Category Archives: Westport Country Playhouse

Roundup: Beachside Avenue, Playhouse Cocktails, More


The equipment is in place. Plans have been made.

And the date is set. Replacement work on the Beachside Avenue bridge over I-95 begins January 4. It’s expected to last through September/

The $1.5 million project includes realignment of Beachside Avenue.

During the project, traffic will be detoured past the Greens Farms station, and New Creek Road. Longer detours will be needed for trucks that cannot fit under the railroad bridge.

Beachside Avenue I-95 bridge, at Greens Farms Road.


All summer long, the Westport Country Playhouse was dark.

But bright conversation took place online, via virtual chats with artists. It was called “Coffee With …”

The series continues this Thursday (November 19, 7 p.m.), with artistic director Mark Lamos. He’ll talk about the upcoming season, casting, his career, and anything else you ask.

Questions can be emailed to info@westportplayhouse.org by noon Tuesday. Then click on Facebook Live or YouTube.

The winter series is called “Cocktails With …” Mix it up!


And finally … on this day in 1969, half a million anti-Vietnam War protestors poured into Washington, DC. They were following up on Moratorium to End the War protests a month earlier, held in cities and towns around the country.

It is considered to have been the largest demonstration ever in the capital. President Nixon said, “I understand that there has been, and continues to be, opposition to the war in Vietnam on the campuses and also in the nation. As far as this kind of activity is concerned, we expect it; however, under no circumstances will I be affected whatever by it.”

Roundup: COVID, Outpost Pizza, New Cop, More


Here’s one way to look at Westport’s COVID numbers: Since March, we’ve had 516 cases (483 confirmed and 33 probable).

Here’s another: With a population of 26,213, 1.97% — nearly 2% — of the entire town has been infected. (Hat tip: Peter Gold)


Outpost Pizza — an outpost of the Stamford spot — opens Monday. It’s in the mini-shopping plaza with Coffee An’, across from the new Hudson Malone restaurant (most recently, 323). The space was formerly a dry cleaner.

Need a job, as well as a pie? Outpost is looking for cooks, prep workers, cashiers and drivers. Call 203-323-7678. (Hat tip: Jerri Graham)

(Photo/Jerri Graham)


The Westport Police Department has sworn in a new officer: Dominique Carr.

The Hartford native earned a BS in justice and law administration at Western Connecticut State University, where he also played football. He comes to Westport from the Windsor Police Department.

Welcome to Westport, Officer Carr!

Officer Dominique Carr


If you missed “Pride and Prejudice” — Staples Players’ 2nd radio play of the fall — you’ve get another chance this Sunday (November 15, 6 p.m.).

It will be re-streamed by the high school radio station, WWPT. Click here for the link. NOTE: It’s available on the website only — not on the radio dial itself.

Seniors Sophie Rossman and David Corro rehearse “Pride and Prejudice.” (Photo/Kerry Long)


Speaking of teenagers and the arts: High school students throughout Fairfield County are invited to apply for the just-announced Westport Country Playhouse Youth Council.

Meeting 6 times a year (virtually, to start), members will learn about the workings of a professional theater. They’ll also contribute creative solutions for how the Playhouse can broaden its appeal to a more diverse community.

Youth Council members will also participate in a speaker series, attend Board of Trustees meetings, create an event, and have behind-the-scenes access to the Playhouse.

The application deadline is November 20. Click here for more information.


The Leonard Schine Preserve got a spruce-up last weekend. And we can thank a bunch of SLOBs.

The group — okay, they’re actually Staples High School’s Service League of Boys — worked with Meg Armstrong and Barry Guiduli at the Natural Playground, a hidden children’s gem off Weston Road.

(From left): Nick Seitz, Ben Berkley, Bruno Guiduli, Gabe Maiolo at the Leonard Schine Preserve.


I don’t spend a lot of time at Sherwood Island. (I know. My bad.)

But Chris Swan does. The other day, he sent photos of what seemed to me like a strange sight.

But, Chris says, horses (and riders) are a regular occurrence at Connecticut’s first state park.

(Photos/Chris Swan)


And finally … today is a day to honor our veterans. As Billy Ray Cyrus sings, some gave all. And all gave some.

Roundup: High School Mock Election, Playhouse Video, More


Bipartisan politicians gathered in front of Staples High School yesterday. The mission: introducing a statewide initiative to educate Connecticut students about the voting process.

All week long, the state Department of Education is partnering with the lieutenant governor to hold a virtual mock election.

Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz headed the dignitaries. She noted that 20% of all 20-year-olds vote in elections — but 80% of 80-year-olds do.

First Selectman Jim Marpe noted that Westport has already received 9,500 requests for mail-in ballots for the presidential election. So far, 4,700 have been returned, via mail or the Town Hall drop box.

State Senator Tony Hwang said that his parents — who escaped from communist China — knew that the ability to vote was “foundational” to a democracy.

Will Haskell graduated from Staples in 2014. Four years later, he was elected to the State Senate. He said that young people are underrepresented in Hartford and Washington, but that “all voices are valued.”

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg — another Staples grad — added that “young people want to be engaged, in positive ways.”

From left: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Staples High School principal Stafford Thomas, State Senator Tony Hwang, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, members of Staples’ Social Studies Honor Society, and State Representative Jonathan Steinberg. Also in attendance: State Senator Will Haskell, and Westport 6-12 social studies coordinator Lauren Francese. 


Saturday’s Remarkable Theater screening celebrating 90 years of the Westport Country Playhouse was a smash.

Response was so great — both at the Imperial Avenue drive-in and online — that it will remain available on demand through tonight (11:59 p.m.). Tickets are $25. (Ticket-holders from Saturday: Your unique link is also live through tonight.)

The Playhouse is just $20,000 of their goal for the event. Funds help make up for the loss of the gala this year. Click here for an on-demand ticket, and to make additional gifts.


The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is hosting a series of online discussions called “CCM CARES – Getting Comfortable With The Uncomfortable.”

CARES stands for “Communities Advancing Racial Equity Series,” On the panel today (Tuesday, October 19, 6:30 p.m.): Westport 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

To register, click here. You can watch without registering on Facebook Live(Hat tip: Peter Gold)

First Selectman Jim Marpe


And finally … on this date in 1973, Richard Nixon fired Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, after they refused to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. After what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre, Cox was finally fired by Robert Bork, the #3 man at the Justice Department.

 

Roundup: Remarkable Playhouse, Pop Art, WVEMS, More


Stage and screen met Saturday night. The Westport Country Playhouse’s gala was held outdoors, at the Remarkable Theater.

Doug Tirola and Mark Lamos’ short-form documentary saluted the WCP’s 90-year history, and many of the artists who have appeared onstage.

The evening included filmed performances by Playhouse alumni like Kate Baldwin, a long with Jane Alexander, Lissy Newman, Christopher Plummer, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Thomas and more.

Don’t worry about the photo below: Everyone was masked, except while eating.

(Photo/Molly Alger)


Speaking of stars:

Paul Newman, I Love Lucy, Martha Stewart, Rodney Dangerfield, Robert Ludlum, Redford, Superman, Dennis the Menace, Great Gatsby, Bewitched, Anne Hathaway, Christopher Lloyd, Helen Hunt and gazillions of others — all lived in Westport, had a show based here, or were otherwise connected to our town.

This multi-media original showing them all is now available exclusively at Westport River Gallery (corner of Riverside Avenue and Post Road West).

It was created by songwriter Frankie Vinci. His rock journey has led him to create raw, colorful pop art/mixed media pieces.


Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service’s annual fundraising drive is underway.

Nearly 100 volunteers and 6 full-time staff provide superb pre-hospital care to anyone living, working or passing through Westport. They give more than 18,000 hours of their time each year, responding to over 2,300 emergency calls. They also teach CPR, EMT and Stop the Bleed classes.

This year has been especially trying. Because of COVID, over 900 calls meant  donning full PPE. Still, they answered the calls.

WVEMS purchases all of the equipment needed — from a box of Band-Aids to an entire, state-of-the-art ambulance. But they could not do it without us.

Tax-deductible donations make it all possible. Click here to help.

So Westport Volunteer EMS can continue to help us.


And finally … did you know that October is National Pasta Month?

 

Roundup: Alysin Camerota, Artists Collective, Subtle Racism, More


Former CNN anchor Dave Briggs interviews his former colleague — current anchor of CNN’s “New Day” — Alisyn Camerota on Instagram Live today (Saturday, October 3) at 5 p.m. The pair of Westporters will talk about their town, and the world. Just search on Instagram for @WestportMagazine.


The “Playhouse at the Drive-In” event just got more remarkable.

As noted yesterday, the Westport Country Playhouse celebrates its 90th season on Saturday, October 17 (5 p.m.) with a a benefit event and screening at the Remarkable Theater drive-in (the Imperial Avenue parking lot).

Yesterday, The Artists Collective of Westport got approval from the Playhouse to hold their Affordable Art Trunk Show that afternoon, at 3.

Over 25 artists will be masked, in (socially distanced) cars — and as much “affordable art” as they can display on easels and tables.

The volume and flow of pedestrian traffic looking at the art will be carefully monitored by Collective volunteers.

The Playhouse and Artists Collective enjoy a great partnership, including meeting and exhibition at the WCP’s Sheffer Barn.


This Monday (October 5, 8:30 a.m.), the Coalition for Westport sponsors a Zoom talk on “subtle racism in Westport.” TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey is the guest.

To register, email kbernhar@optonline.net.

 


Lindsey Baldwin is a Staples High School senior. She’s an EMT. And she just received kudos from State Senator Will Haskell, for another type of community service.

Last year Lindsey set up donation bins at various pharmacies and dental practices. She collected 2,000 toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and floss cartridges. She also created a fundraiser on Facebook, and collected $1,430.

In February, Lindsey traveled to Honduras with CapeCARES. The on-profit sends volunteers to remote areas. They provide free medical and dental care.

She brought those 2,000 dental products with her. Many villagers had never had access to toothbrushes. It was an important moment for them — and for Lindsey, who returned to Westport grateful for all she has, and the opportunity to serve.

Lindsey Baldwin, in Honduras.


And finally … of course:

 

Westport Playhouse Stage Meets Remarkable Theater Screen

The Westport Country Playhouse has a historic stage. The Remarkable Theater has a big screen.

Stage and screen meet on Saturday, October 17. “Playhouse at the Drive-in” celebrates the WCP’s 90-season history with a benefit event, and a screening of special filmed performances and a documentary.

It’s also available to view online, at home.

The Westport Country Playhouse honors its history … (Photo/Wells Studio)

The short-form documentary salutes the Playhouse’s history, and many of the artists who have appeared onstage. It was created specially for this event, by Playhouse artistic director Mark Lamos and Westport filmmaker Douglas Tirola. He’s the brains behind the Remarkable Theater. In his teens, he worked as a Playhouse “beautifier.”

The evening includes filmed performances by Playhouse alumni Kate Baldwin, Britney Coleman, Tina Fabrique, the Naughton family (James, Greg, Keira and Kelli O’Hara), Brenda Pressley, Amanda Robles, with a special performance by André De Shields.

Also appearing on film: Jane Alexander, Lissy Newman, Christopher Plummer, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Thomas, and more.

“Playhouse at the Drive-In” takes the place of the annual fall gala fundraiser. On-site benefit tickets start at $500 per car (maximum 5 people). Online film screening from home is just $25.

Gates open at the Remarkable Theater (Imperial Avenue parkin lot) at 5 p.m., for a cocktail hour and picnic dinner. The live and online screening begins at 6:30.

… at an old-fashioned drive-in.

Roundup: Halloween, VFW, WCP, More


No one knows what Halloween will look like this year. Besides, we’re still a week away from Labor Day.

But — as regularly as Starbucks rolls out pumpkin spice latte — a Halloween store has popped up in Westport.

This was is in Compo Shopping Center. It replaces Olympia Sports.

Although I’m sure on November 1, it too will be gone.


Two Westport non-profits have received Connecticut Neighborhood Assistance Act tax credit grants.

The Joseph J. Clinton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 399 grant will pay for roof improvements and energy conservation. The Westport Country Playhouse grant will go toward driveway and parking lot paving, and HVAC hardware replacement. have received grants provided under the Connecticut’s Neighborhood Assistance Act tax credit program.

Both organizations received help from the town of Westport, in their applications to the state Department of Revenue Services.

VFW on Riverside Avenue


And finally … happy 75th birthday, Itzhak Perlman!

Roundup: Walking Trails, Young Performers, More


Aspetuck Land Trust reports:

“There are no downed wires on our 150 open spaces, including our 43 trailed nature preserves. But there are a lot of downed trees!

“We’ve already cleared many of our trails, including nearly 20 miles in Trout Brook Valley. A special thanks to our volunteer trail stewards for pinpointing downed trees and helping with cleanup efforts.

“For information on the status of particular trails or preserves, click here. As we get back to normal (or whatever passes for normal these days), please consider making an additional donation to the Aspetuck Land Trust to help with storm cleanup.

“Also consider replanting your own lost trees and shrubs with natives from our Fall Plant Sale. Up to 50% of your purchase will be tax deductible. We will add many new natives trees and shrubs for pickup at Gilbertie’s Farm in Easton next month. Details and availability will be on our website August 25.”


Did you miss “Friday Night THRIVE Live!,” the virtual showcase hosted by Westport’s Broadway star Kelli O’Hara, featuring teenage talent from throughout the area (including our town)?

No problem! The event — named for the Teens Having Resilience In a Virtual Environment program, created by Westport Country Playhouse, and Shubert and Long Wharf Theatres — lives on. Click below to enjoy:


And finally … 43 years ago today, Elvis Presley died at his Graceland estate in Memphis. He was 42 years old — meaning he’s now been dead longer than he was alive. Here’s his 1956 appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” which energized teenagers and scandalized their parents:

Want more of those swiveling hips?

Roundup: Board of Ed; RL Stine,Eversource, Manna Toast, More


The Board of Education meets tonight at 7 p.m. The Zoom meeting includes 2 important agenda items: superintendent of schools Tom Scarice’s recommendation for reopening, and proposed changes to the calendar.

The session will be livestreamed on westportps.org, and televised on Optimum channel 78 and Frontier channel 6021.


Avery Place — a main component of downtown — has finally been cleared of wires, limbs and debris. More than a week after Tropical Storm Isiais, power has been restored to the area.

But, as photographer Wendy Cusick notes, vines are killing trees here, and throughout Fairfield County. And when high winds roar in, they can help kill utility poles too.

(Photo/Wendy Cusick)


This will send goosebumps down the spines of many youngsters:

R.L. Stine — the bestselling horror story kids’ author — will be the final speaker in the Westport Library’s Camp Explore program.

The virtual (and free!) event — open to anyone, anywhere with an internet connection — is set for this Tuesday (August 18, 4 p.m.).

Click here to register for Stine’s appearance — and click here to watch all previous Camp Explore events.


In the aftermath of Eversource’s twin public relations disasters — a rate hike, and a belated response to Tropical Storm Isaias — State Senator Will Haskell says:

“Public utilities need to be monitored closely, and both legislators and members of the public have a role to play in holding Eversource accountable. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority is holding a public hearing (via Zoom) on Monday (August 24, 10 a.m.),

“I encourage anyone interested to submit testimony and join me in standing up to this monopoly that too often lets customers down. This isn’t about one neighborhood left behind or the unpredictability of New England weather — this is about a company that makes billions in profits yet fails to prepare for a storm that announced itself days in advance of arriving in our backyard.

“To submit testimony, email comments to pura.information@ct.gov (mention Docket #20-01-01 in the subject line), or mail them to: Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, 10 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051.

To attend or participate in the Zoom hearing, click this link.


Manna Toast has been open just a couple of weeks. But already they’re expanding their Church Lane hours — and adding music.

They’re open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 a.m. to  9:30 p.m.  Entertainment this weekend includes Henry Jones (Friday, August 14, 6 to 9 p.m.), Suzanne Sheridan & Friends (Saturday, August 15, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.), and Wass (Melissa Wasserman, Sunday brunch, August 16, 12 to 2 p.m.).

Here’s a toast to a new Westport tradition!


Carole Bernstein did her civic duty on Tuesday: She voted in the state primary election.

Two days before, 3 cars — parked in her driveway — were broken into. She’s not alone. She’s seen plenty of Ring videos posted online, showing near-daily brazen break-ins. She’s read several warnings, by town and police officials, to never leave anything visible in your car.

So Carole was quite surprised to see several signs at the Bedford Middle School polling place, telling voters to “leave purses and backpacks in your locked vehicle.”

What’s the reason for the signs? What’s wrong with bringing a purse or backpack into the voting station (which is no longer even a booth — it’s open, for all to see).

Is it a COVID-related rule? If so, what’s the theory behind it? Even so, doesn’t it contradict everything we’re hearing about vehicle safety?

I vote for purses and backpacks in the polling place!


Two years ago — just 15 days after arriving at the University of Colorado — recent Staples High School graduate Corey Hausman died in a tragic skateboard accident on a steep campus pathway. He was unsuccessfully treated at a local medical facility. It was the 3rd college death of the new semester.

Since then, his family has been involved in College911.net. Among their projects: creating a medical emergency checklist with questions and suggestions his family wishes they had considered while sending Corey off to college.

Some of the items pertain to students (“Did you sign a HIPAA release providing a family member rights to access medical records? Do you carry a medical alert card or ID with emergency contacts, in case you lose your phone?”). Some are for parents, if 911 is called on behalf of a child (“What medical rights do you have if your child is over 18? What is the quality of the campus medical center?”).

Nanette hopes all students and parents will review the checklist, before the new school year begins. Click here to see.

Corey Hausman (center) with Lucas (left) and Casey (right): “The Brothers.”


Earlier this summer, Tony Award-winning Kelli O’Hara hosted a great virtual Westport Country Playhouse event, showcasing Fairfield County’s best young talent.

The Westport resident is back this Friday (August 14, 7 p.m.). It’s the capstone for THRIVE — Teens Having Resilience In a Virtual Environment. The online program for area high school students was created by Westport Country Playhouse, the Shubert Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre.

The 15 THRIVE participants — including Westporters Camille Foisie and Raia Morgan, and Weston’s Harrison Solomon — will share their experiences in the virtual summer camp. It’s part talk show, part variety show, and part cast party.

The “Friday Night THRIVE Live!” event is available on You Tube (WestportPlayhouse channel) and Facebook Live (Westport Country Playhouse).

Kelli O’Hara


And finally … yeah, Eversource. We’re talking about you:

Roundup: Longshore Sailing; Anti-Racism; Arts Programs; Jewish Food; More


Longshore Sailing School provides this update:

“The facility has been serviced by ServPro as a response to our positive COVID case. Vessels have been postponed until today, as the weather prevented proper sanitizing.

“Though we are technically able to stay open, we are choosing to remain closed through the end of the day on Friday. We will reopen on Saturday. We will provide a refund for the missed class days of our students. Rentals and sdult programs will resume on Saturday, July 11 at 9:30 a.m. Junior programs will resume on Monday, July 13.”


Everyone’s talking about racism. But how can we talk about it appropriately and effectively, with kids?

That’s the focus of an important virtual panel discussion. “Towards Becoming an Anti-Racist Society: Talking with Young Children About Race and Racism” — sponsored by TEAM Westport, Greens Farms Academy, The Westport Library and United Way of Coastal Fairfield County — is set for Wednesday, July 22 (7 to 8:30 p.m.).

Panelists include Bank Street educator Takiema Bunche Smith, early childhood director Linda Santoro and TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey Jr. Moderator Shanelle Henry is director of equity and inclusion at GFA.

It should be an engaging (and free!) discussion. Click here to register.


MoCA Westport reopened this week with — executive director Ruth Mannes says — “a renewed sense of perspective, purpose, and hope.” Guests are welcomed to the Helmut Lang exhibition “in a very safe setting. Physically distanced visits will feel like private tours.”

Summer hours are Wednesdays through Fridays, 12 to 4 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, click here.


The Westport Country Playhouse, Shubert Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre have teamed up to present a free, virtual program for high school students in Fairfield County and New Haven County.

THRIVE (Teens Having Resilience in a Virtual Environment) includes interactive workshops and discussions on themes like spoken word, creative writing, arts, performance, wellness, job training, cooking and more, led by specialists in each field.

The program runs from Monday, July 20 through Saturday, August 8. It ends with a virtual showcase hosted by Tony-winning Broadway star (and Westport’s own) Kelli O’Hara.

The deadline to apply is (uh oh) tomorrow (Friday, July 10). Click here for more information.


Who knew that Michael Wolfe’s blog post “My Definitive And Absolutely Correct Ranking of 40 Jewish Foods” would go viral (over 220,000 views so far)? Oy!

Tonight (Thursday, July 9, 7 p.m.), the Westporter will speak online about it all. Everyone is welcome. Click here to join. Don’t forget your bagel!


Singing is supposed to be cathartic. These days, it’s also a very effective way to spread the coronavirus.

But not if the vocals are virtual.

Westport music educator Danielle Merlis has enlisted Backtrack Vocals — the New York a cappella ensemble with Broadway appearances in “Kinky Boots,” and here at Toquet Hall — to be artists in (online) residence at her Camp A Cappella.

Beginning tomorrow (Friday, July 10) Backtrack Vocals members will lead virtual for young singers entering grades 4-12. Students will learn an  arrangement of a pop song, which they’ll perform in a final video alongside the professional ensemble.

The workshop includes lessons in beatboxing, choreography and ensemble skills; each student receives individual instruction.

No prior vocal training or ensemble singing is required. Students can sign up any time before July 23rd, and watch the classes on demand! Email campacappellact@gmail.com for more information.

Danielle Merlis


Norwalk author Jerry Craft made history when “New Kid” became the first graphic novel to win the prestigious Newbery Medal. He is also only the 5th Black writer to earn the prize.

He’s the second speaker in the Westport Library’s new Camp Explore summer program, for youngsters entering grades 4 to 8. Each week there’s a new guest — a global expert in his or her field.

Craft will appear (virtually) Monday (July 13) at 4 p.m. To register, click here.


Tomorrow at noon, 4  Westport girls will be honored for their social impact ventures.

The quartet — Staples High School’s Hannah Cohen and Lina Singh, and Bedford Middle School’s Samantha Henske and Yanira Rios — participated in Girls With Impact‘s online entrepreneurship academy. The program’s goal is to increase the number of diverse women leaders and innovators in the workforce.

Tomorrow’s online event includes nearly 1,000 teenagers, from 40 states.


And finally … 65 years ago today — July 9, 1955 — “Rock Around the Clock” hit #1 on the Billboard chart. It’s called “the first rock ‘n’ roll” record. I have no idea how you define such a thing. But I do know: Neither Bill Haley nor his Comets look anything like what we call a “rock star.”