Tag Archives: Carole Schweid

[OPINION] No Fireworks, Please!

Carole Schweid is a longtime Westporter, former Broadway performer, author of “Staged Reading Magic,” artistic director of the popular lunchtime play-reading series Play With Your Food, and a fireworks fan.

However, she writes:

I always loved the closely packed beaches on the 4th of July. I enjoyed the food, the crowds, didn’t even mind the traffic. It was a community celebration, and it felt like everybody showed up.

I look forward to doing it again — but not this year.

We all know that this is not the time to gather large crowds anywhere. And certainly not groups packed together on a beach …  after dark … trying to stay warm.

Pre-fireworks scene at Compo Beach, pre-pandemic.

I can’t think of any good reason why we would want to create such unnecessary risk, even with so many people vaccinated (the state of Connecticut is doing a great job). Even if you limit the number of cars, it’s a mob scene. There wouldn’t even be a way to supervise the basic things we’ve learned about protecting ourselves, like masking and social distancing — especially after dark.

It’s becoming easier to forget that there is still a pandemic going on. We have to pay attention to how we behave. As far as I can see, there are so many good reasons not to have this event. I can’t think of any good reasons in favor of it.

One could also argue that it may not be appropriate – this year, at this time – for our town to be spending our money on fireworks when so many Fairfield County families need food.

We are a generous community.. I’m thinking our time and our money could be better spent.

A timeless scene. Will we see it again this year?


Theater Lovers: Play With Your Food — And Stephen Schwartz

In the mile-a-minute, can’t-stop-for-a-second world that is Westport today, Play With Your Food stands out.

For nearly 20 years, a lunchtime program — the deliciously named Play With Your Food — has combined a gourmet lunch, professional readings of intriguing plays, and stimulating post-performance discussion.

It’s fun, low-key, under the radar.

But when the season kicks off this year, a very big Broadway name will share the bill.

Stephen Schwartz — the multi-Grammy, Oscar and Tony winning composer (“Wicked,” “Pippin,” “Godspell”) — will entertain at “A Moveable Feast of Theater 2.0.” The benefit supports the not-for-profit Play With Your Food.

Stephen Schwartz

In addition to Schwartz’s cabaret performance (for sponsor ticket holders only), 4 one-act plays will take place throughout a private Westport home. There’s also food from AMG Catering, and cocktails from Tito’s Vodka.

Schwartz does not do these things lightly. But he’s a longtime friend of Play With Your Food artistic director Carole Schweid. They met early in their carers, when she appeared in the national tour of “Pippin.”

Stacie Lewis

Later, Schweid realized that Westport-based actress Stacie Lewis — a Play With Your Food fan favorite — had starred as Glinda in the Chicago production of “Wicked.”

Lewis is part of the “Moveable Feast” cast too. She’ll be joined by 9 other Play With Your Food actors, who will perform those comic short plays in “site-specific surroundings” throughout the house.

The full Play With Your Food season opens January 7, and runs through April. Live lunchtime performances are planned for Toquet Hall, Fairfield Theatre Company, the Greenwich Arts Council and Rye Arts Center.

Lunches — catered by local restaurants — are followed by 1-act scripted plays performed by professional actors. Many are recognizable from TV, film or theater. The talkback includes the cast and director — sometimes even the playwright.

It’s a great series. Scoring Stephen Schwartz for the gala fundraiser is just icing on the cake.

(“A Moveable Feast 2.0” is set for Sunday, October 20. The location will be revealed to ticket holders only. The sponsor ticket cabaret with Stephen Schwartz begins at 3 p.m.; the main theater event starts at 4. For tickets and more information, click here or call 203-293-8729.)

TEA Talk Sunday Explores Art, Social Change

Everyone knows about TED Talks.

But here in Westport, we’ve got TEA Talks.

The Westport Arts Advisory Committee’s annual TEA — that’s Thinkers Educators Artists — event is set for this Sunday (October 29, 2 p.m., Town Hall).

The topic is timely and relevant: Art and Social Change.

Three 20-minute conversations among Westport arts professionals will explore how artists working in theater, art, writing and music can move popular thought, or sway public opinion.

In a nod to today’s fraught times, they’ll ask (and hopefully answer): “Does it take difficult times or momentous events for artists to create work that is a form of political and social currency?”

In the late 1960s, Naiad Einsel’s “Save Cockenoe Now” posters were a local symbol of the intersection of art and social change.

Carole Schweid (actor/director, Play With Your Food) and Michael Barker (managing director, Westport Country Playhouse) will address theater’s historical role addressing social issues.

Miggs Burroughs (artist/graphic designer/no further introduction needed) and Mark Yurkiw (artist/entrerpreneur) will discuss the influence of visual art on social change.

Haris Durrani (Photo/Miggs Burroughs)

And John Dodig (former Staples principal) will chat with 2011 graduate Haris Durrani about the young writer’s fiction novella, “Technologies of the Self,” about the life of a young American Muslim after 9/11.

Durrani will also be presented with the Horizon Award, given annually by the Arts Advisory Committee to a Westport artist under the age of 32 who shows extraordinary accomplishment and potential.

Rounding out the afternoon are professional performances of songs expressing socially conscious messages, from yesterday (Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific”) and today (Pasek and Westport’s Justin Paul’s “Dear Evan Hansen.”)

A reception follows the intriguing TEA talks, at the Westport Historical Society across from Town Hall.


10 Years Of Playing With Your Food

For 10 years now, Westporters have played with their food.

Nancy Diamond and Carole Schweid couldn’t be happier.

The women are co-founders of a decade-long lunchtime program — the deliciously named Play With Your Food — that combines a gourmet lunch, professional readings of intriguing plays, and a stimulating post-performance discussion.

After a quick but entertaining and challenging 90 minutes, it’s back to work for everyone.

As with most off-the-wall or why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ideas, “Play With Your Food” developed casually. Nancy and Carole were young mothers serving together on the PTA Cultural Arts Committee. They discovered a shared desire to do something theater-related that would bring people together during the winter.

And they both loved food.

Carole Schweid and Nancy Diamond, Play With Your Food founders.

They knew Westport is a community that supports the arts, has good restaurants — and a pool of professional actors who love challenges.

The challenge was finding one-act plays equal to their vision.

To find good material, Nancy and Carole read a lot. They travel to one-act festivals around the country. They prowl book fairs and libraries. Now — with Play With Your Food a firm fixture on the local arts scene — people send suggestions to them.

The plays range from comedies and romances to mysteries and musicals, from classics to unpublished works. Despite the wide variety, all share one element: The audience must leave in an uplifted mood.

The appeal of Play With Your Food, Nancy says, is broad: “lunch, a social connection with others, and intellectual or emotional stimulation.”

Plus, Carole adds, “You don’t have to travel. This is all home-grown.”

Carole chooses 3 plays — 10 to 20 minutes each — for every program. (The series runs from January through April.) They may be short, she says, but “not light or fluffy.”

A typical scene from a Play With Your Food event.

In the beginning, most plays were “middle of the road,” Carole says. Now, “some are a little more challenging to the audience.” And the post-play discussions have become a bit deeper and more insightful.

Over 10 years, there must have been some flops. Right?

The women laugh. “Truly, no,” Nancy says. “Some plays are not as strong as others, but no one has ever walked out saying they wished they’d gone to the diner.”

Ah, dining. The restaurants that cater — a different one each month — are as varied as the plays themselves: Bobby Q’s. Blue Lemon. Da Pietro. Matsu Sushi.

Play With Your Food food.

“We like surprising audiences with little jewels of plays,” Nancy says. “And there are culinary surprises too. The food is very good — this is not tuna fish and potato chips.”

Next month, Play With Your Food celebrates its 10-year anniversary with a gala celebration. “Two for the Road” is set for Saturday, January 28 at Dragone Classic Motorcar Company. There will be catering from more than 20 great restaurants, followed by a “rousing show” created by Carole.

Professional actors will perform scenes from “My Fair Lady,” “42nd Street,” “Mack & Mabel” and Play With Your Food comedy favorites.

The event will celebrate a decade of success — and provide financial support for the series to continue.

“We can’t believe it’s been 10 years!” Nancy marvels. “Carole and I had young kids when we started. Now they’re all out of the house.”

So, back then, who came up with the spectacularly clever name “Play With Your Food”?

Nancy and Carole can’t quite remember.

But they do know this: “When something’s right, it’s right. We want to help people smile with our food and plays. And the name does, too.”

(For ticket information on the January 28 celebration, click here or call 203-293-8831. Play With Your Food’s 10th season begins at noon on January 10, 11 and 12 at Toquet Hall.