The only thing more interesting than the announcement of the Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening” guest is the evening itself.
Itzhak Perlman, Patti Smith, Nile Rodgers, Justin Paul and Frederic Chiu brought music. Will Shortz brought crossword puzzles. Lynsey Addario brought photographs.
Tom Brokaw, E.L. Doctorow, Calvin Trillin, Wendy Wasserstein, Pete Hamill, Martin Scorsese, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Halberstam, Oscar Hijuelos, Adam Gopnik, Jon Meacham, Ron Chernow, Alan Alda and others brought profound insights into their work, and the world.
On June 1, Shonda Rhimes brings her reputation as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. That’s what Time magazine called her last year. And in 2007.
The television producer, screenwriter and author is CEO of the global media company Shondaland. They tell innovative stories through brand partnerships, merchandise and content for film, streaming, audio, digital and editorial.
Rhimes — an inductee into the Tlevision Academy Hall of Fame — has helped shift the entertainment industry’s business model, and changed the face of television.
“From ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ to ‘Bridgerton’ to her latest television series ‘Inventing Anna,’ Shonda Rhimes is recognized as one of the most inspiring, creative forces in media today,” says Library executive director Bill Harmer.
“Ms. Rhimes epitomizes the intent behind the Booked honor: to recognize an individual whose work reflects the purpose of the Library, which is to nurture the love of learning and to enhance our understanding of the world.”
Itzhak Perlman is a violin virtuoso. On May 13, he adds “virtual” to that list.
The 16-time Grammy Award winner — and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree — is the Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening” guest.
Though he won’t appear in person, up to 100 people will be safely spaced in the Trefz Forum to watch Perlman on the state-of-the-art screen. Everyone else with a ticket will watch on devices.
Those tickets — both “live” and online — are available now (click here).
“Booked for the Evening” is the Library’s signature fundraising event. Previous notables include Tom Brokaw, E.L. Doctorow, Calvin Trillin, Wendy Wasserstein, Pete Hamill, Martin Scorsese, Arthur Mitchell, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Halberstam, Oscar Hijuelos, Adam Gopnik, Will Shortz, Patti Smith, Barry Levinson, Jon Meacham, Nile Rodgers, Lynsey Addario, Ron Chernow, Alan Alda, Justin Paul, and Frederic Chiu.
It got lost in all yesterday’s excitement over April Fool’s Day. But as of April 1, dogs are not permitted on Compo Beach.
Specifically, from now through September 30 “animals are prohibited at the beaches either in or out of vehicles, except when going to and from boats at Ned Dimes Marina (but those dogs must be leashed).
“Beaches are defined to include the water adjacent to the property, the sand areas adjacent to the water, the parking areas, grass areas, playing areas and roads. Dogs are permitted in vehicles entering into the Soundview parking lot weekdays any time, and weekends and holidays prior to 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. Dogs must be on leash.
Sorry, guys. Gotta wait till October! (Photo/Dan Johnson)
The ceremony honoring TEAM Westport’s Teen Diversity Essay Contest winners is one of the underrated highlights of each year. Three students read their own words, addressing difficult questions with wisdom, honesty and power.
This year’s event will be held via. It’s this Monday (April 5, 6 p.m.), and — as in years past — is well worth watching.
The prompt was: “The statement ‘Black Lives Matter’ has become politicized in our country. In 1,000 words or fewer, describe your own understanding of the statement. Consider why conversations about race are often so emotionally charged. Given that reality, what suggestions do you have for building both equity and equality in our schools, community and country?”
We may be inspired — or sobered — by what Westport teenagers have to say. We certainly will gain an understanding of what the next generation is thinking.
Aztec Two-Step 2.0 — featuring Westporters Rex Fowler and Dodie Pettit — performs their Simon & Garfunkel songbook show for the first time as a 5-piece band on Friday, April 23 (8 p.m., Bijou Theatre, Bridgeport, 8 p.m.).
It’s a benefit for WPKN-FM. The show will also be livestreamed in HD and 360º Virtual Reality.
Tickets start at $5. Anyone purchasing by April 19 gets a free VR headset, for the fully immersive experience. Click here for tickets to the live Bijou (masked and socially distanced) show. Click here for virtual tickets.
BONUS TRACKS: Aztec Two-Step 2.0 will follow the Simon & Garfunkel songbook with a 30-minute set of original material, starting around 10 p.m.
Click below for a video montage to “I Ain’t Dead Yet,” one of Dodie’s 3 original country-blues songs featured in a 5-song EP being releasing to radio soon.
The 16-time Grammy-winning violinist — and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner — is the Westport Library’s 22nd “Booked for the Evening” honoree.
The event is set for May 13.
The only catch: It’s virtual. Unlike previous events — with the likes of Tom Brokaw, E.L. Doctorow, Calvin Trillin, Wendy Wasserstein, Martin Scorsese, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Patti Smith, Nile Rodgers, Alan Alda, Frederic Chiu, Lynsey Addario and Justin Paul — audiences won’t be able to enjoy Perlman live.
COVID took care of that.
Still, it’s a step forward from last year. With the pandemic in its early stages, the Library had to cancel the entire Booked evening. That was a disappointment to many — and a big blow to the Library budget. The spring tradition is one of the major fundraisers of the year.
Perlman is that rare modern superstar: a classical musician whose name everyone knows. Noted for his charm and humanity as well as his talent, his joy for art touches audiences worldwide.
Diagnosed with polio at age 4, Perlman rose to fame on the “Ed Sullivan Show” as a 13-year-old prodigy.
He has performed for presidents, Queen Elizabeth and — on numerous television shows — audiences of millions.
The documentary “Itzhak” details Perlman’s struggles as a polio survivor and Jewish émigré, and is a reminder why art is vital to life.
The COVID-caused closure of the Westport Library — just a few months after reopening in its magical new transformed space — has meant a significant loss in revenue.
The cafe, store, room rentals — though the building is now open for limited services 4 hours a day, 6 days a week, all those revenue streams are still gone.
Also gone: “Booked for the Evening.” The gala — which in past years has brought Alan Alda, Patti Smith, Tom Brokaw, Pete Hamill, Wendy Wasserstein, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Martin Scorsese and more to town — was canceled this June (along with everything else).
A small portion of the large crowd that enjoyed Alan Alda at the Westport Library.
That meant a huge financial hit. And it came at a time when the library’s expenses increased significantly. Expanded digital resources, the expense of producing over 375 top-quality educational program, the cost of cleaning and sanitizing books, materials and the entire building — all take bigger bites out of a smaller budget.
But the show must go on.
And on Saturday, October 24 (7 p.m.), the Library presents a virtual “Show of Stars.” Livestreamed from the Trefz Forum — hosted by CBS star David Pogue, and produced by “Live at Lincoln Center”‘s Andrew Wilk (both Westporters) — the event promises an hour of great entertainment.
Music, comedy, surprises — all from familiar faces — are in the works. “25 stars, 1,000 laughs, 1 night,” the library says.
To register — and give a donation of any amount — click here. Sponsorships are still available too.
One of the highlights of the Westport Library year is its Booked for the Evening fundraiser. One of the other highlights is the announcement of the star.
Past honorees include Tom Brokaw, E. L. Doctorow, Calvin Trillin, Wendy Wasserstein, Pete Hamill, Martin Scorsese, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Will Shortz, Patti Smith, Jon Meacham, Nile Rodgers, Lynsey Addario, Alan Alda, Justin Paul, and Frederic Chu.
This year’s Booked for the Evening is a two-fer: Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, Pulitzer-prize winning authors of “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story that Helped Ignite a Movement.”
Unfortunately, the spring event has been postponed. A new date has not been announced. Library officials reassure their many fans: It will be rebooked, for some evening!
Le Rouge Aartisan Chocolates announces its newest creation — and a new chance to make a difference.
For every ⭐️Star Cake⭐️ ordered this Mother’s Day season, owner and ace chocolatier Aarti Khosla will donate another cake to a “star mom” fighting the COVID-19 pandemic on the front lines. Click here to order, for curbside pickup or delivery.
New rules went into effect today at the transfer station.
Everyone must wear a mask. The number of vehicles entering the facility will be limited and monitored. During high traffic days (Saturdays, Mondays), cars must queue in a single line on the Sherwood Island Connector.
Transfer station personnel cannot assist residents with the removal or disposal of solid waste from vehicles. Do not bring bulky items that require assistance.
During the pandemic, all fees and collection of refuse tickets will be waived.
Social distancing is strictly enforced. Every other parking space is blocked off.
Just think: Every Saturday morning before COVID, this was the center of Westport social life.
(Photo/Michael Calise; hat tip Dick Lowenstein)
Compo Beach is closed to vehicular traffic. But anyone with a boat slip at the Ned Dimes Marina will be mailed a temporary allowing entrance to the marina Lot. Town officials emphasize: This is only to provide access to boats!
This Thursday (April 30, 9 a.m.) the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce sponsors a free networking event with 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. Click here to register, and find out how the town is coping with the coronavirus.
Yvonne O’Kane is a great friend to STAR Lighting the Way. During the pandemic, she’s led Zoom art and garden classes for participants with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
One was on flower arranging; she’ll follow up soon with a virtual tour of her gardens. Also ahead: preparing simple yet elegant hors d’oeuvres. Yesterday’s class was on rock decorating.
They all look beautiful. But I’m partial to the one that says “06880.”
Ilene Strizver writes: “I have moved locally and have furniture to donate. Goodwill does not take furniture at this time, and all consignment shops are closed. Do any readers know where to donate, possibly with pickup, during the virus? I’d hate to trash everything, and would rather not post on Facebook.”
Ideas? Click “Comments” below.
Not Ilene’s furniture.
Shoreline Pharmacy — the “old-fashioned” drugstore near the Southport line — closed yesterday. Owners Phil and Karen Hein opened near Shake Shack 3 years ago.
Staples High School junior Chloe Ashton won 2nd place in State Senator Will Haskell’s essay contest. He invited students to write essays describing what they’d focus on, if they were elected to public office. Chloe focused on changes to the Electoral College.
Haskell planned to visit schools and present citations to the winners. With schools closed indefinitely, he’s posting a video on social media, and writing each winner a personalized note.
And finally … thanks, Josh Groban. You raise me — and everyone else — up!
The Westport Library’s Transformation Project has been a daring adventure.
For nearly 2 years, officials masterminded a top-to-bottom (literally) metamorphosis of an already great institution. In less than 3 weeks they’ll cut the ribbon, opening it officially to the world.
Last night, a couple of hundred folks got a sneak peek.
The opening reception, prior to Frederic Chiu’s performance.
Library officials took the bold step of scheduling — as their first event in the new space — their signature fundraiser of the year.
Booked For The Evening is a night of fine food, socializing, and honoring a noted member of the literary or arts world. Expectations are high.
The library had never tested its innovations before a live audience. High-tech video and sound systems; a beautiful Yamaha Disklavier piano that can play itself; the vaunted grandstand seating — all rolling out for the first time ever.
Frederic Chiu accompanies himself on two pianos. To find out how, read on.
It was one of the best Booked evenings ever.
The stunning reception area; the new performing arts space; the flow, the ambiance, the energy — it was all there, just as the hundreds of men and women who had worked for so long on the project hoped (and prayed).
Westport LIbrary director Bill Harmer and Sybil Steinberg, contributing editor and former book review section editor for Publishers Weekly, enjoy the event.
Frederic Chiu — the world-renowned pianist and longtime Westporter — gave an inspired performance.
In keeping with the theme of the night — and the Transformation Project’s emphasis on creativity — there were wonderful touches.
The audience voted to see an alternative (happy) ending to Prokofiev’s “Romeo & Juliet” ballet, performed by dancers Marlon Grigsby and Harlee Trautman, as Chiu inaugurated the new piano.
Chiu then played a movement from Philip Glass’s “4 Movements for 2 Pianos,” with his protégé Timo Andres.
WSHU classical music host Kate Remington served as “Booked for the Evening” MC.
There were video — and live — tributes to the honoree.
Then, the finale: Chopin’s “Rondo in C Major, Opus 7 for 2 Pianos.” Chiu did something he’s never done, in his long career: He accompanied himself. The magic came courtesy of the Yamaha; one part was recorded weeks ago.
It was a warm, varied and community-minded evening. It flowed easily, and flawlessly.
Grandstand seating proved popular — and grand.
This morning, everyone who was there is talking about Frederic Chiu — and the newly transformed Westport Library.
It will be booked — by proud, pleased patrons — for decades to come.
(The ribbon-cutting and opening ceremonies for the new library are Sunday, June 23. Festivities begin at 11 a.m., and last until 4 p.m.)
Frederic Chiu: star of the show. (All photos/Dan Woog)
In its 21 years, Booked for the Evening — the Westport Library’s signature fundraising event — has brought many big names to town.
Tom Brokaw, Martin Scorsese, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Patti Smith, Alan Alda and others have enlightened and entertained us, on the cramped main floor.
But now the library’s Transformation Project is almost complete. Stacks of books have been replaced by a Forum — a dramatic event space framed by a state-of-the-art stage and screen.
This year’s Booked for the Evening is the first chance for the public to see the transformed library. Organizers needed an extra-special honoree, someone as compelling as the new space itself.
Frederic Chiu (Photo/Chris Craymer)
They did not have to look far. Frederc Chiu — the internationally acclaimed, award-winning virtuoso pianist, collaborator, innovator, entrepreneur and Westporter — will inaugurate the Forum’s stage.
And he’ll do it using a spectacular new piano, with a great back story. But more on that later.
Chiu has performed on 5 continents, in all 50 states, and with orchestras like the National Symphony in Washington DC, the China National Symphony and the BBC Concert Orchestra Symphony. He has collaborated with friends like Joshua Bell.
But he’s also our neighbor.
Chiu’s introduction to Westport came in 1986, when he won the prestigious Young Performers International Competition (now named for Heida Hermanns) here.
In the 1990s he lived in Paris. Whenever he played in New York, he visited his friend Jeanine Esposito here. After they married, Westport — with its arts heritage, and proximity to New York and Europe — seemed like a perfect place to be.
Chiu loved the Westport Library. He researched music and travel. He checked out CDs, DVDs and books. And whatever he could not find, the staff tracked down through interlibrary loans.
Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, at home. That’s where they host their eclectic Beechwood Arts Immersive Salons.
Esposito, meanwhile, helped then-director Maxine Bleiweis develop the next phas of the MakerSpace.
Current director Bill Harmer has impressed the couple too. Recently, he announced that the library will be the winter home of Chiu and Esposito’s Beechwood Arts Immersion Salon series.
“Today, libraries are community hubs” Chiu notes. “They’re places to create bonds, where people can communicate. And they’re accessible to all.”
Chiu is excited that the Westport Library is expanding that mission by including the arts in its transformation. Audio and video production have dedicated spaces, next to the impressive new stage.
On Tuesday, June 4, Chiu’s Booked for the Evening performance debuts not only that stage, but also the library’s new Yamaha Disklavier piano.
It’s an astonishing instrument. Besides its marvelous sound, the piano is a technological marvel. It can play 50,000 songs (like a player piano). It also connects with any other Disklavier anywhere in the world.
And with its video capabilities, it allows Chiu to do something he’ll showcase on Tuesday: He can play a duet with himself. He’s chosen Chopin’s only work for 2 pianos.
Here’s looking at Chiu: The pianist stands in the Forum, while a video of him playing plays on the high-def screen behind the stage.
That’s just one piece of Chiu’s performance. He’ll play with Timo Andres, an award-winning young pianist/composer.
He also brings his interactive production of Prokofiev’s popular “Romeo and Juliet: The Choice” ballet to the stage. At the end, Booked guests vote for either the tragic conclusion, or the composer’s little-known happy ending.
But back to that Yamaha piano. It’s a gift from Stacy Bass and her brother, David Waldman. It honors their mother, Jessica Waldman, who died in January.
The donation has special meaning for Stacy, who helped start Booked for the Evening 21 years ago.
“My mother was passionate about theater and music,” Stacy says. “David and I wanted to give something to the library that really represents her. The piano will be part of the stage. She will live on every day.”
Frederic Chiu, at the beautiful new Yamaha Dislavier piano. It’s a gift from Stacy Bass and David Waldman, in honor of their mother Jessica. (Photos/Dan Woog)
Last week Chiu sat at the piano, in the still-unfinished Forum, and smiled.
“I’m being honored, and I’ll be onstage. But the soloist is always the instrument and the music. I do my best to put them out front. I’m of service to great music, and a great piano.”
Chiu notes that when the piano was invented more than 300 years ago, it “brought music to the masses. It was as much an innovation as the printing press and computer were, for bringing information to the public. Playing it is unlike any other activity people can do.”
No one plays better than Frederic Chiu.
And there is no better choice for Booked for the Evening, to inaugurate the Westport Library’s new age of arts and innovation.
(For more information on the June 4 Booked for the Evening, including tickets, click here.)
During its first 19 years, the Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening” fundraising event has included many A-list names.
Tom Brokaw, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Alan Alda imparted wisdom to sold-out crowds.
Patti Smith and Nile Rodgers entertained them.
But “Booked” has never seen — or heard — anyone quite like the 20th honoree.
Justin Paul — the Oscar, Grammy and Tony Award-winning, white-hot songwriting star and proud Westport native — kicked the Library’s signature evening into the stratosphere last night.
The 2003 Staples High School graduate thrilled, inspired and paid homage to a crowd of 500 at Rolling Hills Country Club. (The library was unavailable, due to its ongoing Transformation project.)
Weaving together 2 themes — the importance of libraries (especially Westport’s), and his hometown’s longtime embrace of arts education — Paul was visibly moved by his “Booked” honor.
The Westport Library, he said, “nurtured my love of learning, and enhanced my understanding of the world. It’s a hopeful and beautiful place.”
Justin Paul entertained and inspired last night’s “Booked for the Evening” crowd.
Teachers like Ben Frimmer showed the “left out” middle schooler who he could really be. At Staples, Alice Lipson, David Roth and others helped him find his voice, and his life’s work.
He also cited influences from Long Lots Elementary School, Music Theatre of Connecticut, and Chris Coogan.
Of course, he’s still quite young. After videos of his life, and tributes from the likes of Hugh Jackman filled the screen, Paul joked about watching “the retrospective of a 33-year-old. Not a lot of people have their grandmother at their lifetime achievement award.”
Paul acknowledged that not everyone grows up in a town like Westport. He urged the audience to pay attention — and provide resources — to youngsters in the many places that do not provide the opportunities, and access to the arts, that his hometown does.
He then launched into 3 of his best-loved, and most meaningful, compositions: “For Forever” from “Dear Evan Hansen,” “City of Stars” (“La La Land”), and “This Is Me” (“The Greatest Showman”).
Paul — who, with his songwriting partner Benj Pasek writes beautiful, hopeful music for stage and screen — is admired by countless fans, young and old, around the globe.
But he’s a special hero to Staples students. Two generations — recent college graduates and current performing stars Mia Gentile, Tyler Jent and Michelle Pauker, along with today’s Orphenians — joined Paul on stage.
The mood was joyful. But the “Booked for the Evening” star wore the biggest smile of all.
Justin Paul at the piano, with fellow Staples graduates and current student stars.
BONUS REEL: Mark Platt, the producer of “La La Land,” was one of the many big names appearing on video. He made a special announcement: He’s funding a new recording studio, now under construction at the Westport Library.
The largest crowd in the 19-year history of the Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening” fundraiser listened, laughed and learned with Alan Alda last night.
After video clips from many admirers — including former Westporter Marlo Thomas, and the Chilean doctor who saved his life in 2003 — the actor/singer/director/activist/humorist/humanist (as introduced by Westport actress/singer Cynthia Gibb) took the stage.
Speaking without notes — but with tons of energy, his trademark smile and a clear love for his subjects — Alda wove together his ideas about communication, empathy, science and wonder.
A small portion of the large crowd that enjoyed Alan Alda last night at the Westport Library.
There was plenty of audience participation — even a couple of opportunities to test out his theories on active listening.
The final episode of M*A*S*H — which Alda co-wrote — drew a record audience. It still stands.
More than 3 decades later, the record library crowd understood why.
At a pre-event reception, Alan Alda jokes with Larry and Martha Aasen.
Posted onApril 13, 2015|Comments Off on Lynsey Addario’s “Booked For The Evening”: The Back Story
The Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening” fundraiser is always special. Previous honorees have included Tom Brokaw, E.L. Doctorow, Calvin Trillin, Wendy Wasserstein, Pete Hamill, Martin Scorsese, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Halberstam, Oscar Hijuelos, Adam Gopnik, Will Shortz and Patti Smith.
This year, though, is especially special. On Saturday, May 9 (7:30 p.m.), the library welcomes Lynsey Addario. She’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, MacArthur “Genius Grant” winner, internationally known role model — and a Westporter.
Lynsey’s accomplishments are — well, special. Working for the New York Times, National Geographic and Time, she has documented life and oppression under Taliban rule in Afghanistan; conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Darfur and Congo, and humanitarian and human rights issues across the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.
Now, Lynsey is a noted author. It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War is an insighful, inspiring memoir. It’s also been optioned as a big-time film. Steven Spielberg will direct it, with Jennifer Lawrence playing Lynsey.
None of which may have been possible without our special Westport Library.
The other day, I asked Lynsey if she recalled her early library days.
Boy, did she.
Her parents came to Westport in the 1960s to open a salon, Phillips. They had finished hairdressing school in New Haven, and were attracted to Westport’s thriving, creative atmosphere. Artists and authors seemed to be everywhere.
As a Coleytown Elementary School student, Lynsey remembers making field trips to the “old” library. In that building, on the Post Road and Parker Harding Plaza — where Starbucks and Freshii are now — she learned how to use the card catalog, and search for books.
The “old” library, where a young Lynsey Addario learned a lot.
The “new” library — the one next to the Levitt Pavilion — opened when Lynsey was at Staples. She was discovering photography, and used the library to learn more about the field.
Today, most of Lynsey’s research is done via the internet. But she knows how important libraries are.
At the University of Wisconsin, she spent “countless” nights researching papers and utilizing resources.
“I have always seen libraries as sanctuaries,” Lynsey says. “Now, I work primarily in war zones. Basic resources like food, water, electricity and shelter are a priority. Libraries would be the greatest luxury in these places. They are a sad casualty of the realities of war.”
Lynsey Addario photographed this young girl, who died delivering twins. The Sierra Leonean wanted to earn a degree, but at 14 was forced into marriage. (Photo/Lynsey Addario for NPR)
The Westport Library is many things, to many people. We all use it in different, and varied, ways. But all of us find — and learn — something there.
On May 9, we can learn a little bit from Lynsey Addario — who learned more than a little bit in our own across-the-street library, a very brief lifetime ago.
(For more information on “Booked for the Evening” — including tickets — click here.)
Comments Off on Lynsey Addario’s “Booked For The Evening”: The Back Story
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