Category Archives: Westport Country Playhouse

I’ll Take “Art For $200.”

Artists sustain us in tough times. But these days, artists (and arts organizations) are in dire straits themselves.

Of course, artists are creative. (Duh.) So leave it to several of them to create a way to help themselves, arts groups — and all the rest of us.

At a time when some folks are not making money, and others have nothing to spend money on, #ArtsAliveWestport draws us all in.

Artists Amy Kaplan, Liz Leggett and Darcy Hicks, along with 3rd Selectwoman Melissa Kane, have a simple plan. Artists offer their work (priced no higher than $200).

When they reach $1,000 in sales, they invest 20% back to the arts by buying a work from another artist, or donating to a local arts non-profit (for example, The Artists Collective of Westport, MoCA Westport, Westport Country Playhouse, Beechwood Arts, Westport Community Theater, Levitt Pavilion, Connecticut Alliance for Music, Fairfield County Alliance for the Arts, or others).

Artists post an image of their work on Instagram or Facebook, with details like price, materials and dimensions, plus the hashtag #ArtsAlivewestport.

Buyers search for art using that same hashtag — #ArtsAliveWestport — on Instagram and Facebook. Available works show up in their feed. They can contact the artist directly (direct message or in the “Comments” section) to arrange purchase, payment, and pickup or shipment.

Art of all kinds is available through the #ArtsAliveWestport hashtag.

During last year’s exhibit, Kaplan says, artists and community members came together to experience art and exchange ideas. Now, during the pandemic, they’ve found solace in their studios — but miss the “sharing, the conversations and the connections that we search for by making that art.”

This project excites her because it “wraps back again, strengthening bonds as artists re-invest back into the community.”

The hashtag “conveys the vitality of our arts scene, and the continuity of that thread in the fabric of our town.”

Hicks adds, “When art and money are traded this way, the whole local economy benefits. And our spirits are lifted when we buy art. It is an intimate way of sharing and supporting each other.”

Leggett says #ArtsAliveWestport resembles the “6 degrees of separation” idea that always comforts her. “We have more in common than not,” she notes. “Connections that may seem small can emanate throughout this world. In this time of isolation and uncertainty, that idea is crucial for well-being — individually, and as a community.”

Questions? Email artsalivewestport@gmail.com, or call 646-299-6167.

COVID Roundup: Winged Monkey; Thermometers; Playhouse; MTC’s Voice; More


New York’s WABC-TV sent an Eyewitness News team to Westport yesterday, to preview today’s retail reopening.

The report showed empty downtown streets, but offered an upbeat message from Winged Monkey’s Jenny Vogel.

“We’re very excited excited to see our customers,” she said. “Don’t know how it’s going to go. Customers that we talk to all the time, they’re really looking forward to getting out of the house, shopping, going into stores again.

“We do a huge prom, graduation, so obviously we lost a lot of that. Hopefully, even though summer is usually our slowest time, this year maybe it will be a little busier since people haven’t been shopping the last couple of months.”

Jenny was excited to be on the tri-state news. As for Channel 7: They’re not yet back to pre-COVID mode.

They called 1st Selectman Jim Marpe our “mayor.” And they misspelled “Winged Monkey” in the chyron (below). Click here for the full report.


First came toilet paper. Then masks.

The next hot item: infrared thermometers.

Small businesses (between 2 and 100 employees), non-profits and places of worship can request 1 thermometer per physical address. The state will deliver them to Westport; town officials will let recipients know when and where they can be picked up. The deadline for submission is “early afternoon” tomorrow (Thursday, May 21).

To request an infrared thermometer: Small businesses should click here. Non-profits, click here. (Social services and direct care nonprofits should click on this memo). Places of worship should click here.


This distribution will continue while supplies last.

The Westport Country Playhouse doors are closed this summer. But their online presence is as robust as ever. And anyone, anywhere, can join in.

In an effort to “share experiences, exchange ideas, entertain each other, and engage our hearts, minds and souls from our own homes,” they offer “Coffee Breaks” on Thursdays at 4 p.m. Th0se 30-minute conversations begin tomorrow (May 21) with Paola Hernandez of “Man of La Mancha.” Next Thursday (May 28): Rodolfo Soto from “In the Heights.” Click here for details.

There are “Post-Watch Dialogues” too — panels with artists, scholars and community members discussing films that can be streamed at home. This Saturday (May 23, 7 p.m.), Mina Hartong hosts a panel exploring “A Secret Love.” Click here for details.


Music Theatre of Connecticut’s kids’ Voice competition is tomorrow (Thursday, May 21, 7 p.m.). It’s a fundraiser for their scholarship and programming efforts — but they give 10% of each contestant’s proceeds to a charity of their choice.

Bedford Middle School 7th grader Ryan Ryan has selected RoomToRead. An avid reader, she credits books with propelling her into theater. She wants girls around the world to experience the joy of stories, and believes that education can propel them to success.

A dancer who has performed in several Westport Country Playhouse “Nutcracker”s, with the Westport Community Theatre and at Art About Town and the Westport Library rededication, she has studied voice and acting at MTC since 2017.

To sponsor Ryan — and vote for her in the Voice competition tomorrow – click here.

Ryan Ryan


And finally … who doesn’t love a little Melissa Ehteridge?!

Color Us Westport

Westport is truly — still — an arts town. The Artists’ Collective, MoCA and new galleries offer an array of works. The response to our Saturday “0*6*Art*Art*0” gallery has been tremendous.

Now Eve Potts has passed along a great idea: Readers can create a Westport coloring book, during the pandemic. Call it “Color Us Westport.” (The idea came from her son Mark, who saw something similar where he lives now in Lawrence, Kansas.)

Working artists, doodlers and everyone in between is invited to submit a page, showing your favorite Westport scene. Then — in a variety of styles and places — they’ll be turned into a PDF, for anyone to print out and color.

Here’s one example: the Westport Country Playhouse.

What a great family activity. And an excellent way to learn about our town too.

Email submissions to miggsb@optonline.net. Deadline is May 10.

COVID Cancels Memorial Day Parade — And Fireworks

If you didn’t think the coronavirus crisis was real, today’s announcement from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe brings it home. He says:

It is with great regret that we must announce that due to the COVID-19 crisis, the town of Westport’s annual Memorial Day parade and July 4 fireworks have been canceled. Unfortunately, many nearby communities have made similar decisions to cancel their summer events.

Both events draw hundreds of participants and thousands of onlookers each year. In an abundance of caution, and with the health and safety of our community at the forefront of our perspective, it is only appropriate that we notify the public well in advance that these scheduled events have been canceled.

The decision to cancel does not come without reservation or sadness from all our public officials. However, the current environment dictates that we determine the best way to manage these types of events in the future. We cannot make assumptions at this time on whether or not it will be safe to congregate in any size crowd, much less ones of this magnitude, by the end of May or the beginning of July.

Westport’s Memorial Day parade doesn’t get more classic than this. (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

The Memorial Day Parade and the following ceremony at Veterans Green, organized by the Westport Veterans Council and Westport Parks and Recreation Department, was to be held on Monday, May 25.

The town of Westport will always remember the ultimate sacrifices made by so many service men and women in defense of our freedoms. We plan for an alternate virtual event for Memorial Day to honor our veterans, and commemorate those selfless soldiers who gave their lives for their country. Details will be forthcoming.

Speeches on Veterans Green by grand marshals — like Larry Aasen, above — are among the most meaningful parts of Westport’s Memorial Day celebration. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

The Westport Police Athletic League-sponsored Independence Day fireworks was scheduled for July 2, 2020. This family outing annually draws thousands of attendees to Compo Beach and the nearby neighborhoods for an evening of fun and fireworks.

“The PAL had to make a difficult decision regarding the Independence Day fireworks. Please understand that organizing an event of this magnitude requires not only a significant amount of pre-planning, but also a financial commitment that must be made several months in advance. With the uncertainty surrounding current restrictions on large gatherings and when these might be lifted, it would be ill-advised to plan an event which may ultimately not be possible and safe to execute,” said PAL president Ned Batlin.

Although the fireworks celebration will not be held this year, the community will be encouraged to remember and celebrate the spirit of the Independence Day holiday in their own private way.  We are confident that soon, the crisis will be lessened and we will once again be able to hold these longstanding community events.

Please be assured that when that time comes, they will be organized with effective pre-planning, precision and with abundant public safety considerations. Thank you for your continued understanding and commitment to maintaining the health, well-being and safety of our entire community.

A timeless scene — and one we won’t see this year.

Pic Of The Day #1097

The Westport Country Playhouse is always beautiful — but particularly in spring. Sadly, the pandemic forced the theater to close for the rest of this year. (Photo/Molly Alger)

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 5 Gallery

Hard to believe this is already the 5th edition of our online art gallery.

Every Saturday, we share readers’ artwork. Professional, amateur, old, young  — send us your painting, collage, sketch, photo, sculpture, chalkwork, cartoon, whatever.

The only rule is it must be inspired by, reflective of, or otherwise related to the times we’re going through. We’re all experiencing tons of emotions, and art is a wonderful way to express (and share) them. Email your submission to dwoog@optonline.net.

Keep the submissions coming. If yours is not posted yet, be patient. There will be more next Saturday. And unfortunately, for some time to come.

“The Lightness of Being: Magnolia Blossoms in Late Afternoon Light” (Tom Kretsch, on Compo Road South)

“We Are All In This Together” (Morgan Veltri, Grade 11)

After the Westport Country Playhouse announced it would be dark for the rest of this year, Pat Blaufuss writes of this photo by Kathleen O’Rourke: “Waiting for the curtain to rise again. The darkened theater, with only the reflection of the ghost light on stage.”

“More Anxiety” (Larry Gordon)

Every day they’re home, each Curran kid paints a rock.

“Girl Donning a Flowered Hat During These Daunting Days” (Judith Marks-White)

“Stuck in Your Hometown? Or Loving It” (Drone video by Rob Feakins)

“Just Married. Social Distancing.” (Amy Schneider)

“The Times They Are A-Changin'” clock. (Steve Lunt)

Josh Fagen says: “Per her mom’s great idea, our 6-year-old Lola made art on her friends’ driveways using glitter chalk, with messages of how much she misses them. We warned parents so they would be inside when we showed up. One of Lola’s friends is coming over now to leave her own art message on our driveway.”

Bob Weingarten has seen this on Morningside Drive South for nearly a year. It reminds him of a helping hand.

Staples High School freshman Dylan Chatterjee made this with his father to celebrate Easter — and social distancing.

 

Friday Flashback #189

The news that the Westport Country Playhouse will postpone its entire 2020 season is one more sobering reminder that the coronavirus affects every aspect of life.

First opened in 1931, the one-time tannery and cider mill earned national renown as a launching pad for Broadway plays. It was one of America’s most prestigious summer stock theaters, when they were in their heyday. This year, the Playhouse looked forward to celebrating its 90th season.

Instead it will be dark. That’s happened only once before: from 1942 to 1945, during World War II. (In the early 2000s, during its renovation into a state-of-the-art theater, shows were produced elsewhere.)

As ads from its early programs show, the Westport Country Playhouse has been supported by the community for nearly a century.

1935

1935

1936

1941

1947

Some of those advertisers are long gone. Others lasted decades more. Taylor’s, Achorn’s and Kowalsky are still around.

With our help, in 2021 the Westport Country Playhouse will be too. (Hat tip: Pat Blaufuss)

Playhouse Postpones 2020 Season — To 2021

Subscribers to the Westport Country Playhouse just received this message from artistic director Mark Lamos, and managing director Michael Barker:

The view from our windows seems normal; spring and warmer days are arriving. But the world has been upended. And as with our personal lives, the public face of the Playhouse must pause, too.

After careful consideration of public health guidelines and with the health and well-being of our audience members, patrons, artists, and staff in mind, we have made the painful decision to postpone our 2020 season.

The curtain will not go up again until 2021, when we hope to present the originally scheduled 2020 programming: 5 mainstage plays featuring the re-imagining of Ain’t Misbehavin’, 5 Script in Hand play readings, and Family Festivities presentations for young audiences. We also look forward to once again giving the gift of time and space to playwrights, directors, and casts in our New Works Initiative.

The Westport Country Playhouse.

This is a frightening and unnerving time for us all, especially for the Playhouse. We have been forced to furlough half of our staff, and plan to bring them back when it comes time produce the 2021 season.

It is our goal for their health insurance to continue without interruption. In addition, we have applied for government loans through the CARES Act. However, with no continuing revenue from ticket sales, we cannot survive unless we raise $1.6 million between now and December 31. For those who are able, please make a donation to our Survival Fund.

(Photo/Robert Benson)

Those of you who have tickets to 2020 events will be receiving a separate email this week with instructions on how to donate the value of your tickets, receive a credit for future events, or request a refund.

Our stage may be dark and we must remain physically distant, but we can still be #TogetherAtHome. We are planning to stay connected, living room to living room, in the upcoming months, beginning this Friday, April 17, with our first livestream event, “Getting to Know You: A Celebration of Young Artists” with Tony Award-winning Broadway star Kelli O’Hara.

To our loyal audiences, supporters, and art makers: For nearly 90 years, the Playhouse has been dedicated to bringing theater to the stage and being a central provider to our community. Live theater is special, and we all experience it together — hearing the same words, feeling the same current when actors eyes connect, sitting in the same velvet seats. And, with your help, we look forward to another 90!

 

 

COVID-19 Roundup: Optimism; Playhouse Performers; Mercy Learning, And More

CBS News’ Steve Hartman hosts an online “class” about optimism. It’s aimed at children, but should be mandatory viewing for everyone.

The most recent session was about a 4-year-old girl who befriended an 84-year-old widower. It’s a wonderful piece. But that’s not why I’m showing it.

The “06800” link is that Steve introduces it all with Mike Aitkenhead. He’s the former Staples High School/current Weston High environmental instructor who — when he was named Teacher of the Year — thanked “Mike the Mailman.”

“It’s not what you do in life. It’s how you do it,” Mike the Teacher said. Click below — and have your Kleenex ready. (Hat tip: Mark Lassoff)


The Westport Country Playhouse is dark. But this Friday (April 17, 7 p.m.), it will light up online with some spectacular performances.

The Playhouse YouTube channel and Facebook live will host “Getting to Know You: A Celebration of Young Artists.” Westport’s Tony Award-winning Broadway star Kelli O’Hara hosts 10 Fairfield County students — all accomplished musical theater artists.

Dozens of hopefuls submitted videos of songs — many of which they hoped to perform in musicals this spring. Ten were selected randomly. Among them: Camille Foisie of Staples High School, and Momo Burns-Min of Weston High.

Ten understudies were chosen to submit a question for O’Hara to answer. Staples’ Jamie Mann is one of them.

All videos submitted will be compiled into a supercut at the end of the program, and shared on Playhouse social media channels.

(For Friday’s livestream, click on westportplayhouse.org, go to the bottom of the homepage, and click on the Facebook or YouTube icon.)


For 30 years, Westporters have embraced the mission of Mercy Learning Center: to improve the lives of under-served women in Bridgeport through education.

Of course, women who are hungry cannot learn. If they can’t afford the rent or diapers, they have no time or energy to learn. Now, the coronavirus has made those needs even more dire.

In week 4 of the crisis, MLC has exhausted their food and diaper pantries — and run out of food gift cards.

Because Mercy Learning Center is not considered an “essential service,” the building is closed. But director Jane Ferreira and her staff are in touch with their students. They’re doing their best to ensure they have food and basic supplies, plus funds to help with rent and other bills.

Checks can be sent to Mercy Learning Center, 637 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604. Click here for online donations.


On the one hand, this seems like great news.

On the other hand, it’s like a tease.

Who’s driving anywhere these days? (Hat tip: Chip Stephens)


And finally, this classic duet from 2 who died way too young: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell:

 

 

COVID-19 Roundup: Student Theater And Art; Medical Heroes; Baseball, Masks, More

The Westport Country Playhouse is dark. But it lights up on both Facebook and the Playhouse’s own YouTube channel on Friday, April 17 (7 p.m.).

It shines with Westport’s own Kelli O’Hara, and 10 randomly selected Fairfield County High School students. They’ll chat with the Broadway star, and perform musical theater selections.

Students can click here between tomorrow (Sunday, April 5, 10 a.m.) and Wednesday (April 8, 10 a.m.). Upload a video of yourself performing any musical theater song.

In addition to the 10 students chosen, 10 “understudies” will be selected to submit a question for Kelli to answer during the show.

“I’m a firm believer in the healing magic of the arts,” the Tony Award-winning (“The King and I”) actor says. Most recently, she earned a Tony nomination for “Kiss Me, Kate.”

All videos submitted will be featured in a compilation, released on Playhouse social media channels. For more information, email education@westportplayhouse.org.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)


First “06880” encouraged Westport students to do artwork while they’re home from school.

Now Friends of Westport Public Art Collections is doing the same. Here’s the hook: If your work is accepted by Friends, it will be featured in the public schools’ 2020-21 calendar.

Submissions can be new — or something already painted, drawn, photographed or digitally created. Click here for details.


Many people have seen this photo from Yale New Haven Health. Front line personnel are pleading with everyone to keep physical distance.

But you may not know that the nurse in the far left of the front row is Nick Kiedaisch. The 2012 Staples High School graduate — and varsity baseball star — is among the medical heroes. Let’s do all we can to make his and his colleagues’ jobs easier. (Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)


Lifelong Westporter Deborah Johnson is a well-known designer and decorator, with her own drapery business.

Over the years she has assembled plenty of extra fabric. Now she’s using it to make face masks. If you’d like to help, or know someone in great need, email wsptgirl@yahoo.com(Hat tip: Steve Crowley)


Speaking of masks: Yesterday’s Roundup story on Virginia Jaffe’s project raised immediate funds, delivered 4 sewing helpers — and brought a request from the director of STAR Lighting the Way. Today, Virginia and her crew are donating 80 masks for their staff. Well done!

Virginia Jaffe, in her workroom


It’s looking increasingly unlikely that the spring high school sports season will happen.

That’s devastating news to hundreds of Staples athletes — and hundreds of thousands more across the country.

Which brings up this local/national news: In a just-released preseason poll, the National High School Baseball Coaches Association ranked the Wreckers 31st, in the entire country.

They’re defending state champions. But they may never get their chance to defend their title.

They might also lose the opportunity to see how much further they’d climb in the rankings. Normally at this time of year, anticipation and excitement would be high.

Opening day was supposed to have been today.

Instead of “Play ball!” it’s “Keep away!”

So right now, guys, we’re sorry. Congratulations on being #31 in the nation will have to suffice. (Hat tip: Vince Kelly)


And finally, what’s Saturday without a dance party?

C’mon! It’s time to throw down. Nobody’s watching! And even if they are …