“Hey kids, let’s put on a show!” Mickey Rooney said that so often to Judy Garland in Depression-era films, it became a cliché.
Kids today still put on shows. But — this being Westport, and the year being 2022 — they are, well, different.
“Lux Freer” is the latest movie to be made here. The plot: A middle-class non-binary teen feels like an outcast in their new town of rich jocks and beauty queens — until a wishing well and the most popular guy in school offer a view from the top of the social ladder.
See what I mean?
Cast and crew take a break, with a Joe’s Pizza lunch.
“Lux Freer” is a production of Triple Threat Academy. Each summer the Westport-based school for teen and adult actors, singers and dancers (“triple threats”), founded by “Fame” star/1981 Staples High School graduate) Cynthia Gibb, runs an independent film project.
Students learn acting in front of a camera, along with directing, shooting and producing.
With a professional crew, a cast of 23, and a heap of help from Westport residents and businesses, this is the biggest Triple Threat production yet.
Westporter Andrew Wilk (multi-Emmy-winning producer/director of “Live from Lincoln Center, former Sony Music COO), screenwriter Michael Jamin (“Beavis and Butthead”), makeup artist Kathleen Fillion and filmmaker Allie O’Brien all spoke with students.
Jamie Mann’s makeup is done professionally by Kathleen Fillion.
The non-binary star is Echo Bodell, Other cast members include professional actors Jean Louisa Kelly (“Top Gun Maverick”), Jamie Mann (“Country Comfort”), Cameron Mann (“Mare of Easttown”) and Natalie Mann (“A California Christmas”). All except Kelly are, were or soon will be Staples High School students.
“Lux Freer” star Echo Bodell (black clothes) and Jasmita Mani Lorenzato prepare for a shot.
Shooting took place at Bedford Middle School. Principal Adam Rosen welcomed the cast (many of whom attended BMS).
The Porch @ Christie’s — whose mission of inclusion aligns with the film’s theme — was another location. They catered one lunch. Comped and/or discounted food was also courtesy of Joe’s Pizza and Gaetano’s. Planet Pizza provided a uniform, pizzas and catering.
The iconic Buick station wagon came courtesy of longtime Westporter Anne Westlake.
Many Westporters joined the filming as extras. You’ll see some familiar faces (including, ahem, my own.)
Cast members and extras wait for “Action!” in the Bedford Middle School auditorium.
Later this year – after editing and post-production — “Lux Freer” will hit the film festival circuit.
The entire cast and crew — I mean, we — can’t wait.
(For more information on Triple Threat’s fall acting and improv classes, and more, click here.)
If you have not finished watching “Mare of Easttown” — or if you intend to do so later — do not read on.
But if you saw the finale Sunday night on HBO Max, you know that the surprise killer was …
… young Ryan Ross.
The surprise, out-of-the-blue-but-now-it-seems-logical murderer in the wildly popular whodunit was played by Cameron Mann. When he’s not acting on the national stage, he’s a freshman (and basketball player) at Staples High.
Cameron’s role in the series starring Kate Winslet started slowly. But if local fans thought they hadn’t seen enough of him — well, hopefully, they watched to the end.
Stanford University had a great weekend at the NCAA Division I rowing championships in Sarasota, Florida — thanks in part to some local oarswomen.
Grace McGinley — a Staples High School 2017 grad and Stanford senior, received the NCAA Elite 90 award. It goes to one athlete in each NCAA sport with the highest cumulative grade point average competing in the championships. She is the first female rower in Stanford history to win the award.
Grace recently was honored with the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year award too.
At the championships, Grace was joined by her sister Kelsey (Staples ’18, Stanford junior), in the Cardinal’s first varsity 8+ boat. They placed second, helping lead the team’s 3 boats to a 2nd-place finish overall. It was the highest team finish for Stanford women since 2011.
Kelsey McGinley recently received All Pac-12 Conference First Team honors. She has been called up to the U-23 national team selection camp, which begins today.
Noelle Amlicke (Staples ’19) is also a member of the Stanford women’s crew team (though she was not in Florida). Isabelle Grosgogeat (Staples ’18), was a coxswain for Princeton University women’s crew at the championships.
All 4 are Saugatuck Rowing Club alumnae. Two other SRC junior girls alums (non-Westport residents) coxed for the University of Michigan; 2 others rowed for Navy and the University of California.
And finally … today is the 74th birthday of Ronnie Wood. The former Faces and Jeff Beck Group member joined the Rolling Stones in 1975. But he was not an “official” Stone until Bill Wyman left in 1993.
The year before, he absolutely shredded “Seven Days,” at the 30th anniversary Bob Dylan tribute concert at Madison Square Garden.
Lock your cars doors! Even — especially — in your driveway!
That’s the advice (it should be a command) from the Westport Police Department.
Four vehicles have been stolen here since Saturday. All 4 times, the doors were unlocked — and the keys were left in the cars.
Police have also responded to 15 vehicle break-ins in the past 6 days. Items were stolen from all cars — and again, the doors were unlocked.
The department reminds residents to lock all cars, and bring keys inside. Take valuables out of your car for the night too — cash, purses, wallets and electronics. It’s a good idea too to keep outside lights on, and motion lights activated.
Since going public about her battle with existential anguish and depression, Melissa Bernstein has been interviewed by every major American media outlet.
Tonight (Thursday, May 6) she talks to a different audience: her neighbors.
Former CNN, NBC Sports and Fox News anchor Dave Briggs — also a Westporter — interviews the Melissa & Doug toy company co-founder today, on Instagram Live.
Melissa will talk about her life, and LifeLines: the project she and her husband Doug have created, to educate and empower people. The conversation is particularly apt now; May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
It’s available tonight at 8 p.m. on Instagram Live (@Westport Magazine). You can ask questions during the segment, or send them now: DM @DaveBriggsTV.
Far from a “welcome wagon” — longtime residents are as welcome as recent arrivals — it’s a fun, active group. Members enjoy clam bakes, coffees, holiday parties, kayaking, barbecues, happy hours, wine tastings and TGIF get-togethers.
They play canasta. They go hiking and to movies. There is a book club, culinary group and luncheon club. There are trips to museums, baby and toddler play groups, and girls’ nights out.
Well, they did all that before COVID. The pandemic forced every activity onto Zoom, or hiatus.
But as Westport opens up, the group is returning to in-person events. “With the energy of spring in the air, we are trying our best to serve our community,” they say. “We will of course continue to follow town guidelines in all activities.”
The first monthly event is tomorrow (Friday, May 7, noon): lunch outdoors at Arezzo.
In the works: Book Club (May 27, 7 p.m.), kayaking, and free Pure Barre classes for members.
Click here to learn more. Click here for the Facebook page; For membership information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For other questions, email email@example.com.
Westport Public Art Collections seeks submissions from K-12 students for the 2021-22 school calendar. That’s the one that hangs in every kitchen. It lists all school events — and is decorated handsomely with student art.
Drawings, paintings, photos and computer-generated graphics will be considered (landscape orientation, please).
Artwork scanned at high res (600 dpi — JPG or PDF format file) or a good photo can be mailed to WestportSchoolCalendar@gmail.com. Include the student’s name, email, school and grade. Keep the original art, in case a re-scan is needed.
The deadline is May 28. Click here for more details, and to preorder a calendar.
The cover of the 2020-21 Westport Public Schools calendar was drawn by Sophia Sheng, Coleytown Elementary School 5th grader.
Bedford Middle School 8th grader Ryan Tzou learned yesterday he was a winner in the Women’s History Month essay contest.
He found out in a great way: State Representative Stephanie Thomas surprised him during social studies class.
“Ryan told the triumphant story of his grandmother, a Chinese immigrant who experienced countless obstacles in her life that she never let hinder her dreams and goals,” Thomas said. “Ryan’s love and admiration for his grandmother poured through the carefully constructed words in his essay, which made it both inspirational and heart-warming to read.”
Ryan Tzou with State Representative Stephanie Thomas (left) and Bedford Middle School social studies teacher Gabrielle Tripuzzi. He holds a citation for his essay.
The other day, “06880” reported on Staples High 9th grader Cameron Mann’s current gig: He’s part of HBO Max’s “Mare of Easttown” cast.
Three years ago he was part of a 2018 workshop: “The Secret Garden.” Presented for top Broadway professionals and theatre owners, it was directed by Tony Award winner Warren Carlyle, and starred notable actors.
The production is being streamed tonight (Thursday, May 6), and will be available on demand May 7-9. Proceeds go to the Dramatists Guild Foundation and The Actors Fund. Click here for details.
Jamie Mann is drawing praise — and viewers — for his role in “Country Comfort,” the Netflix series about a singing family and their nanny.
But he’s not the only Staples High School student in a TV show this spring.
In fact, he’s not the only one in the same family.
Jamie’s freshman brother Cameron’s show “Mare of Easttown” debuts tonight (Sunday, April 18, 10 p.m.) on HBO. It will stream on HBO Max.
The 7-episode series stars Kate Winslet as Mare Sheehan, a detective trying to keep her life from unraveling as she investigates a murder in her small Pennsylvania town.
Cameron plays Ryan Ross, the son of Mare’s best friend. More than a whodunit, the show digs into the complex relationships of a close-knit community, with themes of suffering and redemption.
USA Today says, “Its characters are deeply real and expertly drawn, its sense of place firmly established and specific, and its clues genuinely shocking. It’s intense and satisfying to watch, going to places your average murder mystery wouldn’t aspire.’
Cameron auditioned for the role in September 2019. After sending a tape, he earned a callback with the director and writer in Philadelphia. A final callback followed in New York.
Filming began outside Philadelphia in November 2019 — when Cameron was still at Bedford Middle School — but was shut down by COVID 4 months later. It picked up again in October, and was completed in December.
“Mare” was “cross-boarded” — shot out of order — which complicated things, as the children aged during the long pandemic pause.
One of Cameron’s big scenes in episode 2 — not shot before the shutdown — was cut, probably because it would be too hard to match to the preceding, already-filmed scene when he was a year younger.
His filming took 22 days. But they were spread out, allowing him to continue at both Bedford and Staples. On the days he did work, he was required to spend 3 hours with an on-set teacher.
Cameron Mann took time off from filming to check out the Liberty Bell,
Cameron says that working with Winslet was “amazing. She is very focused and thoughtful about her work. She took the time to meet me, and talk to me about being part of such an intense project. She is super-passionate about acting, and so good.”
This is not the young actor’s first TV show. Cameron has a recurring role on ABC’s “For Life.” He’s been a guest star on “Daredevil” (Netflix) and “New Amsterdam” (NBC), and played former Westporter Melissa Joan Hart’s son in the Lifetime movie “A Very Merry Toy Store.”
And with all that, he found time this winter to play on Staples’ freshman basketball team. Just call the “Mare of Easttown” actor “Cameron of Westport.”
(Meanwhile, Netflix is calculating views, to determine if there will be a 2nd season for Jamie Mann’s “Country Comfort.” All 10 episodes are available now.)
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