As the Westport Country Playhouse reaches out to younger audiences, a new generation of trustees has joined its board.
One name is familiar: 24-year-old State Senator (and 2014 Staples High School graduate) Will Haskell.
Jessica Caldwell is not as well known. But she has a fascinating back story, one that serves her well in her role helping oversee the 90-year-old theater.
Raised in a lobstering village of 500 people off the coast of Maine, and just 16 when she headed to college, Caldwell took screenwriting, writing and communications courses as an undergrad.
That led to Columbia University’s MFA program, from 2009 to ’12. She went on to produce independent feature films (“Electrick Children,” “Happy Baby,” “AWOL”). and the upcoming “When I’m Done Dying.”
Her feature films have premiered at Berlinale, SXSW and Tribeca. Her short films were shown at Sundance, Telluride and Tribeca.
She’s had a hand too in TV. After hearing Brian Koppelman and David Levien speak while still in school, she connected with them on social media. When they needed an assistant for a new show called “Billions,” they hired the 26-year-old Caldwell.
She worked in the writer’s room and as a showrunner — both in assistant roles.. It was an “intensive crash course, with amazing actors and a great network.” The experience was both exhausting and exhilarating.
“Billions” was set originally in Westport. The hedge fund was modeled in part on Bridgewater. Caldwell did not yet live here. And she was not yet married to her husband — who coincidentally now works for a local hedge fund.
“Billions”‘ Axe Capital hedge fund was originally set in Westport.
Koppelman and Levien encouraged her to write full time. She’s written features and book adaptations, and helps develop ideas for production, like “Gonzo Girl.” A first-person story about a bizarre first date got plenty of New York Times attention.
“I keep trying to roll the ball forward,” Caldwell says. “You never know what people will want.”
The pandemic changed how she works. Pitches were done entirely on Zoom, with executives in Los Angeles and producers in London.
It was a tough time for feature films. But the rise of platforms like Disney+, Paramount+, Apple TV+ and Peacock filled people’s needs for entertainment options. “We’ve all had to think on our feet and adapt,” Caldwell notes.
She is thankful to have a place like Westport to write in (and, with her husband, raise their year-old son).
Living here has brought her to the Playhouse, too. She first volunteered for the annual gala; the more she saw, the more she realized she could help reach out to younger audiences.
New trustees will help the Westport Country Playhouse reach younger audiences.
She looks forward to mentoring younger members of the arts community. She is thankful for the help Koppelman and Levien gave her, early in her career, when “Billions” was just starting out.
And when the only reason she knew Westport was through the fictional world of its Axe Capital.
Last week’s “Friday Flashback” featured a group photo of artists, writers and photographers from the Famous Schools of the same name. Starting for a couple of decades in the 1950s, they were headquartered on Wilton Road.
I identified 3: Stevan Dohanos, Norman Rockwell and Rod Serling.
Eagle-eyed readers spotted a few others: Alfred Eisenstaedt, Whitney Darrow, Harold von Schmidt, Al Capp and Red Smith.
Max Shulman was indeed there, but in a different spot.
Jules Pfeiffer and Bernie Fuchs were not in the photo, though readers thought they were.
How do we know all this?
Robert Cohen send along a cheat sheet. The entire Famous group was identified in the Westport Weston Arts Council book “A Community of Artists: 1900-1985.” It was written by Dorothy and John Tarrant, and designed by Howard Munce.
Here is the photo — it was cropped from the full version.
And here is the full version …
… with all the names. Hover over, or click on, to enlarge.
Robert adds: “We are looking for people interested in funding a history project about this unique period in Westport’s history” (from after World War I on).
To learn more about this project, email R@RobertCohenArchitect.com.
Kayak threats from Compo Beach — first reported on “06880” in July — continue.
Mousumi Ghosh is the latest victim. Her red Eddyline Equinox is gone from the storage area. She writes:
“We are devastated. It was one of the few recreations that we were able to enjoy as a family during the last year, not to mention the cost to replace it.
“I was away for a month for a family emergency. It could have happened any time during August.
“From speaking with others, I am discovering that this is not an isolated event. Many believe that crime is on the rise at the beach. Neither the police nor Parks & Rec are hopeful that the kayak can be recovered, or that there is much they can do to help.”
If anyone sees it (the rack emblem is #39), please call Westport Police. Meanwhile, another victim contacted “06880,” suggested security cameras. They’re installed elsewhere at the beach already. Perhaps it’s time to extend their range.
Kayak racks at Compo Beach. They look lovely — but they’re not secure. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)
Among Wednesday night’s Hurricane Ida flood victims: The Toy Post.
The store at 180 Post Road East (near Imperial Avenue) has no flood insurance. They’re offering 50% off anything wet. (Hat tip: Jonathan Alloy)
For many years, the small shop on Maple Avenue South was Mario & Mike’s barber. Then it became Bill’s. After that, Salon Juljen.
Now it’s vacant. A sign says they’ve moved to Southport. No word on whether a new hair place — or some other business — will move in to the mixed commercial-residential building. (Hat tip: Chris Grimm)
A grant from the Drew Friedman Arts Center will help them provide art classes to people with intellectual and developmental differences. The 6-week sessions cover a range of mediums — including photography, watercolor, acrylics, collage, dance, improvisation, acting and more — and engage local artists.
Some have already begun, at One River Art School in Westport.
Artists — including Drew Friedman Arts Center director Miggs Burroughs (far right) and STAR officials.
Since 1992, B3 has volunteered in 13 countries, with over 7,000 volunteers. This year they’ll construct facilities in Guatemala.
There’s an open house with more information tomorrow (Thursday, September 2), and another on October 6. Both are from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at the B3 office (66 Fort Point Street, Norwalk). Click here to register. Click here for the B3 website.
Earthplace is gearing up for 2 great events. One is for adults; the other is family friendly.
The (adult) event — “Woodside Bash” — includes a harvest dinner under the stars, open bar, mechanical bull and music by the party band Pimpinella. It’s Saturday, October 2 (7 to 10 p.m.). Click here for tickets.
The next day (Sunday, October 3, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is a Family Festival. Activities include a climbing wall, apple slingshot, donuts on a string, pumpkin bowling, hayride, corn pool, food trucks and more. Kids under 2 go free!
Thomas McCarthy died peacefully at his Westport home on Sunday. He was surrounded by his children, holding the hand of his wife of 61 years, Mary, who he called the most beautiful woman in the world. He was 89 years old.
He was a member of the Class of 1954 at Dartmouth College. After serving in the Army in Berlin, he purchased a 1-way Greyhound tickeet to New York City.
Within a week he met the love of his life, Mary, at a St. Patrick’s Day CYO dance on 7th Avenue, and embarked on a successful career in the insurance industry.
Thomas worked for almost 40 years for General Reinsurance Corporation, where he spearheaded groundbreaking innovations in the pricing of reinsurance policies for individual properties. His department was known for its underwriting profitability for many years. He was a great leader and mentor for many. His career culminated with successful international assignments in London and China.
While he traveled the world extensively, he felt there was no better place to be than the front porch of his home in Westport, which he called the most beautiful place on Earth.
Thomas was deeply curious, with a passion for the world, and an extraordinary eye for beauty and the works of talented artists and artisans. In addition to his collection of children, he amassed a world-class collection of antique and modern glass paperweights. He cultivated a spectacular rose garden that brought beauty and joy to many.
A lifelong lover of golf, he played many of the world’s greatest courses but enjoyed a round at Longshore most of all.
He was a proud progressive and a faithful Catholic. He volunteered for many years at the Gillespie Center where he and Mary served dinner one Monday each month for many years.
An avid reader and student of history, he gladly shared his books and his opinions with any who asked. He was extraordinarily generous with his good fortune, and always willing to give a helping hand to those in need.
He served as an inspiration to his grandchildren and took great pleasure in watching them grow.
He is survived by his wife Mary; children Christine, Thomas, John (Susan), Maggie, Michael (Stacy), Paul (Ann) and Stacey), and grandchildren Kathleen, Thomas, James, Crissy, Patrick, Jack, Danny, Siobhan and Sean.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to Catholic Relief Services or the ACLU.
Family and friends are invited Thomas’ funeral this Friday (September 3, 11 a.m., Assumption Church for a Mass of Christian Burial. Interment will follow in Assumption Cemetery, 73 Greens Farms Road. The family will receive friends in the Harding Funeral Home (210 Post Road East) tomorrow (Thursday, September 2, 4-8 p.m. Masks are required.
Former Westporter Carl Spagnuolo of Fairfield died August 27, surrounded by his family. He was 87.
A Bronx native, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Columbia University. He had a career as a marketing executive at Union Carbide, Stauffer Chemical and Lonza.
An avid reader and New York Giants fan, his true love was travelling the world with his wife and family. His travels spanned 4 continents with his favorite stops being Aruba and Italy.
He and his wife Margaret celebrated 65 years of marriage in June. He also leaves behind daughters Dawn Curtis (Brian) and Elisa Brennan (Christopher) and grandchildren Justin, Christopher, Ryan, Olivia and Brittany.
Private services will be held. Click here for online condolences.
Bryan Schwartz is visiting from Boston. He collected 15 Monarch butterfly eggs from the leaves of the milkweed plant, then placed them in a special container where they changed into caterpillars. They became butterflies a month later. He holds them for an hour or so, drying their wings before flying.
Yesterday, he was at Compo Beach. People were amazed to see a magnificent monarch butterfly perched on his hand, ready to fly away. Thanks to Barbara Schwartz and Karen Como for today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo.
For the 2nd year in a row, Aarti Khosla of Le Rouge Chocolates is helping Westporters show love for teachers.
“They are the backbone of our society. In these unprecedented times, hey need our love more than ever,” says the owner of the popular shop at 190 Main Street.
“We came together as a community to salute them with our ‘Give a Little Love’ chocolate hearts campaign on the first day of school last year. It was humbling and heartwarming to hear so many teachers say how touched they were by this small gesture.”
The tradition continues — with a twist. For just $8, you can show you appreciation to the Westport Public Schools staff (including teachers, administrators, nurses, secretaries, paraprofessionals, custodians and others).
And 20% of each “Chocolate Heart” that goes to a teacher will be contribute to the Malala Fund, which helps educate women and girls in Afghanistan.
Click here to buy a chocolate heart, and for more information.
The Westport Country Playhouse’s star turn starts Tuesday.
On 3 consecutive nights (August 31, September 1 and 2), Broadway stars perform before a live audience. The concerts will be taped, edited, then broadcast nationally (with a “Westport-centric” opening). The show will be called “Stars on Stage from Westport Country Playhouse.”
Shoshana Bean (“Wicked,” “Waitress”) kicks things off. She’ll be followed by Gavin Creel (a Tony Winner in “Hello, Dolly!”; “The Book of Mormon”) on September 1. Brandon Victor Dixon (Aaron Burr in “Hamilton,” an Emmy nominee in “Jesus Christ Superstar”) completes the triple play on September 2.
There are 2 shows each night, at 7 and 9 p.m.
Westporter Andrew Wilk is the creator and executive producer of “Stars on Stage!” That means the production value will be high.
This is not his first rodeo. He was executive producer of PBS’ “Live from Lincoln Center” from 2012-19, and has won 5 Emmys for his production work.
A limited number of tickets ($75 and $20) are available to the public. Complimentary tickets are reserved for first responders, students, teachers, and groups and organizations.
For tickets or more information, click here, call 203-227-4177, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(From left): Shoshana Bean, Gavin Creel, Brandon Victor Dixon.
And finally … today is the birthday of Dinah Washington, in 1924. The jazz-influenced singer and pianist died. She died at just 39, of a combination of insomnia and diet pills. She’s remembered for outstanding performances like:
First and 2nd selectman candidates Jen Tooker and Andrea Moore are sponsoring a downtown event tomorrow (Sunday, August 29, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.). It starts and ends at Cold Fusion Gelato. All are welcome!
All 36 Representative Town Meeting seats will be contested in November’s election. Four members from each of Westport’s 9 districts vote on town appropriations, and give final approval to the budget; approve town ordinances; make recommendations regarding ordinances, and review certain decisions of town boards and commissions.
So far, all members in districts 2 (Jay Keenan, Lou Mall, Christine Meiers Schataz, Harris Falk), 3 (Mark Friedman, Arline Gertzoff, Jimmy Izzo, Ross Burkahrdt) and 6 (Jessica Bram, Seth Braunstein, Cathy Talmadge and Candace Banks) have submitted letters of intent to run again.
So have 3 members in districts 1 (Chris Tait, Matthew Mandell, Kristin Mott Purcell), 4 (Andrew Colabella, Noah Hammond, Jeffrey Weiser), 5 (Peter Gold, Dick Lowenstein, Karen Kramer), 7 (Brandi Briggs, Lauren Karpf, Jack Klinge) and 8 (Wendy Batteau, Lisa Newman, Stephen Shackelford). In District 9,Sal Liccione and Kristin Schneeman are running again.
Petitioning candidates who have been certified to run are Richard Jaffe (District 1), Ellen Lautenberg (7) and Nancy Kail (9).
Other candidates still collecting signatures are Abby Tolan, Carolanne Curry and Liz Milwe (District 1), James Bairaktaris (4), Claudia Shaum (5), John Toi (7), Rachel Cohn (8) and Marla Cowden and Lori Church (9).
MoCA Westport kicked off its new exhibition — “Between the Earth and the Sky” — last night.
It features over 50 large-scale photos by Anne Burmeister and Ashley Skatoff from the Who Grows Your Food initiative. The intimate photographic journey celebrates the farms and farmers associated with the Westport Farmers’ Market.
The exhibition also includes site-specific installations by Kristyna and Marek Milde. The Brooklyn duo explore environmental issues, and the alienation of contemporary lifestyles.
The exhibition is open through October 17. It was created in collaboration with the Westport Farmers’ Market.
Friends of Sherwood Island “shore” know how to have fun.
Shorefest — their annual fundraiser — is set for Friday, September 10 (6 to 9 p.m.). It’s environmentally (and COVID) friendly, in the open air of the main pavilion.
Shorefest includes a seaside evening of food, live music and a silent auction. Catered by Westfair Fish & Chips, dinner options include lobster, steak, salmon, or vegetarian. Burgers and hot dogs are available for kids.
All proceeds support the habitat restoration, education, and advocacy work of the Friends group. Click here for tickets, and more information.
Ronnie Hammer sends along this report from our friends at News12 Connecticut. Residents are urged to be on the lookout for an invasive species — the spotted lanternfly — in Fairfield and New Haven Counties.
It destroys some plants and vineyards, but won’t harm humans or pets. Click here for the full report.
And finally … Richard Tucker, the great American tenor, was born today in 1913. He died of a heart attack in 1975, in his dressing room before a performance in Michigan. His funeral was held on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House, the only singer ever to be so honored.
Newcomers may have heard that Westport was once an “artists’ colony.”
Oldtimers remember the Famous Artists School on Wilton Road (just north of Bartaco — click here).
For a while, magazine ads and matchbook covers all over the world invited aspiring artists to learn from Famous Artists School masters.
They did not exactly “teach.” They lent their names to the enterprise. But they were quite an accomplished (and very male) bunch.
Anthony Dohanos sent along a great photo. His father — Stevan Dohanos, the famed Saturday Evening Post and US postage stamp illustrator — sits prominently on a rock at the front left, wearing plaid pants.
Norman Rockwell puffs his trademark pipe in the row behind, near the right.
Sitting in the front row on the right is Rod Serling. He was, I guess, part of the auxiliary Famous Writers’ School. (There was also a Famous Photographers’ School).
How many of these men (and 2 women) can you identify? Click “Comments” below — and add any memories you have of the years when the Famous Schools made Westport famous.
Those themes — and more — are part of this week’s colorful online art gallery.
Whatever your age and level of experience — professional or amateur, young or old — this feature is open to everyone.
All genres and styles are encouraged too. Watercolors, oils, charcoal, pen-and-ink, acrylics, lithographs, macramé, jewelry, sculpture, decoupage (and now needlepoint) — whatever you’ve got, email it to email@example.com. Share your work with the world!
“Yours for the Taking. Get Your Shot!” — water color and pencil sketch (Ellin Spadone)
“Nature’s Art on Sherwood Rock” (Elena Nasereddin)
“Morning, Noon and Night” (Ellen Wentworth)
“Compo Summit Conference” (Lawrence Weisman)
“Need a Spare?” (Karen Weingarten)
“Returning to the Office” — cut-and-paste magazine collage (Amy Schneider)
Last month, Allyson Stollenwerck and her 12-year-old son Walker attended Wakeman Town Farms’ “Attainable Sustainable” panel.
They heard about Food Rescue US. The nonprofit’s app enables volunteers to pick up unused food from local restaurants and markets, and bring it to social service agencies.
Allyson and Walker signed up. Their first assignment was to bring leftover donuts and pastries from Coffee An’ to the Westport Housing Authority on Canal Street.
“It was super simple,” they report. “Food Rescue emailed great instructions, and it was a quick trip. We hope others give it a try.”
I have no idea why Coffee An’ does not sell out every day. But if they — and any other food establishment in town — don’t, it’s great to know that Food Rescue can help. (Click here for more information on Food Rescue US).
Walker Stollenwerck, rescuing food from Coffee An’.
The longtime Westport lawyer is a former Connecticut state representative, US Attorney for the District of Connecticut, District Court judge, and — following retirement in his 80s — a special counsel attorney.
Now he’s got another accomplishment. At 93, was the oldest runner among nearly 1,200 in the traditional Chilmark Road Race on Martha’s Vineyard. He completed the hilly 3.1-mile course, in hot weather, in 1:08.37.6.
Congratulations, Judge Nevas! (Hat tip: Susan Filan)
How’s this for a delicious combination: The Westport Farmers’ Market, and MoCA Westport.
An opening reception for “Between the Ground and the Sky” — a collaboarative exhibition — is set for August 27 (6 to 8 p.m., MoCA).
Guests can meet featured artists, enjoy custom cocktails from Bar MoCA, and check out the great new garden.
“Between the Ground and the Sky” features more than 50 stunning large-scale photographs by Anne Burmeister and Ashley Skatoff from the Who Grows Your Food initiative — a photographic journey celebrating the farms and farmers associated with the Farmers’ Market.
The exhibition also includes two site-specific installations by Kristyna and Marek Milde and the naturalistic works of Donna Forma. Click here for more information.
“Yesterday was the 3-year anniversary of the day we lost Rachel. [The 2015 Staples High School graduate — a rising senior at Cornell University, National Merit Commended Scholar, talented Players costume designer, and founder of “Rachel’s Rags,” a company that makes intricate cotton and fleece pajama tops and bottoms — died following a rare reaction to common medications.]
“In our ongoing mission to support families with critically ill children, we are holding an outdoor, family-friendly event (October 2, 4 p.m., Compo Beach).
“Rachel’s grandfather “Pa” pledged to walk 1,000 miles in his 80th year to honor Rachel, and raise money for Rach’s Hope. Please join us October 2 to Walk the Extra Mile with Pa and Team Rach’s Hope (or just cheer us on).
“At the end of the 1-mile walk, we will gather to celebrate Pa’s feat — and all your love and dedication to our charity — with a pizza truck, live music by Ellis Island, and beverages. PJs are optional, but encouraged!”
Click here for more information, and to register or donate.
Rachel Doran’s grandfather gets ready to walk. You can too!
The Great American Relay starts in Boston, and ends in Santa Monica, California. There are 415 stages through 18 states, over 38 days.
It starts on 9/11 — the 20th anniversary of that fateful day, and raises funds to support the military and first responders. Runners can dedicate their stage to a first responder or veteran they care about.
Last year, Westonite Jeffrey Wollman was a support runner, from Fairfield to Westport. An avid racer — he’s run 8 marathons since 2015 — he is also the Fleet Feet Westport training group coordinator, and one of their coaches.
He’s participating again this year, as the lead runner from Westport fire headquarters to the Darien Fire Department. He’ll start his 8.3-mile stage on September 13, just before noon.
Eight spots are still available. For more information, or to join or donate, click here.
Dave Wright (Fleet Feet Westport owner, left) and Jeffrey Wollman.
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum is in Ridgefield. But there’s a strong Westport presence.
Board chair Diana Bowes is a longtime Westporter. Betty Stolpen Weiner is the new director of development. Claudia Lonkin — the visitor experience manager — is also a substitute teacher at Staples. And executive director Cybele Maylone is the granddaughter-in-law of former Board of Education chair Joan Schine.
All are exited about the Aldrich’s Artists at the Table (October 1). The “farm-to-museum” dinner in the Sculpture Garden features a locally sourced 3-course dinner prepared by Hayfields Market Catering. Guests and artists share a meal, engage in conversation, and celebrate local flavors and contemporary art.
The Westporter has been a reporter in Europe, Asia and the Americas; a communications director with NASCAR and the US Olympic ski program; a ghostwriter of 14 memoirs for clients like Rudy Vallee’s wife, a US ambassador, a nuclear physicist, oil baron and more; and a mystery series writer.
Her new novel, “In Terror’s Deadly Clasp,” is based on a true story. It provides a rare, chilling glimpse of terrorists’ daily lives in America as they enjoyed strip clubs, fast food, fat bank accounts and freedom from their religious rules while planning the 9/11 attacks.
“This bullfrog hangs out a foot from my dock on Nash’s Pond. He doesn’t flinch when people walk by (hence my ability to get a closeup). I guess he been here longer than we have, because he’s not budging!”
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