Tag Archives: “Play With Your Food

Theater Lovers: Play With Your Food — And Stephen Schwartz

In the mile-a-minute, can’t-stop-for-a-second world that is Westport today, Play With Your Food stands out.

For nearly 20 years, a lunchtime program — the deliciously named Play With Your Food — has combined a gourmet lunch, professional readings of intriguing plays, and stimulating post-performance discussion.

It’s fun, low-key, under the radar.

But when the season kicks off this year, a very big Broadway name will share the bill.

Stephen Schwartz — the multi-Grammy, Oscar and Tony winning composer (“Wicked,” “Pippin,” “Godspell”) — will entertain at “A Moveable Feast of Theater 2.0.” The benefit supports the not-for-profit Play With Your Food.

Stephen Schwartz

In addition to Schwartz’s cabaret performance (for sponsor ticket holders only), 4 one-act plays will take place throughout a private Westport home. There’s also food from AMG Catering, and cocktails from Tito’s Vodka.

Schwartz does not do these things lightly. But he’s a longtime friend of Play With Your Food artistic director Carole Schweid. They met early in their carers, when she appeared in the national tour of “Pippin.”

Stacie Lewis

Later, Schweid realized that Westport-based actress Stacie Lewis — a Play With Your Food fan favorite — had starred as Glinda in the Chicago production of “Wicked.”

Lewis is part of the “Moveable Feast” cast too. She’ll be joined by 9 other Play With Your Food actors, who will perform those comic short plays in “site-specific surroundings” throughout the house.

The full Play With Your Food season opens January 7, and runs through April. Live lunchtime performances are planned for Toquet Hall, Fairfield Theatre Company, the Greenwich Arts Council and Rye Arts Center.

Lunches — catered by local restaurants — are followed by 1-act scripted plays performed by professional actors. Many are recognizable from TV, film or theater. The talkback includes the cast and director — sometimes even the playwright.

It’s a great series. Scoring Stephen Schwartz for the gala fundraiser is just icing on the cake.

(“A Moveable Feast 2.0” is set for Sunday, October 20. The location will be revealed to ticket holders only. The sponsor ticket cabaret with Stephen Schwartz begins at 3 p.m.; the main theater event starts at 4. For tickets and more information, click here or call 203-293-8729.)

Andre’s Mother (And Ann’s Brother)

Years ago, Jonathan Sheffer wrote the music for the movie “Andre’s Mother.”

It was an American Playhouse production — and Lindsay Law, Staples Class of 1967, served as executive producer.

Written by Terence McNally and starring Richard Thomas, “Andre’s Mother” was one of Sheffer’s 1st film scores. The 1971 Staples grad went on to become a nationally renowned composer and conductor.

When his sister — Westport philanthropist Ann Sheffer — learned that the film will be screened this Thursday (Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m.) as part of Play With Your Food’s “Short Cuts” series, she told artistic director Carole Schweid. Carole invited Jonathan to speak immediately after the screening, at Norwalk’s Garden Cinema.

But this is Westport, and connections run even deeper than that. Last month, at the Westport Country Playhouse gala, Ann sat with — who else? — honoree Terence McNally, and co-host Richard Thomas. They remember Jonathan well — from everyone’s younger days — and are as thrilled as Ann that “Andre’s Mother” lives on.

Ann Sheffer (left) at last month’s Westport Country Playhouse gala with (from left) Richard Thomas, Nathan Lane, Tyne Daly and Terence McNally.

10 Years Of Playing With Your Food

For 10 years now, Westporters have played with their food.

Nancy Diamond and Carole Schweid couldn’t be happier.

The women are co-founders of a decade-long lunchtime program — the deliciously named Play With Your Food — that combines a gourmet lunch, professional readings of intriguing plays, and a stimulating post-performance discussion.

After a quick but entertaining and challenging 90 minutes, it’s back to work for everyone.

As with most off-the-wall or why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ideas, “Play With Your Food” developed casually. Nancy and Carole were young mothers serving together on the PTA Cultural Arts Committee. They discovered a shared desire to do something theater-related that would bring people together during the winter.

And they both loved food.

Carole Schweid and Nancy Diamond, Play With Your Food founders.

They knew Westport is a community that supports the arts, has good restaurants — and a pool of professional actors who love challenges.

The challenge was finding one-act plays equal to their vision.

To find good material, Nancy and Carole read a lot. They travel to one-act festivals around the country. They prowl book fairs and libraries. Now — with Play With Your Food a firm fixture on the local arts scene — people send suggestions to them.

The plays range from comedies and romances to mysteries and musicals, from classics to unpublished works. Despite the wide variety, all share one element: The audience must leave in an uplifted mood.

The appeal of Play With Your Food, Nancy says, is broad: “lunch, a social connection with others, and intellectual or emotional stimulation.”

Plus, Carole adds, “You don’t have to travel. This is all home-grown.”

Carole chooses 3 plays — 10 to 20 minutes each — for every program. (The series runs from January through April.) They may be short, she says, but “not light or fluffy.”

A typical scene from a Play With Your Food event.

In the beginning, most plays were “middle of the road,” Carole says. Now, “some are a little more challenging to the audience.” And the post-play discussions have become a bit deeper and more insightful.

Over 10 years, there must have been some flops. Right?

The women laugh. “Truly, no,” Nancy says. “Some plays are not as strong as others, but no one has ever walked out saying they wished they’d gone to the diner.”

Ah, dining. The restaurants that cater — a different one each month — are as varied as the plays themselves: Bobby Q’s. Blue Lemon. Da Pietro. Matsu Sushi.

Play With Your Food food.

“We like surprising audiences with little jewels of plays,” Nancy says. “And there are culinary surprises too. The food is very good — this is not tuna fish and potato chips.”

Next month, Play With Your Food celebrates its 10-year anniversary with a gala celebration. “Two for the Road” is set for Saturday, January 28 at Dragone Classic Motorcar Company. There will be catering from more than 20 great restaurants, followed by a “rousing show” created by Carole.

Professional actors will perform scenes from “My Fair Lady,” “42nd Street,” “Mack & Mabel” and Play With Your Food comedy favorites.

The event will celebrate a decade of success — and provide financial support for the series to continue.

“We can’t believe it’s been 10 years!” Nancy marvels. “Carole and I had young kids when we started. Now they’re all out of the house.”

So, back then, who came up with the spectacularly clever name “Play With Your Food”?

Nancy and Carole can’t quite remember.

But they do know this: “When something’s right, it’s right. We want to help people smile with our food and plays. And the name does, too.”

(For ticket information on the January 28 celebration, click here or call 203-293-8831. Play With Your Food’s 10th season begins at noon on January 10, 11 and 12 at Toquet Hall.