Tag Archives: Laura Pendergast

Beachside Actors Take Their Show On The Road

Beachside Common is one of Westport’s hidden gems.

The 18 homes — 33 adults, 24 children — nestle up against Burying Hill Beach and Sherwood Island, off Beachside Avenue. With no through traffic, it’s tight-knit and neighborly.

Shortly after Nico and Robin Eisenberger moved in 5 years ago, she had a minor operation that limited her mobility. The couple had not said a word — but they found warm dinners delivered by neighbors to their doorsteps, 11 days in a row.

Beachside Common also throws an annual block party. Kids play, everyone eats, adults drink, and someone brings out a guitar.

This year, the Eisenbergers decided to add something new. For years, Nico has wanted to act — for fun. As he learned of and seen Westport’s rich arts history, the urge grew.

He remembered his childhood in Bernardsville, New Jersey, when neighbors staged a yearly play. The lightbulb lit up: Let’s do it here!

The Beachside play …

The Eisenbergers’ next door neighbor, Alli DiVincenzo, is a popular logo, brand and website designer for businesses and organizations.

She’d also just written a short book, poking gentle fun at affluent communities. It’s funny, ironic, and ends with a splash of redemption. Why not turn her book into a play?

Laura Pendergast — a common friend, fellow Greens Farms Elementary School parent and owner of TheaterCamp 4 Kids (who also teaches adults to act) — quickly adapted Alli’s story. Then she offered to direct it.

Actors — young and old — were recruited from the neighborhood. After just a few rehearsals, Laura whipped everyone into shape. (A little wine helped.)

Last Saturday, Beachside Common held its annual block party. And its first-ever play.

… and the Beachside Players.

“There’s nothing particularly momentous about this story,” Nico says. “The cast were rank amateurs. The staging — in the middle of the street — was basic. The performance was barely passable.

“But it was memorable for both our small audience and the performers. We stepped out of the uber-busy, uber-online, world-in-turmoil, everyone-for-themselves environment. We did something in-person and creative together.

“It was super fun. And it was definitely inspired at every turn by the history and best traditions of Westport.”

Will the Beachside Players return?

We’ll drink to that.

Rescue Dogs And Cheetahs, Rescue You And Me

Two years ago, “06880” featured Junior, the Wonder Dog.

The story described his abuse, rescue by the Connecticut Humane Society, and subsequent adoption by Westporters Jim and Laura Pendergast.

But at the couple’s summer home in Maine, Junior suffered a stroke. His rear legs were paralyzed.

The Pendergasts committed to water and physical therapy, plus acupuncture, twice a week.

Junior was slow to heal. So the couple purchased a wheelchair.

The dog fought and cried. Finally — thanks to treats and sheer determination — Junior walked.

Today he runs on the beach, plays with other dogs, even swims.

Junior the Wonder Dog.

Junior the Wonder Dog.

The “06880” story highlighted Junior’s star turn on “Born to Explore.” That’s the Saturday morning ABC TV series that offers inspiring stories from around the world.

Born to Explore” has Westport roots too. In a small warren of 2nd-floor offices next to Bobby Q’s, Richard Wiese and a tiny staff produce 26 episodes a year. The entire series is  planned, organized and edited right on Main Street.

A world map inspires Richard Wiese in his Westport office.

A world map inspires Richard Wiese in his Westport office.

But this story isn’t really about Junior. Nor is it about “Born to Explore.”

It’s about Laura Pendergast — Junior’s owner — and her work with other animals.

With a nod toward Jim Fowler, former host of “Wild Kingdom.” He’s friends with Wiese, and has visited “Born to Explore”‘s office.

Fowler will be back in Westport on Tuesday, May 3 (7 p.m., Terrain). The Emmy Award winner will be honored at a fundraiser to support animal welfare. Wiese serves as emcee.

All of the proceeds benefit 3 groups. Two are local: PAWS and Westport Animal Shelter Advocates.

The 3rd is global: the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Dr. Laurie Marker — founder and executive director of the Namibia-based group — will be honored at Terrain too, for her ground-breaking work.

Dr. Laurie Marker and friend.

Dr. Laurie Marker and friend.

The fundraising event — called “Rescue You Rescue Me” — includes wine and hors d’oeuvres; a fashion show by Anthropologie; live music; live and silent auctions, and private discounted Terrain shopping. Westport’s own Cynthia Gibb — who has rescued many animals — will model.

This story has meandered, from Junior the Wonder Dog and Richard Wiese to stray dogs, cheetahs and “Wild Kingdom.”

That’s not unusual. There’s a big world out there to explore.

But when you come right down to it, we’re all connected.

(For more information on the “Rescue You Rescue Me” event, click here. To order tickets, click here.)

NOTE: If you’d like to see Junior, the Wonder Dog’s TV episode, it’s on Netflix. Search for “Born to Explore, It’s a Dog’s Life.”

Planning the event: Front row (from left): Julie Loparo, Sara Burke, Laura Curley Pendergast, Sue Smith. Rear: Marita Driscoll. Dogs: Violet and Rico.

Planning the event (from left): Julie Loparo, Sara Burke, Marita Driscoll, Laura Curley Pendergast, Sue Smith. Dogs: Violet and Rico.