Tag Archives: Dan Sklar

Father-Son “Falsettoland”

In 1994, Staples Players staged an entirely student-run production of “Falsettos.”

Directed by senior Ari Edelson, the Tony Award-winning musical — dealing with hot-button issues like AIDS, homosexuality and religion — was a smash. Audience members were in tears; cast members called it “life-changing.”

But the show was not produced at the high school. Administrators — unnerved by the themes — forced the show off campus. The Westport Country Playhouse welcomed it to their historic stage.

Shirah Lipson Sklar remembers it well. She was a Staples student then; her friends acted in the show, and played in the pit. The 4 sold-out performances were momentous events.

Now the senior rabbi at Temple Shalom in Norwalk, she’ll revisit it again next month. “Falsettoland” — the 2nd act of “Falsettos” — runs weekends at the Music Theatre of Connecticut.

It will be especially poignant for Shirah. Her son Ari plays Jason, who is preparing for his bar mitzvah.

Dan Sklar — Shirah’s husband, and Ari’s father — is in the cast too. He’s Marvin, Jason’s father. In the show he suffers from a mysterious, undefined illness. The audience knows it is AIDS.

Ari Sklar

Acting and singing come naturally to Ari, a Coleytown Middle School 7th grader. Shirah sang beautifully as a Staples Orphenian under director Alice Lipson — her own mother. Dan was an actor more than 20 years ago, but stopped performing when he entered rabbinic school.

Still, Ari was surprised when he learned that his stage father would be his real father. Dan is proud that Ari has long been an advocate for social justice. And he realized that as Ari prepares for his own, actual bar mitzvah, sharing the stage in a show like this was too good to pass up.

Ari did not know that Dan auditioned with director Kevin Connors. A 12-year-old boy may not be thrilled about being in a musical with his father, Dan admits. But now that they’re rehearsing — sharing the process of putting together a very important play — Ari is enjoying their new on- and off-stage roles.

Dan calls the show “an old friend.” He knew “Falsettos” well in his performing days. Many actor friends were gay; he helped raise money through work with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Dan Sklar

“There are so many layers to this play,” he notes. “As we go through dark, tough times, with another disease, it’s important to have ‘up’ moments like these.”

As rehearsals continue, Dan sees his son through new eyes. “He’s an amazing kid — well, not really a kid anymore,” he says. “We’re proud he’s growing up in a town that celebrates people for who they are. Every day he teaches us about acceptance, affirmation, and the changing world.

“I might be completely overwhelmed at the end, at the bar mitzvah scene. I just hope I can say my lines to him.”

After this, the proud father says, Ari’s real bar mitzvah in June will be a breeze.

(“Falsettoland” will be performed November 5-21: Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m., at Music Theatre of Connecticut, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk. Click here for tickets and more information.) 

Roundup: Dan Sklar’s Sh*tshow, Young Woman’s League Wine, More


Dan Sklar is a beloved rabbi, cantor and musician.

Now he’s an author too.

All those identities come together in “Sh*tShow: A Memoir & Mixtape: The Tales of a Reluctant Rabbi.” It’s an insightful, deeply human expression of past and present.

This past year has been challenging for everyone. Sklar was particularly affected. “Reluctant Rabbi” explores how inherited family trauma — and trauma experienced first hand — shape the people we become.

A Spotify playlist of 29 songs that provoke and inspire accompanies the book (you’ll see when and where to play the tracks). Artists include Jimi Hendrix, Paul Simon, Lyle Lovett, Theodore Bikel, the Indigo Girls, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Rascal Flatts — and Sklar himself.

Click here for the paperback. Click here for the Kindle edition. Click here for the Spotify playlist.


It’s called “Galentine’s: Wine Night and Bingo Fundraiser.” It’s sponsored by the Westport Young Woman’s League.

But you don’t have to be a woman to participate in this virtual event. All are welcome!

“Galentine’s” (February 4, 7:30 p.m., Zoom) raises funds for local charities. Last year, the WYWL handed out $90,000 to organizations that end hunger, and promote education and health.

The League has partnered with the female-owned vineyard Aquila’s Nest. The $65 ticket price includes 2 bottles of wine, bingo spot and fun surprises. Click here to purchase a ticket, and for more information.


And finally … happy 53rd birthday to rapper/producer/actor/author/ entrepreneur/Kennedy Center honors winner LL Cool J.

Which, I just found out today, stands for Ladies Love Cool James.


Trying Times At Temple

The departure of Cantor Dan Sklar from Temple Israel earlier this month surprised members of the congregation.

But, he says, the notion that he resigned — and that officials did all they could to retain him — is “a complete fabrication.”

In a video released yesterday, Sklar — who also earned a dual degree as a rabbi at Hebrew Union College — calls the temple’s version of events “disingenuous.” He says he was threatened with termination because of anger issues.

Cantor and Rabbi Dan Sklar

Sklar does not deny those issues. They are real, he says — and the result of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Sklar studied for the cantorate in Jerusalem during a period of intense suicide bombings. He saw their aftermath.

In his years at Temple Israel, Sklar says, he had several “outbursts of emotion.” They were related to issues of building security and COVID-19 — for example, threats by intruders, and unmasked people in the sanctuary. They were directed at colleagues and staff members, not congregants, he says.

In the video, he describes the pain of being barred by the temple from co-officiating at a funeral — and having no contact with the grieving family. He was also prohibited from contact with students he was preparing for bar and bat mitzvahs.

Sklar expresses gratitude to the many families and friends for the support they’ve shown. Despite losing his job — and his family’s health insurance — in the midst of a global pandemic, Sklar smiles a bit at the end.

Recalling Sabbath services on the beach, and “sharing life’s joys and trials,” he notes that being a cantor and rabbi “is not a job. It is who I am.”

Click below to see Dan Sklar’s video:

Last night, Temple Israel’s board of trustees emailed the congregation:

Dear Friends,

We are heartbroken to have to write this letter this evening.

We all recognize the imprint Cantor Sklar has had on our congregation and will cherish the memories we have of him. We know how important he has been to you and your family in times of celebration and mourning alike. We assure you that he has had a similar role in our own lives. He has deeply enriched the fabric of our community.

We are disappointed that Cantor Sklar has chosen to mischaracterize certain events that culminated in his departure from Temple Israel.

Unfortunately, over the course of recent years, Cantor Sklar exhibited behavior that resulted in a number of documented incidents which unambiguously violated our congregation’s code of conduct.

Last week, we reached a written separation agreement that was approved by Cantor Sklar and his counsel. The agreement would have generously provided for Cantor Sklar and his family. It would have enabled him to move on to the next stage of his career with his reputation intact and provided financial support for his family during a lengthy transition period.

Today Cantor Sklar revoked that agreement and chose to make public a number of hurtful and untrue accusations against Temple Israel.

We do not believe this is the appropriate forum to share the details of the numerous incidents that led to our decision, but we do want to assure you that we did everything we could to accommodate Cantor Sklar both in recent months as well as over the course of a number of years. Sadly, despite the many accommodations we provided, the situation became untenable. It was a painful but necessary decision we had to make despite the pandemic.

We wish Cantor Sklar and his family only the best. We understand this will be an emotional transition for Temple Israel, but our congregation is strong and resilient. Please feel free to reach out to us; we will support one another though this.

L’shalom — wishing you peace and comfort.

Roundup: Pride And Prejudice, Night Music, Field Hockey, More

Who doesn’t want to escape 2020? The early 1800s sound great!

This Sunday (November 8, 6 p.m.), Staples Players’ radio play series continues with “Pride and Prejudice.” Jane Austen’s tale of romance and matchmaking gone awry is great family entertainment. Just like the old days! (Though there were no radio plays in the 1800s, of course.)

Sophie Rossman plays Elizabeth Bennet. She calls this “unlike anything we’ve done in the last 4 years.” Sophie admires Elizabeth’s “drive to make decisions and defy gender stereotypes to achieve her aspirations.”

Emily Desser adds that “audiences will love all of the characters in each of these shows. Each of them is entertaining in their own way, and cast members find such interesting ways to bring them to life.”

Gruel Brittania joins the fun. The Fairfield restaurant offers Pemberley’s Prime Rib Supper with Yorkshire pudding, cauliflower and broccoli cheese, roasted parsnips and carrots, pan gravy and horseradish sauce, and sticky toffee pudding with custard. To order, click here.

To enjoy the free livestream, click on www.wwptfm.org.

Seniors Sophie Rossman and David Corro rehearse “Pride and Prejudice.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

Temple Israel cantor Dan Sklar, local favorites The Sweet Remains, Staples High School senior Camille Foisie and Camp A Cappella highlight an evening of great music on Saturday, November 14 (7:30 p.m.).

It’s all for a great cause: the Norwalk/Nagarote Sister City Project. Email norwalksistercityproject@gmail.com.

Camille Foisie

The Staples field hockey team celebrated Senior Day in a big way in their last regular season game, scoring against Norwalk within the first minute. The rampage continued, all the way to 6-1.

The undefeated (8-0) Wreckers advance to the Central Division semifinal, Saturday at home.

(Photo/JC Martin)

And finally … as Election Week continues …