Category Archives: Arts

Max Rudin’s Truly Dead Rock

Growing up in Westport, Max Rudin was fortunate to have excellent teachers. Some sparked his interest in science. Others taught him to write.

Their work paid off. Max recently published his first book. “A Truly Dead Rock (The Solar System Century)” imagines life 82 years from now, when the moon has been colonized — and residents want to become independent.

Writing a book is a fantastic achievement. That’s especially true for Max.

He’s only a sophomore in high school.

Max Rudin

He credits Coleytown Elementary School teacher Edward Wolf and Coleytown Middle School’s Keenen Grace for encouraging his passion. At CMS, Max was part of the Science Olympiad team.

Last year, as a Staples High School freshman, English instructor Heather Colletti-Houde taught him how to delve into texts. “So I didn’t just write a story,” he explains. “I really delved into the theme.”

Max began writing around Christmastime 2018. It took him nearly a year — and 7 drafts — before he finished. He published via Amazon on Thanksgiving.

His research included arcane topics like lunar geography. “I had to plan a realistic route they would take, from the moon’s north pole to south pole,” Max explains. He also had to study nuclear fusion.

As for the writing process, Max says he learned about “putting myself in the minds of my characters. I had to see myself on the moon, and how I’d venture across it.”

He’s marketed his book via his YouTube channel — another outlet for Max’s science interests. “Gravity Max” began when he was 10. Every week, he and his friend Sebastian Malino share their love of astronomy, astrophysics, math and sci-fi.

Feedback to “A Truly Dead Rock” has been good, Max says. Readers appreciate both the hard science, and the plot that is “grounded in reality.”

Max — who is now a sophomore at Pineview in Sarasota, Florida, where his parents moved — is already working on a sequel.

Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke: Move over!

(To order “A Truly Dead Rock,” click here.)

Regan’s Good Westport Poetry

Regan Good never expected to work at Bridgewater.

Her father was noted civil rights journalist Paul Good. Her mother Ruth was a poet. A graduate of Barnard and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop — and before that, a Staples Players actor and Orphenians singer, in the high school’s class of 1985 — Regan was always passionate about words.

After “the starving years” as a freelance writer, editor and fact-checker — plus a stint in publishing at St. Martin’s Press — Regan joined a Manhattan hedge fund. They were hiring artists, to “flesh out their culture.” She worked in recruitment.

That led to Bridgewater.

Regan Good

She calls her experience “a Randian nightmare.” She made $750 a day — “which a poet can’t pass up” — but, she says, “I can’t even tell you what I did there.”

Regan lasted a year and a half, at the largest hedge fund in the world

But living in Brooklyn, and commuting back to her home town, sparked a new appreciation of Westport for Regan. She sat in her office at Nyala Farm, looked across the former dairy meadow, and saw the house where her father once lived.

“My mind went back, mourning for the ’70s,” she says.

Regan has not lived in Westport for 25 years. She seldom returns now. But she still feels connected. She still considers it “my town. It’s where I came to consciousness. It’s where I began to think thoughts. It’s a place with primordial feelings for me — the physical and intellectual place I grew up in.”

As her mind flashed back to places like the flooded marsh on Old Road, where she skated in winter — and as she thought about her father, mother and brother, all of whom have died — Regan wrote poetry.

Now they’ve been published. “The Needle” is a collection of Regan’s work. There are poems about Brooklyn, Maine and Iowa.

But Regan keeps coming back — literally and figuratively — to Westport.

She writes about the Saugatuck River, Nyala, making jelly, and worms and wasps. She writes about Bridgewater. One poem is dedicated to her childhood friend, Paige Griglun.

Nyala Farm holds special meaning for Regan Good. (Photo/David Squires)

You don’t have to be from Westport (or Brooklyn, Maine or Iowa) to be moved by Regan’s work. Her poems are vivid, accessible and universal.

But, at the core of many, is the town where Regan grew up, and which nurtured her sense of self and the world.

“My mind keeps going there,” she says. “I just follow it.”

Some of her favorite poems include “To the Saugatuck River and Its Source at Sugar Hollow,” “The Dairy Still Stands,” and “Reverse Commute Through Grand Central: All Doors Open at Westport, Connecticut.”

The Saugatuck River looms large in Regan Good’s life. (Photo/John Kantor)

Her poems have drawn great praise. Poet Tom Thompson says:

“The Needle” comes barreling out of time in an utterly original and necessary way. The poems inhabit a landscape that is recognizably our own but at the same time ancient, burning with celestial fire and hunger. intoxicating and grounded in the stuff of the earth, with echoes of Stevens and Yeats, “The Needle” is extraordinary.

Of course, a poet — even one who worked at Bridgewater — cannot subsist on poetry alone.

Regan teaches writing at Barnard, Pratt and the Fashion Institute of Technology.

And she’s just finished a memoir about Westport.

It’s called “The Good Family.” Get it?

Regan Good truly does have a way with words.

(To order a copy of “The Needle,” click here.)

Pic Of The Day #1008

In front of a Post Road West art gallery: a banana duct-taped to a utility pole. Art? Or a snack “hidden” by a hungry runner? Something else? (Photo/Kirsten Woods)

Photo Challenge #264

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: “06880” readers are good.

I was sure that last week’s Photo Challenge would stump almost everyone. Susan Ross’ image showed a flip-flop, tea cup, cameo jewelry, and random other, less identifiable objects. (Click here for the photo.)

It was colorful. But how could anyone identify it?

Almost immediately, Seth Schachter did.

He was followed, rapid-fire, by Jennifer Kobetitsch, Betsy Kahn, Sarah Halevi, India Penney, Julie McMahon, Tina Green, Luke Garvey, Michelle Vitulich, Leslie Petersen, Polly Temple, Darcy Sledge and J. Seideman.

All nailed it: The mosaic surrounding one of the parking garages behind the houses on Old Mill Beach. It’s just to the left of the first footbridge heading to Compo Cove.

I know the bridges and walking paths between Sherwood Mill Pond and Long Island Sound are a popular — if hidden — Westport gem.

But the parking garages are off to the side, little noticed, even obscure. And the mosaic is at the end of the lot. Most people’s attention is focused on the water.

At least, that’s what I thought.

Congratulations to our eagle-eyed readers. A special shout-out to Betsy Kahn — a gifted photographer herself — who added this information about the artist, Claudia Schattman:

“She is one of the coolest artists in town. And people can hire her for special mosaics, pottery and photography. She does installations with all mediums and sizes.”

This week’s Photo Challenge is far less colorful. Will it be as easy? If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Mark Mathias)

Sing Your (A Cappella) Songs!

In 2016, Danielle Merlis created Westport’s first cello camp.

Danielle Merlis

The award-winning musician — who was initially inspired at Long Lots Elementary School, earned first chair honors in the Staples High orchestra, and went on to perform with Chris Brubeck and the Eagles, at venues like Lincoln Center — wanted to give back to the community that gave her so much.

It was an instant success.

Three years ago, she added a summer a cappella camp. It includes vocal technique, beatboxing, ensemble skills and choreography.

Now there’s a winter and spring workshop too.

Starting February 2 and running through April 26 at the United Methodist Church, the camp — for students in grades 4 to 12 — will help them “shake off daily school stress and experience the joy of singing with friends,” Merlis says.

Each week will include a cappella ensemble coaching, beat-boxing masterclasses, vocal improvisation, solo technique and choreography. It ends with a final concert for friends and family.

Typical performances include A-ha’s “Take on Me,” Pentatonix’s “Take Me Home,” “Kendrick/Timberlake’s “True Colors” and One Republic’s “I Did.”

All vocal skill levels and ranges are welcome. Merlis believe that singing should be fun, so she promotes a “supportive, positive, non-competitive” atmosphere.

Sounds good to me!

(For more information on Camp A Cappella, click here.)

Youth Concert Brings China To Westport

Years ago, the Westport Youth Concert began as an opportunity to enrich students’ cultural awareness, through music.

As the school district’s emphasis on global understanding has grown, so has the Youth Concert. It’s evolved into a cross-cultural, collaborative event involving not only music, but Westport Public Schools’ visual arts and world language departments.

Outside organizations like the Westport Library, Westport Public Art Collections and PTA Cultural Arts have signed on as community partners.

A scene from last year’s Youth Concert.

This year’s event exemplifies the music department’s mission. “Music of China” features Staples High School musicians, the award-winning Middle School Percussion Ensemble, and guest artists from the New York Chinese Cultural Center. They’ll perform a lion dance and musical piece using a pipa, guzheng and erhu — with mini-lessons about each instrument.

The feature performance is Tuesday, February 4 (7 p.m., Staples auditorium). On that day, and February 6, in-school educational concerts for 3rd through 6th graders will complement the public concert.

It’s a huge undertaking. Youth Concert planning begins at the start of the school year. Coordinator Candi Innaco creates a classroom guide. It introduces the theme, and includes links to resources and classroom instruction.

Leading up to the event, teachers at Greens Farms, Long Lots and Saugatuck Elementary School had students design China-related art: hanging lanterns, wish kites, brush paintings, Ming Dynasty vases and the like.

Westport student art: Ming Dynasty vases.

All elementary music instructors are teaching the tune and lyrics to “Jasmine Flower.” At the concert, students will sing it from the audience — led by Staples’ Orphenians.

Staples’ world language department is involved too. Mandarin students will emcee the concert, and photos taken by teacher Chris Fray on his recent visit to China will be shown.

WestPAC, meanwhile, is displaying art and photography from China at their traveling pop-up galleries, at every school.

In March, the Westport Library will bring the same guest artists from the New York China Cultural Center, to perform again.

China lion dance, performed by members of the New York Chinese Cultural Center.

The public is invited to the free February 4 evening performance. For more information about this event and the Westport music program, click here.

3 Million Records — In Westport?

A few days ago, the New York Times ran a story about the Archive of Contemporary Music. The non-profit houses one of the world’s largest collections of popular music: over 3 million recordings, plus music books, memorabilia and press kids.

There are “shelves upon shelves upon shelves of vinyl records and CDs, signed Johnny Cash records… boxes of big band recordings, world music and jazz and original soundtracks.”

Keith Richards

It also holds the bulk of Keith Richards’ famed blues collection. (He’s on the board of advisers.)

But rising TriBeCa rents are forcing the mammoth collection elsewhere. They’ve got until June to find a new space.

Nile Rodgers —  the record producer and co-founder of the band Chic — is also on the Archive’s board.

Which raises an intriguing idea, first proposed by alert “06880” reader Jeff Mitchell. With those 2 luminaries so involved — and living in Westport and Weston, along with other great recording artists like Michael Bolton and Jose Feliciano, not to mention our long musical history of legendary concerts from Bo Diddley to the Doors; REO Speedwagon writing 157 Riverside about their time here; Johnny Winter and Joe Cocker recording and rehearsing in Westport — why not invite the Archive of Contemporary Music to set up shop here?

I’m (semi) serious. We already have a Museum of Contemporary Art (formerly the Westport Arts Center). a Westport Museum for History and Culture (most recently the Westport Historical Society), plus the Westport Country Playhouse (unchanged after 90 years). This would be one more cultural attraction.

Where would they go? That’s for wiser heads than mine to decide. But we do have an unused building sitting smack in the middle of Baron’s South.

And we keep talking about all those vacant stores on Main Street…

New home of the Archive of Contemporary Music? (Photos/Chip Stephens)

Pic Of The Day #993

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, downtown (Photo/Dan Woog)

Friday Flashback #174

Last month, a Friday Flashback featured a handsome Al Willmott painting of old-time Westport, with National Hall, the Post Road bridge, and a merchant ship. For years, it hung in Dr. Peter Ferrara’s dental office.

Now practicing in Shelton, Dr. Ferrara still loves this town. He sent along another favorite Willmott painting from his office.

For a couple of decades, Ships anchored downtown. At the corner of the Post Road and Taylor Place — replacing the longtime Colgan’s and Thompson’s drugstore — it was the restaurant to go, for any occasion: meeting friends. Showing Westport to out-of-towners. In the middle of shopping. Before or after movies a few doors away.

And — on a cold winter’s day, like Willmott painted — there was nothing better than Ships’ lobster bisque.

Remembering Martin West

Martin West — actor, filmmaker, and for over 20 years the life partner of noted Westport artist Ann Chernow — died December 31. He was 82.

Martin West and Ann Chernow.

He first appeared on stage in New York in 1959, with George C. Scott in “the Andersonville Trial.” He also appeared in over 30 movies. As a documentary filmmaker, West earned an Emmy Award for “The Making of ‘My Fair Lady.'”

His television acting credits included 9 years as Dr. Brewer on “General Hospital,” and stints on “Perry Mason,” “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” “Ironside,” “Dallas,” “Highway to Heaven,” “Matlock” and “L.A. Law.”

West moved to Connecticut in 1993. He joined Theatre Artists Workshop of Westport, acting in and directing many productions.

In 1999 Ann Sheffer commissioned him to produce “A Gathering of Glory,” a documentary about the history of the arts in Westport. The film included artist Paul Cadmus, actors Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and Christopher Plummer, as well as Keir Dullea — West’s lifelong, and best, friend.

(From left): Dick Moore, Jane Powell, Martin West, Ann Chernow, Keir Dullea.

Over the next several years — while still acting — West became a key figure in the Westport arts scene. He was instrumental in expanding the Theatre Arts Workshop (founded by Dullea in 1983), and was part of the Westport Arts Center.

West’s growing interest in the local visual arts led him to develop a film project about artists over the age of 70, who still worked in Westport and Weston studios.

Years in the Making” (2009) celebrated 50 Westport aand Weston artists — some of them in their 90s — working in oil, charcoal, sculpture, photography and printmaking.

The film — made with fellow Westporter Kristen Fox McKinney — garnered several national film awards.

He also developed separate videos about each of the 50 artists. It’s all available now at the Westport Library.

Martin West (center) with photographer Larry Silver and arts advocate Mollie Donovan.

West continued working on new projects in Westport, including a documentary about his partner in life and art, Ann Chernow.

In addition to Chernow, he is survived by his children Jason Weixelbaum, Allie West and Gabriel West; stepson Paul Mend, and sister Gail Britt.

A memorial service is set for this Saturday (January 4, 2 to 5 p.m., Theatre Artists Workshop [Masonic Lodge], 5 Gregory Boulevard, Norwalk).

In lieu of flowers, donations in West’s name can be made to Theatre Artists Workshop.