Tag Archives: Cynthia Gibb

The Rachel Rose Of Texas

Earlier this summer, Savvy + Grace sponsored a great afternoon of sidewalk music.

Some of the entertainers were current Westporters. Getting to the Main Street gifts-and-more shop was easy.

Rachel Rose’s route to the Main Street gig was a bit more circuitous.

The Long Lots Elementary, Bedford Middle and Staples High School (Class of 2014) grad was fortunate that her grandmother, Sylvia Wachtel, lived in Westport too. A huge Turner Classic Movies fan, Sylvia shared her love of jazz films — and the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Etta James — with Rachel.

Rachel’s parents were also music fans. They played Bryan Adams and John Mayer CDs in the car. Her dad liked the Dead, Steve Miller and Dave Matthews.

Rachel Rose

After graduation, Rachel — who sang with Staples’ Orphenians, and took private lessons with Cynthia Gibb — headed to the University of Texas. She calls Austin “the live music capital of the world,” and figured it was the perfect place to get a general degree (she majored in psychology) while also performing.

She joined an elite UT vocal group, Ensemble 109, and formed a band. Austin’s 6th Street bar-and-music scene was indeed hopping. She played everywhere, met plenty of people, and got an A&R job with a music streamer.

Rachel calls her musical style “Jewish soul., contemporary soul and R&B.” She identified with Amy Winehouse, whose “Back to Black” album was particularly influential.

Jazz remained important to Rachel. New York had a more robust jazz and sould scene than Austin, Rachel says, so in 2018 she reluctantly left Austin, and relocated to Brooklyn.

As soon as she arrived she began writing songs. “It was a leap of faith,” she says. “I tried to find my image, my music.”

What emerged was “a melding of Austin and Brooklyn.” This past February she quit her job with a music distribution company, and concentrated full time on her career.

She finished writing songs for her EP this spring. In mid-August she released her first single, “You.” It’s available on every major platform.

The second single followed. The full EP is available September 7.

Her Savvy + Grace gig represented a great “homecoming” for Rachel Rose. There could not have been a more appropriate venue, for this savvy, graceful — and quite talented — rising star.

(Click here for Rachel Rose’s website.) 

Downtown Busking Set For Saturday

If you’ve been downtown lately you know that most stores are open, and life is returning to Main Street and environs.

If you haven’t been downtown: Here’s your chance.

This Saturday (July 25, 12:30 p.m.), there’s live entertainment. The area around 146 Main Street will be filled with cool and talented musicians.

(Busking will take place near Savvy + Grace on Main Street. Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

The busking is the brainchild of 2 dynamos: Savvy + Grace owner Annette Norton, and actor/singer/educator Cynthia Gibb.

Annette — whose gifts-and-more shop is another great reason to head downtown — firmly believes that interesting events draw people to the Main Street she loves.

Cynthia — a Staples High School graduate, star of “Fame” and founder of Triple Threat Academy for young actors, singers and dancers — has enlisted nearly a dozen entertainers. Some have already recorded professional; others have appeared on TV.

Some of Saturday’s entertainers.

The cast includes “Billy Elliot” dancer/”County Comfort” TV star/Staples player Jamie Mann; Westporter Rob (Slosberg) Morton, whose “Just One More Day With You” has over 100,000 YouTube views; Momo Burns-Min, a recent Weston High graduate who performed with Kelli O’Hara in the Westport Country Playhouse’s April livestream; soulful indie singer/songwriter Rachel Rose of Brooklyn, and Wilton High’s Olivia Vitterelli.

Each singer will perform a couple of songs. It’s fast-paced and fun. Of course, masks and social distancing are required.

Let the busking begin!

Westport’s own Jamie Mann also performs this Saturday.

Cynthia Gibb’s Triple Threat For Aspiring Actors, Writers, Dancers

As Westport teens and tweens settle down to life in a pandemic, they’re learning how to learn online.

Academics and extracurriculars are all done virtually now. But it’s one thing to learn math or history that way, or do your judo or piano lessons.

What about all those theater kids? When Mickey Rooney said “let’s put on a show!” he wasn’t talking to himself.

Cynthia Gibb rides to the rescue.

The 1981 Staples High School graduate sure has the credentials. She’s starred in “Search for Tomorrow” and “Fame”; played Karen Carpenter in her biopic; starred with Shirley Jones, Dick Van Dyke, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze and Burt Reynolds, and been on “Law and Order/SVU” and “Criminal Minds” too.

Cynthia Gibb earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Gypsy Rose Lee in “Gypsy,” with Bette Midler.

Cynthia worked with Oliver Stone, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins. Her credits include 13 features, 3 network series, 24 TV movies, countless TV pilots, commercials, voiceovers and print work.

A decade ago she returned to Westport, and opened Triple Threat Academy. It’s nurtured and inspired hundreds of young and adult actors, singers and dancers. Many have gone on to schools like Tisch and Carnegie Mellon, and careers on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Cynthia Gibb, at the “Fame” reunion in Italy.

When the coronavirus pandemic turned “Contagion” into reality, acting teacher Nick Sadler (“True Grit,” “Scent of a Woman”) brainstormed how to keep youngsters — so many of whose shows were canceled just days before opening night — engaged. It had to be more than a watching-and-waiting scene study class.

Cynthia had an idea: a pandemic monologue play.

Students could journal about their experiences during this crazy time, and craft a monologue. At the end of 6 weeks, it will be performed via Zoom. With Triple Threat’s help, actors might take the resulting play to a real stage or screen — even on tour — once people can congregate again.

Westport native Jamie Mann (right) and Josie Todd (middle), last summer in “Because of Winn Dixie” at the Goodspeed Opera House. The pair will perform together again — this time virtually — in Triple Threat Academy’s upcoming online plays. 
(Photo/Diane Sobolewski)

Cynthia’s “Monologue and Play Development Class” meets for 6 weeks, starting next week (high schoolers on Wednesdays, middle schoolers on Tuesdays, from 5 to 6 p.m.).

Monologues will be good, bad, fearful funny. (Remember, “A Chorus Line” started out as monologues too.) Enrollment already includes teenagers with extensive — even professional — experience.

“Art always reflects what is going on in life,” Cynthia says. “Just think about ‘Rent’ and the AIDS crisis. We now have an opportunity to find the light in dark times, the humanity behind the grim news, and the positivity to push forward — all through the powers of creativity, collaboration and storytelling.”

Meanwhile, Nick has organized a hybrid of traditional radio theater and today’s podcasts. (Remember when Americans huddled around the radio, listening to plays? Hey — we’re back huddling together.)

Nick Sadler (center) with Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Scent of a Woman,” starring Al Pacino. Sadler landed this supporting role shortly after graduating from Juilliard.

His “Virtual Play Series” will teach students how to stage a fast-paced play (or two). Each week the cast will meet via Zoom to read, rehearse and ultimately “release” the play to an online audience.

Students will take on multiple roles, challenging them to invent a variety of characters. It’s a collaborative effort — just like all great theater. (An adult version is in the works too.)

It runs for 7 Sundays, from 3 to 4 p.m. for high schoolers, and 5 to 6 p.m. for middle schoolers. The first session is this Sunday (March 29).

Meanwhile, the third part of Triple Threat — dance — heads online too. Kim Porio offers a class this Sunday (10:45 to 11:45 a.m.) for young actors and singers. It’s “Bring a Friend Day,” so even those not enrolled can try it out.

It all should be quite a show.

(For more information about Triple Threat Academy’s offerings, including registration, click here, email TripleThreatAcademyCT@gmail.com, search on Facebook, or follow @TripleThreatAcademy on Instagram.)

[OPINION] Cynthia Gibb: Idle No More!

This month’s devastating hurricanes got Cynthia Gibb thinking.

The 1981 Staples High School graduate — a noted actress (“Fame,” “Search for Tomorrow”), now a vocal coach back in her hometown — is concerned about the worldwide impact of climate change.

But she’s a firm believer in the adage “think globally, act locally.” She writes:

America has just experienced 2 historic storms back-to-back, and I am feeling frustratingly helpless. Climate change is here.

Cynthia Gibb

I have known this was coming for a long time. I learned about global warming back in the mid-80’s when I joined a group called Earth Communications Office, a Hollywood group with the mission of educating Americans about the changes in our climate.

Everything I learned back then has unfortunately been coming to fruition. That means that still ahead are horrific droughts, fires, floods, the extinction of many animals and insect species, the movement of our tree line north (affecting farming and quality of life for all who live in the south) — among other catastrophic events.

Last spring, at the Staples High School science awards ceremony, a scientist told the audience that we could expect to see Miami underwater in the foreseeable future. I wonder if he knew it would happen so soon?

I get overwhelmed by this knowledge. Climate change deniers sit in the White House, and run the EPA. Trump has said he will pull us from the Paris agreement. Pruitt wants to roll back environmental laws. It’s terrifying and infuriating.

Yet one thing that gives me hope is that there are forward-thinking folks, making a difference. Some of them are right here in Westport.

Our RTM recently passed the Net Zero in 2050 Initiative. We’ve joined the  governors of Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, California, Colorado and Washington in pledging to exceed the goals of the Paris Climate Accord. In fact, the northeastern states have already reduced their carbon emissions by 37% since 2008.

Earthplace has screened the documentary “Idle Threat.” These are great starts.

Wakeman Town Farm is evidence of Westport’s strong environmental concerns.

But the solution has to come from citizens, as well as government.

I’ve been asking myself, “What can I do?” Cash donations to flood victims won’t stop future disasters.

In his new book Climate of Hope, Michael Bloomberg encourages everyone to do their part. I have finally figured out what mine is: I am making a conscious choice to obey Connecticut’s Do Not Idle Law.

I recently learned it is illegal for all vehicles — including buses, trucks and passenger vehicles — to idle for more than 3 minutes in our state. After just 10 seconds of idling, we waste more fuel than stopping and restarting our cars. Even in cold weather, engines need only 30 seconds to warm up.

The law is clear.

So I no longer idle in the school pick-up line, or the Starbucks or bank drive-through. If I want to continue a phone call or listen to the radio, I turn off my engine and turn on my battery.

If it’s hot, I roll the windows down. If it’s cold, I leave them up! It’s really easy and simple, now that I’m in the habit — like remembering to bring my reusable bag to the grocery store!

I feel better now that I am doing my part and setting an example for my kids that we can change our behavior, even if it’s inconvenient. It’s a small gesture, I know. But if 26,000 of us do it in Westport, we can set an example to the rest of the nation — where every day we waste 17 million gallons of fuel due to idling.

This is also important for children in our town, who can suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases due to car emissions.

This is a call to action, fellow Westporters! I invite anyone reading this to join me in turning off your engines whenever you can. After all, there is only one ozone layer.

And we all share the same air.

 

(Click here to sign Westport’s no-idle pledge.)

 

Broadcasting Christmas

Yesterday’s “06880” looked back at Cynthia Gibb. In 1986, she played fellow Westporter Jean Donovan in the 1986 movie “Salvador” about the rape and murder of 4 Catholic lay missionaries.

Today’s “06880” looks at her latest project.

Tonight at 8, the Hallmark Channel airs “Broadcasting Christmas.” The film stars Gibb — and fellow Westporter Melissa Joan Hart. (Dean Cain — “Superman” — plays a love interest.)

“Broadcasting Christmas” — about the search for a TV host in the days before a holiday telethon — is set partly in Westport.

But you won’t know it when you see it. Shooting took place in Fairfield, Bridgeport and Stamford.

The film crew stayed in Norwalk. Westport did not benefit at all from the millions of dollars spent making a film about our town.

And to all a good night…

Westport's Melissa Joan Hart and Dean Cain, in "Broadcasting Christmas."

Westport’s Melissa Joan Hart and Dean Cain, in “Broadcasting Christmas.”

 

[UPDATE] Cynthia Gibb Remembers Jean Donovan And “Salvador”

It was the worst audition of Cynthia Gibb’s career.

Just a few years after graduating with Staples High School’s Class of 1981, the actress — already known for her “Search for Tomorrow” and “Fame” TV roles — was searching for a movie project.

Her agent found a part in “Salvador.” Written by Oliver Stone — who would direct it too, as his 1st major film — the story was based on real-life political struggles in El Salvador.

The casting director gave Gibb the wrong material. She and star James Woods were, she says, “literally not on the same page.” She went home sobbing, horrified at having done so badly.

Cynthia Gibb

Cynthia Gibb

Her agent convinced her to go back. She got the role — and learned a great lesson about recovering from bad experiences. Gibb uses that incident today, back home in Westport. A voice and dance coach, she tells students not to be flustered by a bad performance (or audition).

But there’s much more about Westport to this story.

Gibb’s “Salvador” role was based on the real-life Jean Donovan. She was one of 4 lay missionaries beaten, raped, and murdered in 1980 by Salvadoran military men.

Donovan was also a Westporter. She attended Westport schools, and graduated from Staples in 1971 — exactly 10 years before Gibb.

Gibb did plenty of research — in leftist publications, because there was little in the mainstream press — to understand Donovan’s character. But she had no idea they shared the same hometown until midway through filming in Mexico, when Stone learned that Gibb was from Westport.

That spurred her even more. She became fascinated with the woman whose story — unknown to many, even here — she was telling.

salvador Gibb — who is not Catholic — dove into the kind of work the missionaries did. She learned Spanish, which Donovan had done before heading to El Salvador.

And Gibb read even more political writing. “I wanted to be as informed about US policy in Central America as Jean was,” Gibb says. “And I wanted to be as passionate about Third World countries.”

The film was released in 1986. In Los Angeles, Gibb honored Donovan and her fellow nuns, by volunteering for Central American organizations.

She was invited to El Salvador for 5 days. She met the handsome and charming right-wing military man in charge of death squads. She also saw dirt huts, and the church where an archbishop was gunned down.

“That film changed my life,” Gibb says. “I’d never been politically active before.”

Her career continued, mostly on TV.  She married, had 3 children and divorced. Gradually, “Salvador” faded from her mind.

Jean Donovan

Jean Donovan

After she moved back to Westport, however, she met John Suggs. The RTM member has dedicated years to keeping Donovan’s memory alive. He says that in progressive Catholic social justice networks, “Jean Donovan is considered a saint.”

Suggs is particularly active this time of year. The anniversary of Donovan’s death is December 2.

Gibb will be thinking of Donovan too. Years after the movie was released, the actress spotted a small story in the New York Times. It described the declassification of documents relating Central America during the Reagan years. Sure enough, the US provided financial assistance to death squads that were responsible for the rape and murder of the 4 women, and others, during the Carter and Reagan administrations.

“There were horrific people doing horrific things, with our backing,” Gibb says.

“Jean Donovan and those women were there to help people. Her death was so useless.”

Perhaps now is the time for Donovan to be remembered in Westport. Suggs is raising $3,600 for a plaque honoring her, to be hung either at Staples or Town Hall. Click here to donate.

Gibb is helping.


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

“Footloose” Dances Onto Black Box Stage

Westport’s very talented Cynthia Gibb — herself a Staples High School grad — has been hard at work this summer, molding a teenage Continuing Education troupe into a foot-stomping cast.

“Footloose” — the dancing/rock musical — will be performed tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday (July 28-29), at 7 p.m. in Staples’ Black Box theater.

Tickets are available at the door.

The "Footloose" cast.

The “Footloose” cast.

 

Jarret Liotta’s “Home Movie”

Some people know Jarret Liotta as a Westport News writer. Others know him as a parent volunteer, with Staples Players and Coleytown Middle School. Some even recall him as a former teacher at Saugatuck Elementary School.

But the Staples High School Class of 1983 graduate is at heart a movie maker. It is, he says, “what I do best.”

Jarret Liotta

Jarret Liotta

And though he’s proud of his 2 feature-length films — “How Clean is My Laundry” (shot in Westport in 2002) and “The Acting Bug” (Los Angeles, 2009) — he has never been more passionate about a project than his current one.

Called “Home Movie,” it draws on lessons learned in L.A., where Liotta worked for several years at Fox Searchlight.

The main character is based on Liotta’s mother. He calls her “a larger-than-life alcoholic narcissist that some people in Westport will certainly remember — fondly, I hope.”

He futzed around with the idea for 2 years. Finally this spring, he wrote a script that he’s thrilled with.

“Home Movie” is about a young woman who comes home after her father’s death. When she arrives — in a town not unlike Westport — she begins to suspect that her mother may actually have killed him.

It’s a comedy, but a dark one that he hopes shows some heart. It lies somewhere among “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Fargo,” with fun twists and a surprise ending.

Liotta plans to shoot in Westport, with plenty of community involvement.

Westport’s own Cynthia Gibb — a Staples grad, film and TV star, and the writer’s first choice to play the mom– loves the script. She is interested in doing “Home Movie,” if possible.

But first things first. And high on that list: financing.

Liotta has organized an Indiegogo campaign. His goal is $250,000.

Some Westporters are already involved. Liotta hopes for more. “It’s very exciting to make a real movie. It begins locally, but will develop into something quite special,” he says.

“I hope people take a little leap of faith and fly with this,” he adds. “I’m taking a big leap to follow my dream. But as the man said, you’ll never fly if you don’t jump off!”

(To contribute to Jarret Liotta’s Indiegogo fundraising campaign, click here.)

Cynthia Gibb And The Healing Arts

There was plenty to love about last weekend’s Westport Arts Center gala.

A full house at the Westport Country Playhouse honored Joyce  Thompson, and Cindy and John Vaccaro, for their many contributions to cultural life.  The WAC announced a $1.2 million gift from the Artur and Heida Hermanns Holde Foundation.

There was even time to tango.

But the highlight of the evening may have been Cynthia Gibb‘s passionate speech about the importance of the arts to her life — and to Westport.

Cynthia Gibb, honoring the arts last weekend. (Photo/Kathleen O'Rourke)

The actor/singer/dancer — whose career includes TV (“Search for Tomorrow,” “Fame”), movies, commercial and voice-overs (and who got her start as a model while still at Staples, and dating “Blue Lagoon” star Christopher Atkins) — says that her talk helped her realize how much her youth in Westport impacted who she is today.

“I realize now that the arts were very healing for me,” she said earlier this week.

“They gave me the freedom to explore my life in ways I might not have.  The arts have been joyful, cathartic, painful, and ultimately a gift that’s been so emotionally satisfying.”

In fact, Cynthia — whose parents moved from Vermont to Westport in 1967 specifically for the arts — said, “I don’t know if I’d had done all this if I hadn’t grown up here.  From the beginning of school, and throughout the years, I was exposed to drama, music and dance.  Dorothy Straub, John Hanulik, Al Pia — where would I be without those people?”

She noted that it’s not just artists who benefit from the arts.  Westport history classes, for example, teach that what goes on in society — politically, religiously and economically — is reflected in its art.

Cynthia Gibb

Cynthia spent 30 years in Los Angeles, “surrounded by people who make their living in the arts.”  Even there, though, she did not find the same support for the arts as here.

People still move to Westport for the arts, she said.  Two years ago, she did too.

Her children are enjoying arts education here — and academics, and athletics.

Meanwhile, Cynthia offers singers, actors and public speakers instruction in vocal technique, performance coaching and career management advice.

So there she was onstage at last weekend’s event.  She talked about Westport and the arts, and appreciated the chance to give back to the town.  She’s still doing what she loves, in the town that instilled a passion for it in her.

Though, she said, “I had a tough time doing the tango up there.”

Cindy Gibb Comes Home

In the early 1980s, the most beautiful couple in the world could have been Christopher Atkins and Cindy Gibb.

The “Blue Lagoon” heartthrob dated the Ford model — a Staples student — for 4 years.  They were a paparazzi’s dream.

Cindy Gibb and Christopher Atkins

Cindy Gibb and Christopher Atkins, back in the day.

After shedding his Lagoon loincloth, Christopher Atkins lost his life savings to an embezzling manager, had an alcohol-related breakdown, and is finally back acting in movies and TV shows (including former “Lagoon” co-star Brooke Shields’ short-lived “Suddenly Susan”).

Cindy Gibb led a smoother life.

She spent 2 years on the soap opera “Search for Tomorrow,” then had a lead in the hit series “Fame.”

She starred opposite  Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze in “Youngblood,” and worked with Oliver Stone, Burt Reynolds, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Robert Guillaume.  She played Karen Carpenter in the biopic of the anorexic singer’s life.

She has worked as an actress, dancer and singer for 30 years.  Her credits include 13 features, 3 network series, 24 TV movies, countless TV pilots, commercials, voiceovers and print work.

Cynthia Gibb

Cynthia Gibb today

Her work demanded she be in California.  This fall, however, her shooting schedule has brought her back East.  Cindy — now known as Cynthia Gibb — has been living in Westport.

She loves it.

Her children are in elementary school here — gaining a far better education, she says.  The weather is spectacular.  And she’s developed a master class, offering singers, actors and public speakers instruction in vocal technique, along with performance coaching and career management advice.

She looks forward to working with aspiring talent in the area.

Her return to her hometown — and the recent death of Patrick Swayze — has caused her to reflect on where she’s been, where she is now, and what lies ahead.

“I am aware of how abunding the blessings have been in my life — not the least of which has been to chase my dreams and makek them realities,” she says.

“My children and my career both fall into this category.  The incredible people, places and experiences that my work and family have afforded me are too many to list.  Suffice it to say that they have colored who I am today, for which I am so grateful.”

(For more information, click on www.cynthiagibb.me).