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Pic Of The Day #741

The Staples High School baseball team is 11-1 overall. They’re 8-0 in the FCIAC — the only unbeaten team in the league.

Yesterday, they had a great win over Brien McMahon. Here’s the scene after Drew Rogers’ walk-off hit scored Chad Knight in the bottom of the 7th inning.

(Photo/Gregory Vasil for The Ruden Report)

They — and fellow captain Harry  Azadian — were also stars on the legendary 2013 Westport team that reached the finals of the Little League World Series.

This is their senior year at Staples. Their goal is to make it another special one.

(Hat tip: Vince Kelly)

“Fractured Fairy Tales”: The Story Behind The BMS Show

This has not been an easy year for middle schoolers.

Coleytown was closed in September due to mold; 6th and 7th graders have been at Bedford ever since. Every day, administrators, staff and students of 2 schools make compromises. Everyone involved has done a great — and often unheralded — job.

But it’s one thing to move classes, or share gym and cafeteria space. It’s another thing entirely to accommodate 2 different drama productions simultaneously.

Traditionally each spring, CMS stages an all-school musical. BMS puts on a 6th grade non-musical.

Both are fully staged, with professionally produced costumes and sets. Both involve scores of students.

Directors Ben Frimmer (CMS) and Karen McCormick (BMS) agreed to keep the schedule the same as in past years. They would share space during rehearsals, but — to provide stage time for actors and the technical staff — Bedford would push its opening back to April.

Bedford Middle School art teacher Lynn Karmen, with one of her set painters. (Photo/Melissa Fass)

Musicals require tons of space — for dancers, singers and scene work. Coleytown’s “42nd Street” was especially big. With only 3 weeks for Bedford to install their set, create costumes and the actors to transfer what they’d learned from such a small space to a big stage, the BMS show could not be technically complex.

Normally, Bedford’s non-musical is a version of a classic childen’s book like “Alice in Wonderland” or “The Phantom Tollbooth.” But with such limited room for rehearsals, plus set and costume construction, McCormick and her staff decided on a series of short stories from the 1960s “Rocky & Bullwinkle” cartoon show, called “Fractured Fairy Tales.”

They crafted 15 stories, and added short “fairy tale” commercials.

That provided 70 actors with over 240 roles to share. There are 40 narrators, 15-plus kings, queens, princes and princesses, and dozens of goblins, beasts, chickens, ogres, court jesters and peasants. Each youngster is featured in at least 2 “plays.”

The Do It All Wand cast. (Photo/January Stewart)

They found space in hallways and classrooms. Combined with Coleytown’s set construction crews, tap dancers, costume people, there were some very noisy afternoons.

“The kids didn’t mind,” McCormick says. “They worked very well under the circumstances.”

With just 12 days of unfettered access to the stage, BMS got creative with their set. “Fractured Fairy Tales” uses a new 25-foot floor-to-ceiling movie screen as a backdrop. It features hundreds of colorful images, most from old cartoons. On stage, 20 colorful 18-inch cubes instantly turn into thrones, tables or mountains.

Transferring the off-stage rehearsals onto the large stage has taken some work. But, McCormick says, the actors are working hard on new blocking, and pumped-up motions.

“Fractured Fairy Tales” rehearsals are fun — and energetic. (Photo/Melissa Fass)

Costumes were done later than usual too. BMS actors received theirs only a few days ago. Each person has 2 to 4 costume changes — some with only minutes to spare. They’re working on that too.

But this is Bedford Middle School. Like their Coleytown counterparts, the young actors and their tech crew embrace the challenge.

When the curtain rises this Friday, audiences will not even realize what everyone went through to produce “Fractured Fairy Tales.” They’ll smile, laugh and applaud. Just like every other BMS show.

(“Fractured Fairy Tales” performances are this Friday, April 26 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, April 27 at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m. Click here for tickets.)

(NOTE: Coleytown’s show — “42nd Street” — overcame several obstacles too, beyond shared space. Click here for that “06880” story.)

Hey, At Least It’s Not a Bank, Nail Salon Or Marijuana Dispensary!

Let’s welcome this new business to Westport.

It just opened across from New Country Toyota on the Post Road — between Calise’s Market and Torno Lumber.

The Lice Treatment Institute shares space with a “Psychic Reader and Advisor.” Perhaps she could tell her clients to maybe avoid sending their kids to that upcoming sleepover…

[BREAKING NEWS] Stop & Shop Employees Strike

Westport’s Super Stop & Shop employees have walked off the job.

Their strike is part of a region-wide protest over wages and benefits. More than 31,000 workers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island — represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 371 — have been without a contract since late February.

Stop & Shop counters that its employees are among the highest paid in the area. They say the contract changes they propose are needed to compete with non-union competitors.

“06880” reader Robin Singer — who was in the supermarket when the walkout took place a few minutes ago — said she was told that managers would lock the doors as soon as the final checkouts took place.

Westport Super Stop & Shop workers on strike today. (Photo/Robin Singer)

Marpe’s Marriage

First Selectman Jim Marpe was not in the office — or on call — Saturday.

He had a good excuse. He and his wife Mary Ellen were giving away their daughter Samantha in marriage. The ceremony was held at the US Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Maryland — the groom’s alma mater.

First Selectman Jim Marpe and his daughter Samantha.

The 2002 Staples High School and 2006 Penn State graduate — now a recruiter with Henkel Search Partners, a New York firm specializing in private equity firm recruitment — married Kristofer Andy Sandor.

A lieutenant nuclear submarine officer who worked in the office of the Secretary of Defense, he also served as a White House social aide in the Bush and Obama administrations. An MBA graduate of Stanford with a master’s from Georgetown, he’s now in the private sector, most recently as general manager of Citi Bike.

Samantha Marpe and Kristofer Sandor.

According to the New York Times they met in 2016 through a dating app, the League.

(Hat tip: Avi Kaner)

Pic Of The Day #712

Art and architecture on Post Road West (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

Pic Of The Day #708

Welcome to the Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum (Photo/Dick Fincher)

How Westport Community Gardens Grow

Louis Weinberg has no idea how he became chair of the Westport Community Gardens.

It may have been in 2004. He lived near the new site — Long Lots School — and wanted a plot to grow vegetables and wildflowers.

He attended a meeting. He got the plot. And walked away as chair.

Transforming the rough land into a viable community garden was, he jokes, “a hard row to hoe.” And he does mean “hard”: The ground was as forgiving as concrete.

But for the 30 or so pioneer gardeners, it truly was a labor of love.

Taking a quick break at the Westport Community Gardens.

The old adage “first year it sleeps, second year it creeps, third year it leaps” held true.

The third year brought improved soil, earthworms, successful plantings and smiling faces.

It also brought additional interest. Membership tripled, to 90. Garden plots were halved to accommodate the newcomers.

WCG petitioned the town to expand. In 2010 they doubled their physical space, constructed a new fence, and welcomed nearly 100 community members to the gardens.

The Community Gardens did not just appear one day, Weinberg emphasizes. It grew out of the dedication and hard work of its members and supporters.

Those members range from families with little children to folks in their 80s. They grow fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs and grasses, in all kinds of designs and configurations.

Westport Community Gardens is a true community.

“WCG is a beautiful place. It’s magical at times, and challenging as well,” Weinberg says.

“Perhaps the dichotomy of the Gardens is what we find so appealing. It is so much work, and brings us so much pleasure. Every year, intertwined so closely, are our many successes and failures. Nothing comes easy.”

Including its early growth. But former selectmen Gordon Joseloff and Shelly Kassen supported the initial effort. Parks & Rec, Public Works and the public schools have all contributed to the growth.

Kowalsky Brothers offered machinery, labor and expertise. Belta’s Farm donated compost. Gault contributed sand; Daybreak Nurseries supplied soil; A&J’s Market gave a picnic table, and Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens provided plants.

A “small fortune” was donated by Green Village Initiative. Chef Michel Nischan and his Wholesome Wave Foundation wrote a substantial check. The New England Grassroots Environmental Fund came through with a generous grant. Anthropologie held a fundraiser.

“The rewards we receive from working the land are many,” Weinberg notes. They include “time with family and friends. Time alone. Fresh food. Beautiful flowers. And the opportunity to slow down, create, experiment, sense, share and commune.”

A bit of bounty.

The site also offers quiet, calm space before and after gardening. The common space features a pergola, picnic table, shade from grape vines, a bocce court and Adirondack chairs.

There’s also a milkweed garden, wildflower garden — and Westport Community Gardens is a designated monarch butterfly way station.

Most members never leave. But moves, medical issues and other factors cause a small turnover in membership every year.

So — if you’re interested in a plot — this is your chance. Click here, then click on the “Sign Up” tab.

Work hard. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Who knows? One day you too may become chair of the Westport Community Gardens.

Staples AP Economics: Full Of Beans

Advanced Placement Economics is an intense, hands-on course.

In the hands of a gifted teacher like Staples High School’s Drew Coyne, it can also be a handy one.

Students examine small and large companies, to understand both micro and macroeconomics. Last fall, for example, the COO of Bow Tie Cinemas spoke with them about the evolution, competition and business models of movie chains.

L.L. Bean is far bigger than Bow Tie. Coyne’s class studied supply and demand of boots around the holiday season, then evaluated the cost structure and used marginal thinking to look at feasible options the company could consider.

In most schools, the lesson would end there. But this is Westport — where 1) Bean boots are incredibly popular, and 2) it’s not unusual to have a connection to someone who runs a huge business.

Thanks to a student whose father went to college with L.L. Bean CEO Steve Smith, Coyne arranged a Zoom conference call for his class.

AP Economics students pay rapt attention to L.L. Bean CEO Steve Smith.

Smith began the recent intimate, wide-ranging discussion with background on his route to the top (including AT&T, Hannaford and Walmart International). Then he asked for questions.

Michael Loucas wanted to know “what drives success, particularly for students who are looking at a business path in college and beyond?”

Smith said the #1 key is “intellectual curiosity.” He encouraged the teenagers to explore as many topics as possible, and expand their knowledge of a variety of subjects. He used a “backpack” analogy: bring one through life, to stow away experiences, lessons and skills.

George Englehart asked Smith, “what resource is most important in making a decision?”

The CEO described the need to look at data and current research when facing challenges. He advised against making solo decisions; instead, assemble diverse teams to support open, constructive debate.

“I want a contrarian at my side, a financial-oriented person in another corner, pessimists and optimists all lending their voices” to a conversation, he said.

Yet, he added, once a meeting is over, everyone must have “clarity in the direction of the team.”

Popular footwear at Staples

Ethan Fass — wearing holiday-gift Bean boots — asked about changes in the company’s return policy.

Smith noted its history, including how some customers took advantage of it. Returns without proof of purchase cost Bean nearly $65 million a year.

The conversation even had an international — yet typically Westport — connection.

A couple of weeks ago, Coyne saw former student Kenji Goto at Barnes & Noble. Just before heading to a semester abroad in Switzerland, Kenji — a junior at Emory University — was filling out an internship application for L.L. Bean.

Coyne told him about the upcoming conference call. Kenji joined in from Europe.

And casually mentioned to Smith that he hoped to work for the company this summer.

FUN FACT: This is hardly the first time Staples students have had a chance to talk with an important figure. When physics teacher Nick Georgis ran the Ham Radio Club (the call letters were K1UAT), he arranged sessions with King Hussein of Jordan, and US Senator Barry Goldwater.

Greens Farms El Takes The Composting Lead

No one knows what kind of world today’s children will inherit. Climate change is real — despite our president’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement — and it will have real, frightening impacts on our planet.

Elementary school students may not have heard of the old Earth Day saying: “Think globally, act locally.”

But they’re sure doing it.

Last August, members of Westport’s Green Task Force asked superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer if they could explore a food composting program. She loved the idea, and asked district K-5 science coordinator/Greens Farms Elementary School assistant principal Chris Breyan to serve as liaison.

Soon, GFS formed a Zero Waste Committee. Members included Breyan, several teachers (including one from Saugatuck Elementary), parents, and 3 Green Task Force representatives.

Greens Farms Elementary School.

A trip to Wilton — which runs a robust composting program in every school — inspired the group. They reached out to a variety of stakeholders, like politicians, town employees, waste haulers and Chartwells, the Westport school district food service contractor.

They learned about the colossal waste of food everywhere — including their own school cafeteria. There was clearly a role for composting.

A Green Leaders Club brought students on board. Forty-six 5th graders joined — and went to work.

Since early January — to help raise awareness of both the need and process of composting — they’ve created videos and slide shows; made PSAs; devised training methods like “sorting games” for younger students, and held a poster contest.

A poster contest primed the school for composting.

They’ve done it on their own time too — sometimes giving up recess to work.

Greens Farms was already an environmentally aware school. There’s a garden in back, and nearly every class visits Wakeman Town Farm.

The new initiative will take the school much further. The goal is not just to compost — but ultimately have no waste at all in trash and recycling bins after every lunch.

Another prong of the campaign involves parents. They’re trying to pack “zero waste lunches,” and use reusable bottles and boxes.

“Everyone has been great,” says 5th grade teacher Stacy Fowle. She’s a member of the GFS committee, and a longtime environmental advocate.

Greens Farms El offers 3 choices for waste.

Of course, Greens Farms is not alone. Saugatuck El teacher Ashley Moran — another committee member — already had her workshop students auditing their waste. They examined how much food was tossed out — including some that was never opened or unwrapped — and how much plastic they all used.

“There were silos of efforts around town,” Fowle says. “We want to build networks with all the schools. Things may already be happening that we don’t know about. We’re keeping meticulous notes, and taking photos and videos. We want other schools to replicate this easily.”

Long Lots has already joined the GFS effort.

The week before February break, Greens Farms launched its initiative. “Cafeteria rangers” — 3rd, 4th and 5th graders — guided classmates in sorting their waste. Parents helped younger students.

Cafeteria workers joined in. GFS is composting all waste — including food that was never even served.

Greens Farms students avidly join in the “zero waste” effort.

The project is so big, it won’t fit in the garden. A private firm — Curbside Composting — will pick up all waste once a week.

Funds come from a Westport Public Schools Innovation Fund Grant. It runs through December.

“Everyone is so passionate about this,” Fowle says. “It’s thrilling to see all the momentum from this grassroots initiative.”

“Grassroots” is a perfect word. It means something that starts on the ground.

Composting does — literally.

And — in another sense — “grassroots” implies growth from the ground up.

Today’s Greens Farms Elementary students are tomorrow’s middle schoolers — and Stapleites. They will bring their composting mindset there.

Then they’ll grow into adults.

Sounds like they’re already shaping the world they’ll inherit.