The 2020 ACE Awards will have a distinctly Westport-Weston look.
The event — the acronym is for Arts & Culture Empowerment, and it’s sponsored by the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County — is set for October 22 (5:30 p.m., online). Registration is free.
Westporter Miggs Burroughs earns the Artist honors. Local residents Harold Bailey and Bernicestine McLeod receive the Citizen award.
Burroughs — a native Westporter and Staples High School graduate — has designed hundreds of logos, ads, brochures and websites for commercial and non-profit clients since 1972. His lenticular photos that explore change and transition are displayed at shows and galleries, and in tunnels like Parker Harding Plaza and the Wesetport train station.
A founding member of the Artists Collective of Westport and the first artist-in-residence at the Westport Library, Burroughs actually designed the actual ACE award — which was 3D-printed in the library’s MakerSpace.
Bailey and McLeod — both Brown University graduates and trustees — are committed to civic work and philanthropy. Bailey is a former IBM vice president, who chairs TEAM Westport — the town’s multicultural commission. McLeod — president of an IT consulting firm — serves as treasurer.
Harold Bailey and Bernicestine McLeod
Bailey is also a board member of the Westport Country Playhouse, and a founder of Stamford’s 100 Black Men organization.McLeod has served on many boards, including the Westport Library and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.
Weston’s Jim Naughton hosts the event. Tony Award winner Joanna Gleason — who works often with Staples Players — will talk about the essential role of music and arts education.
Videos for the virtual event are produced by Westporter Doug Tirola, president of 4th Row Films, and the guiding light behind the Remarkable Theater.
To register for the free event, click here. For more information, including sponsorships, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shane Purcell posted this on Facebook’s “Westport Front Porch” page. It’s worth repeating (don’t worry, I asked him!):
“Shout-out to Gault for coming out during the pandemic to install a whole new boiler and hot water heating system. Our boiler sprung a huge leak Thursday night, and the water tank failed as well. They ordered a new boiler and tank, which was delivered first thing Friday morning.
“They had everything up and running for my daughter’s quarantine birthday — and worked for 8 hours straight to get the job done.”
That’s the Gault we know and love — serving Westport for 157 years!
Sweet P Bakery is a new nonprofit providing training and employment opportunities to adults with learning and developmental disabilities. Within weeks of Sweet P’s start, the program had to pause because of COVID-19.
But they came up with a way to help front line heroes and local food pantries and the adults with disabilities, all while delivering Sweet P treats and smiles to people staying home.
It’s called “Granola for Good.” For every donation to Sweet P, 50% to a granola delivery to a front line group or food pantry.
And for every donation, you can select a Sweet P treat: 8 gluten-free chocolate cookies, a 4-pack “Surprise S’more Kit,” or a bag of “Get Up and Granola.” There’s free delivery in Westport, Weston, Wilton, Fairfield and Norwalk.
The other half of the donation helps Sweet P staff stay in touch with students, via teaching videos and other virtual events. Click here to donate, and for more details.
There are not many planes in the sky these days. Tomorrow there will be.
A formation of US Navy Blue Angels and US Air Force Thunderbirds will honor first responders on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic by flying over this area.
Their flight begins at noon (Tuesday, April 28) in New York. The elite flight demonstration squadrons will soar over Newark, then across Long Island. Their projected path takes them over Stamford around 12:30 or so, before heading west.
With a little luck, they’ll pass over Westport. If they do, don’t forget to wave. (Hat tips: Andrea Pouliot, Peggy Lehn)
Seven years ago this month, Jim Naughton’s wife Pamela died of pancreatic cancer.
Through his efforts to raise research funds, the Weston actor has been very impressed with the Foley Foundation. They contribute to Norwalk Hospital’s Dr. Richard Frank’s clinical trial to find an early diagnosis. Right now, it’s too often discovered in stage 3 or 4.
Every year the Foley Foundation sponsors a Kentucky Derby Day event, with mint juleps, food and a best hat contest. This year, it will be run as a “Virtual Happy Hour.”
As honorary chair, Jim is participating in a webinar at 5 p.m. this Saturday, May 2 — the exact time the 2020 race was supposed to be run. He invites all interested “06880” readers to join. It should be a fun hour — and it benefits a very worthy cause. Click here to join.
And finally … Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati wrote “A Ray of Hope” in the days after Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. Dark days are here again. But 52 years later, the Rascals’ words still ring true. I hope.
The Tony Award-winning actor is haunted by images of children kept in horrifying conditions in detention centers on our nation’s southwest border.
He is surprised and distressed that Americans are not rising up in protest over the separation from family members, lack of access to basic sanitary conditions — and deaths.
So he’s taking action.
Naughton — a longtime Weston resident — enlisted the help of fellow humanitarian Ken Bernhard. The former Republican state representative, 3d selectman and volunteer board member helped found the Syria Fund, which aids refugees; the Tree of Life Orphanage in Haiti, and the Soles4Souls shoe drive.
This morning, they arranged for a protest march this Saturday (June 29, 10 a.m.) on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge in downtown Westport.
“If our neighbors in Westport and Weston have been waking at night, as I have, horrified by the news of the way our country is mistreating children, and would like to do something, please meet, demonstrate and march with us on Saturday,” Naughton says.
“We hope to bring attention to what’s going on. We need to let our representatives know that we want this situation addressed now. It can’t drag on.
“This is a humanitarian problem. People of every political stripe who find this abhorrent are welcome.”
After 1296 straight days of rain and cold, the sun finally came out today.
This evening, so did the crowds.
Over 1,500 people — proud parents, folks whose kids graduated from school back in the 20th century, little kids who were born in the 2010s — packed the Levitt Pavilion for the 2nd annual Westport Pops concert.
A bottle of wine, some Pops, and wow!
The Bedford Middle School jazz ensemble, and Long Lots’ steel drum band — is there another elementary school with one this side of the islands? — warmed up the crowd.
Orphenians sang the same stirring arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that they wowed crowds with at Yankee Stadium.
The Long Lots Elementary School steel band.
Then Staples’ 3 orchestras, Orphenians (again) and jazz band took over.
Staples High School’s brassy sax ensemble.
The program rolled from “West Side Story” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” to Dolly Parton and freedom songs. Madison Malin and Riley Thrush nailed solos.
Madison Malin solos, Luke Rosenberg conducts, and the Orphenians sing Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.”
And then — waving American flags handed out by the musicians — the enormous crowd clapped along to a rousing “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Stars and stripes on the Levitt lawn, during “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
A night like this was worth all 12,960 days of rain and cold.
“Live at Lincoln Center” producer Andrew Wilk guest conducts the symphonic and sophomore orchestras in “Stars and Stripes Forever.” (Photo/Valerie Smith-Malin)
Broadway actor, noted entertainer and Weston resident Jim Naughton emceed the pops concert with wit and grace.
The Westport Police Department Color Guard opened and closed the show.
BONUS FEATURE: Here’s what the Levitt looked like last night, from Brandon Malin’s quadcopter:
This morning’s post looked back on Friday’s Staples High School choral concert.
But there’s no rest for the music department. They’re already looking ahead.
Free tickets became available a few minutes ago for the 2nd annual Pops Concert at the Levitt Pavilion (Friday, June 9, 7 p.m.). Last year they were snapped up the day of the announcement. They’ll go even quicker this time. (Click here to get yours!)
The sun glinted off the Levitt Pavilion pavilion last year, as the jazz band played.
The event — modeled on the Boston Pops’ Esplanade series — was an instant smash in its debut. This year promises to be even more impressive.
In addition to performances of classical and contemporary music by Staples’ symphonic and chamber orchestras, jazz band and Orphenians, there’s pre-concert music from the Long Lots Elementary School steel drum band, Bedford Middle School jazz ensemble and various Staples chamber groups at 6 p.m.
Food trucks start serving at 5:30.
Once again, the great Jim Naughton will emcee.
Emcee — and Tony Award winner — Jim Naughton took a turn on the triangle.
The Pops Concert is the music department’s 2nd gift to the town. (The Candlelight Concert is the 1st.)
Of course, there are plenty of expenses associated with the townwide music programs. Every orchestra and band instrument must be moved from schools to the Levitt; union set-up costs money too. Donations are gratefully accepted!
The show is a wonderful kickoff for the Levitt season. The al fresco venue is perfect — and the music is even better.
Enjoy the show!
(The Pops Concert is just one of many end-of-school-year music activities. This Friday [May 19] is the Staples Cabaret. The Staples chamber orchestra performs with their Bedford and Coleytown Middle School counterparts on Wednesday, May 24 [Staples, 7 p.m.] The Staples and Bedford Middle School jazz concert is Monday, June 5 [Staples, 7 p.m.] And of course the middle and high school bands march in the Memorial Day parade [Monday, May 29].)
Whether winning Tonys on Broadway, raves for roles in films like “The Paper Chase” and “The Devil Wears Prada,” or plaudits for directing plays like “Our Town,” the longtime Weston resident does things the right way.
After his wife Pamela died in 2013 of pancreatic cancer, he dedicated himself to raising funds to fight the disease. He has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars for a very important clinical trial — and on Sunday, May 7 he’s set to raise more.
He’s doing it with a very professional — and extremely entertaining — benefit show.
“A Tribute to Pamela” brings his family together on the Westport Country Playhouse stage. Naughton will be joined by his son Greg, a producer, actor, singer/songwriter and founding member of the Sweet Remains; his daughter Keira Naughton Forgash, a Broadway and TV actress, and Greg’s wife Kelli O’Hara Naughton, Tony-winning actress and Broadway star in “The King and I,” “South Pacific” and “Light in the Piazza.”
The songs and celebration will support research aimed at early detection of pancreatic cancer. It’s led by Westporter Dr. Richard Frank, of the Whittingham Cancer Center at Norwalk Hospital.
Newman’s Own Foundation is a lead sponsor of the May 7 event.
So it’s a very local, one-night show. But its impact could be global — and everlasting.
(Click here for tickets. For more information, call 203-739-7354.)
For his 50th birthday, Steve Ruchefsky figured he’d whip up a nice feast for a few friends.
That quickly evolved into an invitation to Bill Taibe. He’s an even better cook than Steve — who is, after all, a lawyer who now manages private investments, while Bill at the time owned Le Farm and was about to open The Whelk. So 5 years ago the backyard of Steve and his wife Rondi Charleston’s handsome Evergreen Avenue home was transformed into the setting for a killer 5-course meal.
Steve — who considers himself lucky, with a “wonderful wife, great daughter and amazing friends” — capped the occasion by announcing a $1 million gift to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.
He knew Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward through serving on the Westport Country Playhouse board. Steve’s donation allowed the camp in upstate Connecticut — which “creates fun and friendship for seriously ill children and their families” — to build a residence for doctors and their own families. “Steve’s Station” made it easier for them to stay longer — and their kids to enjoy the facility too.
It was a wonderful gesture. But that was only the start of Steve’s post-50 life.
“I had 2 ephipanies,” he says, 5 years later. “I grew up in Rockaway Beach. I didn’t have a lot. So I knew I wanted to help people.”
Steve Ruchefsky and Rondi Charleston in their wine cellar.
At the same time, he adds, “I wanted to do more than writing a check. I wanted to have fun with my guy friends.”
He rounded up 6 of them. All felt blessed to live here. All had spent the first part of their lives building careers and families, then seeing their children off to college. All had plenty of energy, and the desire to make time in their busy lives for others.
The result: “Go50.” (It stands for “Guys Over 50.”)
Those men — now 13 — are all at least 50 years old, and eager to “get out of our bubble, get dirty, and get going to do good.”
Many names are familiar: Tom Cope, John Engelhart, Jim Hardy, Barry Leskin, Matthew Maddox, Vinny Mullineaux, Jim Naughton, John Porio, John Seigenthaler, David Tetenbaum, Doug Weber and Steven Wolff.
Their first project was at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. The boathouse was crammed with boats, canoes, fishing rods. Nothing was organized.
Nine “Go50” guys headed north in a van. They emptied, cleaned, sorted and painted. They got rid of old equipment. Campers, counselors and administrators loved what they’d done.
Go50 guys, after cleaning the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp boathouse.
Energized, the “Go50” gang tackled the Burroughs Community Center in Bridgeport. They painted and renovated a conference room, bringing new life to the building.
Then they wondered how they could do more than some one-off projects.
“None of us served in the military,” Steve says. “We were spared from the draft, and could start our careers when we were young. We decided we wanted to give back to people who did serve in the armed forces.”
Just off I-95 in Bridgeport is Homes for the Brave. The non-profit provides housing, vocational training, job placement, mental health and addiction services, and life skills coaching to help individuals — especially veterans, many of whom have been in prison or have addiction issues — leave homelessness behind.
Steve committed “Go50” to an ongoing relationship. They’ll prepare meals, clean the grounds, and help where and however they can.
Homes for the Brave helps veterans in many ways.
That’s one story. It’s a great one.
Then Steve heard about Homes for the Brave’s newest project.
Created by Peter Van Heerden — former executive director of the Westport Arts Center, now head of Fairfield University’s Quick Center — along with Westport artist Nina Bentley, it’s a show in which people living at the Homes tell their stories.
The performance is called “War Stories.” But they’re really “life stories.”
Notes posted at a recent “War Stories” rehearsal.
Steve has seen rehearsals. “These are not actors or writers. They’re men and women who have served our country. Life has been hard for them.
“They’re not Gold Star veterans who came home to parades. They’re vets who for the most part joined up to get away from trouble. But they came back and found themselves in trouble again.”
A recent preview in Hartford earned a standing ovation.
Steve wants to get the word out about upcoming performances at the Quick Center (Friday and Saturday, March 31 and April 1 — click here for more details; click here for tickets).
Steve Ruchefsky (center) at a “War Stories” rehearsal.
Learning about “War Stories” has inspired Steve to do even more with “Go50.”
“We have a great time together. We get a lot done, and we laugh a lot,” he says.
One thing they laugh about is that they’re all over 50, yet they’re “gang members.”
What happens when a bunch of Staples High School Orphenian graduates — now in college — get together for a multi-generational holiday party, at a beautiful, historic Westport home?
I filmed this last night in Rondi Charleston and Steve Ruchefsky’s wonderful parlor. Staples choral director Luke Rosenberg joins in. And yes, that’s Tony Award winner Jim Naughton making an appearance too.
The video quality is not great. But the music way more than makes up for it.
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to “06880”: PO Box 744, Westport, CT 06881. Or use Venmo: @blog06880. Or Zelle: email@example.com. Thanks!)