Tag Archives: Staples Players

Staples Players Dance For Dollars

After 18 months of COVID, “Grease” is the perfect musical for Staples Players to stage.

And — after 18 months of COVID played havoc with their finances — a “Grease”-inspired dance-a-thon is the perfect way to raise funds.

When the pandemic knocked out the spring 2020 production of “Seussical” 24 hours before opening night — and then canceled 2 more fall and spring shows — the usually self-sufficient high school-but-really-much-more troupe was troubled.

Ticket sales from shows like “Mamma Mia!” and “West Side Story” traditionally fund expenses for all shows, all year. Costs include performance rights, costumes, sets, sound, lights, extra staff, and whatever else it takes to put on a play.

Shows like “Mamma Mia!” are spectacular. And expensive. (Photo/Kerry Long)

As COVID eased last spring, a production of “Words, Words, Words … And Music” gave Players a sense of normalcy. But with ticket sales limited to 1/3 of the house, it actually lost money.

This year, directors David Roth and Kerry Long went big. “Grease” is a great show, with broad appeal. Bu performance rights are expensive — and they’re based on a full house, even if ticket sales must be limited. (The number of seats will be determined closer to opening night.)

So the popular dance musical has spawned a dance-a-thon. This Friday, October 1 (8 p.m. to midnight), cast members and tech crew will dance in the Staples courtyard — 4 hours straight. Music will span many eras, from the ’50s on.

The public can pledge donations, by the hour or for the full night. Click here for details.

Taber And Brittany Stage A Players’ Proposal

When Taber Onthank was a Staples High School sophomore, and Brittany Uomoleale was a freshman, they dated briefly.

Both were talented Players actors. They shared the stage in “Children of Eden,” “Urinetown,” “The Wiz,” “The Laramie Project” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

Brittany Uomoleale and Taber Onthank, as Staples Players actors … (Photo/Kerry Long)

As they got older, their feelings for each other grew. Things got serious following — appropriately — “Romeo and Juliet.”

… and high school sweethearts.

But after graduation in 2008 Taber headed to the University of Miami, to study music. Brittany majored in theater at Michigan. They visited each other at school, and got together on breaks in Westport. Still, Taber says, “we lived our own college lives.”

Taber stayed in Miami to play music. Brittany headed to Los Angeles, to act. Though farther apart than ever, Brittany says, they grew closer.

Taber moved west. He now writes songs for other artists and ad agencies, and has a recording studio in Santa Monica.

Brittany (known professionally as Britt Baron) was on several seasons of “Glow”; a new Netflix horror film is due out this summer. She’s done voiceovers for video games, and much more.

Brittany and Taber live together. They have a dog together. They spent a lot of time together during COVID. They talked a bit about marriage — nothing definite though.

But a while ago, Taber bought a ring.

Taber Onthank and Brittany Uomoleale, today.

They get back east a couple of times a year, to visit family and friends. Before their most recent trip, Taber told Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long his idea: He’d like to propose to Brittany at Staples. On stage — “where it all began.”

The directors were thrilled.

Roth enlisted recently graduated seniors. Some will attend Michigan; many will study theater. The plan was for Brittany to talk to them about acting as a career. Then they’d go on stage, for a “group photo.”

Brittany — who, Taber says, is “very hard to surprise” — thought something was up. But when she walked into the Black Box Theater and saw a group of students, she launched into her talk.

The new alums — who were all in on the ruse — “nodded along as I gave advice,” Brittany says. Hey, they are really good actors.

Soon, she walked on stage. Taber was there — lit dramatically, thanks to recent grad Brandon Malin.

Taber — uncharacteristically nervous — proposed to Brittany. Players watched from the wings. One girl cried.

The proposal …

Neither Brittany nor Taber remember much. Both call it a “surreal, out-of-body experience.”

… and the aftermath. (Proposal photos/Kerry Long)

But it was also very, very special.

“I hadn’t been in that auditorium in years,” Brittany says. “Our lives in L.A. are very different from our lives then. That seems so long ago — but on stage, it seemed like nothing had changed. That’s where we did so much together, where we made so many good friends, and where Taber wrote and performed a song for me.”

The stage was also where — more than a decade ago — Long took what Brittany calls a “stunning” photo of the couple — as actors. They had not yet started dating.

During and after the proposal, Long again took photos. “We came full circle,” Brittany says.

She and Taber give great props to Roth and Long — and to the Players who helped make the proposal work.

“They were so sweet and cute,” Taber says. “They’d already graduated. They were done. But they came back on a summer day, to help with this.”

Staples Players, back in the day. Brittany Uomoleale and Taber Onthank are in front, 3rd and 4th from left. (Photo/Kerry Long)

The couple has not set a date for their wedding. They don’t even know which coast it will be on.

But that — like the rest of their lives together — is in the future. Right now, Brittany says, “I feel so lucky. Players gave me my career, my best friends, and now my fiance.”

Not to mention, a very cool proposal story. One they can re-en”act” for years.

Pride And Joy In Westport

Over the years, Jesup Green has hosted anti-war and pro-war demonstrations. It’s seen rallies against nuclear arms, antisemitism and AAPI violence, and in support of Black Lives Matter.

Yesterday, Westport’s first LGBTQ Pride celebration took over the historic town lawn. For several years in the early 2000s, smaller events were held at the Unitarian Church.

This one drew 500 people. Spanning all ages, many faiths, and ranging from gay, lesbian, bi, trans and questioning to plenty of straight allies, they enjoyed the most beautiful day of the year so far. (Weather-wise, and in spirit.)

Kicking off a joyful day. (Photo/Kerry Long)

The crowd saw a rainbow flag fly over the green. They heard great music and inspiring speeches from out, proud teenagers. Politicians and clergy praised the progress made, and promised to keep working for social justice and civil rights. Kids had their faces painted.

Westport Pride organizer Brian McGunagle and his 2-year-old son Henry listen as 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — wearing a rainbow tie — reads a town proclamation. (Photo/Kerry Long)

It was a powerful, memorable community event. For some in the crowd, it could have been life-changing.

Another celebrant. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

It made all who were there immensely proud of their town. (Click here for the News12 report.)

Proud clergy (from left): Rev. Heather Sinclair, United Methodist; Rev. Alison Patton, Saugatuck Congregational; Rev. Dr. John Morehouse, Unitarian; Rev. John Betit, Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal;  Rev. Marcella Gillis, Christ & Holy Trinity. Jewish clergy who were officiating at Saturday services sent their best wishes. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Showing the flag (Photo/Kerry Long)

State Senators Tony Hwang and Will Haskell. Haskell drew laughs when he said that his 3 gay brothers were disappointed the day he brought home a girl. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Staples Players were out in force — with their own prideful t-shirts. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Suzanne Sheridan helped organize Westport’s first Pride festival in 2002. She was part of the great entertainers, along with Stacie Lewis, Julie Loyd and many young singers. (Photo/Kerry Long)

(Photo/Kerry Long)

Former Staples High School principal John Dodig is flanked by his husband Rodger Leonard (left) and Staples Gay-Sexuality Alliance co-advisor Chris Fray. Kayla Iannetta, a biology teacher, is the other advisor, and helped organize the event. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Cornell University football player AJ Konstanty and his brother Colin, a Staples junior, posed, then performed “Your Song” on keyboards and vocals. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Marjorie Almansi, who helped organized the day, stands with her next-door neighbors. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Staples singers entertain the large crowd. (Photo/Kerry Long)

US Congressman Jim Himes discusses past struggles, current successes, and future goals. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Pride was a family event. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

Weston High School junior Zac Mathias: fashion model — and role model. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Everyone — and everything — gets into the act. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Wave that flag! (Photo/Dan Woog)

 

Roundup: Bear, Beach Sticker, Back …

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The past few days have brought numerous reports of a bear wandering in northern Westport. It is behaving normally — and non-aggressively.

The Westport Police Department says:

“Black bears are becoming increasingly common in Connecticut. To safely co-exist, residents are reminded to take precautions to prevent negative encounters.

“Bears have an incredible sense of smell. To prevent luring them towards your property, secure your garbage in sturdy covered containers in a garage or outbuilding. Residents who compost should do so responsibly. Do not throw meat scraps or greasy, oily, or sweet materials in your compost pile. These will attract bears and other animals.

“Clean barbecues and grills after each use, refrain from leaving pet food outdoors, and remove bird feeders from your property for the summer. Keep your eye on pets and small children playing outside.

“While it can be frightening to see a bear on or around your property, it is important to know that they are very timid animals. They try to avoid human contact.

“If sighted, use caution, and do not approach the bear. The mere presence of a bear does not necessitate its removal. If left alone and given an avenue for escape, the bear will usually wander back into more secluded areas. Sightings can be reported to Westport Animal Control at 203-341-5076, or reported to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (click here).”

The bear on Old Hill. (Photo/Stella Wong)

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After a year’s hiatus, beach sticker sales to non-residents is back.

Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department began sales yesterday. The cost is $775 (plus tax). Click here, then follow the “Membership” links.

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Back too are Staples Players. Their laugh-out-loud funny, wide-ranging, clever and very welcome spring production — “Words Words Words … and Music” drew raves when the high school troupe returned to stage last month.

Now it’s available — this weekend only — as a video stream. Starting at noon on Saturday (June 5) through midnight Monday (June 7), you can watch the show as many times as you like. It’s a great offer for out-of-towners, and anyone who missed the show (or wants to see it again). Click here for tickets.

Sophie Rossman, Benny Zack and Samanath Webster in “Words Words Words.” They are monkey, writing “Hamlet.” Or trying to … (Photo/Kerry Long)

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How “back” is Westport?

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce announces the return of 2 favorite events. Both were knocked out last year by COVID.

Slice of Saugatuck returns Saturday, September 11. It’s an afternoon of food, entertainment, food, games, food, fun and food. It takes place in the pizza-shaped “slice” of Saugatuck that is home to so many restaurants, and is so easily walkable.

The Dog Festival returns Sunday, October 10. Winslow Park — always a haven for canines and their masters — really goes to the dogs. It’s filled with vendors, K-9 demonstrations, obstacle courses, contests and much more.

To learn more about both events, click here.

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Also back after a year away: The Y’s Men’s Tuesday evening gathering at Compo Beach. Non-men are, as usual, always welcome.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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And back too is the Longshore pool. Michael Catarevas reports: “After rainouts Saturday and Sunday, and no one showing up on Memorial Day, I was delighted to be first in the water this season — especially after it was closed all last year. I had three pools to myself Tuesday afternoon, though I only used the big one. The water was very cold, but great!”

Michael Catarevas: first in the Longshore pool. (Photo/Patrick Haggerty)

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Yet another post-pandemic sign: Starting Monday (June 7), the Board of Education will return to in-person meetings. Everyone must wear a mask, and maintain 3 feet of social distancing. Meetings will still be livestreamed on the town website and Cablevision Channel 78.

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Today (Wednesday, June 2) is the 1st-ever Lou Gehrig Day across Major League Baseball.

Chuck Haberstroh co-chairs the group that lobbied for the day. It will be featuresd on all media platforms.

A large group of Westporters will be at Yankee Stadium, honoring Chuck’s mom Patty Haberstroh, an inspiration to her family and the entire town.

Click here for an interview with Chuck and Sweeny Murti, WFAN’s longtime Yankees beat reporter. Chuck starts around the 15-minute mark.

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Speaking of baseball: 50 years to the day after Staples High School beat Norwalk 4-2 in a state tournament game, Class of ’71 teammates Nils Nilsen and Steve McCoy returned to the Wrecker diamond.

They were in the stands to watch the ’21 team open its own state tournament. Unfortunately Staples fell, 9-4 to New Canaan.

Half a century ago, Nilsen halted a Bear rally with 1-hit relief pitching. McCoy had 2 hits, including a game-winning double.

Nilsen went on to pitch at Harvard University. McCoy became a soccer captain, and the 3rd-leading career goal scorer at Duke.

Nils Nilsen and Steve McCoy, at the Staples baseball field. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

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MoCA Westport’s “Yappy Hour” — yes, for dogs — has been postponed. It was set for tomorrow (June 3); the new date is Thursday, June 10.

The event includes custom drinks (for owners), and a chance for pets to meet others, sit for a free portrait, and romp outdoors. It’s free — but all dogs must be leashed. (MoCA encourages donations of unopened food or treats to support local rescue organizations. For more information, click here.

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A crew of volunteers — including Danielle Dobin, Michael Cammeyer, Emma Rojas, Sarah Manning, Luc Lafonta and Shawn Kapitan turned out yesterday to change the lights on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen bridge.

Danielle Dobin and Michael Cammeyer, on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

They now shine in the colors of the rainbow, to celebrate Pride Month. Enjoy them throughout June!

(Photo/Brian McGunigle)

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One of the 3 American oystercatcher chicks at Compo Beach has died, Carolyn Doan reports.

She adds: “My son James is a huge fan of the piping plovers, so we visit the area regularly. The Audubon Society has talked with the town because of drones being flown overhead. Oystercatchers attack them frantically to distract them from the nest, thinking they are predators.”

So, Westporters: Give all these birds space. They were there long before us!

American oystercatcher and chick (Carolyn Doan)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” takes us to the Lansdowne garden of Lauri Weiser. What a spring we’ve had!

(Photo/Laurii Weiser)

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Before we close the book on the 2021 Memorial Day parade, here’s one final shot. It’s a unique drone perspective from Joel Triesman, as marchers turn onto the Post Road and cross the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge:

(Drone photo/Joel Triesman)

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And finally … the lyrics and art are cringe-worthy. But in honor of the bear that is doing who knows what in our woods:

Roundup: Staples Players, Waxx Vaxx, Stop Sign …

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Excitement is building in the Staples High School auditorium. The curtain rises this Thursday (and Friday, and twice on Saturday) for the first Staples Players live production in 14 months.

David Ives’ “Words Words Words … and Music” is a truly funny series of mini-plays (with 2 mini-musicals to boot). But even though each audience is limited to only 300 seats, tickets remain.

It it because the show is unfamiliar? Perhaps there’s residual pandemic fear (click here to see the precautions taken). Maybe audiences have forgotten just how professional-quality Players’ acting and music are.

Whatever the reason: The program needs community support. For 63 years, that support has sustained Players, and allowed it to thrive,

Westport cherishes the high school acting troupe. But Westporters may not realize how important it is for all 300 tickets to sell out for each show (Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m., and May 22 at 2 p.m.).

“Words Words Words … and Music” is laugh-out-loud funny — and very family-friendly. Young audiences, in fact, are the future of Players. They’ve missed a year of shows, so this is the perfect time to bring them back.

Click here for tickets and more information. See you at the show!

Sophie Rossman, Benny Zack and Samanath Webster in “Words Words Words.” Fully vaccinated actors will perform in clear visors. (Photo/Kerry Long)

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The CDC’s head-turning elimination of mask-wearing for vaccinated people raises a good question: “How do I know if someone is vaccinated?”

Staples High School Class of 2009 graduate Mike Bowen has a way.

Bowen — aka Mike Waxx — owns Illroots brand. It branched out from music and videos to apparel and footwear. For a while, it’s offered a custom apparel “Shirt App” in the App Store.

Users can create their own t-shirt or hoodies. They choose the design (including pictures from their iPhone library), then add text and stickers.

So what’s the Waxx/vaxx connection? You can design a shirt like this:

Or — better yet — add a photo of yourself getting your shot.

Then wear it proudly the next time you stroll — mask-less — into Trader Joe’s.

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A 185-foot sailboat drew attention yesterday, as it anchored dramatically in Long Island Sound just beyond the Compo Beach cannons. Several “06880” readers sent photos of the luxurious craft.

Westporters are reminded of the yacht that anchored near there several years ago. Rumors — never confirmed — were that it belonged to Eric Clapton, and he was visiting Keith Richards in Weston.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

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Yesterday’s Roundup included a photo of a handmade poster hung beneath the stop sign on Clinton Road, at Fillow Street.

It said: “Stop! Kids live here!”

Here’s the back story, courtesy of Erika Brunwasser:

“Few stop, many ‘pause,’ and a bunch fly through without even pausing.

“I have 2 little girls, ages 2 and 5. It’s scary and unacceptable. I called the police several times and asked about a flashing light, a speed bump and a sign to monitor speed. I’ve been told none of these are possible.

“They promised me that someone would monitor the area. This happened less a handful of times. The other day I sat in my front yard screaming at people, and realized I needed a better plan.

“I brought in the help of my next-door neighbor, artist Lilie Fortino (who was raised in Westport) to make a sign. We put it up Saturday evening. It made an immediate difference. Everyone has stopped (if only to glance at the beautiful sign — that’s fine with me). It worked.”

It shouldn’t take a sign and a stop sign to get drivers to stop roaring through residential neighborhoods (or anywhere else).

But if that’s what it takes — we’ll take it.

Lilie Fortino and her 1-year-old. Erika Brunwasser and her children. SLOW DOWN!

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Speaking of yesterday’s Roundup: It also included mention that Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson would read The Sly Fox of the Mind — a children’s book by Westporters Brooke Olstein and Lee Scharfstein — on her YouTube channel, “Story Time with Fergie and Friends.”

Click below to watch. It’s a wonderful book — made even greater when read in the Queen’s English.

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Speaking of books: Financial journalist and author Michael Lewis will be interviewed by noted former New York Times writer Lisa Belkin.

Lewis’s newest book, The Premonition: A Pandemic Story follows 3 main characters – a biochemist, public health worker and federal employee – as they confront COVID, and find that the response from the US government is woefully inadequate.

The event is June 15 (7 p.m.). Click here to register.

Michael Lewis

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Speaking of entertainment: This is a week of animated adventures and classic comedies at the Remarkable Theater.

The Imperial Avenue drive-in features:

  • “Zootopia” (Wednesday, May 19, 7:45 p.m.)
  • “Minions” (Friday, May 21, 8 p.m.)
  • “Happy Gilmore” (Saturday, May 22, 8:30 p.m.)

Click here for tickets, and more information.

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The Westport Woman’s Club’s 6th annual Art Show this Saturday and Sunday (May 22-23, 2 to 6 p.m.) features an all-star list of 14 area artists. They include Nina Bentley, Amy Bock, Trace Burroughs, Susan Fehlinger, Judith Orseck Katz, Tom Kretsch, Susan Leggitt, Kerry Long, Michael Ledner, Carole McClintock, Bernard Perry, Jon Puzzuoli, Katherine Ross and Jo Titsworth.

Plus light snacks and wine, of course. It would not be an art show without them.

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Everyone at Staples High School knows Laura Blair. She runs the copy machine room, and is a tireless fan of Wreckers sports teams.

She’s also one of STAR’s greatest fundraiser. For years she has participated in the non-profit’s annual Sherwood Island walk. Funds help serve hundreds of area people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This year’s STAR Walk is virtual. But Laura is working as hard as ever. So far her team has raised over $6,000 — more than half of her $12,000 goal.

“Stars” are just $1 each. Click here to help. To learn more about STAR Lighting the Way, click here.

Laura Blair is a fundraising STAR.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is from behind the pro shop, on the Longshore golf course:

(Photo/Tom Lowrie)

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And finally … was Eric Clapton really on that yacht off Compo years ago?

 

Staples Players Return! Curtain Rises Thursday.

The big New York news: Broadway is opening up soon.

The bigger Westport news: Staples Players are opening up sooner.

The nationally renowned theater troupe takes to the stage next week — Thursday through Saturday, May 20, 21 and 22 — for a series of hilarious mini-plays by David Ives.

It’s their first time in front of a Staples audience since “Mamma Mia!” in the fall of 2019. COVID canceled “Seussical” a day before its spring opening last year. Gone too were a summer show, fall mainstage, various Black Box productions, and 2 years’ 1-Act Festivals.

The actors and tech crew kept sharp with 7 creative, well-received radio shows. But they were itching to perform a live audience.

And those live audiences can’t wait to have them back.

The production is called “Words Words Words … and Music.” Director David Roth describes Ives’ 7 short plays — and 2 other mini-musicals, plus additional musical numbers (with live musicians) — as “a little bit wacky. It’s like watching ‘Saturday Night Live,’ if every sketch worked.”

From left: Camille Foisie, Colin Konstanty, Samantha Webster and David Corro in “The Almost In-Laws.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

How wacky?

Remember the idea that 3 monkeys typing into infinity will eventually produce “Hamlet”? Ives imagines the monkeys talking at their typewriters.

One play follows 2 people in a conversational minefield. An offstage bell interrupts every false start, gaffe and faux pas — but the actors can’t hear it.

In one of the musicals, a man introduces his fiancée to his parents, who are … elves.

You get the idea.

Chloe Manna and Ben Herrera talk things out. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Roth and co-director Kerry Long had seen the plays before. They’d wanted to produce them for a while. This is the perfect opportunity.

Every senior — the veteran actors who missed out on so much — has a moment to shine. Familiar faces include Jamie Mann (fresh off his Netflix “Country Comfort” appearance), Camille Foisie and Samantha Webster (stars of “Mamma Mia!”), Sophie Rossman and David Corro.

They stayed active — and stretched their creativity — with Players’ radio plays. But they (and their directors) are thrilled to be back on stage.

“The kids are ecstatic. Every step — auditions, read-throughs, tech week — has been like old times,” Roth says. “They got back into the routine very quickly.”

Sophie Rossman, Benny Zack and Samantha Webster take their star turns. (Photo/Kerry Long)

All COVID protocols are being followed. Actors wear special masks, with clear plastic that allows their mouths to be seen.

Rehearsals take place in small groups. Three-quarters of the cast is fully vaccinated.

Only 300 tickets — less than 1/3 of the auditorium’s capacity of 960 — are being sold for each performance. There will be empty rows between each one with people; empty seats separate each pod of ticket-buyers. Every armrest is wiped down between shows.

A number of Players will pursue theater in college. They’ve already learned their most important lesson: The show must go on.

(“Words Words Words … and Music”) will be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m., and May 22 at 2 p.m. Click here for tickets and more information.)

 

Roundup: Staples Players, Mattress Recycling, Pet Photos …

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The Staples High School auditorium has been dark for 14 months.

But later this month, Staples Players will be back on stage.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow (Saturday, May 8) for a unique show. “Words Words Words … And Music” is a feel-good, very funny journey through 5 short plays by award-winning (and witty) playwright David Ives, plus 2 mini-musicals and a smattering of songs and monologues.

The curtain goes up May 20 and 21 (7:30 p.m.), and 22 (2 p.m., 7:30 p.m.). Socially distant seating is available tomorrow (click here). NOTE: Cultural starvation and fewer seats may create a toilet paper-in-2020 situation.

A virtual livestream is set for June 6 (6 p.m.).

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Who wouldn’t like free compost?

Just bring a container (no larger than a kitchen trash can) to the mattress and box spring recycling event at Earthplace tomorrow (Saturday, May 8, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.). Boy Scouts will fill it!

Sustainable Westport is thanking Westport for making the food scrap recycling program such a success. Started less than a year ago, residents now divert 10 tons of food scraps a month. (That’s in addition to me compost piles.)

That’s great. But the goal is to double participation in the Zero Food Waste Challenge in the next 6 months. For options, and guidance, click here. For more information on tomorrow’s event, email ZeroWaste@SustainableWestport.org or call 203-293-6320.

Free compost at Earthplace!

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Speaking of Earthplace: This year, their annual fundraiser has been turned into a special “Cocktails & Clams To Go” have-your-own-picnic event.

100 boxes of Copps Island oysters or clams (your choice) are on sale (along with a shucking knife, cocktail sauce and mixer, Harbor Watch car magnet, and raffle entry.

Each basket purchased allows Harbor Watch to continue its fight against pollution in local waterways. Click here for more information, and to purchase your shellfish.

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Ever since she opened Le Rouge Aartisan Chocolates, Aarti Khosla has helped people and organizations in need in Westport, Bridgeport and throughout Fairfield County.

Now she’s helping people in her native land.

As COVID causes havoc in India, Aarti is helping raise funds to mobilize oxygen concentrators and other equipment. “No amount is too small to make a difference,” Aarti says. She is working with Vibha, a non-profit whose tagline is “Save lives. Save India.” Click here for details, and to contribute.

She is also donating 20% of all sales from Mother’s Day and Teacher Appreciation Week to Vibha. So this is the perfect time for some fantastic chocolate — and to help an important cause.

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Tickets for individual Westport Country Playhouse virtual performances are now on sale.

This season’s online offerings include a comedy (“Tiny House,” June 29-July 18), a Script in Hand (“The Savannah Disputation,” June 14-20), a classic (“Man of La Mancha 2018,” August 23-September 5), and a gripping drama (“Doubt: A Parable,” November 2-21).

Virtual tickets start at just $20. Click here for more information, and to order. Questions? Call 203-227-4177, or email boxoffice@westportplayhouse.org.

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Staples junior Katie Davitt has found a way to combine her passions for art and advocacy. She draws pet portraits for families — and donates 100% of the proceeds to causes she cares deeply about, like racial justice (Equal Justice Initiative), animal welfare (Connecticut Humane Society) and combating climate change (Environmental Defense Fund).

So far, she has raised and given away over $1,500.

Katie says, “the pandemic has given me an opportunity to look inward and realize what is truly important to me: family, friends, pursuing my passions. At the same time it’s opened my eyes to injustices in the world. I feel like I am doing my small part in making a difference.”

Katie is busy with schoolwork. But anyone interested in pet portraits this summer should send a photo of the pet, its name and your background color preference to kateedavitt@gmail.com. She charges $65 for a printed portrait in a 9”x11” black frame with a white matte, $45 for a digital file.

One of Katie Davitt’s pet photos.

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Westport Transit director Peter Gold writes:

“Ten days ago, I urged the community to ask the RTM to support public transit in Westport by restoring funds cut from the Westport Transit District’s budget for the Wheels2U Westport shuttles.

“The response was overwhelming. Over 100 letters were sent to the RTM from individuals and organizations in favor of restoring the funding. The RTM heard your voice, and voted 32-to-1 to restore the budget and keep Westport’s Wheels2U shuttle running and growing!

“Wheels2U Westport was launched in October 2020 to support Westport residents and businesses. It provides a convenient and environmentally-friendly way for Westport residents and reverse commuters to travel between the train stations and their homes, employers and downtown. Wheels2U is now an integral part of Westport.

“We cannot thank you enough! A diverse group of residents, commuters and key Westport organizations came together to share your stories, explain the shuttle’s benefits, and lend your voice to restoring the budget.

“There are exciting things planned for Wheels2U Westport in the next year. We look forward to keeping everyone up to date about our growth and new initiatives.”

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Westport’s wonderful spring continues. Judith Katz spotted these tulips on Myrtle Avenue, across from Sconset Square. Just a few of the many colorful flowers that make our town so beautiful.

(Photo/Judith Katz)

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And finally … in Vienna today in 1824, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was first performed. It’s considered the composer’s greatest work — and one of the finest musical achievements of all time. Groundbreaking in its use of voices, it is also one of the most performed symphonies in the world.

Of course, Beethoven never heard his masterpiece. When he began composing the 9th Symphony in 1822, he was already deaf.

Players’ Next Radio Show Will Be “Marvelous”

For over 60 years, directors and upperclassmen have passed Staples Players’ traditions and lore on to underclassmen.

After all, they — including directors David Roth and Kerry Long — were once freshmen and sophomores too.

This year, COVID did more than cancel mainstage, Black Box studio and One-Act  performances. The pandemic also jeopardized those cultural connections.

The nationally renowned troupe adapted to the loss of live theater, with a series of radio shows. They’ve produced 7 — musicals, comedies, thrillers — to great acclaim.

Most of the roles went, naturally, to juniors and seniors. Because the casts were smaller than major shows, underclassmen missed the chance to get a foot on Players’ impressive ladder to the stars.

Roth and Long also missed something: the chance to get to know a new generation of students. For the past year, Roth — who teaches theater at the high school — says that all he sees in class are “kids with masks, or in little boxes on my laptop.”

Providentially, as the directors discussed doing a radio show for 9th and 10th graders only, they found the perfect vehicle.

Roth and Long run a 6,000-member Facebook group for theater educator worldwide. A woman from Australia posted a play she’d written: “The Marvelous Mellow Melodrama of the Marriage of the Mislaid Minor.”

“It’s one of the funniest scripts I’ve ever read,” Roth says. “No one’s ever heard of it. But it’s a fantastic send-up of over-the-top dramas.”

It airs this Friday (March 26, 7 p.m.). Audiences worldwide — including the playwright in Australia — can hear it on wwptfm.org.

The “Marvelous” cast of freshmen and sophomores. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Students sent audition tapes. The cast of 24 — the largest by far for a Staples radio show — jumped quickly into the project. They’ve been aided by Jasper Burke, a senior who is a superb dialect coach, teaching every accent from upper-class British to Irish to Cockney.

The directors added 10 more actors. They’ll produce classic radio commercials.

Roth and Long have gotten to know the underclassmen well. Five assistant directors — all seniors — pass along Players’ traditions and rituals, just as they would during a mainstage.

As with other Players radio shows, all actors will be fully costumed.

You won’t see those costumes, when you click on wwptfm.org this Friday. But for the next 3 years, you’ll see those freshman and sophomore actors grow on the Staples stage.

And then they’ll pass all they’ve learned as Players on to the generation that follows.


Ben Herrera and James Dobin- Smith fight for the heart of Quinn Mulvey (in red), as father, Henry Carson, tries to save the day. (Photo/Kerry Long)

 

 

Roundup: Mississippi And Westport, Players Radio Shows, Sivan Hong …

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Westport artist Tracy Sugarman’s experiences as a 1964 Freedom Rider influenced the rest of his life. They were the catalyst too for a long connection between Westporters, and leaders of Mississippi’s civil rights movement like Fannie Lou Hamer.

The Westport Public Art Collections has mounted an exhibit of Sugarman’s illustrations from that momentous time. It can be viewed by appointment (frontdesk@westportct.gov; 203-341-5072), or online.

On April 6 (7 p.m.), the Westport-Mississippi connection continues. A conversation about “Art, Civil Rights, and Social Justice” features Dr. Redell Hearn of the Mississippi Museum of Art, and town arts curator Kathie Bennewitz. Immediately after, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey will moderate a Q-and-A session with Hearn.

It’s part of the Westport Library’s WestportREADS program, in partnership wit the Westport Arts Advisory Committee.

Hearn is no stranger to Sugarman’s work. In 2019 she curated an exhibition that paired his Freedom Summer illustrations with song lyrics like “Eyes on the Prize” and “This is America.

“July and 100 Degrees in the Shade at the Sanctified Church for Freedom School Kids, Ruleville, Mississippi” (Tracy Sugarman)

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If you missed any Staples Players’ radio shows — or you loved them, and want to hear them again — you’re in luck.

All 3 will be rebroadcast this Sunday (March 31). “Little Woman” kicks off the evening at 6 p.m.; “Sorry, Wrong Number” follows at 7:10 p..m., and “Dracula” provides a horror-show finish at 7:3 p.m.

Click on www.wwptfm.org for the trifecta.

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Westport author/illustrator Sivan Hong has published 2 new children’s books: Benny J. and the Horrible Halloween and George J. and the Miserable Monday. Like her other books, Sivan’s new ones focus on young children who overcome emotional challenges, with perseverance and bravery.

She ‘ll talk about them (virtually) with young readers on Saturday, April 3 (noon). At 1:30 p.m., she’ll be at the Westport Library for a socially distanced book signing. Books will be sold there. They can also be purchased in advance (click here).

 To register for this virtual program, click here.

Sivan Hong

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And finally … on this day in 1918, Congress established 4 US time zones — and approved Daylight Saving Time.

Roundup: Downtown Plan, Coastal Living, Dracula …

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There’s a new sheriff downtown.

Randy Herbertson replaces Dewey Loselle as chair of the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee. Loselle — former chief operations for the chair — resigned recently, after many years in the post.

Herbertson is president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. He owns The Visual Brand, a design agency on Church Lane.

The DPIC is responsible for carrying out the Downtown Master Plan. Under Loselle, the group implemented streetscape improvements on Elm Street, new sidewalks and lights on Main Street, Veterans Green sidewalks and more.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe — who appointed Herbertson to the post — thanked Loselle for his long service.

Randy Herbertson

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Speaking of planning:

Neighbors watched warily all winter, as activity began on 12 acres of land bordered by Clapboard Hill Road, Morningside Drive South and Turkey Hill Road South.

Stakes with pink strips appeared in the ground, and a new gravel path was built from Clapboard Hill.

Is one of the town’s last large tracts of private property being developed?

Plans are underway for several new homes. There are wetlands issues, and the Conservation Commission required those borders to be withdrawn. The permitting process with other town boards is still in the early stages too.

Meanwhile, another home nearby is being built on a separate property.

(Photo/Nicholas Eisenberger)

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I usually avoid posting links to listicle stories: “50 Best Suburbs For Seniors!” “Top 500 Schools in America!”

They’re clickbait. Their methodology is dubious at best, and manipulable for their own demographics. Besides, if Staples High School is #1 in one poll, then #2 in the next, taxpayers get all their knickers in a twist.

But Coastal Living’s “Best Beach Towns: Dreamy Places to Live” issue is worth noting — if only for the writeup. It’s the way the world (or at least that portion of it that reads Coastal Living) sees us:

“You can’t imagine the volume of COVID refugees,” says Shari Lebowitz, citing the cheering sight of new families with baby strollers and slow-waling toddlers along the tidy sidewalks of this leafy enclave on Long Island Sound.”

The magazine says that Lebowitz — owner of Bespoke Designs — moved here for “a cultured little town that supported entrepreneurs. Westport, driven by small waterways with open space for wildlife, also has a charming stretch of tawny beach that serves as the town’s outdoor living room all summer long. (Dogs and their happy owners take over in the off season.)”

MoCA Westport is a “small contemporary art museum that punches well above its weight with arts education, performances, and world-class exhibitions.”

Lebowitz gets the last word: “I can make coffee and drive down to drink it on the beach every morning before work. What more could I want?” (Hat tips: Lisa Gold, Tom Feeley)

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What better way to mark the 1-year anniversary of the COVID lockdown than with a horror show?

This Sunday (March 14, 6 p.m.), a worldwide audience can fire up the computer and listen to “Dracula.” Staples Players presents the 4th in their winter radio shows via livestream, at www.wsptfm.org.

Following 6 previous radio shows this pandemic year, “Dracula” promises to be another smash. It’s a great drama. Cast and crew have been hard at work perfecting timing, sound effects, and (of course) their Transylvanian accents.

Jamie Mann, David Corro and Violet Cooper have key roles. David Roth and Kerry Roth co-produce the show; Don Rickenback is music director, and Geno Heiter oversees the audio.

NOTE: If you missed the original broadcasts of 2 previous Players radio shows — “Little Women” and “Sorry, Wrong Number” — they’ll be on the WWPT-FM livestream the following Sunday, March 21 (6 p.m. and 7:10 p.m., respectively).

The cast and crew of “Dracula.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

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On the Staples sports scene:

Last night — for perhaps the first time in Wrecker swim team history — 3 siblings swam on the same relay team.

Justin (senior), Jason (sophomore) and Jared (freshman) Lessing joined Daniel Rosenkranz. The foursome placed 2nd in the 200 freestyle relay at the Senior Day meet against Danbury. Staples’ other relay team won that race; both helped the Wreckers to take the entire meet.

Coach Todd Gordon fulfilled the Lessings’ longtime dream of swimming on a high school relay squad together. He’s a former swimmer and pitcher at Harvard University. Justin plays both sports at Staples too. This was his first meet of the year, after suffering tendinitis in his pitching arm.

From left: Jason Lessing, Jared Lessing, Daniel Rosenkranz and Justin Lessing. Daniel and Justin are co-captains.

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More Staples news: Congratulations to Students of the Month Moses Beary, Marley Brown, Gianna Amatuzzi, Camryn Zukowski, Sophie Hekmat, Quinn McMahon and Maggie Montoya.

The awardees — nominated by teachers — are students who help make Staples High School a welcoming place for peers and teachers. Principal Stafford Thomas calls them “the ‘glue’ of community: the type of kind, cheerful, hard-working, trustworthy students who keep the high school together.”

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Westport’s yard waste site resumes regular hours of operation, starting this Monday (March 15): weekdays 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturdays 7 a.m. to noon.

The location is 180 Bayberry Lane (by the Westport Weston Health District).

Yard waste at 180 Bayberry Lane.

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Temperatures are ticking up into the 60s. Daylight Savings starts Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, the Imperial Avenue parking lot snow bank shows no signs of melting.

(Photo/Tammy Barry)

We will mark its progress by various dates: Easter. May Day. Memorial Day. The 4th of July …

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State Senator Will Haskell is the new chair of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee. He previously chaired the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee.

“For the last 2 years, I’ve kept a Metro-North timetable from 1970 on my desk in the Senate,” the 2014 Staples High School graduate says.

“Over the last 5 decades those trains have gotten slower, not faster. It’s time to reverse that trend by investing in green infrastructure, creating good-paying jobs and helping our constituents get where they need to go.”

State Senator Will Haskell, with a Metro-North train.

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And finally … Lawrence Welk was born today in 1903. He died in 1992, at 89. A one, an’ a two …