Tag Archives: Bedford Acting Group

Roundup: Battle Of Compo Hill, Willy Wonka, Take Back Drugs …

Susan Iseman subscribes to the “Today in Connecticut History” news feed. Every day, a different event is highlighted.

Today is Westport’s turn. The site cites the 245th anniversary of 1,800 British troops’ march from Compo Beach to Danbury, where they burned a supply depot.

April 26: British Forces Attack, Burn Danbury

The event — including the subsequent retreat back to their ships off Compo Beach, and the Battle of Compo Hill on April 28, when the patriots made life miserable for the invaders — is memorialized by our iconic Minute Man monument.

Click here for the fascinating story of those historic 1777 days.

Remembering 1777.

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Happy National Prescription Drug Take Back Day!

This Saturday (April 30, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Senior Center), the Westport Police Department partners with the US Drug Enforcement Administration to accept medications (pills or patches) that are no longer needed.

The Senior Center cannot accept liquids, needles or sharps. Vape pens whose batteries can be removed are okay, those whose batteries cannot be removed are not.

The service is free and anonymous; no questions are asked.

Since its inception 22 years ago, the program has removed more than 15.2 million pounds of medication from circulation nationwide.

The WPD also has a year-round collection bin in the lobby of police headquarters. Prescription drugs can be disposed of any time there.

For more information about Take Back Day, click here.

Bedford Acting Group — the middle school theatre program — returned to the stage this year after a tough, 2-year hiatus due to COVID,

The fall production of “Annie” was a success, thanks to a cast of 7th and 8th graders (and professional actor dog Sandy).

This weekend the 6th graders debut on the Bedford stage. They perform “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” with the help of director Ryan Smith and nearly two dozen 7th and 8th grade student directors.

The youngsters shadow Smith, run scenes and lines, create blocking, make suggestions on character choices, and step in to read when students are absent.

This is Smith’s first year at the Bedford Acting Group helm. After performing with Staples Players before graduating in 1996, he acted professionally on national tours.

He returned to his hometown and served as associate director of Bedford Acting Group alongside Kevin Slater, then helped run the program with longtime director Karen McCormick.  Now in the head role, he works with assistant director Melisa Didio.

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” features audiovisual and special effects, and surprises in the Wonka factory. Costumes reflect the 1970s, and the set is vibrantly colored.

Among the volunteers: theatrical designer Karen Root, whose daughter Helen acts in the show, and actor Colin Walker, whose daughter Brady is a student director.

Performances are Friday, April 29 (7:30 p.m.), Saturday, April 30 (2 and 7 p.m.), and Sunday, May 1 (2 p.m.). Click here for tickets and more information.

Harper Iglehart and Samantha Skopp are double cast as Willy Wonka

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A few days ago, “06880” announced the release of Alan Fiore’s first song, “Take the Bait!”

The 2021 Staples High School graduate/current Berklee College of Music student produced, mixed and mastered it all himself.

It’s already registered over 5,000 Spotify streams, and 2,000 on Apple Music. It earned rave reviews in Darkus (which called Alan “one of 2022’s newest rising stars”) and Wolf in a Suit (“with this stunning showcase of feelings and emotions (Alan) gives life to a tale so raw and so true”).

Click here for links to all streaming platforms. Click here for Alan’s website, and more music.

Alan Fiore

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The “06880” community has been heartbroken to learn of Charlie Capalbo’s death. The 23-year-old Fairfield hockey player — grandparents Ida Chadwick and Richard Epstein live in Westport, and whose mom Jennifer Wilde Capalbo graduated from Staples — battled cancer 4 times, before succumbing on Sunday.

The emotional toll on Charlie’s family over the past 5 years has been devastating. So is the financial toll.

A GoFundMe page is helping with medical expenses. Click here for more information, and to contribute.

Charlie and his mother, Jennifer Wilde Capalbo.

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Destination Haus — the new gallery and home décor store at 56 Riverside Avenue — invites everyone for cocktails and light bites this Thursday (April 28, 4 to 7 p.m.)

Like the original store in Montauk, Destination Haus offers

Offering curated artwork, furniture, glassware, candles, pillows, pottery, home accessories and jewelry from around the globe. It’s a “destination” for anyone moving into, redesigning or redecorating their “haus.”

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Designer/entrepreneur/humanitarian/Prince Charles’ goddaughter India Hicks comes to MoCA Westport on May 12 (5 to 7 p.m.).

After a cocktail hour, she’ll chat with Connecticut Cottages & Gardens editorial director DJ Carey about her recent book, “An Entertaining Story,” and more.

Tickets include hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and a copy of India’s book. Guests also get a peek at Hicks’ new collaboration with British luxury brand Tusting. Click here to purchase and for more information, or call 222-7070. Funds support visual arts, performing arts and educational offerings for the community.

India Hicks

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There’s no better sign of spring … nor a better candidate for “Westport … Naturally” than this image. Jill Grayson captured it, in her yard.

(Photo/Jill Grayson)

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And finally … in honor of Jill Grayson’s photo above:

 

 

 

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

This has not been an easy year for middle schoolers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bedford Actors Take “Higher Ground”

On May 11 and 12, Bedford Acting Group will present a controversial play about bullying in middle school. It’s a hot topic now, all over the country.

Co-directors Karen McCormick and Ryan Smith have planned “Higher Ground” for a while.

It’s not the first time they’ve addressed the issue.

In 2010, then-8th grader Will Haskell played the lead. He’s now running for a state senate seat — and will speak to the cast during rehearsals.

Will Haskell, in Bedford Middle School’s 2010 production of “Higher Ground.”

The play deals frankly with important issues like body image, race and sexuality. Characters are taunted for various reasons, before banding together and standing up in the end.

One boy is teased, harassed and assaulted after he shrugs off a misunderstanding about whether he is gay or straight. Other students are bullied for their weight, ethnicity, dress, interest in academics and being in special education.

“Higher Ground” was written in 2008 by Sherwood, Oregon middle school teacher Jennie Brown. Her principal called it “too mature,” and ordered it rewritten. Students countered that it depicted middle school life accurately, and refused to perform if it was censored.

The show was canceled. But the community rose in support, and “Higher Ground” enjoyed 3 sold-out performances at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts.

Eight years ago McCormick found the script online. With the full support of BMS administration, the play was presented. It earned raves.

Brown has updated the play to reflect today’s technological and social media environment. But the message remains the same.

And it’s one every Westporter should see.

(“Higher Ground” will be presented on Friday and Saturday, May 11 and 12, at 7 p.m. in the Bedford Middle School auditorium. Click here for tickets.) 

Top row (from left): Ryan Porio, Alex Waterworth. Bottom row: Sydney Gusick, Quinn Mulvey, Isabella Roberts.

Middle School Actors Make Their Marks

When the curtain rises this Thursday (April 7, 7 p.m.) on “Mary Poppins,” Ben Frimmer will be in a familiar role: director.

But, he says, the huge sets, challenging acting, singing and choreography make this one of the most adventurous shows he’s ever done.

He’s up to the task. In fact, he was recently nominated for an Excellence in Theater Education honor — sponsored by the Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University — by parents and former students. The winner will be announced this spring.

Ben Frimmer, directing his cast.

Ben Frimmer, directing his cast. (Photo/Sophie Driscoll)

One letter in particular stands out. Ellen Knapp wrote of Frimmer’s support of her son, Cooper.

He never wanted to be on stage, she says. And he may never be there again.

But last spring Frimmer encouraged the 8th grader to audition for Lurch, in “The Addams Family.”

In fact, Knapp says, that encouragement was “perhaps the finest example of teaching I have ever experienced.” Frimmer acknowledged Cooper’s misgivings, then sold him on the “thrilling, awesome, intoxicating” thrill of being onstage.

Finally, Frimmer said the magic words: “I believe in you, Cooper.”

He got the part.  He was embraced by his fellow actors. He even cut his hair.

Cooper Knapp, as Lurch.

Cooper Knapp, as Lurch.

In the finale, Lurch — who lived silently in the play’s shadows — steps to center stage, and belts out the epic song “Move Toward the Darkness.”

The audience went wild.

“Cooper literally found his voice as Lurch,” Ellen says. “And came to life as a man.”

That’s quite a story. This weekend at Coleytown, audiences will see Frimmer’s magic with another cast, in “Mary Poppins.”

Meanwhile, last weekend — a short way up North Avenue — the Bedford Acting Group brought “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” to life.

In a Wonka-like spirit, the cast and crew partnered with Saugatuck Sweets to sell chocolate bars. Each one contained a ticket for a grand raffle prize: a weekly ice cream sundae for a year.

Fifty percent of the proceeds from the promotion benefit the Leah Randon Memorial Scholarship. It’s named for the daughter of a popular Bedford teacher, killed in an accident last year.

Theater is alive and well in Westport’s middle schools. So is creativity, sharing and caring.

Middle School Theater Makes Its Mark

Recently, Nick Ribolla acted, sang and danced his way to audiences’ hearts as Jimmy Smith, in Staples Player’s superb production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” earlier this month.

Nick is only a sophomore. But he’d already played that role before, when Bedford Middle School presented “Millie.” Other “Millie” veterans from Bedford include Amanda Horowitz, Maddy Rozynek, Claire Smith, Emily Ressler, Nick Massoud, Joe Badion, Josh Popkin, Kelly Gore,  Caroline Didelot, Will Haskell, Caroline Rossi, Sam Adelmann, Christian Melhuish, and Emma Ruchefsky.

Nick Ribolla (Jimmy Smith) and Julia Mandelbaum (Millie), in Bedford Acting Group's "Thoroughly Modern Millie." (Photo/Kerry Long)

Nick Ribolla (Jimmy Smith) and Julia Mandelbaum (Millie), in Bedford Acting Group’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

Players wow Westport with their professional-quality shows. But the incredibly talented casts — and the equally strong technical crew, working behind the scenes — do not show up in 9th grade as novices.

They’re exposed to theater at Bedford and Coleytown. For many youngsters, middle school is where a lifelong passion begins.

Bedford Acting Group is run by director/presentation skills teacher Karen McCormick, assistant director Ryan O’Neill and producer Marge French.

All interested students are accepted. That makes for an enormous cast — the current show, “Guys and Dolls,” has 90 7th and 8th graders, with dozens more working on tech — but, French says, “it’s worth it. In middle school, kids should explore many different activities and interests. Like sports, this is a great way to learn teamwork.”

Every fall, Bedford’s fall musical is open to 7th and 8th graders. In the spring, there’s a straight play for 6th graders. In between, there’s a drama workshop for all students who want more theater.

Philip Cadoux, Jimmy Ray Stagg and Steven Xu as the 3 Chinese characters in "Millie." (Photo/Kerry Long)

Philip Cadoux, Jimmy Ray Stagg and Steven Xu as the 3 Chinese characters in “Millie.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

“This is not a ‘middle school show,'” French emphasizes. “We have professional sound, lighting and costumes. We hold the kids to very high standards. This is a great steppingstone to Staples Players.”

So is Coleytown Company. Started 18 years ago by Ben Frimmer, the schedule is the opposite of Bedford. Fall brings a 6th grade no-costume, no-set, open-to-all show (this year’s is Disney’s “Aristocats Kids”), serving as an introduction to theater.

The spring production — which begins in December — is an all-school musical. There are auditions, but between the large cast and tech crew, 100 or more youngsters are involved. This year’s show is “Shrek.”

High production values marked Coleytown's "Fiddler on the Roof."

Everett Sussman and Samantha Chachra in Coleytown’s “Fiddler on the Roof.” (Photo/Failla)

“We work on middle school ideals,” Frimmer says. “It’s all about building self-esteem, feeling part of something, learning a skill, and putting theater together.”

The director adds, “We set the bar high. We have very high production values. We love the kids, and we push them. ” 

Frimmer always looks for unique angles. For “Annie,” Coleytown used the actual Broadway dog.

He points with pride to the “Wish Circle,” the moment when every cast and crew member gathers in his room to share insights on what the theater experience means to them.

“No one ever says, ‘I’m going to be an actor,'” Frimmer notes. “They talk about building friendships, and forming bonds. As an educator, for me that’s what it’s all about.”

"Peter Pan" wowed Coleytown Middle School audiences.

Remy Leifer as Smee, and Jacob Leaf as Captain Hook, in Coleytown Middle School’s “Peter Pan.” (Photos/Failla)

David Roth — the Staples Players director who welcomes those experienced actors and tech crew members to high school — praises the middle school programs.

“They’re terrific,” he says. “Kids come into 9th grade with experience and knowledge they wouldn’t otherwise have. So we start here at an amazing level.”

Roth notes the “symbiotic relationship” between the middle schools, and Staples. “Kids get excited seeing our shows. They bring that excitement back to their middle school productions. And because they’re so excited, they’re very well prepared when they get here.

“Westport has a 7-year theater program. Staples is a continuation of middle school. And middle school is vital to our quality.”

(For information on Bedford’s “Guys and Dolls” — presented December 6, 7 and 8 — click here.)