Tag Archives: Staples Players

How To Survive A Quarantine? With Staples Players!

When “Seussical” was shut down just hours before opening night — collateral damage from the COVID-induced closing of all Westport schools — dozens of Staples Players were heartbroken. Audiences never saw their months of hard work.

Seniors were particularly devastated. The spring show is a capstone to their 4-year careers. On closing night they’re introduced individually, celebrated, and take well-deserved bows.

There’s an old theater saying: “The show must go on.” For over 60 years Players’ has honored that tradition. They’re not about to let a little pandemic stop them.

The show is not “Seussical.” But this Saturday and next, the nationally recognize troupe presents a special event. It’s a gift to the community — and a tribute to the 2020 seniors.

“10 Ways to Survive Life in a Quarantine” was written by Don Zolidis. The playwright specializes in shows for high school groups. Several years ago, Players staged the world premiere of his musical “Angie” at Toquet Hall.

This spring, Zolidis recognized the need for a play that schools could produce virtually, while maintaining social distance. Very quickly, directors David Roth and Kerry Long got to work.

They invited all their 12th grade veteran members to participate. Fifteen are acting; a few others are helping behind the scenes, like stage manager Karalyn Hood.

Thirteen additional cast members, spanning all grades, bring the total “on stage” to 28.

“10 Ways” includes over 25 comic vignettes, dealing with life in isolation. One is about staging musicals with pets; others cover taking up a new sport (and thinking you’re good), perfecting the art of laziness — you get the idea.

Some sketches will be performed live (fingers crossed). Others will be pre-recorded videos. Seniors Sam Laskin and Tobey Patton host the show — and offer live commentary throughout.

For the past month, rehearsals were held via Google Meet. Three student assistant directors also held individual meetings with actors.

The concept is new for Players. So is the technology. Tech consultant (and alum) Dave Seltzer is advising on livestreaming; fellow Player alum Michael Dodd  helps.

“We’re working through our live run-throughs,” the directors say. “But we’re charting new ground. What a crazy world!”

The show is broken into 2 parts. The first will be broadcast this Saturday (May 23, 7 p.m.) The second is set for the same time the following Saturday (May 30). There are “encore” performances (taped) at 6 p.m. on the Tuesday following each performance (May 26, June 2).

Tickets are free for the live and encore shows (click here; if you want tickets to a Tuesday “encore,” click the Saturday prior to it).

However, Roth and Long encourage donations of any amount. The cancellation of “Seussical” (and the spring Black Box production, “Noises Off”) has hurt considerably.

That — and with this clever new show — are 2 ways by which Staples Players can survive life in a quarantine.

NOTE: After your purchase, you’ll receive an email with printable “tickets.” Ignore that — but save the other email, which includes a link to access the show. 

Technical questions about the livestream? Email shsplayers@westportps.org. Box office questions? Email sptickets@gmail.com.

Special Staples “Seussical” Streams This Weekend

The coronavirus put an abrupt end to countless events. Many were months in the making.

But few came to a more crushing close than “Seussical: The Musical.”

Over 100 Staples Players cast and crew members prepared for the spring production since December. Just 2 days before opening night, Westport schools closed.

Sets, choreography, lighting, music — poof! It all vanished, into the infectious air.

Seussical” is fun …

Fortunately, Players videotaped the Tuesday night rehearsal show, performed before an audience of 100 parents.

Tomorrow (Saturday, April 4, 7 p.m.) and Sunday (April 5, 2 p.m.), Players will broadcast that now-historic recording.

Anyone who bought tickets to any of the scheduled performances will receive an email link on Saturday to the livestreams. Intermission features special video appearances by former Players, all now involved in the arts.

But — in typically creative Players fashion — you don’t have to have had a ticket to see this “Seussical.”

The organization set up a GoFundMe page. Though a few staff stipends are paid by the town, the rest of the award-winning program is funded almost entirely by ticket sales.

… for all ages. (Photos/Kerry Long)

They pay for lumber, paint, lighting equipment purchase and rental, costume construction and rental, props, set designers, sound equipment and microphone rental, pit musicians’ salaries, makeup, wigs — and much, much more.

An average show — though Players are far from “average” — costs well over $50,000 to produce.

That’s a lot of money. But it’s also an amazing educational experience for hundreds of Staples students. Plus of course, a wonderful treat for the community.

Players has been on solid financial ground for over 15 years. Because of sellout audiences and great support from Westporters, they consistently recouped the money they spent. They seldom ask much financially from the community.

Now — having lost the opportunity both to produce “Seussical,” and benefit financially from it — they’re asking for help.

The Players know: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

This weekend, we can smile along with them. How lucky we all are that the one performance happened.

(Want a special “Seussical” preview? Click here!)

Ari Edelson: Coming Out Of A 2-Week COVID Battle

By this point, nearly everyone in Westport knows someone who has suffered from COVID-19.

And by now, everyone should know that it does not strike only the elderly, or those with underlying health issues.

If you don’t believe that — or don’t think you know someone affected by the coronavirus — think again.

Ari Edelson is a 1994 graduate of Staples High School. After starring with Staples Players — including directing their groundbreaking production of “Falsettos” — and graduating from both Yale and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, he earned international fame as a producer and director in the US and Europe.

A few years ago, Ari Edelson was honored with a Westport Arts Center Horizon Award. (Photo/Emily Hamilton Laux)

On Sunday, Ari — who is in his mid-40s, and has been in excellent health — posted this on Facebook:

Hi, folks. Many of you have been amazing over the last 2 weeks as I dealt with being both home quarantined and put totally through the wringer with COVID-19. I just wanted to share my most heartfelt gratitude as I’m coming out the other side of it.

On March 15, I started having a minor elevated temp and cough, which then fully exploded into 8 days of delirious fevers of 103, coughs, and drenching sweats.

After a 2-week nightmarish battle, I have now been afebrile for 2 days, comfortable and gaining strength.

Julia Levy has been a superwoman through it all, not only taking care of me, but also somehow also keeping Eliot and Leo on their best behavior, coordinating care with my father (my forever medical hero), not to mention coming up with home school ideas for hundreds of thousands of other families through her work at Sparkler and Noggin.

Ari Edelson, Julia Levy and their son Eliot, in 2017.

She is truly phenomenal, as is the rest of my family. I am so thankful to the generous folks at Weill Cornell and Yale New Haven, who provided me and my family desperately appreciated guidance.

I am more than happy to answer questions for anyone, if my experience can be helpful. To one question I am getting already: Even though I went through New York State’s intake process to be tested on March 20, I was never able to get a test, and never even got the promised return phone call.

I cannot blame the state for it — they are more than overrun. But the failure of full national leadership to address this one fundamental issue and own up to it should give anyone pause about how you take care of a populace that you cannot even test.

If you cannot test, you cannot plan, and the data we are all seeing currently is faulty at its core. I will continue to be one of the likely hundreds of thousands of COVID cases that are unreported, an entire quadrant of data that may entirely shift understanding of the disease and our planning for it.

One other thing that we learned through this process was the importance of acquiring a pulse oximeter, a tiny little finger meter used to measure 02 circulation. With consistent use it kept us on top of this horrible virus as best we could, highlighting my luck in maintaining sufficient lung function and providing the light and sanity that kept us focused on convalescing and not taxing precious healthcare resources.

We were lucky that my O2 levels never went beneath the 92% threshold, but having the tools to monitor them made all the difference. If I can recommend anything to the many of you who have yet to have this virus hit your house, it is to say that knowledge is power, and science is to be heeded and trusted. Science is real.

And go get yourself a pulse oximeter to be safe.

And then — proving the coronavirus could not conquer his sense of humor — Ari posted this:

COVID-19 Update: Lamont Declares Emergency; Library Cancels Programming; “Seussical” Postponed; State Basketball Tournaments, WIN Canceled

The coronavirus continues to play havoc with Connecticut life.

Gov. Ned Lamont has declared both a public health emergency and a civil preparedness emergency.

The first edict gives the state power over quarantine. The second allows the governor to restrict travel, and close public schools and buildings, among other powers..

Right now, however, Lamont says that decisions about school closings and large gatherings are being made by local government and public health officials.


The Westport Library will postpone or cancel all “in-person programming” through the end of March. Some events may be live-streamed — as was Sunday’s public meeting on the COVID-19 virus.

The Spring Book Sale scheduled for this weekend has also been canceled. The summer book sale will be held July 18 through 21, at a new location: Staples High School.

Right now, the library plans to remain open for patrons, and is “extra vigilant” about cleanliness.

Executive director Bill Harmer encourages users to take advantage of the library’s “extensive downloadable and streaming digital resource, eAudiobooks, eBooks, eMagazines, music, movies, and many other entertaining and educational resources are available to all cardholders.” Click here for links to the digital collection.


Staples Players’ production of “Seussical” — scheduled for a 2-week run, beginning this weekend — has been postponed until April 24 and 25 (matinee and evening shows) and April 26.

Ticket holders will be contacted by the box office within the next few days regarding transitions or exchanges.

“We will work as quickly as we can to respond to patrons, but we ask the public to be patient,” say directors David Roth and Kerry Long.


The actors and tech crew — who have dedicated themselves to the show since December — are not the only Staples students disappointed by the effects of the rapidly spreading virus.

Wrecker basketball players were stunned today to learn that the Connecticut State Interscholastic Athletic Conference canceled the boys and girls state tournaments. (Click here for a video of the announcement.)

Both Staples teams were having their best seasons in decades. Last night, the girls beat Glastonbury to advance to the semifinals. The boys were set to begin their tournament this evening, home against Enfield.

It’s an abrupt ending for both squads.


Meanwhile, the Westport Soccer Association’s WIN tournament — for over 30 years, the kickoff to the spring season — has been canceled too.

The event — which draws over 160 boys and girls teams to indoor and outdoor fields at Staples High and Bedford Middle Schools — is a fundraiser for the Coleman Brother Foundation.

Over the years, it has collected and donated more than $100,000 in scholarships.


The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce — which looks out for the interests of local businesses — has forwarded a CDC document: “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers/Plan, Prepare and Respond to Coronavirus.” Click here for the link.

“Seussical” Sequel: It’s A Clean Show!

Coronavirus scare got you down? Never fear, there’s a doctor in the house.

Dr. Seuss!

To ease the minds of audiences for the upcoming show — “Seussical: The Musical” — Staples Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long have ensured that all hard surfaces in the high school auditorium will be disinfected between each performance.

Echoing  (and adding to) signs that have already appeared throughout the school, they say: “Keep calm, wash your hands — and come see the show!”

(“Seussical: The Musical” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 13 and 20, and  Saturday, March 14 and 21, with matinees at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 14 and 21, and Sunday, March 15. Characters are available for autographs following each matinee; a small fee will be collected, to help the Curiale School library. For tickets, cast lists and more information, click here.)

“Seussical”: Book It!

Books feed the imagination. That’s true whether you’re reading William Shakespeare or Dr. Seuss.

Staples Players has staged Shakespeare’s works. Next week, they debut “Seussical: The Musical.”

And because Players is far more than just an award-winning high school-but-really-professional drama troupe, they’re giving the gift of books to kids who need them — with help from the generosity of audiences who flock to this show.

At every performance, volunteers will collect new and used children’s books. They’ll be donated to the library at the K-8 Curiale School in Bridgeport. Cash donations for book purchases are welcome too.

Seussical” will be fun …

Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long are excited about the project — and “Seussical.”

They’ve wanted to produce the show for years. “I love the music, the themes — and I’ve always loved Dr. Seuss,” says Roth, in his third decade leading the legendary program.

“Because it’s appropriate for all audiences, middle schools have done it before. Now the time is right for us.”

Roth notes that although Dr. Seuss wrote children’s books, “Seussical” — which debuted on Broadway in 2000 — is “more than a kids’ show. Adults love the music, lyrics and dancing.

“People ask me if ‘Seussical’ is appropriate for kids, and I say ‘absolutely. They will love it!’ Other people ask me if it is a kids’ show and I say ‘absolutely not!’ It’s really a show for all ages. Adults love it as much, if not more, than kids.”

… for all ages. (Photos/Kerry Long)

The musical also offers “lots of very relevant messages, especially in today’s climate,” Roth says. They include “taking care of each other, being true to your convictions, being happy with who you are, and having positive body image.”

Some current Players performed “Seussical” when they were younger. But, Roth says, “those were junior versions. This is very different.”

The current cast looks forward to the show. “It’s very creative. They’re experiencing being different animals and creatures. Along with the movement and voices, it’s all very cool.”

Almost as cool as collecting children’s books, for a school a few miles away that desperately needs them.

(“Seussical: The Musical” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 13 and 20, and  Saturday, March 14 and 21, with matinees at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 14 and 21, and Sunday, March 15. Characters are available for autographs following each matinee; a small fee will be collected, to help the Curiale School library. For tickets, cast lists and more information, click here.)

Pics Of The Day #1021

Two formal events for high school students — Counties, and Red & Whites — were held this weekend.

Among the attendees: actors from Staples Players …

(Photo courtesy of Ian Warburg)

… and a different kind of players: Staples High School soccer seniors …

Stars Shine For Staples Players

As remarkable as Staples Players is, they’re still a high school drama troupe. When they put on a show, the many “good luck” and “break a leg” wishes usually come from classmates, teachers, parents and other Westporters.

“Mamma Mia!” was not the usual show.

Before the curtain rose last Friday, the cast and crew enjoyed special well wishes.

Dozens of members of “Mamma Mia!”‘s Broadway and national tour starred in a pump-up video, produced solely for Staples Players.

The actors are all friends of Players choreographers Chris Myers and Rachel MacIsaac. Both were part of the national tour; Chris went on to the Broadway production as well.

The video — which the cast and crew saw right before opening night — is not some quickie, off-the-cuff job. It took tons of time to track down so many national tour and Broadway “Mamma Mia!” members.

They’re all over the globe now, doing all kinds of things. But all took time to tape themselves.

In the 14-minute video they tell stories, give advice and recount their own experiences. It’s clear they are all excited that Players is joining the “Mamma Mia!” family.

Watch the video here.

And if you want tickets to this weekend’s performances, there may be a few available at the door, 30 minutes before showtime.

(“Mamma Mia! runs this Thursday, November 21 at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, November 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, November 23 at 3 p.m. For more information, click here.)

Friday Flashback #168

In 1958 — prodded by a student named Christopher Lloyd* — Staples High School English teacher Craig Matheson directed “You Can’t Take it With You.”

Staples Players was born.

In the 61 years since, the drama troupe has earned national — even international — renown. (Their original production of “War and Pieces” was included in a United Nations traveling exhibit.)

But Players was not Staples’ first drama group.

For decades, individual classes put on plays. They were modest affairs.

In 1950 — the year after the juniors and sophomores joined together to put on “Our Town” — the 12th, 11th and 10th grade classes combined to produce “Blithe Spirit.” Led by legendary English instructor V. Louise Higgins, they called themselves the Masque and Wig Club.

The entire cast included 7 students.

Because Staples — then located on Riverside Avenue (the current Saugatuck Elementary School) — had no auditorium,  the play was staged at Bedford Junior High (today, Kings Highway Elementary).

Little is known about that early effort, or any that followed. But alert “06880” reader — and Staples grad/Players fan/producer Fred Cantor — dug up some photos.

Director V. Louise Higgins (foreground) and cast member Lucia Kimber.

The entire cast of “Blithe Spirit” (from left): Hope Collier, Jane Schmidt, Wendy Ayearst, Lee Moulton, Priscilla Planten, George Barton and Lucia Kimber.

The simple, 4-page program for “Blithe Spirit” notes:

By the time the present Sophomores are Seniors, if the club continues, they will be a reasonably well-trained group.

Perhaps even by that time the school will have some sort of drama department, for before any more real progress can be made, a speech teacher and proper facilities are needed.

Tonight, the curtain rises for Staples Players’ elaborate production of “Mamma Mia!” Choreography, acting, the pit, lighting, sets — all will be near Broadway-quality.

Thanks in part to the Masque and Wig Club, our high school indeed has “some sort of drama department.”

* Yes, that Christopher Lloyd

(Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

Half of the Masque and Wig Club program for “Blithe Spirit” …

… and the other part.

“Persona” Of The Week: “Mamma Mia” Cast And Crew

Staples Players‘ “Mamma Mia” opens tomorrow. It’s another fantastic show, from the nationally known high school troupe.

If you’re like me, you go to Players’ musical every year and wonder, “Who are these kids? And how do they put on such an amazing show?”

Persona’s Rob Simmelkjaer went backstage to speak to some actors and crew members, as they get ready for opening night.