Tag Archives: Justin Paul

Roundup: Popup Bagels, Spirited & Small Town Movies, Staples Football …

Popup Bagels — the Westport-based company that has taken the tri-state area by storm (including several out-of-the-suburbs-and-into-the-city awards at Brooklyn BagelFest) — has some eye-popping news.

They just closed on a second round of (poppy) seed funding. Founder and CEO Adam Goldberg calls it “a few million dollars — more than a couple.” That’s on top of about $250,000 last year.

The most recent funding was led by film producer John Davis. Other investors include actors Patrick Schwarzenegger and Paul Rudd; swimmer Michael Phelps, and NFL players JJ and TJ Watt, and Michael Strahan.

The company will now hire a team to examine expansion ideas, including more locations in the New York area (and possibly adding Los Angeles). They’ll also add production capability.

Click here for the full story, from Restaurant Business.

Adam Goldberg, with his Brooklyn BagelFest awards.

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Spirited” — the Christmas-themed musical comedy retelling of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” — has opened to great reviews. It’s in theaters, and streaming on Apple TV.

The music-writing team includes 2003 Staples High School graduate Justin Paul, and his songwriting partner Benj Pasek (“Dear Evan Hansen,” “La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman”).

Justin — also credited as an executive producer — said he had “a blast” working on the score during the pandemic, on Zoom.

In this quick, intriguing interview below, he provides a bit of the back story:

(Hat tip: Julie Whamond)

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Speaking of cinema: “Small Town Movie” is making its way to distribution.

And that “small town” is Westport.

Jarret Liotta — a Staples High School graduate, now a journalist and writer — filmed the dark satire that tries to make sense (“or non-sense”) of racism, gun violence and modern cancel culture in an “average, upper middle class, affluent Connecticut town.”

The timely script will make audiences laugh. “Or furious, depending on their mood that day,” Jarret says.

His goal is to “poke fun at everyone equally, regardless of their social or political views. Hopefully it provides a minor epiphany for everyone — about themselves and the comical world in which we live.

“If Westporters enjoyed my smarmy columns and editorial writing in the past, they’ll probably adore this flick,” Jarret — former editor of Westport Journal — adds.

“If they hated them, this will help them hate me even more.”

The film includes original music by Staples grads Tom Shaner and Margot Liotta.

Jarret plans a screening in Westport after the holidays. Then, he hopes, it will start getting attention from film festivals.

For more information, click here.

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The Staples football team’s quest for a state tournament semifinal berth fell a few agonizing inches short last night.

The Wreckers — seeded 4th in the “LL” (extra large schools) division — dropped a 23-22 heartbreaker to #5 Fairfield Prep, at Paul Lane Field.

The game came down to the final seconds. With no timeouts left, Staples junior quarterback Caleb Smith brought his team 77 yards in the final 2:22. A pass into the end zone was broken up with 3 seconds to go. A final 29-yard field goal attempt was just wide.

Congratulations to coach Adam Behrends and his squad for an excellent 9-2 season. This was the Wreckers’ first playoff game in 7 years.

Quarterback Caleb Smith. (Photo/John Nash courtesy of The Ruden Report)

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WestportMoms’ Holiday Shopping Event always draws a huge crowd to the Westport Country Playhouse. Vendors offer nearly everything shoppers need to complete their gift list.

This year, it’s moving inside, to the Playhouse barn. (Some tables will be outside too). It’s set for this Friday (December 2, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

Warm drinks will be provided. Those WestportMoms think of everything.

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Westporters raveled to Guatemala this month to help expand a local English academy, and also create healthy cooking stoves for local families.

Led by Howard Greene, chair of the non-profit Friends of BEA, the group spent a week building 2 middle school classrooms, painting the exterior, erecting a fence, and working in homes to build energy-efficient and properly ventilated cooking stoves. They also met students, and observed classes.

Among the volunteers: Howard and Joyce Greene, Jeff and Nancy Plotkin, Dan and Ivy Guetta, Robert and Heidi Flicker, Tony and Amy Riggio, Steve and julie Lewine, and Mark Mathias.

The Guatemala group.

Balanya English Academy provides high quality, English-based education, and supportive services to students, their families and the local community.  The goal is to prepare graduates to work in an increasingly globalized world.

For more information, click here or email hgreene@balanyaenglishacademy.org. Check out the drone video below too, shot by Mark Mathias:

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Longtime Westport resident Dr. Paul Schulman died peacefully in his sleep last month, doing what he and his late wife Susan loved: traveling overseas. He was 89 years old.

He was the highly respected chief of hematology and oncology at Norwalk Hospital. He also served at both Yale New Haven Hospital and Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York.

Paul was born in New York, graduated from Columbia College and SUNY Medical School, and served in the US Air Force.

After he and Susan married in 1965 they moved to Westport, and purchased a home on Twin Oaks Lane in 1968 in anticipation of a family. They raised Heidi and Bruce, both of whom graduated from Staples High School.

Paul coached Little League baseball and softball. He played tennis with friends, enjoyed Westport Pizzeria, and dropped in at Harvey’s Liquor Locker and Klein’s (to purchase action thrillers). Paul and Susan spent many weekend nights dining at Mario’s.

He and Susan shared a passion for art and antiques, especially clocks, which he collected and wound every Sunday. Their collections were fueled by their intrepid travel. Paul and Susan were among early visitors to Antarctica, Burma (now Myanmar), China, and New Guinea, among many other destinations.

After spending nearly 40 years in Westport, Paul and Susan retired to South Carolina and Marbella, Spain. After Susan died in 2016 Paul moved into Fox Hill Residences in Bethesda, Maryland, near where his son lives with his family.

Paul was an active member of the Fox Hill community, participating in the quarterly “radio show,” passing evenings at his end stool at the bar, and watching his grandsons in sports and school activities. He became dear friends with the late Rhoda Herman. Together they enjoyed weekends at her country home in Leesburg, Virginia.

Paul is survived by his children Bruce (Frazier) and Heidi Greenwald (Brad), and 5 grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family has set up a memorial page at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

A service to celebrate his life will be held in Bethesda in January. Email Bruce (bschulman@hotmail.com) for details.

Dr. Paul Schulman

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Whether you’re a buck — or you’re paying big bucks for a sticker — it can be tough finding a spot at the Greens Farms train station.

David Hyman spotted today’s “Westport … Naturally” scene yesterday afternoon.

(Photo/David Hyman)

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And finally … Louise Tobin died Saturday in Texas. She was 104.

In 1939, the vocalist with Benny Goodman’s orchestra was ready for national fame. But her husband — bandleader/trumpeter Harry James — had her put her career on hold, to further his own career.

They divorced 4 years later. She raised 2 sons, and was forgotten. But her career was jump started years later in New Orleans, when Al Hirt recognized her and invited her on stage.

Click here for her full, fascinating obituary.

(Louise Tobin may have been forgotten. Please don’t forget “06880.” Just click here, to help support your hyper-local blog.)

Coleytown Company Stages Silver Anniversary Celebration

The list of names associated with Westport’s local theater company is impressive:

  • Rock star songwriter Justin Paul (“Dear Evan Hansen,” “La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman”)
  • Playwright/screenwriter (“Braking Upwards,” “Dogfight”) Peter Duchan
  • Broadway veterans Mia Gentile and Jacob Heimer
  • Composer/performer/teacher/choir director Chris Coogan
  • Former Broadway performer Amiee Turner
  • Professional set designer Jordan Janota
  • Wesleyan University theater professor Robin Mazzola
  • Former off-Broadway and film actor Ben Frimmer
  • New York Theatre Company’s “New, Emerging, Outstanding Composer” Clay Zambo
  • Professional actress Haley Bond,

What is even more impressive is that the local theater company is Coleytown Company.

All those talented, experienced men and women have worked on — or are currently involved with — the middle school’s theater program.

As Coleytown Company celebrates its 25th anniversary, it’s time to shine the spotlight on this impressive institution in our midst.

As with any theatrical project, Coleytown Company has had its ups and downs.

In the 1990s, then-principal Jim Welsch asked 5th grade teacher Frimmer to reimagine the middle school theater program. Up to that point, it was a club with a parent helping out once a year.

Staging shows ranging from “Fiddler on the Roof” to “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Frimmer created an environment in which young actors, singers, dancers, artists and tech kids can learn and grow.

Drew Andrade dances, accompanied by (from left) Eliza Walmark, Rima Ferrer, Emma Schorr. Cece Dioyka, Drew Andrade, Ava Chun, Kathryn Asiel, Keelagh Breslin in the 2019 production of “42nd Street.”

Recently, Coleytown Company has weathered a tough few years. Mold shut the school in 2017. CMS students headed to Bedford Middle School, losing their auditorium. Shows continued, but with a lessened sense of community.

Then came COVID. Like theaters everywhere, the middle schools’ stages went dark.

Last October, Coleytown Company returned with “All Together Now!,” a 15-song musical revue.

Now it’s all the way back. “The SpongeBob Musical” — the Company’s first full-scale musical in 3 years — debuts Friday, April 8 (7 p.m.). Shows continued Saturday, April 9 (7 p.m.) and Sunday, April 9 (1 p.m.).

The community’s help has been impressive. Middle school art teacher Linda Kangro, for example, leads a tech crew whose students actually design and build sets themselves.

Janota — the professional scenic designer working on an upcoming Netflix feature film — and her 18 students have used recycled materials donated by the community to create a coral proscenium, and platforms to build a “volcano.”

Remy Laifer and Jacob Leaf in the 2013 production of “Peter Pan.” The set was typically professional.

Coogan has spent over a decade directing the Coleytown Company pit orchestra. He loves this age group, because “they’re just discovering their voices, capabilities, bodies and acting abilities.”

This is Turner’s 4th show with Frimmer. Her focus is on getting students comfortable with their bodies after lockdown, and “helping them get used to being brave, loud and big with their physical movement.”

Zambo serves as vocal coach, when he is not writing or directing shows and ballets. Because “SpongeBob” was written for adults, he has done “some judicious editing.” But, he says, he works with middle schoolers the same as with professionals: “Keep it light and fun, take the work seriously, and try to bring out the best in everyone.”

Coleytown Company’s “Addams Family” brought out the best in everyone. The 2015 cast includesd (clockwise from left): Anella Lefebvre (Morticia), Georgia Wright (Gomez), Maggie Foley (Wednesday) and Oscar Hechter (Pugsley).

Wesleyan professor Mazzola — a costume-maker for 25 years, who met Frimmer 4 years ago — describes the upcoming show’s costumes as embodying “friendship, individuality and joy.”

That joy has been a hallmark of the experiences of former Coleytown Company actors, many of whom went on to success with Staples Players in high school, then beyond.

Duchan was in Frimmer’s first production: “Peter Pan.” He calls Frimmer’s accomplishments “extraordinary.”

Ben Frimmer (left) directs Emily Desser, Imogen Medoff, Shanti Wimmer and Nina Driscoll in the 2018 production of “James and the Giant Peach.” (Photo/Colleen Coffey)

Over the years, Paul, Gentile and Heimer have all returned from the Broadway stage to help Frimmer and their alma mater. In 2018, Company staged Paul’s “James and the Giant Peach.”

Bond calls CMS “a breeding ground for budding creatives. As a professional in the entertainment industry, I constantly cross paths with my middle schoolmates. They’ve grown up to be writers, actors, directors, filmmakers, technical engineers and designers.”

Current student performers echo the praise.

Haley Forman — Sandy in “SpongeBob” — says, “the theme of the play is working together. The students and staff are bringing that to life.”

Eli Abrams, who plays Perch Perkins, agrees: “I really like that you get to meet all these new people that are doing the same thing as you. If you need help with something, you can always just call them.”

Haley and Eli may or may not follow fellow CMS actors Justin Paul, Peter Duchan, Mia Gentile and Jacob Heimer to Broadway.

But they’re sure in good Company.

(For tickets to “The SpongeBob Musical” and more information, click here. Hat tip: Jordan Razza)

Roundup: Olympic Snowboarding, Cell Tower, Dogfight …

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Julia Marino has qualified for the Olympic snowboarding final!

The Westport native — who now trains in Breckenridge, Colorado, and has faced a number of obstacles during her time on the team — fell twice on her first slopestyle run yesterday. But she blazed to a great 71.78 in her second attempt, finishing 6th.

She’ll be joined by teammates Jamie Anderson and Hailey Langland in the final. It’s set for Sunday in China — which is 8:30 p.m. tonight (Saturday), on NBC. Click here for the streaming link. Click here for more information on Julia, and the US team. (Hat tip: Dave Briggs)

Julia Marino

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It’s back to the drawing board — and 92 Greens Farms Road — for a new cell tower.

Tarpon Towers/AT&T had originally proposed a structure for private property there, abutting I-95 near Hillspoint Road.

Then came a new site: the office park at 55 Greens Farms Road next to Assumption Cemetery, a couple of hundred yards west and across the street.

Now, the owner of that property has withdrawn the site from consideration.

A public information will still be held on Tuesday (February 8, 7 p.m., Zoom), to consider the 92 Greens Farms Road location.

The Public Information Session scheduled for Tuesday, February 8, 2022 at 7:00 PM will concentrate on the originally proposed location at 92 Greens Farms Road.

Click here for the legal notice. Click here for the Zoom link for the meeting.

A cell tower been proposed for the property on the left: 92 Greens Farms Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

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More local government news: Next Tuesday’s Board of Finance meeting to discuss using ARPA funds for low-density affordable housing on the Post Road near West Parish Lane will be held in the Town Hall auditorium — not Room 309 of that building.

This Post Road site next to Walgreens has been proposed for low-density affordable housing.

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“06880” is “where Westport meets the world.” But the University of Michigan is no slouch. It’s “where Staples Players meets the theatrical world.”

A student group is producing “Dogfight.” Players alums Jamie Mann (musical theater) and Brandon Malin (lighting) — both first-years there — are deeply involved.

“Dogfight” is a 2012 musical adaptation of the 1991 coming-of-age-during-Vietnam film. Staples 2003 grad Justin Paul wrote the music and lyrics with his writing partner Benj Pasek. Both also graduated from Michigan.

The book was by Peter Duchan (Staples ’01). He has known Paul since Coleytown Middle School (and has no connection to Michigan — Duchan went on to Northwestern University).

Paul and Pasek did a Zoom call with the cast. No word on whether they asked Mann and Malin how Players is doing.

Click here for a link to Michigan’s “Dogfight” page.

Brandon Malin (left) and Jamie Mann, in the “Dogfight” theater.

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Speaking of Staples Players: Congrats to 2021 graduate Sophie Rossman. The New York University freshman appears in the short film “Clare,” which premieres at the prestigious SXSW Film Festival next month.

Click here for details.

Sophie Rossman (Photo/Kerry Long)

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And speaking still of Staples Players — though in a very different way — Meredith Boak is Harvard Law School’s new assistant dean for clinical and pro bono programs.

The 2001 Staples graduate — yes, she was in Players the same year as Duchan — most recently served as senior vice president of revenue and development at Teach For America, overseeing and executing its sustainable funding strategy.

Boak has been a lecturer at Harvard Law since 2013. She earned an undergraduate degree in political science from Columbia University, and a master’s in secondary English education from Pace.

Meredith Boak

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Through all kinds of weather — snow, rain, mist, fog — the Earthplace foliage hangs on. Rowene Weems snapped today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo there.

(Photo/Rowene Weems Photography)

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And finally … if you enjoyed the item about “Dogfight” (above), and want to know more — click here:

Roundup: Candlelight, Strategic PR, Justin Paul …

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Tickets went fast for this weekend’s Candlelight Concert.

But Westporters — and everyone else, around the world — can watch it online. A tape of the 81st annual event will be streamed on Thursday, December 23 (8 p.m.).

Like the concert itself, it’s free — a gift, from the Staples High School music department. The link will be available at StaplesMusic.org.

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Steve Ginsburg spent 10 great years with the ADL: 4 in Chicago, the last 6 as director of its Connecticut chapter.

His most rewarding times were helping people in crisis — CEOs, school principals, teenagers being bullied or accused of bullying — work through their issues.

Now, the Westport resident is doing that full-time.

Ginsburg is a co-founder of August. It’s a national strategic communications firm, helping people and companies in difficult circumstances tell their story with clarity and integrity.

His area of expertise is “diversity and bias.” For example, he cites a university campus roiled by accusations of racism. He can guide the many stakeholers — students, professors, administrators, trustees — as they speak to the media.

“At ADL, I loved working with media,” Ginsburg says. “I saw the importance of them doing their job well — and what can happen when they don’t.

“Our society is very polarized. When news breaks, there’s often a rush to judgment. But things are not always what they first seem. Society benefits from accurate, fair reporting.”

Steve Ginsburg

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Justin Paul has been very generous with his time. The Tony, Oscar and Grammy Award-winning co-songwriter of “Dear Evan Hansen,” “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman” — and 2003 Staples High School graduate — has returned often to his alma mater (and Coleytown Middle School) to share insights and tricks of the trade with the next generation of talented Westporters.

For the rest of us — who aren’t still in school — there’s a new online course.

Paul and his writing partner, Benj Pasek, offer a month-long online class: “Songwriting for Musical Theater.” It’s immersive — 7 to 10 hours a week, for 4 weeks — that provides students with the foundation to write their own musical (including 2 original songs).

Click here for details. Who knows? Maybe after writing your musical, “You Will Be Found.”

At the end of an appearance in 2018 at Staples High, Justin Paul played piano as students sang the “Dear Evan Hansen” classic, “Waving Through a Window.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

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Everyone is in the gift-giving mood. Even the Westport Transit District.

As a holiday gift to residents, they offer free rides to users of the Wheels2U shuttle service. The service starts Monday (December 20), and is good through December 31.

Wheels2U Westport is the WTD’s on-demand, group ride, door-to -train platform shuttle service.

The free rides to and from the Westport and Greens Farms stations are not just for commuters. If you’re seeing a show, museum, the Rockefeller Center tree or friends: hop aboard the shuttle, and the train.

If you’re in the service area, use the Wheels2U Westport app to request a pickup between 5:45 and 9:45 a.m., and 4 and 8 p.m., 20 minutes before you’d normally leave.

For more information, click here.

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Back in the (Clam Box) days, there was an exit from that parking lot in the back, onto Long Lots Road.

Years ago, it was sealed off. The only exit and entrance was via Post Road East.

There may be another exit in the future. In a different spot: the upper parking deck.

Planning & Zoning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals permission has been granted to expand the upper deck by 18 spaces; reconstruct and extend the existing retaining wall; install a planter and landscaping — and add gated, emergency access to Long Lots. It would only be used by fire, police or EMS vehicles, as a secondary exit route.

The request for a zoning permit awaits P&Z Department approval.

A view of the 877 Post Road East upper parking deck, from Long Lots Road.

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Jolantha — Weston’s favorite pig — is all decked out for the holidays

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)

She’s got more news, too: Her brand new website just launched. Click here to see her many glamorous outfits, through the years.

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Chris Wood spotted today’s “Westport … Naturally” bird — an Eastern towhee — at Sherwood Island State Park. It “sang like it was spring,” Chris says.

(Photo/Chris Wood)

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And finally … Steve Bronski, a co-founder member of the British synth-pop trio Bronski Beat, died Thursday, at 61. Click here for a full obituary. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)

Stephen Sondheim Letters: The Sequel

The other day, I posted a story about Stephen Sondheim’s letter to the Westport Country Playhouse.

The man who became one of America’s most celebrated Broadway composers had not yet started his career; in fact, he was still a student at Williams College. He asked for a few days’ delay before beginning a position that helped inspire him to stardom: summer apprentice.

Sondheim’s letters became legendary. After his death, an entire Instagram account was created about them.

More than half a century after his Playhouse note, Sondheim again wrote about Westport.

In 2003, Staples Players staged “Merrily We Roll Along.” An audience member loved it so much, he suggested that Sondheim himself see it.

He replied quickly and graciously:

That would normally be the end of that.

But — Players being so far beyond an ordinary high school troupe — there’s more to the story.

Had Sondheim seen the show, it would have been his first encounter with Justin Paul. The then-senior played composer Franklin Shepard in the production.

Paul and his composing partner Benj Pasek have gone on to great fame, with projects like “Dear Evan Hansen,” “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman.”

Their success is due in part to Sondheim’s mentorship, and support of their work.

Justin Paul in Staples Players’ “Merrily We Roll Along.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

But that’s not all.

If Sondheim had seen Staples’ “Merrily” — and gone backstage — he would have met Gina Rattan. A junior in 2003, she served as assistant director to David Roth and Kerry Long.

Gina is now Marianne Elliott’s associate director of “Company.” That Sondheim show is currently running on Broadway.

Now — in 2021 — Roth and Long say, “Alas, Mr. Sondheim didn’t make it to the production. But we are grateful for this letter, and love the connections with this show. The theater world really is a small one.”

Perhaps an idea for the next Pasek and Paul musical?

ENCORE! Click here for a link to some video clips of Players’ “Merrily We Roll Along” production, courtesy of Jim Honeycutt.

 

Roundup: Farmers’ Market Totes, Library Videos, Live Music …

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Westport Farmers’ Market shoppers are environmentally conscious. Most bring their own bags.

But why tote a ratty old Stop & Shop bag when you can carry your produce, honey, dog treats and more in style?

The Market just unveiled their 2021 Friend of the Market bag. It costs $40. But many vendors offer discounts to shoppers who show the current season’s bag.

Proceeds support community programs run by WFM, including:

We Care: support for marketgoers who are battling illnesses.

Farmer To School To Community: a partnership between Staples High School, the Gillespie Center and local farmers. Students learn about local ingredients, while helping neighbors in need.

Farmer To Kids To Community teaches Bridgeport elementary school students how to use local and seasonal ingredients in delicious, healthy meals.

Get Growing: weekly events and contests designed for younger visitors.

Young Shoots: in collaboration with the Artists Collective, a youth photography contest.

Recipe Program: helps customers create easy, healthy, delicious meals using fresh local products.

Bridgeport Rescue Mission: a weekly partnership rewards residents in BRM’s rehabilitation program for good behavior with an outing to WFM, where they collect food from farmers and vendors.

Farmer-In-Need: a fund to help vendors who fall on hard times.

Chef At The Market showcases top chefs who support local farms.

Farms To Veterans To Community helps veterans affiliated learn to prepare farm-fresh food, thanks to WFM’s vast chef network.

Click here for more information on FOM bags, and WFM programming. The market runs every Thursday at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

Westport Farmers’ Market 2021 bag.

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Speaking of sustainability: Over 500 families are participating in Westport’s food scrap recycling program. Almost 10 tons are being diverted from the incinerator each month.

But Sustainable Westport hopes to do more — much more. Their goal is to double our town’s food scrap recycling participation in the next 6 months.

They’re spurred by a matching grant of $7,500 from Sustainable CT. Funds raised will educate and inspire residents about the project. Click here to donate.

The Paparo family was the first to use the transfer station drop-off food scrap recycling site, when it opened in July.

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The Westport Library’s website is filled with interesting and entertaining videos and podcasts.

Finding them, however, was not always easy.

The page — formerly the Library’s YouTube channel — has been redesigned. Searching is much more user-friendly and intuitive.

Click here now, for hundreds of programs, music recordings and podcasts.

In the future, just click “Resources” on the Library website menu bar.

Screenshot of the Westport Library’s video and podcast gallery page.

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“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is usually associated with Halloween.

But there’s never a bad time for it. So — just in time for Memorial Day weekend — the Remarkable Theater has scheduled a showing of the cult classic.

It’s Saturday, May 29. The gate opens at 7:30 p.m. The show begins at 8:30. Click here for tickets.

Let’s do the time warp again!

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Speaking of movies: Staples graduate Justin Paul will be in the limelight again on September 24.

That’s the release date for the movie version of “Dear Evan Hansen.” Tony-winning star Ben Platt leads the cast. The score — by Paul and his musical partner Benj Pasek — won a Tony too.

The Broadway version — suspended due to COVID — returns on December 11.

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WABC-TV Eyewitness News featured 2 locations in last night’s report on the restaurant industry, as the pandemic eases: the Upper West Side, and Westport.

Local interviewees included Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell, Manna Toast’s Jason Wiener, and diner Sharon Maddern. Click here for the segment.

Matthew Mandell is interviewed by WABC Eyewitness News on Church Lane.

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Tomorrow (Thursday, May 20) is Asian Gold Ribbon Day. Gold ribbons — symbolizing opposition to anti-Asian violence — will be available for pickup tomorrow at the Westport Farmers’ Market (Imperial Avenue parking lot), and today and tomorrow at Arogya (131 Post Road East).

 

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Live music continues for outdoor dining on Church Lane this Friday.

From 6 to 9 p.m., a band called Picnic on the 4th of July provides entertainment.

Members include Westporters Louis Fuertes and Pat Blaufuss. The string band specializes in traditional American roots and bluegrass music, with plenty of rock, folk, jazz and blues tossed in.

Westporters may know them from the Westport Downtown Association’s Holiday Stroll. This event too is sponsored by the WDA.

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Speaking of entertainment: Westport Country Playhouse Radio Theater — a free broadcast series — presents its first audio play, “The Return,” on Saturday, May 29, (noon; rebroadcast on Sunday, May 30, 4 p.m.). It’s on all WSHU stations, and www.wshu.org.

“The Return” is a haunting tale, based on a Thai folk legend. It takes place after World War II, when a young soldier returns to his village to reunite with his wife and new baby. He is finally home — yet he feels completely alone.

Run time is 35 minutes. A brief discussion with the director follows. Click here for more details.

After broadcast on WSHU, the show will be accessible on the Playhouse website from May 31 through June 20.

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A recent “06880” photo of the lake that forms on the Compo Beach entrance road every time it rains — or drizzles — drew plenty of comments. But the photo I ran to illustrate it was just meh.

JC Martin has a much better one. He shot it a couple of years ago. But it’s a great way to illustrate the story — and to welcome another summer of sopping-wet fun.

(Photo/JC Martin)

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These signs appear every so often in Parker Harding Plaza.

(Photo/Dan Woog)

A reader wants to know: What is “Open Parking”? It’s always been free. Does it mean “no time limits”? If so, why not say it?

Whatever the answer: Enjoy!

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Speaking of signs: This one on a fence near North Avenue is a little hard to figure out at first — it’s “Stop Noise Pollution / Ban Leaf Blowers” rather than “Stop Noise Pollution Ban” — but it reflects the sentiment of a segment of Westporters.

(Photo/Carl Addison Swanson)

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And finally … today is the birthday of 2 of the music world’s rockingest rockers.

Pete Townshend — the Who’s co-founder, guitarist and songwriter — turns 76. Joey Ramone was born 70 years ago; he died a month before his 50th birthday, of lymphoma.

These songs — among both bands’ many others — epitomized their eras.

And here they are … together.

Roundup: Justin Paul, MoCA, STAR Award, More


Justin Paul already won a Tony Award for “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Now the 2003 Staples High School graduate has an Olivier too.

On Sunday, the show — which opened in London last November — earned 2 prestigious Laurence Olivier Awards. They’re the British equivalent of Tonys, for plays performed there.

Paul and his writing partner Benj Pasek were honored for “Best Original Score.” “Dear Evan Hansen” was also named Best New Musical.

The ceremony was originally scheduled for April, in Royal Albert Hall. After COVID, it was postponed to Sunday. Most of the ceremony was pre-taped, at the London Palladium. Click here for full details.

Justin Paul (Photo/Dan Woog)


Stress levels are high leading to Election Day. Even after voting, many residents will no doubt feel anxious.

So how about feeding your soul with some art? “World Peace” — the current exhibit at MoCA Westport, a multi-media show including photography, sculpture, video works and art that address the culture of American politics will be free, and open to the public, on Election Day (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Just show your “I Voted” sticker (or mention you voted by absentee ballot). Click here for more about the exhibit.

MoCA is also hosting an Election Day workshop for children and teenagers, featuring voting-related projects related to the show. There are 2 sessions: 10 a.m. to noon, and 2-4 p.m. Click here for details.


For nearly 70 years, STAR Lighting the Way has provided services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families.

Services include education, after-school and summer camp programs, behavioral interventions, advocacy, job training, residential support, and much, much more.

STAR is a shining light in Fairfield County. I am honored, through “06880,” to spotlight so many good things the organization does.

So I was especially proud to receive this year’s “Media Partner of the Year” award from STAR. The handsome glass award sits on my desk, a reminder of what a wonderful community we are all part of.


Among Martha Aasen’s many passions, Martha Aasen was particularly loyal to the Westport Library.

To honor the longtime civic volunteer, who died last week at 90, the library as created a Martha Aasen Memorial Fund.

Contributions will help fund ongoing programs and projects. A plaque near the daily newspapers will honor her commitment to the community. Click here to contribute.

Martha Aasen and her husband Larry.


Brittany Berlin graduated from Staples High School in 2012, and Georgetown University 4 years later.

She began a corporate career, then began a blog to share her passion for wholesome recipes accessible to people with food allergies and specific dietary concerns. The Banana Diaries features goodies with a healthy twist.

Simon & Schuster just published her first book. Baked with Love includes over 100 allergy-friendly vegan desserts — all developed and tested by Brittany. She took all the photos too.

Click here for details and ordering information. (Hat tip: Nathalie Fonteyne)


Sure, it’s another in what seems like a series of endless gray days.

But the sun shone (briefly) the other day. And Lori Lustig snapped this gorgeous reminder of why nothing — anywhere! — compares to autumn in New England:

(Photo/Lori Lustig)

And finally … in honor of Justin Paul’s Olivier Award:

 

Roundup: Hybrid Schools, Hugh Jackman, Irrigation Ban, More


The current hybrid model — 2 days in person, 3 out for middle and high schoolers; morning and afternoon sessions for elementary-age youngsters — will continue at least through December.

Superintendent of schools Tom Scarice announced that decision last night, at a Board of Education meeting. It was driven by an uptick in coronavirus cases — a trend expected to rise this fall.

Public sentiment is divided. But Scarice called this “the prudent” and “correct” approach, based on current infection numbers, future models, the ability of educators to adapt to both in-person and distance learning, and input on how the hybrid model has worked so far.


Sure, it rained earlier this week. But Aquarion has announced a mandatory irrigation ban in southwest Fairfield County. The area — including Westport — has hit its 3rd “drought trigger” this fall.

Effective immediately, the ban includes automatic irrigation systems and hose end sprinklers. (Hand-held watering, soaker hose and drip irrigation continue to be permitted for new plantings.)

The ban will help ensure “an adequate water supply for everyday needs, and give reservoirs time to recover for the spring,” the water company says.

Click here for water conservation tips.

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 Last Friday, Hugh Jackman stopped by the Remarkable Theater.

Okay, the Australian actor was not actually at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

But he did send a special message, introducing a screening of “The Greatest Showman” (and it had nothing to do with the music, by Staples High School graduate Justin Paul).

A video message from the movie’s creator and screenwriter Jenny Bicks also greeted the audience. The screening was in support of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities.

Next up: “Playhouse at the Drive-in,” this Saturday night.


The Milken Institute Global Conference is in the midst of 8 days of inspiring talks and panels. This year’s topics are (of course) the global pandemic, and social injustice.

And (of course) it’s virtual. Over 4,000 of the world’s leading thinkers have tuned in.

There’s a solid Westport presence at the prestigious, 22nd annual event.

RTM member Kristin Schneeman is a director at FasterCures, part of the Milken Institute. Théo Feldman is an associate director, innovative finance there.

Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio was featured in a conversation, while the hedge fund’s CEO David McCormick spoke on a panel called “Leadership: Moving Beyond Conventional Thinking.

Feldman adds: “During last year’s Global Conference in Beverly Hills, I met a fellow Westporter: Russell Sherman. We realized his sister — Suzanne Sherman Propp — taught my daughter at Greens Farms Elementary School. And his niece did a play with my other daughter.”


As the weather turns cool, a pair of local religious institutions are sponsoring a coat drive for Person to Person.

Clothing should be bagged, and sorted by gender and age (adult or youth). Donations can be dropped off in a blue bin labeled “Coat Donations” on the side elevator entrance at Saugatuck Church, or The Conservative Synagogue.

Donation pick-ups are available too. Email alexandrawalsh9@gmail.com for arrangements.


Speaking of help: last week’s Longshore Ladies 9 Hole Golf Association annual fundraiser brought in plenty of groceries for the Westport Woman’s Club food closet. The event also raised over $1,170, which will go to gift cards for food insecure Westporters.

Donations for the Longshore golf food drive.


And finally … in honor of Hugh Jackman’s Westport “appearance” (and Justin Paul’s music):

 

Roundup: P&Z; Ospreys; Justin Paul; Bridge Lights; More


This Thursday (July 21, 5 p.m., Zoom session), the Planning & Zoning Commission considers 3 COVID-related items.

Two are text amendments aimed at striking a balance between promoting economic vitality and protecting nearby residents.

One would extend the current temporary outdoor dining regulations through March 31, 2021. The other would allow fitness businesses to use certain outdoor spaces, enabling them to serve clients in a socially distanced way.

In addition, Pierrepont School is seeking to use additional space at 220 Post Road West — across the street from its current home at 1 Sylvan Road North — to provide more social distancing space for its approximately 48 students in grades 7-12, and staff.

The meeting will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, and shown on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. Public comments may be sent by noon on Thursday to PandZ@westportct.gov, and during the meeting as well (PandZcomments@westportct.gov. For full details, click here.

Outdoor dining has been successful on Railroad Place.


Yesterday’s Roundup featured a photo of the Fresh Market osprey fledglings.

A bird-watching friend writes about other osprey platforms in town. They include:

Two on the exit road from Longshore. One is along Gray’s Creek at the back of the out-of-town parking lot for the marina. The other is along the exit road just past Gloria’s mooring, opposite the 12th green.

Two are at Sherwood Island. One is north of the Nature Center in the salt marsh between the island and Beachside Commons; the second is on the west side of the island, in the marsh alongside Sherwood Mill Pond, north from the end of the second bridge at the tidal gates,

One more is off Beachside Avenue, east of Burying Hill Beach and Harvey Weinstein’s former home.

All 5 are occupied, and have 2 or 3 hatchlings each. They’re practicing flying and fishing prior to their late summer migration to South America for the winter.

A local osprey nest (Photo/Jen Greely)


Staples High School 2003 graduate Justin Paul has gone on to fame (and many honors) for his off-the-charts songwriting (“Dear Evan Hansen,” “La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman”).

But he has not forgotten his home town. He recently volunteered as a judge for the Norwalk-to-Bridgeport Project Census Throwdown contest, encouraging high school students to write creatively and educationally about the 2020 Census.

Justin was very impressed with the winning rap submission, from Elijah Atkins of Bridgeport’s Bridge Academy. He encouraged Elijah to further explore his gift for lyrical structure and creativity.

Congratulations, Elijah — and thanks, Justin!

Justin Paul


A few spots remain for the Earthplace Summer Teen Volunteer Club. Daily activities include animal care, special event preparation, and maintaining the Earthplace private preserve.

Sessions run July 17-August 7, and August 10-21. For information, click here.


The Westport Downtown Merchants Association has decorated the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown with summer-color lights: blue, green and white.

Pretty lit!


And finally … Happy 72nd birthday, Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam). There are so many songs to pay him tribute. Here are 3. What’s your pick? Click “Comments” below.

For Stand-Up Comedy Show, Sit Down at Home

Sure, stand-comedy works well in clubs. It’s fun laughing along with dozens of others.

But stand-up stands alone too. It’s fn to watch YouTube comedians and listen to Sirius comedy channels in your home and car.

Next Saturday (June 20, 8 p.m.), the annual “Stand Up for Homes with Hope” fundraiser becomes “Stand Up at Home.”

Of course, you don’t have to stand up to enjoy the stand-up of 4 top comedians. You can sit on your favorite sofa, surrounded by family and friends.

Together, you’ll laugh as hard as ever.

Cristela Alonzo

Cristela Alonzo — star of the ABC comedy that bears her name — headlines the show. She’s an inspired choice for an event benefiting Westport’s supportive housing agency: Until she was 8, she and her family were homeless. (Click here for her inspiring back story.)

Alonzo is joined by Roy Wood Jr., the host of Comedy Central’s storytelling series “This is Not Happening”; Hari Kondabolu, whose comedy album “Mainstream American Comic” debuted at #1 on iTunes, and Mark Normand, whom Jerry Seinfeld called “the best young up-and-coming comic” in 2019.

There are special appearances too by Staples High School graduate/”Dear Evan Hansen,” “The Greatest Showman” and “La La Land” composer/lyricist Justin Paul; Westport resident/former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

Viewers will also see a compelling video. Westport filmmaker Livio Sanchez interviewed Homes with Hope residents. They tell remarkable stories.

Viewers have already registered from as far away as Hawaii, Japan and Switzerland. And — unlike a regular comedy night — there is no limit on the size of the crowd.

Though the evening is virtual, it has all the flavor of a live show. Homes with Hope director Helen McAlinden will be on stage with an auctioneer.

In other words, “Stand Up at Home” will be just like the organization’s other fundraisers — with one exception. The suggested donation is just $25. For that price, you can fill your living room.

And that’s no joke.

(For tickets and more information about the June 20 event, click here.)