Tag Archives: ” Mark Lamos

Roundup: Beachside Avenue, Playhouse Cocktails, More


The equipment is in place. Plans have been made.

And the date is set. Replacement work on the Beachside Avenue bridge over I-95 begins January 4. It’s expected to last through September/

The $1.5 million project includes realignment of Beachside Avenue.

During the project, traffic will be detoured past the Greens Farms station, and New Creek Road. Longer detours will be needed for trucks that cannot fit under the railroad bridge.

Beachside Avenue I-95 bridge, at Greens Farms Road.


All summer long, the Westport Country Playhouse was dark.

But bright conversation took place online, via virtual chats with artists. It was called “Coffee With …”

The series continues this Thursday (November 19, 7 p.m.), with artistic director Mark Lamos. He’ll talk about the upcoming season, casting, his career, and anything else you ask.

Questions can be emailed to info@westportplayhouse.org by noon Tuesday. Then click on Facebook Live or YouTube.

The winter series is called “Cocktails With …” Mix it up!


And finally … on this day in 1969, half a million anti-Vietnam War protestors poured into Washington, DC. They were following up on Moratorium to End the War protests a month earlier, held in cities and towns around the country.

It is considered to have been the largest demonstration ever in the capital. President Nixon said, “I understand that there has been, and continues to be, opposition to the war in Vietnam on the campuses and also in the nation. As far as this kind of activity is concerned, we expect it; however, under no circumstances will I be affected whatever by it.”

Westport Playhouse Stage Meets Remarkable Theater Screen

The Westport Country Playhouse has a historic stage. The Remarkable Theater has a big screen.

Stage and screen meet on Saturday, October 17. “Playhouse at the Drive-in” celebrates the WCP’s 90-season history with a benefit event, and a screening of special filmed performances and a documentary.

It’s also available to view online, at home.

The Westport Country Playhouse honors its history … (Photo/Wells Studio)

The short-form documentary salutes the Playhouse’s history, and many of the artists who have appeared onstage. It was created specially for this event, by Playhouse artistic director Mark Lamos and Westport filmmaker Douglas Tirola. He’s the brains behind the Remarkable Theater. In his teens, he worked as a Playhouse “beautifier.”

The evening includes filmed performances by Playhouse alumni Kate Baldwin, Britney Coleman, Tina Fabrique, the Naughton family (James, Greg, Keira and Kelli O’Hara), Brenda Pressley, Amanda Robles, with a special performance by André De Shields.

Also appearing on film: Jane Alexander, Lissy Newman, Christopher Plummer, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Thomas, and more.

“Playhouse at the Drive-In” takes the place of the annual fall gala fundraiser. On-site benefit tickets start at $500 per car (maximum 5 people). Online film screening from home is just $25.

Gates open at the Remarkable Theater (Imperial Avenue parkin lot) at 5 p.m., for a cocktail hour and picnic dinner. The live and online screening begins at 6:30.

… at an old-fashioned drive-in.

Alec Baldwin, Kelli O’Hara Headline Playhouse Gala

A. R. “Pete” Gurney died last June. He was 86 years old.

The playwright holds many distinctions — including most-produced playwright in the Westport Country Playhouse’s 88-year history. Since 1980, the historic theater has produced 21 of his works.

A.R. “Pete” Gurney

Playhouse artistic director Mark Lamos also has a deep association with Gurney. He has directed many of his longtime friend’s plays, both off-Broadway and at the Playhouse. Some were world premieres.

At Carnegie Hall, Lamos diected Alec Baldwin in Gurney’s “Love Letters.”

So with all those connections, it’s no surprise that the Westport Country Playhouse’s annual fundraising gala features Mark Lamos directing Alec Baldwin in Pete Gurney’s “Love Letters.”

The cast for the old-friends event (April 12) also includes Westporter Kelli O’Hara, a Tony Award winner for her portrayal of Anna in “The King and I.”

Lamos first met Gurney in the early 1980s, while running Hartford Stage. The writer’s understanding of the “New England WASP gestalt” fascinated the director, who saw in Gurney’s characters some of the company’s board members and donors.

“He absolutely captures the sound of a generation of upper-class people,” Lamos says. “He hears their voices, and makes them real. He’s at the end of a long tradition of people like Henry James and John Cheever — New England-based comedy of manners writers.”

In addition, Lamos says, “Pete has a wonderful sense of humor. He has a talent for fine-tuning a joke — or taking it away.”

Mark Lamos

Twenty years ago, when Lamos and his husband moved to western Connecticut, Gurney invited them to dinner with Arthur Miller. Gurney, Lamos and their spouses became good friends.

Over the years, Lamos directed Gurney’s “Big Bill,” “The Dining Room” and others.

Since joining the Playhouse in 2009, Lamos has appreciated Gurney’s long association with the Westport theater. Jim McKenzie — executive director there for 41 years — loved the playwright’s work, Lamos says.

He’s proud to keep up the tradition.

And looking very forward to the April 12 gala, which raises funds so the Playhouse can continue producing many more intriguing, entertaining and thought-provoking plays.

By Pete Gurney — and others, too.

(For more information about the April 12 Spring Gala, including tickets, click here.)

The Westport Country Playhouse

New Name For Westport Country Playhouse

The Westport Country Playhouse — which already includes the Lucille Lortel White Barn Center, and the Sheffer studio space — is adding another name to its property.

In fact, the entire campus will now be called The Howard J. Aibel Theater Center at Westport Country Playhouse.

The change recognizes a $3 million gift from the local resident, and current vice chair of the board of trustees.

Howard Aibel

“I have found live theater to be life transformative,” Aibel — a retired attorney, who formerly served as chief legal officer of ITT Corporation — says.

“Being a supporter of the Westport Country Playhouse has been a rich and grand experience.”

Playhouse artistic director Mark Lamos says, “This is not only financial sustenance. It is spiritual sustainability. His belief now enables us to create the highest level of work.”

Of Aibel’s grant, $500,000 is designated for current operations, and $500,000 for working capital reserve. A bequest of $2 million to establish an endowment is held in an irrevocable trust.

Aibel retired as a partner of Dewey & LeBoeuf, where he focused on international dispute resolution. He served as president of the Harvard Law School Association of New York, and chair of the American Arbitration Association. He is also chair emeritus of the Alliance of Resident Theatres/NY.

I’m not sure how many people will actually refer to the Playhouse as the Howard Aibel Theatre Center.

But there will be a nice sign on the 87-year-old iconic red building to remind everyone that while the arts are important to Westport’s heritage, they need the financial support of people like Aibel, who have the means — and desire — to help keep them alive.

Artist’s rendering of the new sign above the Westport Country Playhouse entrance.

Wherefore Art Thou, Clay And Peter?

When Clay Singer was a musical theater major at Carnegie Mellon University, regional theaters often visited campus. Seeing “Westport, Connecticut” on the 2013 Staples graduate’s resume, they’d mention the Playhouse. That’s when Singer realized the major impact his hometown has had on the theatrical world.

In 2008, freshman Peter Molesworth saw nearly every Staples Players production of “Romeo and Juliet.” Noah Witke and Brittany Uomoleale — the 2 leads — awed him.

Now Singer and Molesworth have their own chances to star.

In “Romeo and Juliet.”

At the Westport Country Playhouse.

Singer plays Peter, and Molesworth is Balthasar, in the Playhouse’s first-ever production of William Shakespeare’s classic. It opens October 31, and runs through November 19.

Clay Singer

Singer — who has been busy doing new works and studio shows in New York since graduating last spring from Carnegie Mellon — always dreamed of acting on the Westport Country Playhouse stage. When he heard they were casting “Romeo and Juliet” he sent in his head shot, freshened up his monologues, and auditioned for artistic director Mark Lamos.

Three days later, Singer was in rehearsals.

“Mark knows everything about Shakespeare,” the young actor says. “And our dramaturg, Milla Riggio, is amazing too. We break down every scene, talking about literary structure and rhetorical devices. I’m so lucky to be experiencing all that.”

Singer calls this production “a wonderful transition from theater education to my career. I feel like I’m back in a classroom, but in a professional setting.”

Of course, he’s also back in his home town.

After his first rehearsal, Singer “almost laughed” as he drove down the Post Road. It reminded him of all those years driving home from Players events or voice lessons.

He lives in New York now. But his Playhouse role brings him back to Westport.

And his mother is happy to make him dinner.

Peter Molesworth

Molesworth feels equally happy to be back in town. He appeared in several Players shows, then spent senior year at Walnut Hill in Massachusetts.

After graduating in 2011, he attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He studied in Florence, then started a theater company called Cue for Passion Collaborative. They concentrate on Shakespeare.

In 2008, Moleworth had served as a Joanne Woodward Apprentice at the Westport Country Playhouse. He did tech work, helped on the run crew, manned the concession stand and took acting classes.

He continued working concessions and in the box office for the next 3 years, and loved it.

Like Singer, he auditioned for Lamos. Now Molesworth feels he’s come full circle.

“This is the place where I first invested in my career in a substantial way,” he says. “Having one of my first professional acting jobs at the Playhouse is wonderful.”

He’s come full circle in another way too. As a Staples junior, Molesworth assistant directed “The Children’s Hour.” Singer — a freshman — was in the cast.

Of course, Molesworth will never forget those “Romeo and Juliet” productions he saw when he was in 9th grade. One of the most compelling scenes was when Balthasar tells Romeo that Juliet is dead. Now it’s his role.

“I remember so clearly seeing that at Staples,” he says. “That alone makes it serendipitous for me. This is a classical play. It’s re-entered my life, with potent meaning.”

(For tickets and more information, click here or call 203-227-4177.)

The cast of “Romeo and Juliet,” at the Westport Country Playhouse. Clay Singer is standing, 3rd from left; Peter Molesworth is standing, 3rd from right. (Photo/Peter Chenot)

 

Annie Keefe, Arthur Miller And Marilyn

Westport Country Playhouse associate artist Annie Keefe has had a legendary life in theater.

Before coming here, she spent more than 20 years at Long Wharf. In 1994 she worked on the world premiere of “Broken Glass” — a riveting story of Kristallnacht and Jewish identity. Playwright Arthur Miller was there for most rehearsals.

Annie Keefe and Arthur Miller. (Photo/T. Charles Erickson)

Annie Keefe and Arthur Miller. (Photo/T. Charles Erickson)

Keefe recalls:

The material was fascinating, dense and complex, and we were the first people to explore it. It was thrilling to watch the actors, along with Arthur, tease out the plot and build the characters. It was a complicated and difficult birthing process.  Director John Tillinger and Arthur were longtime friends, and there were post-rehearsal conversations I wish I had had the sense to focus on. But there were production notes to be sent and schedules to be made and things in the rehearsal hall to reset for the next day.

On Wednesday (October 6), the curtain goes up on the Playhouse production of “Broken Glass.” Keefe looks forward to artistic director Mark Lamos’ interpretation.

She’s also thinking about Arthur Miller. The legendary playwright’s connections with the Playhouse — and this area — are strong.

This will be the 6th Miller production at the Playhouse. “Death of a Salesman” was 1st, in 1966. “The Price,” “All My Sons” (twice) and “The Archbishop’s Ceiling” followed.

In the late 1950s, Miller lived here with his then-wife, Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller.

Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller.

A few years ago, Daniel Brown wrote about the couple for the arts journal AEQAI.

One morning, when he was 12, he saw Miller and Monroe at Weston Market. She wore blue jeans and sunglasses. A babushka covered her head. Brown wanted an autograph; his mother said no, she deserved privacy. He could, however, say “Good morning, Mrs. Miller.”

She replied, “Hello, little boy.” But she looked unspeakably sad.

Brown left the store with his mother.

“Mom,” he asked, “why did Marilyn Monroe look so sad? Doesn’t she have everything she wants? And who is that old guy she’s with?”

(For more recollections from Keefe, click here for the Westport Country Playhouse blog. For information on “Broken Glass,” click here. For Daniel Brown’s full recollection of Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, click here. For Mark Lamos’ thoughts on Miller, click the YouTube video below.)

(Hat tip: Ann Sheffer)

All The World’s Deborah Grace Winer’s Stage

Deborah Grace Winer grew up in both Westport and New York. But it was here — not the big city — that she fell in love with the magic of theater.

From a young age, she was enchanted by the Westport Country Playhouse. Everything about it — the shows, the cast, even the red benches — thrilled her.

She saw Betsy Palmer, June Havoc and Luci Arnaz. She particularly enjoyed watching her godmother — Myrna Loy — in “Barefoot in the Park.”

Deborah Grace Winer

Deborah Grace Winer

“It’s not just ‘summer theater,'” Deborah says. “It’s Grade A, right before New York. It’s big theater, for everyone.”

At 15, she apprenticed at Lucille Lortel’s White Barn Theater. She rode her bike to the magical spot off Newtown Turnpike every day.

“It was almost like a private social club,” Deborah remembers. “There were only 150 seats, for great stars who wanted to try out new work.”

The next year, at the Playhouse, she became Estelle Parsons’ dresser. Deborah has gone on to a life in theater — she’s a playwright whose work was developed at Lincoln Center, produced Off-Broadway and read at the Playhouse — but whenever she sees Parsons, now in her 80s, they laugh about that summer.

Now she’s headed back to the Playhouse. On June 3, the curtain rises on “Sing for Your Shakespeare.” It’s a world premiere — there’s that Playhouse magic again — musical revue, exploring through song, dance and verse how the popular American songbook has been inspired for decades by Shakespeare’s works.

Sing for your Shakespeare logoDeborah co-conceived the show, with Playhouse artistic director Mark Lamos. It originated at the 92nd Street Y, where she’s the artistic director of the Lyrics & Lyricists concert series.

Despite moving full-time to New York, Deborah has retained her ties to the Playhouse. She was inspired by the theater’s renovation, particularly little touches like keeping wood from the old stage in the new wings. “Those are the same boards Helen Hayes walked!” she says.

She’s tremendously excited to return. She praises Lamos’ “creativity, scholarship and stature,” while describing the unlikely pairing of show tunes and the Bard.

“If he were alive now, Shakespeare would have hung out at Lindy’s, eating cheesecake,” Deborah insists. “This sort of follows up on that kind of Shakespeare. There are lots of funny and fun songs, and some surprising discoveries. Plus, the cast is fantastic.”

Recalling so many wonderful memories from her past — cookouts and beach parties with Playhouse actors and crews; taking the last train to Westport from Grand Central, filled with Broadway stars heading home — Deborah says, “I am so thrilled to come back! My whole childhood and history are there. It’s like someone gave me the keys to the candy store.”

Or, as Shakespeare said — in an entirely different context — “sweets to my sweet.”

(Click for tickets and more information for “Sing for Your Shakespeare.”)

The "Sing for Your Shakespeare" team.

The “Sing for Your Shakespeare” team.

 

 

Is There A Violinist In The House?

Last month, smack in the middle of previews for “She Loves Me,” the violinist in the 5-member orchestra bowed out for personal reasons.

The Westport Country Playhouse needed to find another brilliant musician– and one who could quickly learn an intricate musical score.

Angela Marroy Boerger (Photo by Kathleen O'Rourke)

They looked as far as — downstairs.  Education and community programs coordinator Angela Marroy Boerger earned music degrees from Rice University and Yale, and studied violin with Kenneth Goldsmith, Ronald Neal and Doris Hansen.

Angela was not exactly secretive about her talents — she’s played at several Playhouse receptions.  But was she up to a major musical production, with a 3-week run through May 15?

And did we mention that she recently learned she is pregnant?

Artistic director Mark Lamos and musical director Wayne Baker ran Angela through an audition.  Realizing she is an exceptional musician, they offered her the job.

Angela received the score on a Thursday evening.  On Friday night, wearing her traditional “orchestra black” dress, she played the 1st of 8 weekly shows in the pit.

Meanwhile — because not only the show but the Playhouse itself must go on — she kept her day job, planning educational programs and working with the incoming intern class.

Patrons leave “She Loves Me” with smiles on their faces.  After all, it’s an upbeat show, and a winning production.

But the biggest smile may belong to the accidental violinist.  One critic wrote:

I begin this review with the music because it’s the small orchestra, under the seasoned baton of Wayne Barker that plays a significant role in this musical comedy – which really should be termed an Operetta, in my opinion.  Worthy of special mention is a lovely violin solo by Angela Marroy Boerger.

They love her.