of the studio in past summers. That’s when holiday albums are recorded. Just as Santa’s elves work all year round, it takes months of recording, art, marketing, distribution and promotion to produce something that magically appears right now.

But this August — when the pandemic wiped out Angus’ gigs — he had the perfect opportunity to bring some cheer, via holiday tunes.

Work began in August. He and Black Rock Sound producer Mikhail Pivovarov picked songs, and started arranging.

“With Christmas music, you don’t reinvent the wheel,” Angus says. “You take songs that everyone knows, and make them your own.”

His 5-track EP includes chestnuts like “The Christmas Song” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” along with Elton John’s rocking “Step Into Christmas.”

Drew Angus

It was also important to Angus that he include new music. So — drawing on his love of Connick, Michael Bublé, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole — he wrote 2 original tracks.

One — “Snow Globe” — was composed with his friend Nicholas Wells, via Zoom. It’s a hopeful reminder to take a step back, and find some calm amid the holiday season mayhem.

“The season will look a little different this year,” Angus says. “Thanksgiving may be more quiet. The Christmas Eve party won’t be filled with the usual gathering of families.”

Still, he notes, “the cheer will never be lost. I hope ‘A Snow Globe Christmas’ brings families a little joy this holiday season — and for many years to come.”

Just as Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby — and of course Harry Connick Jr. — have done for  years, for Drew Angus.

(Click here to hear “A Snow Globe Christmas” on your favorite platform.)

Artists In Residences: Step Into My Studio …

Any ol’ place can have an artist in residence.

Leave it to the Westport Library to have “Artists in Residences.”

That’s the clever name for an equally clever project. COVID-19 has closed the library’s 3 rotating galleries — popular spaces that were booked nearly 2 years ahead.

So exhibit curator Carole Erger-Fass and artist/library supporter/creative guru Miggs Burroughs — whose “Artist to Artist” discussion series was also shelved — devised a new way to connect artists and art-loving patrons.

The Zoom series provides peeks into otherwise-hidden spaces: artists’ studios.

The first episode was with Nancy Moore. Her “Unconventional Women” exhibit was scheduled to be installed the day the library shut down in March.

Instead, Nancy invited a crew into her airy workplace. She shared her works in progress, showed off the tools of her trade and discussed the inspiration for her vibrantly patterned paintings that no one could now enjoy in person.

The series blossomed into a living document of the state of the arts — and artists — in Westport. Twenty-four episodes have already been recorded. More are in the works.

They feature sculptors, painters, photographers, and digital and collage artists. Some have experimented with new mediums. Others have had the luxury of time to delve deeper into their genres.

Some have been inspired anew by the pandemic. Others have been stymied.

All speak eloquently about their craft. Particularly moving are Westport legends like Ann Chernow, Leonard Everett Fisher, Roe Halper, Nina Bentley, Judith Katz and Niki Ketchman. Their age makes them vulnerable to the coronavirus — but they steam ahead creatively.

The most recent episode features Charles Joyner. His intricate, layered collages meld colors, patterns and symbols inspired by his growing up in rural North Carolina, and his extensive travels to Ghana.

So how is the longtime Carolinian a “Westport artist”?

In 1964, he came to Westport through an American Friends Service program that brought 35 Southern students to the North to promote integration. He lived with the Ader family.

After graduating from Staples High School he headed to Iowa State University on a football scholarship, transferred to North Carolina A&T, then earned a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

Joyner spent many years as a tenured professor in the North Carolina State University College of Art and Design. He is also an outstanding jazz drummer.

His interview with the “Artists in Residences” program is fascinating. Click below to see. Then click here for all interviews.

(Carole Erger-Fass talks about “Artists in Residences” on WPKN-FM 89.5 “Open Book” show, at noon on November 30.)

Roundup: Stores, Staples Players, Sustainable Westport, Sports, More


In yesterday’s story on a new movie shot in Westport, I casually mentioned that Barnes & Noble is moving.

I did not mention where.

Its new home will be the former Restoration Hardware (and before that, Fine Arts I and II theater). Looks like the bookstore-and-more will be downsizing — after enlarging from its first Westport location (the old Pier One, just east of its current Post Road site — soon to be the new Saugatuck Grain & Grape).

So what will replace the current Barnes & Noble?

Word on the street is it’s a grocery store — possibly Amazon Go.

That would be fascinating — and not just because Westport is ripe for advanced shopping technology.

The other reason: The previous tenant, before Barnes & Noble, was Waldbaum’s.

Changes coming soon


There’s not much wonderful about 2020. But “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a wonderful 1946 film. And this Sunday (November 22, 6 p.m.) it will be a wonderful radio show, courtesy of Staples Players.

Though the high school is closed, dozens of students — actors, the tech crew, sound effects people — have been working remotely.

Which is exactly how audiences around the globe will experience the old-time, very cool show on Sunday. They’ll gather around their radios — and devices — to enjoy a wonderful experience.

In true “show must go on” fashion, directors David Roth and Kerry Long are devising ways for actors to multi-task, and come up with sound effects on their own. At the same time, they’re solving complicated technical problems.

“As always, they’re rising to the occasion,” Long reports.

To join the (free!) livestream fun, click  on www.wwwptfm.org. Westport-area residents can tune in to WWPT, 90.3 FM.

Colin Konstanty rehearses his George Bailey role, in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” before Staples High School went to full remote learning. (Photo/Kerry Long)


Sustainable Westport Advisory Team — a town body — will become simply Sustainable Westport. The new non-profit organization becomes a partner with Earthplace.

The group — which educates Westport residents and businesses to become a Net Zero community by 2050 — will continue to work with town officials.

Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich and operations director Sara Harris will be “sustainability coordinators” (aka “liaisons”).

If you think Net Zero by 2050 is far off — it’s not. It’s just as near to us as 1990.


COVID knocked out last spring’s high school sports season. Fall athletes played modified schedules. Now the virus has taken a toll on winter sports.

This morning, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference postponed the start date for tryouts and conditioning to January 19. Hundreds of  Staples students had been slated to start basketball, gymnastics, ice hockey, indoor track, skiing, squash, swimming, wrestling and cheerleading around Thanksgiving.

Earlier this month, the state issued new rules for youth sports — those run by outside (non-high school) organizations.

High-risk sports — wrestling, tackle football, boys lacrosse, competitive cheer, dance, boxing, rugby and martial arts — were halted through the end of the calendar year.

Participants in medium-risk sports like basketball, gymnastics and ice — hockey — are required to wear face coverings.

In addition, youth teams can no longer travel out of state. Regional tournaments and competitions in high- or medium-risk sports cannot be hosted in Connecticut. Venues were urged to limit spectators, and devise contact tracing protocols for players and fans.

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And finally … did you know this is International Drum Month?

Roundup: Open House, Fundraising, Food, More


There will be far fewer open houses this holiday season.

But MoCA Westport has plenty of space. They’re doing theirs early in December — nearly 3 weeks before Christmas. And they’re taking every COVID precaution they can.

MoCA’s Holiday Open House is set for Saturday, December 5 (12 to 5 p.m.). The event includes caroling by (small groups of) Staples Orphenians. They too will perform far less often than usual this year, so catch ’em while you can.

There’s free hot chocolate and doughnuts, plus food to purchase from the Melt Truck and Bubble & Brew.

Visitors can also enjoy the “World Peace” exhibit. Entry is timed, and limited to small groups.

The Westport School of Music — now housed on the 2nd floor will offer timed, small-group tours of its new space. Musicians will perform too, on the Steinway piano in the MoCA gallery.

The open house is run in conjunction with the Westport Police Department’s annual toy drive. Attendees can bring an unwrapped toy (or more) to add to the box.


The fate of the Staples High School wrestling team’s winter season is uncertain. But — COVID or no — the squad is fundraising for any eventuality, this year or next.

They’ve teamed up with BD Provisions in Fairfield’s Brick Walk, to sell bags of coffee. It’s roasted personally — and wonderfully — by owner (and Westporter) Tara DiPippa.

Coffees include Midnight Joe, Toasted Coconut, Organic Ethiopia and Colombian Decaf. For more information and to order, email FraasL@yahoo.com.

Tara DiPippa roasting BD Provisions coffee.


Neighborhood Studios — the fantastic after-school, weekend and summer music and arts programs serving 1,600 Bridgeport students a year — is raising much-needed funds with a virtual concert.

And plenty of Westporters are involved.

The event — “Great Songs for Hard Times” — kicks off this Friday (November 20, 8 p.m.). Performers include many familiar names: Rob Morton (aka Rob Schlossberg), Lorraine Watkins, Lynn Flaster, Lori Brasher, and Laurie and Jeffrey Gross.

Click here for tickets, or to make a donation.


Here’s a food drive. It’s for the Open Doors Foundation, a non-profit providing academic, athletic and enrichment programs for low-income students in Fairfield County and the Caribbean.

Non-perishable items can be dropped off at the Body Pulse Fitness Center (10 Bay Street, Westport). Monetary donations are great too; click here to help.

The Open Doors Foundation educates, enlightens and empowers.


And finally … one year ago today, the first known case of COVID-19 was traced to a 55-year-old man. He had visited a market in Wuhan, China.

“5 Weeks In Westport”: New Film From A Different Age

The past 8 months have felt like 8 millennia.

But here’s something to look forward to: “Five Weeks in Westport.”

That’s the title of a new romcom/drama/mystery narrative feature film. Shirlee Hauser and her husband Howard Friedman wrote and filmed it — predominantly in Westport — over a 3-year period.

It just screened at the Mystic Film Festival. This week it premieres at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, in that city and Hollywood. (Hollywood, Florida, that is.)

And it was all done with a budget under $5,000.

Shirlee and Howard’s Westport roots are deep. They moved here in 1995 with their young son Josh.

After Howard retired from advertising — he created and directed TV commercials — he felt bored. With a small $700 camera bought on Craigslist, he filmed short pieces around town — things he felt beautiful or touching.

One was the YouTube classic, “The High Tide Club.”

That was not his first film. In the mid-1970s Howard had written and directed a small independent project, “Sweet Talk.” It won him a Best New Director awrd, and found its way onto cable TV.

But that was it — until “Five Weeks in Westport.”

The plot: When mysterious international film director Ross Griffin arrives in Westport to stage a play based on real events, the lives of retired New York actors Mary Evans and her husband Gus Jacobs — along with close friends Grace and Murray — are upended. Revelations from the past unfold.

The cast includes Westporter Leigh Katz, who had extensive stage experience; Westport Community Theater favorite David Victor; Fairfield’s Kitty Robertson, a veteran of film and TV (and Gault spokesperson); soap/film/TV actor Will Jeffries; Peter Wood, who is leading man-attractive and provided a needed motorcycle, plus up-and-comers Sunny Makwana, Chris Finch, Erin Shaughnessy and Nancy Sinacori.

Shirlee and Howard co-directed. Their son Josh came from Massachusetts to do sound and hold the boom. Staples High School junior Sydney Winthrop helped too.

The directors’ home doubled as 2 separate houses. Jessica Bram’s living room was used for a scene requiring a baby grand piano.

The first exterior shot took place on a hot summer morning outside of Oscar’s Delicatessen. Owner Lee Papageorge gave permission, adding he’d be sorry to miss it. Shirlee and Howard had no idea that within a week, Lee would die of lung cancer.

Three other restaurants in the film have since closed or changed hands too: Tavern on Main, Christie’s Country Store, and Joey’s by the Shore.

Scenes were also filmed at Barnes & Noble (soon to move), Pane e Bene, Compo and Burying Hill Beaches, Westport Community Theater and the downtown Fine Arts Festival.

Scenes from “Five Weeks in Westport.”

The process was helped by advice from Marshall Brickman, who co-wrote and/or directed films like “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan” and “Sleeper, and helped create “Jersey Boys” on Broadway.

When Shirlee and Howard learned that post-production would cost $40,000, they decided to do it themselves. He took on the arduous task of sound mixing and color correction.

The couple’s first look at the final product came at the Mystic Festival. “It played looked and sounded just fine,” Shirlee reports.

The audience reacted just right too — laughing and falling silent appropriately — and finished with a burst of applause.

The Mystic and Fort Lauderdale film festivals are among the few that, during COVID, have in-theater showings (with masks, and audiences capped at 50% capacity). They also make their films available virtually.

Howard Friedman and Shirlee Hauser.

“We don’t anticipate winning any Academy Awards,” Shirlee says. “But the entire experience has made us both very grateful.”

They feel gratitude toward their cast; for “living in such a generous town that allowed us, without hesitation, to film where we wanted,” and for the visually lovely scenes they captured.

As the pandemic rages, “Five Weeks in Westport” is also a bit of a time capsule: a reminder of a town that existed just a couple of years ago.

Or — as it feels now — once upon a time.

For a “virtual screening” via the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, click here. It’s available through November 22. Click below for a sample reel (top) and the trailer (below).

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 34 Gallery

Despite tons of distractions — rampaging COVID, an election that feels like it has not yet ended, the 15th straight week of foul weather — our “06880” artists came through.

We’ve got a few more submissions for this week’s gallery. This week’s theme seems to be “nature.”

Naturally, all are imipressive.

Each week, we welcome submissions from all artists. You don’t have to be a pro, or even experience. We want it all!

Works should be inspired by, relevant to, or somehow, in some way, connected to our current lives. Student art of all ages is especially welcome.

Email dwoog@optonline.net, to share your work with the world.

“A New Dawn” (Ellin Spadone)

“Leaf Print #4” (Amy Schneider)

“When It’s Too Cold to Swim in the Sound” (Lawrence Weisman)

“Compo Beach Sunset” (Roseann Spengler)

Pics Of The Day #1304

“06880” photographer J.C. Martin cruised around town yesterday. Here’s what he saw:

Flags on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge

“Tunnel Vision,” in the walkway between Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza

Sorelle Art Gallery, Bedford Square

Anthropologie prepares for the holidays (All photos/J.C. Martin)

Roundup: COVID, Outpost Pizza, New Cop, More


Here’s one way to look at Westport’s COVID numbers: Since March, we’ve had 516 cases (483 confirmed and 33 probable).

Here’s another: With a population of 26,213, 1.97% — nearly 2% — of the entire town has been infected. (Hat tip: Peter Gold)


Outpost Pizza — an outpost of the Stamford spot — opens Monday. It’s in the mini-shopping plaza with Coffee An’, across from the new Hudson Malone restaurant (most recently, 323). The space was formerly a dry cleaner.

Need a job, as well as a pie? Outpost is looking for cooks, prep workers, cashiers and drivers. Call 203-323-7678. (Hat tip: Jerri Graham)

(Photo/Jerri Graham)


The Westport Police Department has sworn in a new officer: Dominique Carr.

The Hartford native earned a BS in justice and law administration at Western Connecticut State University, where he also played football. He comes to Westport from the Windsor Police Department.

Welcome to Westport, Officer Carr!

Officer Dominique Carr


If you missed “Pride and Prejudice” — Staples Players’ 2nd radio play of the fall — you’ve get another chance this Sunday (November 15, 6 p.m.).

It will be re-streamed by the high school radio station, WWPT. Click here for the link. NOTE: It’s available on the website only — not on the radio dial itself.

Seniors Sophie Rossman and David Corro rehearse “Pride and Prejudice.” (Photo/Kerry Long)


Speaking of teenagers and the arts: High school students throughout Fairfield County are invited to apply for the just-announced Westport Country Playhouse Youth Council.

Meeting 6 times a year (virtually, to start), members will learn about the workings of a professional theater. They’ll also contribute creative solutions for how the Playhouse can broaden its appeal to a more diverse community.

Youth Council members will also participate in a speaker series, attend Board of Trustees meetings, create an event, and have behind-the-scenes access to the Playhouse.

The application deadline is November 20. Click here for more information.


The Leonard Schine Preserve got a spruce-up last weekend. And we can thank a bunch of SLOBs.

The group — okay, they’re actually Staples High School’s Service League of Boys — worked with Meg Armstrong and Barry Guiduli at the Natural Playground, a hidden children’s gem off Weston Road.

(From left): Nick Seitz, Ben Berkley, Bruno Guiduli, Gabe Maiolo at the Leonard Schine Preserve.


I don’t spend a lot of time at Sherwood Island. (I know. My bad.)

But Chris Swan does. The other day, he sent photos of what seemed to me like a strange sight.

But, Chris says, horses (and riders) are a regular occurrence at Connecticut’s first state park.

(Photos/Chris Swan)


And finally … today is a day to honor our veterans. As Billy Ray Cyrus sings, some gave all. And all gave some.