Tag Archives: Sam Laskin

For Staples Grads, Choosing A College Was Easy. Now The Tough Choices Begin.

When first-year students head to Dartmouth College in September, they’ll make history.

Everyone will have their own room, or live in a 2-bedroom double. After being tested for COVID-19, those who are negative will quarantine in their rooms for 14 days. All meals will be delivered.

Anyone violating the strict coronavirus protocols — including being in another student’s room — must leave campus within 24 hours. That won’t be difficult: Students have been told to bring “only those items they can take with them if required to leave on short notice.”

None of that bothers Sam Laskin. The recent Staples High School graduate is excited to attend the school that accepted him early decision last December.

Sam Laskin

Sam — who served as Staples Players president — was attracted to Dartmouth by its focus on undergraduate education, strong government program and great extracurriculars.

Classes — most of them conducted remotely — will be far different this fall. Many clubs will not meet in person. Even Dartmouth’s vaunted first-year orientation program — featuring camping and hiking trips — has been canceled.

After the pandemic slammed into Staples — knocking out, along with everything else, Players’ spring production of “Seussical” just hours before opening night — Sam kept busy.

He worked with Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long on a virtual show. He MC-ed the Class of 2020’s graduation video.

And he waited to hear Dartmouth’s plan. When it was announced that his class (and juniors) had “priority” for this fall — though members of those classes could opt to study entirely remotely, or take a gap year — he decided to head to Hanover.

“I had a great 4 years at Staples. But I’m ready to move on,” Sam explains. “I want to be in an environment where everyone is learning.

“I want to meet people in real life, not on social media. A huge reason I chose Dartmouth is the community. Some traditions will be gone this year, but the school is committed to bringing us into the Dartmouth community. I want to be there for it.”

Most of Sam’s friends will attend their schools this fall. He cannot think of any who will take a gap year because of the virus.

This is a “harrowing time,” Sam admits. Yet he has faith that his classmates — those from Staples, and soon at Dartmouth — will emerge from it with strength of character, and a desire to do good things in the world.

“Life goes on,” he says. “We adapt and adjust.”

Like Sam, recent Staples graduate Patricio Perez Elorza has been accepted by an Ivy League school.

But he will not be there this fall.

Patricio Perez Elorza

COVID struck while Patricio was still weighing his school choices. He chose Yale University because of its excellent academic reputation, including pre-law program; its proximity to New York City, where he hopes to work; the “vibrant” city of New Haven, and the school spirit.

He was also impressed by “Bulldog Days”: a series of Zoom videos and conferences throughout April.

But when he was given the option of enrolling for the fall semester or deferring admission, Patricio chose the latter.

“A lot of the college experience is meeting new people, going to class and interacting with professors,” he says.

“With almost every class online, you miss all that. I like learning in person.”

He also would miss participating in a business club and club soccer, neither of which would occur this fall.

And — because only sophomores, juniors and seniors will be on campus next spring — he decided to wait until next fall.

He’s already got a gap year job: launching and managing an app to help the O Living construction firm with its projects. He’ll take a course to learn Excel, and stay involved with both the Staples soccer program and his St. Luke Church youth group.

In the spring, when restrictions may ease, he hopes to travel.

Of Patricio’s friends, one will attend Yale this fall. Some are going to college; others will stay home, studying online. A few are taking gap years.

Their moods vary, he says. “The ones who are going to school are optimistic. They hope for the best. The others are doing gap years because they think college won’t be what they expected.”

The high school Class of 2020 has been through a lot. As they begin their next journey, the college Class of 2024 faces much more uncharted territory.

Westport Is Back! Concert Proves It

A few weeks ago, Westporters expected a bleak, COVID-induced, entertainment-free summer.

It’s been anything but.

The Remarkable Theater’s drive-in movies are a spectacular success. The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s Supper & Soul series sell out.

Last night, a pair of energetic, talented recent Staples High School graduates produced their own special show.

The “Westport is Back! Drive-in Musical Cabaret” drew a capacity (and properly masked, socially distanced) crowd to the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

A social bubble enjoys the show.

It was a team effort. Sam Laskin and Sammy Guthartz — plus fellow Staples Player alum, stage manager Karalyn Hood — got plenty of help from Remarkable Theater gurus Doug Tirola and Marina Derman.

Recent graduate Sammy Guthartz and Max Herman ’19 harmonize.

The filled house — er, parking lot — enjoyed an evening of entertainment. Thirteen performers who were at Staples in 2020 joined forces with 6 graduates from recent years.

Rising sophomore Madelyn Spera,

Their repertoire was wide-ranging. Their talent and enthusiasm was sky-high.

Rising junior Evelyn Stevens, with Staples Players musical director Don Rickenback.

And a portion of the proceeds went to 4-CT, to aid state residents impacted by COVID-19.

AJ Konstanty (playing keyboard) dedicated the song “Brother” to his brother Colin (left, watching with his mother, right, and frined Paul Hwang).

It was a great chance for Staples performers — who missed the spring play and concerts — to be back on stage. And to share it with some powerhouse alumni.

Jack Baylis, Staples High School ’15. (All photos/Andy Laskin)

It was a great night for Westport, too.

COVID be damned. The show must go on!

Westport Is Back! Musical Cabaret Set For Friday

In their 4 years at Staples High School, Sam Laskin and Sammy Guthartz made their marks on Players’ remarkable theater troupe.

In less than a month of drive-in movies at the Imperial Avenue parking lot, the Remarkable Theater has made its mark on Westport.

Now the young, go-getting recent grads and the driving forces behind the theater are joining forces. The result will be a remarkable concert — benefiting a remarkable organization. A portion of the proceeds from the “Westport is Back!” drive-in musical cabaret” go to 4-CT, which aids state residents impacted by COVID-19.

Laskin and Guthartz have assembled a cast of superb young performers for this Friday’s event (July 17, 6:30 p.m.). Doug Tirola and Marina Derman of the Theater have ensured it will be a memorable one.

Georgia Wright will perform … (Photo/Dawn Shmaruk)

Thirteen performers were at Staples this past year. Six others graduated between 2015 and ’19.

Their selections span many genres, from “Grease” and “Falsettos”  to “Wicked” — plus Amy Winehouse, Dolly Parton, Elton John and Adele.

The opening act — local band Could Be Jesus — includes Staples and King School students.

Laskin is familiar with the importance of entertainment like this — and the difficulties of producing it. He was president of Players, an actor in many shows, and served 2 years as student chair of the Westport Youth Commission. A high honors graduate, he’ll study government, theater and film/media at Dartmouth.

Guthartz is another talented actor. He’s worked behind the scenes as Players’ manager of fundraising and outreach. He’s headed to the University of Michigan’s BFA program.

… as will Tomaso Scotti (Photo/Dawn Shmaruk)

Both praise the Remarkable Theater’s Tirola and Derman for helping them produce Friday’s show. Former Players stage manager Karalyn Hood co-produces the event.

The “Westport is Back!” drive-in musical cabaret is not officially affiliated with Staples Players. “Sammy, Karalyn and I just see this as an awesome way for Staples students and alumni to produce musical entertainment and raise money for a great cause,” Laskin says.

(Tickets are $65 per car. “Doors” open at 5:30 p.m. Click here for reservations.

(Performers include Georgia Wright, Claire Baylis, Sammy Guthartz, Tobey Patton, Kelley Schutte, Annabel Kavetas, AJ Konstanty, Derrick Adelkopf, Krish Shah-Nathwani, Avery Mendillo, Christian Melhuish, Tomaso Scotti, Owen Keaveney, Maizy Boosin, Camille Foisie, Jack Baylis, Madelyn Spera, Max Herman and Riley Wells.)

 

Class Of 2020 REALLY Graduates! Here’s Video Proof.

Last Friday’s drive-through graduation was a red-blue-letter day in Staples history.

The high school’s Class of 2020 was honored with decorated cars, signs, balloons, music, and an almost 1-on-1 ceremonial turning of the tassel. It was joyful, personal, meaningful and fun.

Of course, a few elements of a traditional graduation were missing: “Pomp and Circumstance,” speeches, and the chance for everyone to see all the graduates at once.

No problem!

Yesterday — the day of the originally scheduled commencement — a complete video was released. It’s as close to a familiar graduation — say, 2019 — as possible. And it will live forever.

Former media instructor Jim Honeycutt once again worked his magic. He took each element, reimagined it, taped it, and made it — just like the Class of 2020 — both timeless and timely.

John Videler’s drone video sets the scene.

Drone footage from John Videler sets the “Pomp and Circumstance” scene. Staples Players president Sam Laskin serves as emcee. Principal Stafford Thomas delivers a special welcome.

Luke Rosenberg proves he’s not only a masterful choral director, but also a technological wizard. He weaves together remote performances from 40 singers, into a stunningly beautiful “Star-Spangled Banner.”

You wouldn’t know these 40 voices were all recorded separately.

Valedictorian Ben Spector and salutatorian Benji Schussheim speak about their — and their class’s — journey.

Valedictorian Ben Spector and salutatorian Benji Schussheim.

Then comes a slide show. All 437 graduates get 10 seconds each — with congratulatory messages from their families. Orchestra and band musical highlights from throughout the year play in the background, underscoring the many talented students in the school.

No graduation is complete without official certification (from Board of Education chair and “proud parent of a graduating senior Candice Savin), and tassel-turning (by Carly Dwyer and Ben Howard).

After closing remarks from principal Thomas, the video ends with the recessional, over Ryan Felner’s drone footage from last Friday’s parade.

Principal Stafford Thomas.

A list of senior awards is shown. The final shot is 2020 class photo.

“Class” is right. This year’s seniors have shown uncommon maturity, grace and poise, in the face of unexpected adversity. The graduation video is a fitting reminder of a great group.

But don’t take my word for it. Click here, and see for yourself!

Emcee Sam Laskin.