Tag Archives: Christie Stanger

Unsung Heroes #233

Staples Players’ first-ever production of “The Descendants” thrilled audiences with energetic hip hop dancing and fantastic sets.

Also earning kudos: stunning costumes.

Though often overlooked, Players’ costume crew works long hours during and after rehearsals — often right until opening night — to make sure actors look their best.

Some costumes are pulled from stock, or ordered and embellished. But one in “Descendants” is extra special.

Maleficent’s daughter Mal’s coronation gown was designed and built from scratch by senior Eliza Bowens.

Eliza Bowens, in her studio.

Her path to designer stardom began in 7th grade, at the New England Fashion and Design Association. Over the years she designed clothes for herself and friends.

As a Players actor she performed onstage in “Legally Blonde” and “Back to the 80s.” But Eliza’s true love is “The Costume Shoppe.” There, she lent her excellent eye and skills to help create looks for characters in shows like “Mamma Mia!,”  “Seussical” and “Grease.”

When costume designer Christie Stanger was pulling together ideas for “Descendants,” she knew Mal’s dress for the big coronation scene needed to be extra special. She also knew Eliza could make it happen.

The young designer repaid the trust Christie, and directors David Roth and Kerry Long, showed in her.

She submitted 3 designs. When one was chosen, Eliza created a pattern, built a dress from muslin, chose fabric and sewed the actual dress.

It took a month. With minor tweaks, it was show-ready for Mal (Quinn Mulvey).

Quinn Mulvey as Mal in a dress designed and built by Staples senior Eliza Bowens. Sebastian Gikas as Prince Ben wears a costume embellished by student designers Rosie Kauppinen and Alexis Mahon. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Eliza did not stop there. Using leftover fabric, she covered shoes to complete the look.

This fall, Eliza heads to Polimoda in Florence, Italy. She’ll continue studying fashion design there.

Two examples of Eliza Bowens’ designs.

Kerry Long says Eliza’s stunning design “reflects Mal’s ‘funky’ side, but also her softening in Auradon. She grows throughout the show, falls in love and learns to care for others, but also stays true to herself. The dress reflects both the ‘edgy’ and the ‘sweet.’”

She and her fellow Costume Shoppe artists never get the spotlight. At the final curtain, actors point down to the pit orchestra, and up at the lights (stage crew), for well deserved applause. Who thanks the costumers?

“06880,” for one. Congratulations and thanks, Eliza and your fellow designers and tailors. We are “sew” grateful for all your work!

(“The Descendants” will be performed again this weekend: Friday, April 8 at 7;30 p.m., and Saturday, April 9 at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Click here for tickets and more information. To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net.)

Remarkable Bookcycle Pedals On

Growing up in Appalachian southeastern Ohio, Christie Stanger vividly remembers the Bookmobile.

Stepping into a rehabbed school bus, she could borrow any book on board. The arrival of the Bookmobile was as exciting as the ice cream truck (and that’s saying something).

The Remarkable Bookcycle is Westport’s version of the Bookmobile. The brainchild of international best-selling author Jane Green, it’s a mobile version of a free library.

Jane Green and the Remarkable Bookcycle, at Savvy + Grace downtown.

Jane (or her husband Ian Warburg) pedal it from their Owenoke home to Compo Beach, and other spots in town. Anyone is free to take a book — or leave one. It’s a brilliant idea, made even more “remarkable” by its homage to Westport’s favorite lost store, the Remarkable Book Shop.

(Click here for the Bookcycle’s amazing back story. It includes the factoid that Jane asked noted artist Miggs Burroughs to paint the book store’s “dancing man” logo on the Bookcycle — without knowing that Miggs’ mother Esta had worked at the store, from the day it opened to when it closed.)

Like Jane, Christie now lives in Westport. Also like Jane, her love of books has never wavered. So when Jane Green announced she was looking for a custodian for the Remarkable Bookcycle for the coming year, while Jane, Ian and their family is in England, Christie immediately typed “ME!!!”

Other Westporters offered to help, in other ways. Ryan Peterson — who as a recent Staples graduate 2 years ago transformed Jane’s cargo tricycle into the Bookcycle — gave it a touch-up. Ethan Olmstead fixed the emergency brake. And a small band of librarians will restock its shelves.

Remarkable Bookcycle librarians (from left): Kate Parente, Christie Stanger, Sue Goldman, Margo Amgott and Jennie Lupinacci. (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

As Westport rolls into autumn, the group is excited. They’ve got big plans, including creating a children’s Bookcycle from an old-fashioned tricycle owned by Christie’s mother-in-law.

Also ahead: a collaboration with the “People Politics Planet” downtown art show, set for early October.

You can follow the Bookcycle — including its stops around town — on Instagram (@remarkablebookcycle) and Facebook (@TheRemarkableBookcycle). For the next few weeks, it will be parked at Compo Beach.

Neither Christie nor Jane visited the Remarkable Book Shop. But — thanks to both women — Westport’s long love affair with books, in out-of-the-ordinary but way-cool settings — lives on.

Melody Stanger touches up The Remarkable Guy. (Photo/Christie Stanger)

KHS Votes Westport A Winner

Election Day has come and gone. But for alert “06880” reader Christie Stanger, the good feelings linger. She writes:

On Tuesday, as adults took to the polls, younger Westporters took to the hallways and sidewalks outside of polling places, at bake sales to raise money for schools.

While Kings Highway Elementary is not unique, our adventure highlights what a wonderful town Westport truly is.

When KHS was closed as a voting site, we had to move our Election Day bake sale to the Westport Library. Westport Weston Health District’s Mark Cooper, Norma Jarrett, Sandy Arcudi and Melissa Romano helped us get our permit to sell baked goods. This is not like bake sales of old, but their kindness made the process seem very small-town.

Next, we coordinated with Town Hall. Janet Suchsland and Eileen Francis in the first selectman’s office gave us permission to operate in a public space. The library’s assistant director, Paul Mazzaccaro, allowed us to operate at both entrances. He provided us with tables and chairs, meeting us bright and early on Election Day (and wishing us luck).

Kings Highway Elementary School students, parents and siblings rock the Election Day bake sale at the Westport Library.

Kings Highway Elementary School students, parents and siblings rock the Election Day bake sale at the Westport Library.

And lucky we were! 70 degree weather with blue skies on November 3. That was fabulous — but the people of Westport were even warmer.

Voters, candidates and library patrons stopped by for goods made by loving hands, and others donated by generous businesses (Saugatuck Sweets, Great Cakes, Starbucks and Atlantic Pizza). The number of times we  heard “Keep the change!” and “Let me just give!” gave us warm fuzzies more real than the ones teachers handed out as pencil toppers.

Finally, we did not notice even one person parking outside the lines in either parking lot!

It all added up to one of those magical days, when you’re reminded that people are good and generous, that we are all in this together, and that Westport is an amazing town!