Tag Archives: Clay Singer

“Man Of La Mancha” Comes “Home”

Audiences — and the Westport Country Playhouse itself — are excited about the coming production of “Man of La Mancha.”

Since its debut in 1965, the Don Quixote-inspired play-within-a-play has become a theatrical icon. It won 5 Tony Awards, has been revived 4 times on Broadway, and was staged twice previously at the Playhouse.

Two Westporters are particularly excited about the Playhouse’s September 25-October 13 run: Melody James and Clay Singer.

James is the daughter of Hal James. The actor, and radio/TV producer, was between projects nearly 50 years ago when he and his wife Florence saw the then-fledgling musical at Goodspeed Opera House.

Inspired, they went backstage and asked how to get involved.

At the University of Chicago, James had taken a class on Cervantes and Don Quixote with professor Thornton Wilder. With his life experiences, and then seeing “La Mancha” in development, James thought the time was right to help bring it to Broadway.

In 1965 he had 3 children in college: Michael (involved in the Free Speech Movement at the University of California), Beau (at the New School) and Melody (at Carnegie Institute of Technology).

Producing a Broadway show is always risky. But James’ bet paid off.

With his wife’s help, he enlisted fellow Westporters as angels. One was Mal Beinfield.

An orthopedic surgeon by trade, and Staples High School’s football doctor by hobby, he had never been involved in theater. But he invested, loved the challenge, and said later it was one of the best things he’d ever done.

For years, an original Al Hirschfeld drawing of “Man of La Mancha” hung on Beinfield’s wall.

Despite his New York ties, James — who moved to Westport with Florence in 1949 — was deeply involved in Westport too.

Hal and Florence James

He produced Coleytown Capers, a mid-1950s elementary school fundraiser involving talented Westporters as skit and song writers, performers, even can-can dancers.

He also helped start the first Westport-Weston Arts Council, brought Odetta to Staples, organized teen dances at Longshore — and worked with Craig Matheson to found Staples Players.

Clay Singer

Which brings us to the second Westporter who is particularly excited about “Man of La Mancha” at the Playhouse: Clay Singer.

The 2013 Staples graduate — a former Player himself, and a graduate of Melody’s alma mater, now called Carnegie Mellon University — is part of the upcoming cast. He made his Playhouse debut last year, in “Romeo and Juliet.”

Melody James loves “Man of La Mancha” for its “profound inspiration.” She says her father loved the show because it “points the way to how we all survive and sustain.”

For her — and for Clay Singer too — the Westport Country Playhouse production is not an impossible dream.

(For tickets and more information, click here. The 3 p.m. Saturday, October 13 performance will be open-caption in Spanish, a nod to the many Hispanic cast and creative team members.)

Cabaret!

Broadway was dark last night. That’s a Monday tradition.

But a capacity crowd at Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall enjoyed an evening of entertainment as show-stopping as anything you’ll see in New York.

Tony Award-winning Kelli O’Hara and “A Bronx Tale” lead Adam Kaplan headlined an all-star cabaret. It was a fundraiser for Staples Orphenians, who travel to Australia this summer for performances and workshops.

Kelli O’Hara, at last night’s cabaret. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

O’Hara — a Westport resident — wowed the crowd with her operatic voice. She was full of praise for Staples’ stellar a cappella group, who she first heard perform last spring, at the Levitt Pavilion.

Standing in the church hall loft, the Orphenians — led by choral director Luke Rosenberg, down below — accompanied O’Hara on 2 compelling numbers.

Kaplan — a 2008 Staples graduate — recalled his days in the music and drama programs. At Elon University, he said, he talked so much about his high school that his friends joked there were 3 levels of performance: “Elon, Broadway, and at the top, Staples.”

Adam Kaplan (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The cabaret also featured Staples grads Clay Singer and Caroline Didelot, and solos by 9 Orphenians.

(Click here for the Orphenians’ GoFundMe page.)

Clay Singer’s “Romeo And Juliet”: A Play In 2 Parts

Last month, “06880” profiled Clay Singer. The 2013 Staples High School graduate was getting ready to play Peter in the Westport Country Playhouse production of “Romeo and Juliet.”

His background — including starring roles in Staples Players, and as a Carnegie Mellon musical theater major — sure paid off.

Last Sunday at 1 p.m. — while driving from New York for his 3 p.m. matinee — Clay learned he’d have to step in for an actor who was ill.

In addition to his own role, he’d play Prince Escalus.

Clay got a quick costume fitting, learned all his lines and blocking with his scene partners, and went on stage.

Clay Singer and his new costume.

He’d already planned to arrive at the Playhouse early — to watch football games on the green room TV.

Instead, he asked his family to record them.

The show, after all, must go on.

And it has, with Clay playing his — and Prince Escalus’ — roles, ever since.

Wherefore Art Thou, Clay And Peter?

When Clay Singer was a musical theater major at Carnegie Mellon University, regional theaters often visited campus. Seeing “Westport, Connecticut” on the 2013 Staples graduate’s resume, they’d mention the Playhouse. That’s when Singer realized the major impact his hometown has had on the theatrical world.

In 2008, freshman Peter Molesworth saw nearly every Staples Players production of “Romeo and Juliet.” Noah Witke and Brittany Uomoleale — the 2 leads — awed him.

Now Singer and Molesworth have their own chances to star.

In “Romeo and Juliet.”

At the Westport Country Playhouse.

Singer plays Peter, and Molesworth is Balthasar, in the Playhouse’s first-ever production of William Shakespeare’s classic. It opens October 31, and runs through November 19.

Clay Singer

Singer — who has been busy doing new works and studio shows in New York since graduating last spring from Carnegie Mellon — always dreamed of acting on the Westport Country Playhouse stage. When he heard they were casting “Romeo and Juliet” he sent in his head shot, freshened up his monologues, and auditioned for artistic director Mark Lamos.

Three days later, Singer was in rehearsals.

“Mark knows everything about Shakespeare,” the young actor says. “And our dramaturg, Milla Riggio, is amazing too. We break down every scene, talking about literary structure and rhetorical devices. I’m so lucky to be experiencing all that.”

Singer calls this production “a wonderful transition from theater education to my career. I feel like I’m back in a classroom, but in a professional setting.”

Of course, he’s also back in his home town.

After his first rehearsal, Singer “almost laughed” as he drove down the Post Road. It reminded him of all those years driving home from Players events or voice lessons.

He lives in New York now. But his Playhouse role brings him back to Westport.

And his mother is happy to make him dinner.

Peter Molesworth

Molesworth feels equally happy to be back in town. He appeared in several Players shows, then spent senior year at Walnut Hill in Massachusetts.

After graduating in 2011, he attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He studied in Florence, then started a theater company called Cue for Passion Collaborative. They concentrate on Shakespeare.

In 2008, Moleworth had served as a Joanne Woodward Apprentice at the Westport Country Playhouse. He did tech work, helped on the run crew, manned the concession stand and took acting classes.

He continued working concessions and in the box office for the next 3 years, and loved it.

Like Singer, he auditioned for Lamos. Now Molesworth feels he’s come full circle.

“This is the place where I first invested in my career in a substantial way,” he says. “Having one of my first professional acting jobs at the Playhouse is wonderful.”

He’s come full circle in another way too. As a Staples junior, Molesworth assistant directed “The Children’s Hour.” Singer — a freshman — was in the cast.

Of course, Molesworth will never forget those “Romeo and Juliet” productions he saw when he was in 9th grade. One of the most compelling scenes was when Balthasar tells Romeo that Juliet is dead. Now it’s his role.

“I remember so clearly seeing that at Staples,” he says. “That alone makes it serendipitous for me. This is a classical play. It’s re-entered my life, with potent meaning.”

(For tickets and more information, click here or call 203-227-4177.)

The cast of “Romeo and Juliet,” at the Westport Country Playhouse. Clay Singer is standing, 3rd from left; Peter Molesworth is standing, 3rd from right. (Photo/Peter Chenot)

 

Finding Nemo: Kids, Animals And Snowed-In Cars Edition

Whatever got Westporters outside today — bright sunshine, brisk wind, the need to walk dogs or shovel walks — we brought our cameras.

Here’s a snapshot of our town, the day after the Blizzard of 2013 blew in.

Bobbi Essagof captioned this simply "Jeter and Eliot walk downtown."

Bobbi Essagof captioned this simply “Jeter and Eliot walk downtown.”

Another shot of the iconic snow mound downtown. This one comes courtesy of Joelle Malic.

Another shot of the iconic snow mound downtown. (Photo by Joelle Malic)

Joelle Malic's "King of the Mountain" photo.

Joelle Malic’s “King of the Mountain” shot.

A sight you will never again see: The deserted Post Road, 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon.

A sight you will never again see: The deserted Post Road, 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

When a dog's gotta go... (Photo by Bobbi Essagof)

When a dog’s gotta go… (Photo by Bobbi Essagof)

As usual, a cat was in charge. (Photo by Audrey Hertzel)

As usual, a cat was in charge. (Photo by Audrey Hertzel)

Terry Brannigan spent hours blowing snow. Then his boys turned it into a fort.

Terry Brannigan spent hours blowing snow. Then his boys turned it into a fort.

Adrian Mueller and his 9-year-old son Jaden (hidden, left) shoveled snow off their roof.

Adrian Mueller and his 9-year-old son Jaden (hidden, left) shoveled snow off their roof.

"Look how high the snow is!" says the daughter of a photographer named Meredith.

“Look how high the snow is!” says the daughter of a photographer named Meredith.

This is what happens when you leave your car in the post office parking lot overnight in a blizzard.

This is what happens when you leave your car in the post office parking lot overnight in a blizzard.

In the middle of last night's snow, Zack Swanson built an igloo.

In the middle of last night’s snow, Zack Rosenberg built an igloo…

...and Clay Singer and Michelle Pauker created this snowman. Clay is 6-2, so I'm guessing the snowman is 9 feet tall.

…and Clay Singer and Michelle Pauker created this snowman. Clay is 6-2, so I’m guessing the snowman is 9 feet tall.

Still, as Audrey Hertzel's gorgeous photo reminds us, spring is right around the corner.

Still, as Audrey Hertzel’s gorgeous photo reminds us, spring is right around the corner.

“The Last 5 Years”

Michelle Pauker and Clay Singer had major roles — Mary Magdalene and Judas — in this summer’s Staples Players production of Jesus Christ Superstar.  It was a huge time commitment — and very successful

Michelle Pauker (Photo/August Laska)

So when the show closed July 31, Michelle and Clay could have been expected to spend the final weeks before school begins chilling at the beach, hanging out with friends or just acting like rising Staples juniors.

Instead they put on another show.

They chose “The Last 5 Years,” a clever 2-person song-cycle musical that chronicles a relationship, from meeting to breakup (or backwards — you had to see it).

Michelle and Clay secured the rights and the stage; hired a 5-person pit orchestra; corralled their friends (and parents) into assisting as stage managers, lighting and tech crew, publicists, set and costume designers — and handled thousands of other details, like miking and a website.

Clay Singer (Photo/August Laska)

The show had a very successful run last weekend at Toquet Hall.  Michelle and Clay have beautiful voices.  They nailed every aspect of a complex, long relationship.  It was one of those unexpected treasures of summer.

But that was not the most impressive part of what these teenagers did.

Virtually every aspect of the the production was donated.  It was a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Here’s what Michelle wrote in the program:

Five years ago, at 11 years ago, my life was drastically changed when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.  For “the last 5 years” of my life I’ve dealt with testing my blood sugar levels and giving myself insulin every time I eat something; excusing myself from classes and activities when my blood sugar gets too low, and experiencing the pain of needles every time I change my insulin pump site.

The day I was diagnosed, I thought my life as I knew it was over.  However, because of support from the JDRF, new technologies and treatments allow me to live an almost normal life.

However, I know that many people with type 1 diabetes are not as fortunate as I am, and have a more difficult time dealing with the disease.  I want to give back to JDRF for all it has given me, and by doing this project I hope to take another step toward finding a cure.

Michelle went on to thank her doctors and nurses at Yale; her parents; Clay, and everyone else who made “The Last 5 Years” possible.

She concluded:

Finally, most importantly, thank you to each and every one of you in the audience.  Each ticket purchased is a donation to JDFR, and each donation goes toward helping children with diabetes.

Thank you for joining me in the fight against this disease, and the journey to a cure!

And how did you spend your summer vacation?!

(Click here for more information on the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation — or to make a donation.)