Tag Archives: Fairfield Theatre Company

Lisa Lampanelli’s Food Obsession, Body Image, Belly Laughs

Food and body image issues are no laughing matter.

Unless you’re Lisa Lampanelli.

For 30 years, the comic has won raves (and laughs) talking about — among other things — what she eats and how she looks. She’s been on Comedy Central, Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show,” and Howard Stern.

Lampanelli sold out Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall. She raised $130,000 for Gay Men’s Health Crisis on “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Six years ago, she had bariatric surgery. She lost more than 100 pounds.

Lisa Lampanelli, in 2007 and 2013.

Westport is an important part of Lampanelli’s story. After majoring in journalism at Syracuse University, then working for Rolling Stone and Spy magazines, she changed careers. She followed her heart, and became a stand-up comedian.

Lampanelli lived in New Haven, but honed her skills at Saugatuck’s Treehouse Comedy Club. Revered by comics, it drew talent like Jim Gaffigan from as far as New York City.

In fact, Lampanelli says, its Wednesday night open mics were “better than any New York club.”

As for audiences, “Westport wasn’t ‘Westport’ back in the ’90s, It didn’t seem as wealthy. People went out every night and had fun.”

At the Treehouse, Lampanelli, Gaffigan and her fellow comedians learned how to work each crowd. They tested material and deliveries.

And after every Wednesday show, they headed to the Sherwood Diner. There they hashed over what worked, what didn’t, and why. They came up with new jokes, too.

“There was so much camaraderie,” Lampanelli recalls.

Four months ago, she moved from New York to Fairfield. She feels as if she’s “come back home.”

But she’s moved back — and on — from pure comedy.

Lisa Lampinelli today.

In 2015 — after earning a 2nd Grammy nomination for her stand-up special “Back to the Drawing Board” — Lampanelli realized that her radically different look and true stories of weight-loss struggles resonated with fans. Many fight similar battles.

She wrote “Stuffed.” The play motivated fans to embrace a healthier life through self-love and self-acceptance. It enjoyed 2 off-Broadway runs.

That inspired Lampanelli to shed her image as insult comic. She vowed to help others through storytelling events, workshops and 1-on-1 coaching.

The result is a double helping for area audiences.

“Lisa Lampanelli’s Losin’ It” makes its world debut this Saturday (November 3, Fairfield Theatre Company, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.)  The 90-minute storytelling show features Lampanelli and a cast of actors, storytellers and surprise guests. Their credits include “The Daily Show,” Sirius XM radio and “Orange is the New Black.”

A generous helping of the proceeds benefit The Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport.

A week later (Saturday, November 10, Liphe Balance Center, Weston, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Lampanelli offers “Love Your Body, Feed Your Soul: From Starving & Stuffed to Fulfilled & Enough.”

The day-long workshop — co-led with yoga instructor Thea Martin — uses storytelling, sharing, meditation, journaling, brainstorming, deep listening, and self-reflection, to help participants end their obsessions with food and body image.

Plenty of men, as well as women, have already signed up for the Weston event.

That’s no laughing matter.

Then again, with Lisa Lampanelli, it is.

(Click here for tickets and more information on Lisa Lampanelli’s FTC “Losin’ It” shows. Click here for tickets and more information on her “Love Your Body, Feed Your Soul” workshop.)


A “Hunchback,” With A Twist

It’s not called the New Paradigm Theatre for nothing.

The Stamford-based non-profit company’s production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” includes a disabled character playing the role of Quasimodo. Patrick Tombs was born with arthrogryposis, which causes atrophied muscles and stiff limbs.

And though the novel and musical are thought to be male-driven, New Paradigm emphasizes the strengths and talents of women — onstage and off — to tell a story of love and hope.

Westporters don’t have to go far to see this intriguing show. It’s August 18 and 19, at Fairfield Theatre Company’s Warehouse space.

That’s right around the corner too for Scott Bryce. The Emmy-nominated actor (and 1976 Staples High School graduate) co-directs the show with his wife, Jodi Stevens.

It’s also close for Westporter Paul Bogaev and Westonite Scarlet Tanzer. This is the 3rd New Paradigm show for both. They were in previous productions of “Oliver” and “Peter Pan.”

(From left) Paul Bogaev, Scarlet Tanzer and Scott Bryce. (Photo/Tara Tanzer)

New Paradigm is known for non-traditional and inventive casting. Besides Tombs, “Hunchback” features several actors with special needs or disabilities, and performers of many cultural backgrounds.

Cast members range from 8 to 75 years old. Broadway pros work alongside local adult and youth actors.

For “Hunchback,” Bryce and company are partnering with the CT Burns Care Foundation, to raise money and awareness. Like Quasimodo, burn victims are often treated like outsiders.

New Paradigm is an important part of the local arts scene. Just as importantly, it’s a theatre with a social conscience.

(“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” will be performed on Saturday, August 18 at 3 and 8 p.m., and Sunday, August 19 at 1 p.m., at Fairfield Theatre Company. Click here for tickets and more information.)

Clueless About The Arts

At School of Rock, kids who love ’60s and ’70s music find a home. They learn to play it — and perform in public. And they meet other young musicians just like them.

Several years ago, Staples High School juniors Zach Rogers and Jake Greenwald joined with Fairfield high schoolers Mike Chapin, Andrew Wasserman and Francesco Perrouna, plus Coleytown Middle School’s Ethan Walmark, in Clueless.

In a band of standout musicians, Ethan really stands out.

A keyboard prodigy, his “Piano Man” video has nearly 2 million views (and Billy Joel called the intro “better than mine”). Ethan has sung the national anthem in front of 25,000 fans.

He’s also on the autism spectrum.

Zach first befriended Ethan at Fairfield School of Rock.

“He was so amazing to be around,” the guitarist says. “He’s incredibly talented, and a dynamic performer. As I got to know him more, I realized how great it is that he’s found his expression in music.”

Clueless is (from left) Ethan Walmark, Francesco Perrouna, Andrew Wasserman,
Mike Chapin (drums), Zach Rogers and Jake Greenwald.

Zach helps Ethan at Hebrew School. “Watching him grow up is special,” the older boy says.

“He’s taught me to be positive all the time. The way he lives life so fully is inspirational.”

The Clueless rock/funk/fusion band headlined a fundraiser for Autism Speaks. They’ve performed in front of 30,000 people at Jones Beach, and opened for Lez Zeppelin, the 4-woman cover band.

Next up: “Clueless About the Arts.”

The Sunday, June 24 show (7 to 10 p.m., Fairfield Theatre Company) will raise money to provide free music lessons and education workshops for under-served Fairfield County youngsters.

Classic rock lives. And young local musicians are using the power of music to help others.

Clueless clearly has a clue.

(Click here for tickets, and more information on “Clueless About the Arts.”)


After Nearly 50 Years, The Remains Come Home

The last time the Remains played in Fairfield County was 1966. The legendary rock group was a few months away from opening for the Beatles, on that legendary band’s final tour. Now they were at Staples High School, the alma mater of half their members: guitarist/vocalist Barry Tashian and keyboardist Billy Briggs.

Rock critic Jon Landau had already described the Remains as “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”

That 1966 gig was to raise money for the Orphenians’ — Staples’ select choral group — upcoming tour of the Virgin Islands.

Westporters and Remains Barry Tashian (left) and Bill Briggs flank Staples music director John Ohanian in 1966.

Westporters and Remains Barry Tashian (left) and Bill Briggs flank Staples music director John Ohanian in 1966.

After that Beatles tour, the Remains broke up. Rolling Stone magazine later called them “a religious totem of all that was manic and marvelous about mid-’60s pop.”

They reunited a decade later, for a few dates. But Tashian joined Emmy Lou Harris’ band, and moved to California. In the 1990s, he and his wife — 1964 Staples grad Holly Kimball — formed a Nashville-based duo.

Then, in the mid-’90s, a promoter invited them to play in Spain. They were up for it — and so were their rabid European fans. They played a couple of dates every year since.

In June 2013 they rocked the Bell House in Brooklyn. They were excited about their half-century return to this area: a gig in Fairfield this past April.

But in February, drummer Chip Damiani died of a brain hemorrhage.

In January, Chip Damiani attended the Fairfield History Museum's opening reception for its rock 'n' roll exhibit. He posed in front of posters of his legendary band, the Reamins.

In January, Chip Damiani attended the Fairfield History Museum’s opening reception for its rock ‘n’ roll exhibit. He posed in front of posters of his legendary band, the Reamins.

The loss of their “brother” — whose pounding drums helped drive the group to cult status in the 1960s, and who still played as energetically 5 decades later — stunned the 3 remaining Remains.

But the show must go on. In August — the day after Holly’s 50th Staples reunion, where she and Barry (SHS ’63) played and sang — the band auditioned new drummers. They chose George Correia, who played with Clarence Clemmons and, Tashian says, “locked right in to what we do.”

On Friday, September 26, the Remains return to Fairfield County for the 1st time since 1966. They venue is the Fairfield Theatre Company (7:45 p.m.), and they are as amped as when they played with the Beatles (and Bobby Hebb, the Cyrkle and the Ronettes).

The Remains, back in the day.

The Remains, back in the day.

“When Chip died, we really understood the saying ‘You don’t miss your water till your well runs dry,” Tashian says.

“Losing Chip makes us appreciate what we have even more. We look at each other and say, ‘How could it be 50 years?’ But it is. And we’re committed to each other — to our brothers — totally. We’re spread across Massachusetts, New Jersey and Nashville, but we really are a family.”

In just a few days, they’ll see plenty of Westport fans who for years have been part of that Remains family too.

(For information and tickets to the Remains’ September 26 show, click here.)

Tyler Paul: From God To Children’s Theatre

Once you’ve been God, there’s not much else to do.

That might be why Tyler Paul — who played that coveted role in Staples Players‘ production of “Children of Eden” — has retired from the stage.

These days, the 2007 Staples grad is on the other side of the footlights. Armed with a theater management degree from Marymount Manhattan College, and with work experience at the world’s largest licensing agency, he’s co-founded an innovative children’s theater company.

His aim is to introduce the magic of acting to new generations of kids. Some may be inspired to a life in the theater; others may simply open their eyes and imaginations.

Whatever happens, Tyler wants youngsters to have fun.

Tyler Paul (right) and Morgan Weitz, co-founders of the Northeast Children’s Theatre Company.

The native Westporter got his own start at Music Theatre of Connecticut. He spent 2 years each at Coleytown and Bedford Middle Schools, where he was influenced by Ben Frimmer and Karen McCormick.

At Staples, David Roth’s theater program provided a great home for Tyler. In addition to acting, he directed shows and worked on music.

Tyler also worked for MTC as vocal director and camp director. That brought him full circle — and planted the seed for his current involvement in arts education.

Gradually, his interest morphed into the business, producing and management side of theater. While still in college, he founded the Northeast Children’s Theatre Company.

“Fairfield County is an incredible area for the arts, but no organization does what we do: professional theater for young audiences, with year-round programming,” Tyler says.

A scene from NCTC’s first show, “The Tortoise and the Hare.”

NCTC also provides arts education and outreach. Last month, the organization launched 2 programs in  Bridgeport. Another follows in January in South Norwalk.

Because of the arts education he received in Westport, Tyler says, “I’m passionate about it. Kids who are exposed to theater and the arts have been shown to do well in school.”

Despite Fairfield County’s well-earned reputation for supporting the arts, Tyler says, it’s tough finding affordable, age-appropriate entertainment for kindergartners through 8th graders.

“Nickelodeon and Disney are great,” he notes. “But kids need live performances.”

Tyler is moving forward, fast. Last month, NCTC announced a partnership with the Fairfield Theatre Company. A fundraising program is underway. New shows are in the works.

That’s a lot for any man to handle. But Tyler Paul — now that he’s no longer God — seems up for the task.