Category Archives: Staples HS

Hail To The Victors! Staples Field Hockey Wins State Championship

Last year, Staples and Darien tied in the state L (large schools) state title game. They were declared co-champs. That was quite an accomplishment.

But this year, there’s no sharing at all. The Wreckers edged the same team — the Blue Wave — 1-0 in the championship match, at Wethersfield High School.

Congratulations to coach Ian Tapsall, and his girls!

The 2017 state champion Staples field hockey team. (Photo courtesy of Sal Augeri)

They were not the only Staples team playing for a state crown today.

The girls soccer team — fresh off their FCIAC championship — fell 2-1 to Ridgefield, in the LL (largest schools) clash at West Haven High.

It’s very difficult to beat the same good team 3 times in one season. The Wreckers of coaches Barry Beattie, Mackenzie Pretty and Dave Sharpe had knocked off the Tigers twice before, in regular season and FCIAC tournament play.

 

If Only The Rest Of The Holidays Were This Easy

Christmas is coming! The holidays are almost here! Which means one thing: Westporters will soon be stressed to the max.

There’s plenty to worry about. Will my house look as wonderful as Martha Stewart’s and Hallmark’s? Am I a bad person because hearing “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” 10 times a day for the next 6 weeks drives me batshit? When I find the perfect tree, how the hell am I supposed to get it home?

The answers to the first 2 questions are: no and no.

The answer to the final one is: Tree Transporter.

The TT is a soft-sided, frameless carrier. It attaches easily to a car roof, and the tree fits just as easily into it. It catches sap drippings and random needles.

And it’s the brainchild of a Staples High School grad.

Bobby Donofrio got his diploma on a hot day in 1999. Now — as the weather turns cold — he hopes to make hay off of pine trees.

His big product is actually pretty small. You can shove it in your pocket or purse, like a reusable bag.

When you’re ready to haul your tree home, just unroll it, put it in place, buckle it and tighten it. It takes just 60 seconds — far less than the amount of time you spend putting that !@#$%^ angel on the top, once it’s home.

Merry Christmas! For more information, or to order a Tree Transporter, click here.

Now get back to stressing out…

 

Clay Singer’s “Romeo And Juliet”: A Play In 2 Parts

Last month, “06880” profiled Clay Singer. The 2013 Staples High School graduate was getting ready to play Peter in the Westport Country Playhouse production of “Romeo and Juliet.”

His background — including starring roles in Staples Players, and as a Carnegie Mellon musical theater major — sure paid off.

Last Sunday at 1 p.m. — while driving from New York for his 3 p.m. matinee — Clay learned he’d have to step in for an actor who was ill.

In addition to his own role, he’d play Prince Escalus.

Clay got a quick costume fitting, learned all his lines and blocking with his scene partners, and went on stage.

Clay Singer and his new costume.

He’d already planned to arrive at the Playhouse early — to watch football games on the green room TV.

Instead, he asked his family to record them.

The show, after all, must go on.

And it has, with Clay playing his — and Prince Escalus’ — roles, ever since.

Hallelujah! Candlelight Tickets Available Monday

Some things are timeless. Staples High School’s Candlelight Concert, for example, with its achingly beautiful “Sing We Noel” processional; its spectacular choral, orchestral and band music; its boisterous production number, and its show-stopping “Hallelujah Chorus” finale.

Some things are new — like using the internet to order of tickets.

This year — for only the 2nd year in a row — tickets are available online. Orders will be taken beginning 9 a.m. this Monday (November 20), at http://www.StaplesMusic.org. There is a 4-ticket maximum.

The 77th annual Candlelight Concert is set for Friday, December 15 (8 p.m.) and Saturday, December 16 (2 p.m. and 8 p.m.).

The concert is a gift to Westport, from the Staples music department. Tickets are free.

And priceless.

The traditional “Sing We Noel” processional. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Read All About It: Reid Thompson Makes “Newsies”

When audiences pack the auditorium this weekend for “Newsies” — Staples Players’ eye-popping production of the Tony Award-winning show — they’ll rave about the Broadway-quality singing and dancing.

They’ll give standing ovations for the high-energy pit orchestra. They’ll congratulate directors David Roth and Kerry Long as one of the first high schools in the country to pioneer the musical.

They’ll notice the set, too. But unless they’re intimately involved in theater, they won’t understand how much the scaffolding, backdrops — and over 1,500 newspaper bundles — contribute to “Newsies”‘ success.

There’s a lot going on during Staples Players’ “Newsies” — including the set. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Reid Thompson knows. He’s the Players grad — and professional set designer — who helped bring the New York newsboy strike of 1899 to life in 2017 Westport.

As a student in the mid-1990s, Staples’ art wing was Thompson’s refuge. Legendary tech director Joe Ziegahn asked the budding artist to paint horses for “Carousel.” The rest is theatrical history.

Thompson continued painting for Players’ productions of “West Side Story,” “Runaways” and “The Tempest.”

He trained at the Art Institute of Chicago. After graduation, Roth and Long asked him to work on summer musical sets at Danbury’s Richter Park.

That led to work with Players shows like “Into the Woods,” “Merrily We Roll Along” and “Hello, Dolly!” At the same time, Thompson painted Broadway and off-Broadway productions, including “The Lion King,” “42nd Street” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” A 5-year stint painting for the Metropolitan Opera House followed.

Reid Thompson painting “Der Rosenkavilier” at the Metropolitan Opera.

Commuting back to Westport, Thompson moved from painting sets to designing them. He created the jury room cage for Players’ “Twelve Angry Men,” and the illustrated storybook for “Guys and Dolls.”

But Thompson wanted to learn more about set design, so he applied to Yale School of Drama. His Staples portfolio helped gain admission to that very competitive institute. Working there with directors, actors, stage managers and techies, he forged bonds that brought him important New York work (“The King and I,” “Fiddler on the Roof”).

Thompson continued to work with Players, on “Music Man” and — yes — “Fiddler.”

Reid Thompson

Then came “Newsies.”

Beginning last summer, Thompson and the directors talked about period, context and themes. They researched the history of the newsboy strike, its importance to the labor movement and protections for children. They talked about characters.

Thompson looked at historical photos and artwork. Newspaper collages struck a particular chord.

Staples’ huge casts need space to move and jump. Scenery must provide a setting, but flow seamlessly during transitions so audiences are transported into the sweep of the story.

There are other challenges. Can everyone in the audience see the action? Can the singers see the conductor, and vice versa? And of course, what’s the budget?

Thompson set to work using a scale model. He focused on a collage of period newsprint that evokes turn-of-last-century New York: vertical, a bit grimy, sensationalistic. Scaffolding represents tall buildings, and period ironwork.

“Newsies” is a show about kids. Thompson wanted audiences to see their perspective. Thus, much of the set looks upward — “large and overwhelming,” the designer says.

The newsies’ world was black-and-white — literally and metaphorically. Much of the set is too. But when Jack Kelly, the lead character, is in the vaudeville theater, he feels safe. Thompson added vivid colors there.

“That’s Rich,” performed in the theater that Jack Kelly loves. (Photo/Kerry Long)

The stage manager and lighting designer worked from Thompson’s ground plan and drawings.  Technical director Pete DiFranco and student carpenters built sets based on Thompson’s construction drawings. Steelwork was done in a professional shop.

Thompson created the collages himself, using period newsprint sent to a digital printer in Brooklyn.

Large newspapers form a backdrop for “The Bottom Line.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

Conceptualizing — then realizing — a show like “Newsies” takes enormous work. Thompson likens it to an architect working with clients and contractors to produce a building.

When we look at buildings, most of us don’t think of the people who designed it. The same with theater sets. Even audience members who admire the design and detail don’t always realize how, say, moving pieces of scenery on and off stage contributes to the flow of the show. Or that the designer pored over hundreds of photos before creating a certain scaffold, then positioned it just so.

“Newsies” has earned a place as one of Players’ most storied productions ever. It will be talked about for years.

Audiences will remember the singing, the dancing and the acting. They may not recall Reid Thompson’s sets.

But without them, this remarkable show would not go on.

(To learn more about Reid Thompson’s work, click here.)

Madison Lemone’s Theater Links

Chris Lemone was Staples High School’s beloved outreach counselor. His death 2 years ago from a heart attack — at age 49 — left a hole in the lives of countless students who found his office to be a warm and welcoming place for advice, support, compassion, love (tough and gentle) and laughter.

It also ripped a hole in his family. Chris’ middle daughter Madison was a Bethel High School sophomore when her dad died suddenly that October weekend.

Madison’s passion was always dance. Ballet, tap, jazz — she did it all with Broadway Method Academy. The Fairfield-based non-profit offers classes, private coaching and performance opportunities to children and teenagers interested in acting, singing and dancing.

One of the Broadway performers Madison worked with was Westport star Kelli O’Hara.

Madison Lemone

After her father died, Madison says, “I struggled a lot. But BMA helped me through a really tough time. The arts have always been there for me, and it was one place I could really express myself. It was like an encouraging community that kept me sane.”

So Madison is especially pleased that BMA is now the Westport Country Playhouse‘s resident conservatory.

The partnership will help the Playhouse offer musical theater training, masterclasses and a mainstage show.

The collaboration began in July with 3 days of seminars, panels and activities, all focused on the technical world of theater prior to the Playhouse production of “Grounded.”

The Westport Country Playhouse.

For the upcoming November 27 “Broadway Sings” fundraiser, BMA students will share the Playhouse stage with Broadway talents.

During the mainstage production of “Evita” (January 28 through February 11), professional actors will team up with BMA students.

Also ahead: a 6-day March masterclass.

“My dad had a strong influence on Westport,” Madison says. “I’m really excited to see how my world combines with his in Westport.”

She adds, “I know I’m not the first person with a story. BMA allows each person to come out of their shell. A lot of times, we hide what we’re feeling. BMA lets each student show what they’re going through. It allowed me and others to heal, onstage and off.”

Now, through the Playhouse, Madison says, “I’m excited to see BMA influence other kids, in Westport.”

An enthusiastic Broadway Method Academy performance.

She has found a home in Broadway Method Academy. She looks forward to feeling grounded at the Playhouse too.

Madison graduates from Bethel High in June. She’s applying to musical theater colleges. If that doesn’t work out, she may study psychology.

“My dad loved shows,” Madison says. “But he really knew a lot about people too. We’re a lot alike.”

David Adipietro Helps California Rise

The day after devastating fires swept through Napa Valley, David Adipietro was upset.

The Staples High School junior had friends in Calistoga. Over the summer, he visited them. The house he stayed in had burned to the ground.

David’s classmates in Carla Eichler’s Advanced Design class were working on a travel poster project.

David Adipietro, at work in Carla Eichler’s Advanced Design class.

He scrapped his initial plan, which included photos he’d taken in northern California. By the end of the class period, he’d transformed his concept into a fundraising campaign.

Within days, he’d created a website. He posted his designs. The theme is simple: “Let’s Rise from the Ashes.”

His photos are available for sale on the site, as downloads. David is donating 90% of the proceeds to charities in California. The remaining 10% covers his costs.

A Yosemite poster available on David Adipietro’s website.

Eichler’s Advanced Design class is great. It appeals to clever, creative students.

And, apparently, to at least one very caring and compassionate teenager.

(Click here for David Adipietro’s “California, Let’s Rise” website.)

Opening The Door For Veterans, On Their Special Day

Today is Veterans Day. There’s no better time to hear Dylan Mace’s story.

The Staples High School junior is a varsity hockey player. He’s also an active member of Operation Care Package, a school club that assembles and sends books, magazines, food and more to American troops serving in places like Afghanistan.

Dylan got involved as a freshman. His grandfather served in Special Forces during the Korean War. Before he died, he passed along his pride in the military to Dylan.

Dylan Mace

This year, as he tried to find another way to help out, Dylan learned about Westport’s VFW Post 399. Speaking with commander Bernie Rombout, he learned the Riverside Avenue building lacked a handicap-accessible bathroom.

“That appalled me,” Dylan says. “These are brave men and women who serve. They could lose limbs. They should be able to use the bathroom at the VFW!”

Dylan learned the cost of design and renovation for such a bathroom: $10,000.

Immediately, he created a GoFundMe page to help.

Dylan will also be at the downtown Starbucks this weekend, soliciting donations.

In many ways, today is a normal Saturday in Westport. But it’s also an important national holiday.

Dylan Mace has provided a meaningful way for us to honor it. Just click here to help.

(Hat tip: Vicky Capozzi)

Making Music After A Midlife Crisis

Rob Slosberg is “just a dad trying to live the midlife crisis dream.”

This being Westport, many midlife crises are eased with a sports car or trophy wife.

Slosberg — a lifelong Westporter and 1982 Staples High School grad — took a different route.

“It’s a bit surreal releasing a first album at my age,” he says. (He’s 52.) “When I tell people about it, they sort of tilt their head at me and say, ‘why?” Or they ask, “seriously, what’s your real job?”

Growing up in Westport — and just starting his career in advertising — Slosberg only dabbled in music. But then his 2 sons were born. He picked up his guitar, and played for and with them.

By the time Justin was 11 — and drumming with School of Rock —  Slosberg joined him in a band.

Justin Slosberg

At 14, Justin tried guitar. Pretty quickly, he was better than his dad.

Slosberg tells people that Justin got too cool to play with his father. Actually, Slosberg admits, his son was too talented.

That’s not the old man blowing smoke. Justin was recently accepted into Berklee College of Music.

So Slosberg started another band. Miss Suzy’s Opus was a regular on the Bobby Q’s roof.

Slosberg began writing original tunes. But he was hesitant to play them publicly. “People want to dance. They don’t want to hear some guy’s new song,” he says. “I completely get that.”

Rob Slosberg

Then one of his sons got very sick. Today Slosberg tells people, “‘we went through a traumatic medical event.’ I usually don’t talk about it much more than that, because it hurts my heart to talk about it. It was a dark time.”

Suddenly, there was nothing more important in his life than writing more songs and getting an album finished. Slosberg was on a mission.

It took a year, on and off, in the studio. He kept it secret from almost everyone.

“I didn’t want any negative energy,” he explains. “I only played the songs for my girlfriend. She’s obligated to love them.”

In real life, Slosberg is a creative director at a New York advertising firm. The album — “Private Moon” — is being released under the name Rob Morton.

That’s his middle name. He’s not hiding anything — he just wants his artist and ad lives to be separate.

Slosberg’s favorite track is “Just One More Day With You.” It’s fun and upbeat, but with a tinge of sadness.

There’s also a tribute to his boys. It’s called “I Was Supposed to be Your Hero.”

It’s a great song. And the title is a lot better than “I Was Supposed to be an Advertising Guy, Until This Midlife Crisis Hit.”

(“Private Moon” is available on iTunes and other music sites.)

 

Jenny Hampe’s Journey

At Staples, Jenny Hampe was a disciple of Jim Wheeler. The popular art teacher advised her against art school though, warning, “It will ruin you.”

So after graduating in 1983, Jenny headed to New York University — for film.

Young Jenny Hampe.

In her senior year she moved to Kentucky, to study with Mike Skop — Wheeler’s own mentor.

“That’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” Jenny says. She dropped out of NYU, and — she thought — left Westport and the East Coast behind.

She was drawn to “very remote, windswept, lonely, cold, isolated northern places, for philosophical retreats.” Jenny says.

She lived on the northwest coast of Scotland, and an island off Maine. Every once in a while though, she returned home. When she did, Soup’s On — the friendly, funky Main Street restaurant — always welcomed her back with work.

During one of those interludes, she met a customer wearing a Norwegian sweater. He lived in Weston, but was a legit Scandinavian. They fell in love, went to Norway, got married at Norfield Church, and moved back to his home country.

He went to organic farming school. They found a farm on a fjord. Accessible only by boat, there was sun less than 6 months a year. The nearest village was over 5 miles away.

The fjord farm.

It was quite a place. UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site. National Geographic called it one of the most beautiful spots on earth. “We were there in the wilderness,” Jenny says.

The 2 suburbanites with a small flock of sheep, some wild boars and chickens learned as they lived. Soon, Jenny had a child.

Their 2 1/2 years on the fjord farm ended when her husband got in a fistfight with their 75-year-old neighbor.

Jenny found an island for sale, elsewhere in Norway. With a loan from Westport Bank & Trust, they bought it. They lived there for 7 1/2 more years. She had 2 more babies.

There were Jersey cows, 75 sheep, pigs, turkeys, chickens and rabbits. Like the other farm, this one had minimal electricity and plumbing.

“It was another amazing chapter,” Jenny recalls.

Jenny Hampe loved her farm life.

She got divorced, and married another Norwegian. Soon, Jenny was living on her 3rd farm. It lacked road access, electricity and running water.

She was there for another 10 years. She had her 4th child there too.

Jenny Hampe with her “kids” — human and animal.

Then she had a midlife crisis. “It’s a complex story,” she says. “I was homesick for my homeland.”

Which is why Jenny now lives in … Brooklyn.

She’s an artist there, working in collage and textiles. (She learned that craft while sewing her own and her family’s clothes in Norway). She also makes memory jugs.

Jenny Hampe today.

And 4 days a week, she commutes to Westport. She’s got “an amazing job” here, as an estate gardener.

“It’s confusing to some people,” she admits. “I dress in wooden shoes and aprons, with dresses down to my ankles. But I’m a New Yorker.”

She looks back with gratitude on her life tending goats and making cheese. But, she realizes, “New York was always in my blood. And Westport is my home.”

Her 4 children — now in their teens and 20s — spent last summer with her. They all shared a 1-bedroom Brooklyn apartment.

“They love New York too,” she says.

So what does she make of all this?

“My life is exciting,” she concludes. “I’m a Jenny of all trades.”