Category Archives: Westport Country Playhouse

Roundup: Masks, Gatsby Day, Ospreys …

===============================================

Yesterday’s announcement by the Centers for Disease Control that fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks in most situations — including indoors — will be effective next Wednesday (May 19) in Connecticut, Governor Lamont said yesterday.

That’s the date other restrictions will be lifted too.

Connecticut residents can’t abandon their masks just yet. Wait until May 19! (Photo collage/Miggs Burroughs)

=====================================================

Happy Gatsby Day!

A few years ago, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe declared May 14 “Gatsby Day” in Westport.

That’s the date — 101 years ago today — that F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald signed their lease for the house at what is now 244 South Compo Road.

Marpe said that Gatsby Day should be celebrated in perpetuity. COVID has prevented celebrations last year — the centennial! — and this. But historian Deej Webb (who literally wrote the book on “Gatsby in Connecticut”) wants to make sure that Westport remembers the day.

It’s interesting to note that the Roaring ’20s — the decade associated so closely with the legendary author and his wife — were a direct result of the influenza pandemic of 1918-19.

Will a similar decade follow COVID? And if so, will the direct result of the Roaring ’20s — the Great Depression — ensue too?

FUN FITZGERALD FACT: Deej Webb says that the iconic shot of F. Scott and Zelda in front of their Westport house was not, as is often assumed, photoshopped. It’s legit:

We know the Westport Country Playhouse is a town jewel.

So does the National Endowment for the Arts. They just awarded the Playhouse a $10,000 Arts Projects grant. It supports “Ain’t Misbehavin,” the musical planned for 2022.

=======================================================

Nico Eisenberger writes: “I just witnessed an unbelievable spectacle. Three bald eagles went up against 3 ospreys in a full-on battle for the skies … all right above the new osprey nest on the way to Burying Hill.

“They screeched, swerved, swooped, dove, teamed, ganged, isolated, regrouped and went at it again and again. My measly iPhone photo [below] doesn’t do it justice. It was jaw-dropping.

“I caught a hint of this growing local rivalry a few times over the past few days, but nothing like the epic battle now.

“I am sure there will be more. Fingers crossed for all involved, especially our new nesting pair. So far, it seems they have been able to defend themselves nicely.”

Nico copied Patrick Comins, executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society. He replied:

“This is something we will see more and more of, especially with the overlapping hunting territories of the nesting eagle pair and many ospreys. Bald eagles regularly harass osprey, steal their prey, and occasionally kill or injure ospreys in the process.

“But both species treat each other with some degree of respect, because each can cause damage to the other.”

(Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

=======================================================

Now there are 3.

Easton has joined the Westport Weston Health District.

Which means it needs a new name. Suggestions (beyond “Westport Weston Easton Health District,” I guess) are welcome. Email publichealth@wwhd.org.

=======================================================

The only thing better than al fresco dining may be doing it with the best local bounty. Oh, yeah … with chef Alison Milwe Grace in charge.

The popular caterer works her magic at Wakeman Town Farm on June 12 (6 to 9 p.m.). The menu for the WTF fundraiser (for educational programs) includes chilled spring pea and basil soup, spring vegetables, spring lamb chops with mint chimichurri or herb-dusted salmon over asparagus, with lemon-thyme berry trifles. BYOB adult beverages.

Guests can stroll the grounds and gardens, visit the animals, and enjoy acoustic music.

Click here for tickets, and more information.

Alison Milwe Grace, at Wakeman Town Farm.

=======================================================

And finally … there was no Billboard Hot 100 on May 14, 1920 (the day, noted above, that F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald signed their Westport lease). It started August 4, 1958.

However, there are records kept of the top records of 1920. The most popular song that year was Al Jolson’s “Swanee.” “How I love ya, how I love ya …”

The rest of the top songs include a few folks I’ve heard of (Paul Whiteman, Eddie Cantor, Jascha Heifetz, Sergei Rachmaninoff). But 2 titles caught my eye, for different reasons.

There was this topical tune, “Prohibition Blues” …

… and this one: “My Little Bimbo Down on the Bamboo Isle.” It would never fly today, 101 years later:

Roundup: Staples Players, Mattress Recycling, Pet Photos …

===================================================

The Staples High School auditorium has been dark for 14 months.

But later this month, Staples Players will be back on stage.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow (Saturday, May 8) for a unique show. “Words Words Words … And Music” is a feel-good, very funny journey through 5 short plays by award-winning (and witty) playwright David Ives, plus 2 mini-musicals and a smattering of songs and monologues.

The curtain goes up May 20 and 21 (7:30 p.m.), and 22 (2 p.m., 7:30 p.m.). Socially distant seating is available tomorrow (click here). NOTE: Cultural starvation and fewer seats may create a toilet paper-in-2020 situation.

A virtual livestream is set for June 6 (6 p.m.).

======================================================

Who wouldn’t like free compost?

Just bring a container (no larger than a kitchen trash can) to the mattress and box spring recycling event at Earthplace tomorrow (Saturday, May 8, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.). Boy Scouts will fill it!

Sustainable Westport is thanking Westport for making the food scrap recycling program such a success. Started less than a year ago, residents now divert 10 tons of food scraps a month. (That’s in addition to me compost piles.)

That’s great. But the goal is to double participation in the Zero Food Waste Challenge in the next 6 months. For options, and guidance, click here. For more information on tomorrow’s event, email ZeroWaste@SustainableWestport.org or call 203-293-6320.

Free compost at Earthplace!

=======================================================

Speaking of Earthplace: This year, their annual fundraiser has been turned into a special “Cocktails & Clams To Go” have-your-own-picnic event.

100 boxes of Copps Island oysters or clams (your choice) are on sale (along with a shucking knife, cocktail sauce and mixer, Harbor Watch car magnet, and raffle entry.

Each basket purchased allows Harbor Watch to continue its fight against pollution in local waterways. Click here for more information, and to purchase your shellfish.

=======================================================

Ever since she opened Le Rouge Aartisan Chocolates, Aarti Khosla has helped people and organizations in need in Westport, Bridgeport and throughout Fairfield County.

Now she’s helping people in her native land.

As COVID causes havoc in India, Aarti is helping raise funds to mobilize oxygen concentrators and other equipment. “No amount is too small to make a difference,” Aarti says. She is working with Vibha, a non-profit whose tagline is “Save lives. Save India.” Click here for details, and to contribute.

She is also donating 20% of all sales from Mother’s Day and Teacher Appreciation Week to Vibha. So this is the perfect time for some fantastic chocolate — and to help an important cause.

=======================================================

Tickets for individual Westport Country Playhouse virtual performances are now on sale.

This season’s online offerings include a comedy (“Tiny House,” June 29-July 18), a Script in Hand (“The Savannah Disputation,” June 14-20), a classic (“Man of La Mancha 2018,” August 23-September 5), and a gripping drama (“Doubt: A Parable,” November 2-21).

Virtual tickets start at just $20. Click here for more information, and to order. Questions? Call 203-227-4177, or email boxoffice@westportplayhouse.org.

=======================================================

Staples junior Katie Davitt has found a way to combine her passions for art and advocacy. She draws pet portraits for families — and donates 100% of the proceeds to causes she cares deeply about, like racial justice (Equal Justice Initiative), animal welfare (Connecticut Humane Society) and combating climate change (Environmental Defense Fund).

So far, she has raised and given away over $1,500.

Katie says, “the pandemic has given me an opportunity to look inward and realize what is truly important to me: family, friends, pursuing my passions. At the same time it’s opened my eyes to injustices in the world. I feel like I am doing my small part in making a difference.”

Katie is busy with schoolwork. But anyone interested in pet portraits this summer should send a photo of the pet, its name and your background color preference to kateedavitt@gmail.com. She charges $65 for a printed portrait in a 9”x11” black frame with a white matte, $45 for a digital file.

One of Katie Davitt’s pet photos.

=======================================================

Westport Transit director Peter Gold writes:

“Ten days ago, I urged the community to ask the RTM to support public transit in Westport by restoring funds cut from the Westport Transit District’s budget for the Wheels2U Westport shuttles.

“The response was overwhelming. Over 100 letters were sent to the RTM from individuals and organizations in favor of restoring the funding. The RTM heard your voice, and voted 32-to-1 to restore the budget and keep Westport’s Wheels2U shuttle running and growing!

“Wheels2U Westport was launched in October 2020 to support Westport residents and businesses. It provides a convenient and environmentally-friendly way for Westport residents and reverse commuters to travel between the train stations and their homes, employers and downtown. Wheels2U is now an integral part of Westport.

“We cannot thank you enough! A diverse group of residents, commuters and key Westport organizations came together to share your stories, explain the shuttle’s benefits, and lend your voice to restoring the budget.

“There are exciting things planned for Wheels2U Westport in the next year. We look forward to keeping everyone up to date about our growth and new initiatives.”

======================================================

Westport’s wonderful spring continues. Judith Katz spotted these tulips on Myrtle Avenue, across from Sconset Square. Just a few of the many colorful flowers that make our town so beautiful.

(Photo/Judith Katz)

======================================================

And finally … in Vienna today in 1824, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was first performed. It’s considered the composer’s greatest work — and one of the finest musical achievements of all time. Groundbreaking in its use of voices, it is also one of the most performed symphonies in the world.

Of course, Beethoven never heard his masterpiece. When he began composing the 9th Symphony in 1822, he was already deaf.

Roundup: Farmers’ Market, Outdoor Dining, Charlie Capalbo …

======================================================

One of the surest signs of spring is the return of the Westport Farmers’ Market.

Mark your calendars for Thursday, May 13. The Market will run every Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., through mid-November, at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. Cross Culture Kombucha will offer a special toast, to celebrate WFM’s perseverance through the pandemic.

The Market’s shopping experience and programming (including Get Growing, Music @ the Market, Artist Alley, Chef @ the Market, Friend of the Market and Young Shoots) will operate much like before COVID — while honoring all state and local health guidelines.

Over 50 vendors will participate this season (click here for the full list), with over 30 on site each Thursday. New vendors include

  • Parlor
  • Stonington Kelp Farm
  • Edenesque (alternative dairy)
  • Tribus Brewery
  • Sprout Juice Bar
  • Stylish Spoon
  • And more.

For more information, click here or email   director@westportfarmersmarket.com.

======================================================

State and local officials wanted to support for outdoor dining. What better spot to do it than an actual restaurant.

Yesterday, the group gathered at Tarantino’s. They discussed a new state expansion of rules, and the possibility of making them permanent. Removing parking, adding seating on Railroad Place, and the use of town- and state-owned parking lots were among the concepts.

Dining and discussion at Tarantino’s (clockwise from left): 2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker, Police Chief Foti Koskinas, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce executive director Matthew Mandell, State Senator Tony Hwang, State Representative Stephanie Thomas.

======================================================

A few spots remain for tomorrow’s (Saturday, May 1) Fleet Feet 5K and kids’ fun runs. The youngsters start at 9:30 a.m., with the 5K following at 10. Click here to register.

Both kick off the 2nd annual Fitness & Health Expo. The event takes place all along Main Street (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), but many more businesses and organizations are involved.

Westport’s leading studios and clubs — including JoyRide, Pure Barre, Row House, Elliptica, Intensity, Physique57, Club Pilates, Saugatuck Rowing Club, The Dance Collective, Stretch Lab, Kaia Yoga and the Westport Weston Family YMCA — will organize fun (and challenging) classes on main Street.

Walk-ups are not permitted for classes. To register, contact each studio directly. Observers are welcome, of course!

Other health and wellness folks will have a presence too: Franny’s Farmacy, RESTORE Cryo, Cparkly Soul, Wisdom and Youth MedSpa, Embrace Orthodontics, New England Hemp Farm, TAP Strength Lab and Organic Krush. It’s sponsored by the Westport Downtown Association.

=======================================================
Jill Bodach is an adjunct professor at Fairfield University. Describing Charlie Capalbo — the Fairfield resident whose grandmother is Westport writer Ina Chadwick, and who has fiercely battled cancer twice — she says:

“Over the years, I have had the privilege of being allowed into some of my students’ most intimate moments: the grief of losing loved ones, the end of relationships, engagements and graduate school acceptances, but never has a student’s story impacted me as deeply as Charlie’s.

He was enrolled in my Creative Writing: Fiction 1 class this semester but before classes could really begin, I learned he wouldn’t complete the semester due to his treatment. I wanted to help. Maybe it was because I saw this handsome, curly-haired young man’s face on my class roster and thought, ‘Wow, the world can be so incredibly unfair sometimes. Maybe it was because I’m a parent myself. Maybe it was because my son Jack was very sick when he was born and my husband and I endured the mental and emotional rollercoaster of having a hospitalized child. Maybe it was because as we emerged from the dark isolation of the pandemic I felt the need to connect with others deeply and more fervently than ever before.

When Jill’s trainer challenged her to run 100 miles in May, she saw it as a way to help Charlie.

When he told Jill during a text that he uses Uber Eats regularly — and she thought about the important role food plays in our lives — she had an idea for a fundraiser.

“I will think of Charlie with every step I take,” she writes of her 100-mile goal. “I am in awe of his courage, bravery, resilience and grit …. Someday Charlie will be back on the ice, back on campus and back to enjoying his life, but in the meantime, I’m grateful to be able to help.”

All proceeds from “Fuel for the Fight” will purchase Uber Eats gift cards for the Capalbos. Their expenses have been enormous. Click here to contribute.

Charlie and his mother, Jennifer Wilde Capalbo — with food.

=================================================

Attention, middle schoolers looking for an in-person social justice theater camp:

Check out Camp WCP. That’s the newest offering from the Westport Country Playhouse. It runs July 6 through 30, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the rehearsal studio.

Actin will be taught in the morning, playwriting/production in the afternoon. Young artists  will create original pieces focusing on “What does home mean to you?” Working with playwright and University of Michigan professor José Casas, they’ll weave their stories into a play.

On July 31, students will share their original creations at the Playhouse. with family and friends.

Registration begins Monday (May 3); click here.

=======================================================

The Unitarian Church is nestled in the church off Lyons Plains Road. Nature is everywhere — including this photo by their director of social justice, David Vita.

“Dinner time,” he says simply.

(Photo/David Vita)

=======================================================

And finally … Johnny Horton was born today, in 1925. If he hadn’t been killed in an automobile accident in 1960, there’s no telling how many other historical saga songs he could have recorded.

 

Roundup: Mahackeno Outdoor Center, Oystercatchers, Tulips …

=================================================

The Mahackeno Outdoor Center opens this Saturday (May 1).

And (except for the pool) it’s open to everyone — member or not — through May 31. From June 1 through September 30, the Outdoor Center is for members only.

Here’s the schedule for the first week of May:

Saturdays, May 1 and 8:

  • All day: Playgrounds, gaga pit, basketball courts, climbing wall, sports fields.
  • 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Yard games
  • 1 p.m to 6 p.m.: Archery, slides, pool
  • 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Canoes and paddleboats

Sundays, May 2 and May 9

  • All day: Playgrounds, gaga pit, basketball courts, climbing wall, sports fields.
  • 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Yard games
  • 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Slides, pool

·Monday, May 3 through Friday, May 7:

  • All day: Playgrounds, gaga pit, basketball courts, climbing wall, sports fields.
  • 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Slides

TBD: Archery, canoes, paddleboats

  • ·     3:00pm-6:00pm: slides
  • ·     Archery: hours TBD
  • ·     Water front activities – canoes and paddleboats: hours TBD

For more information, click here.

The Westport Y Mahackeno Outdoor Center playground.

=======================================================

Single tickets for Westport Country Playhouse’s all-virtual 2021 season go on sale Tuesday (May 4, noon).

The Playhouse’s 2021 season — from June 15 through December 19 — has been reconceived as diverse entertainment, tailored for digital enjoyment. All content will be available on the Playhouse website, on-demand for patrons’ convenience. Single tickets, starting at $25 for staged productions and $20 for Script in Hand play readings, may be purchased by phone (203-227-4177) or online.

The first of 3 new virtual productions is “Tiny House,” a comedy (June 29- July 18). The second virtual production, “Doubt: A Parable” — a Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning drama runs November 2-21.

Two HD video productions from Playhouse archives will stream on-demand: “Man of La Mancha” (August 23-September 5), and another (to be announced, September 13-26).

Three Script in Hand play readings include “The Savannah Disputation” (June 15-20). The others are October 19 – 24, and December 14 – 19.

Special pre- and post-show events are planned, including virtual LGBT Night Out cocktail parties, and interactive talkbacks.

For the 2nd year in a row, there will be no audiences in the Westport Country Playhouse. But the show(s) will go on.(Photo/Robert Benson)

=======================================================

Renato’s Jewelers is helping fight food insecurity — and offering a chance to win a princess cut diamond necklace, set in 14k white gold and valued at $1,700.

For every $50 donation made through Team Renato to Homes with Hope, you earn one chance to win the necklace. Click here to donate (and win?!).

Renato Jewelers’ necklace.

=======================================================

Westport loves our ospreys. And our American oystercatchers.

Tina Green spotted the beautiful bird yesterday morning, at Compo Beach. She alerted Westport Parks & Recreation, to warn beachgoers to stay away.

Incubation is 25 to 27 days, Tina says.

(Photo/Tina Green)

======================================================

It’s tulip time.

Wendy Van Wie waves hello from her Cross Highway home. Say it with flowers, for sure!

=======================================================

Last month, student artwork designed for the “Westport Youth Arts Collaborative: America’s Voices” project was featured at our 5 elementary schools.

If you missed it — no problem. The Westport Arts Advisory Committee has created 2 displays of lawn signs, featuring inspiring art and words from elementary and high school artists. They’re outside Town Hall and on Jesup Green, through May 5.

Student artwork on Jesup Green (Photo/Amy Schneider)

=======================================================

Happy 32nd birthday to Andrew Colabella.

He’s a young Westport RTM member — but he cares about Westport (and knows its history) as if he has lived here for 100 years. Have a great day, Andrew!

Andrew Colabella, at the 2019 Memorial Day parade.

=======================================================

And finally … the Levitt Pavilion has hosted some legendary fundraising benefits.

The most memorable may have been Willie Nelson. He owned the stage from his first lick, and got stronger with each song.

Near the end, I thought I saw Keith Richards hanging out near the stage. Sure enough, he ambled out, guitar in hand.

He said, “I’ve always wanted to sing with Willie.” And then he did.

Today is Willie Nelson’s birthday. Unbelievably, it’s his 88th. He — and Keith — will outlive us all.

 

 

Eartha & Kitt: A Love Story In Black And White

In 1957, Eartha Kitt starred in the Westport Country Playhouse production of “Mrs. Patterson.”

She was already famous. The actor/singer/dancer had debuted on Broadway a dozen years earlier. Her 1953 recordings of “C’est Si Bon” and “Santa Baby” both hit the Top 10. Orson Welles had called her the “most exciting woman in the world.”

She had homes in Beverly Hills and London. But in 2001 — after her daughter Kitt Shapiro had married Allan Rothschild, and moved into his Westport house — Eartha Kitt bought a home in Weston.

She loved it: the people, the river, the proximity to New York (and her grandchildren).

Kitt and her kids thrived here. She loves living in “a unique area, with eclectic people.” Three years ago she opened WEST, a very cool Post Road East boutique.

Eartha Kitt died in 2008. Kitt had worked closely with her, on business matters.

Now Kitt has written a book. Eartha & Kitt: A Daughter’s Love Story in Black and White details their wonderful relationship. And much, much more. It will be published May 4, just before Mother’s Day.

Eartha’s mother was of African and Cherokee descent. Eartha never knew her father; he may have been white.

“I was meant to be her daughter. I gave my mother roots and grounding,” Kitt — who was born in 1961, during Eartha’s 4-year marriage to John McDonald — says. “That’s not always easy, for people in that industry.”

Eartha Kitt was sometimes “too light-skinned for Black people, and too dark for white people,” Kitt Shapiro says.

Kitt herself has been attacked on social media for being “too light to be Eartha Kitt’s daughter.”

Eartha Kitt and her daughter.

“The gene pool does what it does,” she says. “My mother thought that treating people a certain way just because of their skin color was preposterous. She couldn’t understand the need of society to pigeonhole people as one particular thing.”

In her early years in New York, Eartha had to be “either a jazz singer or a gospel singer. She couldn’t be just ‘a singer.’ She fought against that, and we’re still fighting that today.”

That’s one of the themes of Eartha & Kitt. Kitt felt this is “the right time to talk about race, and a woman who was a trailblazer. She was a Black woman, a role model who spoke out.”

Eartha Kitt certainly did that. In 1968 — at a White House luncheon — she sharply criticized President Johnson’s handling of the Vietnam War. The CIA called her “a sadistic nymphomaniac,” and her career stalled in the US. She continued to perform, with great success, in Europe and Asia.

In 1978 she returned triumphantly to Broadway, in “Timbuktu!” She gained new generations of fans with voiceovers in movies like “The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story,” New York cabarets and much more.

Kitt Shapiro’s new book is “for anyone who had a relationship like we did — whether it was with a mother, a mother figure or a sibling.”

Its message, she says, will resonate with many: “We all have a right to be here. We are all unique. We can embrace and learn from each other. That was my mother’s philosophy, and it speaks to a lot of people.”

When Eartha Kitt died, her daughter says proudly, she had 200,000 Facebook followers. Many were women between 18 and 35 years old. They admired “a woman who never compromised who she was. She always spoke the truth.”

Now Kitt Shapiro brings that message to a new, even wider audience.

(Click here to order Eartha & Kitt: A Daughter’s Love Story in Black and White. Eartha Kitt died of colon cancer; Kitt Shapiro is raising funds for the American Cancer Society’s “Women Leading the Way to Wellness” project. Stop in to WEST at 117 Post Road East; for $125 you get a signed copy of her book, a scented candle, and beaded bracelet.)

Roundup: Vaccines, Teacher Of The Year, Mattress Recycling, Jeff Immelt …

=================================================

Yesterday’s 4th Westport Public Schools’ vaccine clinic was another success.

Hundreds of educators — along with their colleagues in Weston and Easton — have now received their 2nd COVID dose.

Yesterday’s event in the Staples High School fieldhouse was an “all in the family” affair. In the photo below, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice receives his injection from Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Technician Ben Frimmer.

Frimmer’s name may sound familiar. That’s because his day job is theater teacher and drama director at Coleytown Middle School.

(Photo/John Bayers)

======================================================

Speaking of education: Eric Lawrence is the Connecticut PTA Outstanding Elementary School Teacher of the Year. The 18-year veteran is a technology instructor. Right now he also teaches 4th grade distance learning.

Yesterday, his Saugatuck Elementary School community came together to celebrate.

A parent said: “Mr. Lawrence, you have always been a truly outstanding teacher here at Saugatuck. But as we all know when we face really difficult times, the absolute best can come out in people.

“Many of us thought we could never express how much SSN (Saugatuck Seal News) meant to us from the early days of the shutdown through this year, but we hope we can express it now. The response to your nomination for this honor was overwhelming.”

She then presented him with a binder filled with letters from colleagues, parents, and leaders in the Cub Scout community, where his leadership also made a great impact.

Mr. Lawrence will be honored at a virtual celebration May 5.

Celebrating Eric Lawrence.

=======================================================

You know that old mattress or box spring you’ve always meant to get rid of?

Now — well, on Saturday, May 8 (8:30 to 11 a.m.) — you can.

Earthplace hosts a free mattress recycling drop-off event. It’s sponsored by the Mattress Recycling Council, and they know what they’re doing. Each year they recycle more than 190,000 mattresses  — and that’s in Connecticut.

They’re not only diverted from the waste stream. They’re used to make other products, from carpet padding and insulation to filters and mulch.

Can’t transport your mattress to Earthplace on May 8? Boy Scout Troop 36 offers free same-day pickup. Spots are limited; click here to sign up.

If you miss this event, you can bring your mattress or box spring to Park City Green in Bridgeport, a non-profit that recycles mattresses. Call for hours of operation and drop-off instructions: 203-212-3860 or 203-209-6915.

======================================================

Want to chat with Jeff Immelt?

GE’s former CEO talks virtually on Thursday, April 22 (7 p.m.) about his 16 years at the helm. The Westport Library program is hosted by Westporter Steve Parrish.

Immelt’s first day on the job was September 10, 2001 — 24 hours before 9/11. His new book Hot Seat: What I Learned Leading a Great American Company details his proudest moments — and missteps — at the helm of the global giant.

Click here to register.

Jeff Immelt

=======================================================

The Westport Country Playhouse internship program began in 1946. Four years later, 19-year-old Stephen Sondheim spent the summer at the already-famous stage.

The program — now named for longtime Playhouse benefactor Joanne Woodward — continues this summer.

Interns will join the development, education and marketing teams, from June 7 to August 13. They’ll work directly with Playhouse staff, gain practical skills, and hear guest speakers including visiting designers and artists, commercial producers and more.

With a virtual season, the internships are also virtual this year. There are limited in-person requirements, based on department needs.

Application deadline is April 21. Click here for more information.

Stephen Sondheim (crouching, top of photo), during his 1950 apprenticeship. Also in the photo: future film director Frank Perry (front row, left) and Richard Rodgers’ daughter Mary (2nd row, 4th from left).

======================================================

The Westport Weston Family YMCA has added over 150 live classes a week, and hundreds more on demand. They include cardio, endurance, strength, bodywork, dance, mind/body, seniors, adaptive, kids and family.

They’re all virtual of course — but available through a collaboration with 29 Y’s across Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts.

You must be a YMCA member, of course. For details on the “Y Wellness 24/7” program, click here.

======================================================

Congratulations to Staples High School basketball co-captain Nicole Holmes. The senior was one of only 4 FCIAC players — and 10 overall — named to the Connecticut High School Coaches Association All-State team, in the “LL” (extra large schools division).

Holmes helped lead the Wreckers to a sparkling 13-3 record this winter.

Nicole Holmes (Photo courtesy of The Ruden Report)

===================================================

Today’s gorgeous nature shot: a cardinal, courtesy of Karen Weingarten:

(Photo/Karen Weingarten)

====================================================

And finally … on this day in 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. That was the effective end of the Civil War, though skirmishes continued for several weeks.

Roundup: Beach Access, Play In Hand, Pesach …

=================================================

A bill that would have banned municipalities from imposing high fees that might restrict non-residents from using public beaches — and from barring out-of-towners in order to prevent the spread of COVID — will not come up for a vote in the state legislature.

Politicians are spending their time on 2 other controversial measures — zoning reform and affordable housing — instead. The deadline for moving bills out of committee is April 5.

Click here for a full Norwalk Hour report.

Westport Parks & Recreation staff collect fees from non-residents.

======================================================

Speaking of our Parks & Recreation … they say:

“It has been nice to see so many people out using our facilities as the weather has improved, including some people using the Longshore golf course as an open space for walking. As of Monday (March 29), it will be open for play, and no longer available for those not actively playing golf.

“Please keep in mind, even using the roadways through Longshore can be dangerous as errant golf balls can cause serious injury or damage. For your safety, we urge you to use other locations for getting outside.”

Even with social distancing, Longshore golf course is off limits. (Photo/Mary Sikorski)

======================================================

Westport Country Playhouse’s popular “Script in Hand” series returns next month, with a virtual play reading of “Rent Control.” The Off-Broadway hit comedy tells the true story of a struggling-to-survive New York actor who invents a moneymaking scheme that (of course) backfires.

After premiering April 26 (7 p.m.), “Rent Control” is available on demand from April 27 through May 2.

Virtual tickets are available online, at 203-227-4177, or by email: boxoffice@westportplayhouse.org.

======================================================

Happy Passover — chag Pesach samech — to all who will celebrate tonight.

Gold’s was hopping yesterday. Here is a small part of the large crowd of people (and dogs), waiting to pick up food for the Seder.

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

=====================================================

Meanwhile, we never get tired of these horses-at-Sherwood Island photos:

(Photo/Mandy Cummings)

=======================================================

And finally … Larry McMurtry died on Thursday in Texas. He was 84.

He was a novelist, not a musician. But when he and Peter Bogdanovich adapted his novel “The Last Picture Show” into a movie, the soundtrack included a number of Hank Williams’ songs.

It’s still one of my favorite films of all time. And I’ve been a Hank Williams fan ever since.

Roundup: Operation Varsity Blues, Christopher Lloyd, Women’s Voices …

====================================================

Operation Varsity Blues” — the Netflix movie about the rich-and-famous college admissions scandal — has taken America by storm.

There’s a Westport angle. Thankfully, it has nothing to do with a parent pretending his or her child was a star water polo player, even if he or she cannot swim.

“Operation Varsity Blues” was written and edited by Jon Karmen. He’s the 2008 Staples High School graduate who made a huge name for himself there as half of “Rubydog” — a moviemaking duo who, working with media instructor Jim Honeycutt, made a number of way-beyond-high school videos back in the day. (Click here to see some of their pioneering work.)

Karmen is known too as the writer/director of “Fyre” (2019), a behind-the-scenes look at that infamous music festival.

“Varsity Blues” was #3 on Netflix’s Top 10 Most Watched Movies & TV Shows yesterday. But it wasn’t the only one with an “06880” connection. Jamie Mann’s “Country Comfort” checked in at #7. (Hat tip: Kerry Long)

=======================================================

Speaking of Staples: More than 60 years after helping found Staples Players, Christopher Lloyd is still acting.

In 1958 he was a Staples High School student who wanted to do more than just act in a class play. He found a mentor in English teacher Craig Matheson. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lloyd went on to a career that includes “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the “Back to the Future” trilogy, “Star Trek III,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and 2 “Addams Family” films.

At 82 years old, he’s got a new movie: “Senior Moment.” He stars with Jean Smart and William Shatner, who play a pair of older star-crossed lovers in an old-school romcom.

Lloyd talks about that project; his 5 wives — and growing up in Westport — in a wide-ranging Guardian interview. He was the youngest of 8 children, though the closest in age was 7 years older. Click here for the full interview. (Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)’

Christopher Lloyd in “Senior Moment.”

======================================================

Speaking again of Staples: Staples history classes absolutely crushed the National History Day regional competition.

Their papers, documentaries and exhibits examined everything from the Daughters of the Confederacy and Queer Communications in the Age of Oppression to Crypto-Analysis in World War I, Cigarette Advertising and the Freedom Riders.

How dominant was Staples? 32 students placed. There were only 5 other winners in the entire region, from just 2 other schools.

Placing first were Ishan Prasad, Sabrina Paris, Maya Hruskar, Lilly Weisz, Srushti Karve, William Jin, Michael Nealon, Zachary Brody, Jeffrey Pogue, Jack Ginsburg, Preston Norris, Tyler Clark and Matthew Gatto.

Finishing second were Nikos Ninios, Franca Strandell, Camille Vynerib, Julet Tracey, Lily Klau, Olivia Stubbs, Hannah Fiarman, Franky Lockenour, James Dobin-Smith, Coco Laska, Karlie Saed and Sarp Gurdogan.

Taking third were Sebastian Miller, Analise Vega, Emma Porzio, Arda Ernamli, Hannah Conn, Samantha Paris and Ethan Cukier.

Their (superb) teachers are Drew Coyne, Nell-Ann Lynch, Cathy Schager and Kelly Zrenda.

Up next: state and (hopefully) national competition.

A US championship? That would be historic.

=======================================================

Speaking once again of the arts: On Tuesday (March 30, 7 p.m.), the Westport Country Playhouse presents a world premiere of “New Works/New Voices.” These 4 new pieces — all written by community members — honor women who inspired them: Constance Baker Motley, Anne Bogart, Mary Freeman, Mary McLeod Bethune and Gloria Steinem.

Local storytellers and actors will bring to life these very personal, beautiful stories recorded on the WCP stage.

Viewers are invited to pay what they can. 50% of ticket sales and donations during the broadcast go to the Playhouse’s community partner, Women’s Mentoring Network, providing career, educational and personal resources for the economic empowerment of low-income women and their families.

Click here to register for “New Works/New Voices.”

The artists and storytellers who will bring 5 women’s stories to life.

=======================================================

Westporter Rob Simmelkjaer was confirmed yesterday, by a bipartisan State Senate vote, as chair of the Connecticut Lottery.

It’s a volunteer — but quite active — role he’s served in since May. Area senators Will Haskell and Bob Duff spoke warmly on the media executive’s behalf.

Rob Simmelkjaer

======================================================

Update from Parks & Rec: The concession stand at Compo Beach will open in mid-April. Last year, during COVID, it opened late, and ran only from a trailer adjacent to the brick building.

The concession stand at Compo Beach will be open next month.

=======================================================

MoCA Westport has added 5 members to its board of directors. Two are from Westport.

Jennifer Kanfer has served on the board of The Conservative Synagogue, including co-chair of the Social Action, Membership and Fundraising Committees. and with the Coleytown Elementary School PTA. She previously worked in healthcare communications for 14 years. She holds a BA in political science from the University of Michigan, an MPA in healthcare policy and administration from NYU, and an MBA in Finance from NYU’s Stern School.

Samantha Yanks is an award-winning editor with over 20 years experience in luxury fashion and lifestyle publishing. In 2018 she launched a social, digital and branding agency, Samantha Yanks Creative. She was most recently editor-in- chief of Gotham and Hamptons magazines. As senior accessories editor at O, she collaborated closely with Oprah Winfrey. Yanks has discussed fashion, beauty and lifestyle on “The Today Show” and “NBC Nightly News,” “New York Live,” “Good Day New York,” E!, the Martha Stewart and Howard Stern shows, and more. She graduated from Tulane University.

=======================================================

‘Tis the season — for both holiday lights and daffodils.

(Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

======================================================

And finally … the great — and greatly underrated — Billy Stewart was born today, in 1937. He died in 1970, only 32 years old.

If you only have time to listen to one song, it’s “Summertime.” But everything he touched was a classic.

 

TEAM Westport Plans Asian-American Program Tonight

TEAM Westport — the town’s multicultural commission — says:

TEAM Westport and the partnership of the Interfaith Council, Westport Library and Westport Country Playhouse extend our staunchest solidarity with and heartfelt embrace of our town’s Asian-American and Pacific Islander community.

That solidarity and embrace are matched only by the depth of our outrage over the rising tide of AAPI racism and violence, capped by the unspeakable murders in Atlanta last week. Both the first selectman and superintendent of schools have issued statements for the town and school system.

Our work over the past few years has been focused on dismantling the centuries-old legacies of layered racism and supremacy which have led us to this current circumstance. As such, our involvement with both the advent of the Equity Study mentioned by the superintendent, and the ongoing antiracism conversations mentioned by the first selectman, make it clear that this should be a time for focused reflection with our AAPI community.

Please join us for these upcoming events today (Wednesday, March 24) and next Wednesday (March 31). We will hold space for our AAPI friends and community members for times of sharing and exploration regarding racism and its impact on each of us here in Westport and nationwide.

  • Wednesday, March 24, 7 p.m:  Community Focus on Anti-AAPI  Racism (Virtual Event):
    • Forum hosted by:
      • Harold Bailey (Chair, TEAM Westport)
      • Alison Patton (Pastor, Saugatuck Congregational Church)
      • Jenny Nelson (Director of education and community Engagement, Westport Country Playhouse)
      • Bernicestine McLeod Bailey (TEAM Westport)
    • Join the discussion for solidarity and reflection on the rising tide of AAPI racism and violence. All are welcome.
    • Learn more and register through The Westport Library:
      https://westportlibrary.org/event/me-and-white-supremacy-the-challenge-continues/
    • [Note: The originally planned 4 sessions on “Me and White Supremacy”: The Challenge Continues have been postponed to (April 7 and 21, and May 5 and 19)].
  • Wednesday, March 31, 7 p.m. (Virtual Event):
    • TEAM Westport Schools Work Group. Join us for our next Schools Workgroup meeting. We will continue our discussion of white supremacy culture and how it shows up in our community, focusing on the recent tragedies against AAPI and Anti-Asian hate. All are welcome.
    • This is a Zoom meeting through the Westport Library: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84428376997?pwd=WlZOaks3a2JKZHEwMUZrd1RuVTR5UT09
    • Meeting ID: 844 2837 6997; Passcode: 048473,

Remembering Bobra Harris

Noted actress and former Westporter Anthonette Bobra Suiter Harris died Friday. She was 97 years old.

Born in 1923 in Council Bluffs, Iowa, her life spanned the early age of aviation and the automobile, to the space age and digital era.

An avid and early adopter of her prized iPhone and iPad, she stayed current and opinionated on all issues, especially political, and was always guided by her strong Catholic faith.

Moving to a small farm in Omaha with her family during the Depression, the family got along by trading eggs and produce for gasoline and other staples.

Bobra Harris

Her father’s self-taught love of the classics, from Plato to Shakespeare and beyond, led to her appreciation of opera. Every Saturday, the family  gathered around the radio to hear live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera. Bobra imagined herself singing professionally.

She enjoyed watching movie matinees during the golden age of Hollywood. That — and talent — led to an audition for Lerner and Loewe for the Broadway company of “Brigadoon,” touring in Chicago. Loewe listened to her from a seat far up in the balcony, and hired her on the spot.

FShe had roles in “Kiss me Kate” and “Carousel” in New York. She married Broadway dancer Bill Harris in 1950, a year after meeting in “Brigadoon.”

Her first child arrived in 1953. Bobra continued to act in early television. She specialized in Tennessee Williams’ plays, with a lead in “Summer and Smoke.” The Harris family moved to Old Mill Beach in 1956. A number of theater friends had already moved there.

When her youngest son started school she went back to acting in earnest. She spent the next 27 years on the CBS soap opera “The Guiding Light,” and appeared in numerous small parts on the second cast of Saturday Night Live with Jim Belushi. She had bit parts in “The Godfather,” “Marathon Man, ” “Trading Places,” “The Awakening” and others.

Her last appearance at the Westport Country Playhouse was in a 1974 production of “Tobacco Road.”

She was a founding member of the Actors’ Workshop with Keir Dullea, in Westport.

In her spare time she served as president of the Westport Young Woman’s League. She was also an avid bridge player.

A proud member of SAG and AFTRA, she was made a voting member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decades ago. She received DVDs to vote on for the upcoming Academy Awards at the time of her death.

She would pounce on the New York Times Sunday crossword, and usually completed it.

A remarkable woman of great strength and perseverance in the face of adversity who relied on her faith to get her through, she lived for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She made a great effort every day to stay in touch, support, and mentor them with a quick phone call, text or email.

She was predeceased by her husband of 50 years, William R. Harris Sr., in 2000; her middle son Scott Anthony, a career CIA officer who died in 2008, and her 3 brothers. She is survived by her sisters, Rosemary Anderson of McLean, Virginia and Jeri Rizzuto of Omaha; sons Bill Jr. of Westport and Craig of Longmont, Colorado, 5 grandchildren and 2 great grand-children.

A mass of Christian burial will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday (March 24) at Assumption Church, with burial to follow at Assumption Cemetery on Greens Farms Road.

Donations in Bobra’s name may be made to the AAAA Scholarship Foundation, which is establishing a memorial permanently endowed scholarship in her and her husband’s name, or the Smilow Yale Cancer Center.