Tag Archives: Staples Players

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 …

 

“Little Women”: Big Players’ Radio Show

Who doesn’t love Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy — the “Little Women” of Louisa May Alcott’s bestseller?

Now you — and the next generation of fans — can love them the new old-fashioned way: through Staples Players’ radio theater.

The high school’s groundbreaking drama troupe performs “Little Women” this Sunday (February 28, 6 p.m.). It’s free via livestream, at www.wwptfm.org.

The musical is followed immediately by a repeat airing of Players’ previous radio drama, the riveting 23-minute thriller “Sorry, Wrong Number.”

The “Little Women” cast. Front row (left to right): Claire Baylis, Samantha Webster, Maizy Boosin, Chloe Manna, Lulu Dalzell. Rear: David Corro, Alex Watzman, Colin Konstanty, Anushka Rao, Lene Pantzos, Camille Foisie. (Photo/Kerry Long)

“(Co-director David Roth) and I both love Little Women,” says co-director Kerry Long.

“It’s such a warm, feel-good story. But it also has some wonderful characters that were really contemporary before their day. We are so pleased that the success of the recent movie version made this story popular with our students; they love exploring these characters.”

She notes that though many people are familiar with both the book and the movie, no one has heard “Little Women” on the radio.

Roth appreciates that the show explores themes of familial loyalty, at a time of increased family togetherness.

Senior Samantha Webster (Jo) says, “The March family sticks together through hardship and personal exploration. The siblings go off at times to find their own passions and create their own lives, but they are always connected to home. It really demonstrates the strength of familial love and the bond it creates. I also think it is such a beloved story because the relationships as they are portrayed in the script feel very genuine.”

Webster relishes playing Jo. “She is such a classic character that she has been interpreted and re-interpreted a thousand times. It’s been fun discovering how her attitude fits within my own and creating the character from my perspective. She has a wonderful strength and boldness, and I understand how that leads her to sometimes be stubborn and impulsive. I’ve tried to pay particular attention to both her strengths and faults as both are fairly integral to how Jo behaves.”

Samantha Webster and Colin Konstanty rehearse. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Senior Claire Baylis describes her character, Meg, as a fun role to play because of the many complex layers hidden beneath the surface of her personality. “On the surface, she is the responsible older sister who never takes risks and strives to live a very normal life, but at her core, she loves passionately, fights for her family and loved ones, and sacrifices her childhood so that she can take care of her younger sisters. Her role is challenging in particular because on top of all that, she narrates the entire show. I think audiences will love how relatable each character is, no matter which they identify with. It is a beautiful story about life and what really matters when living it.”

Junior Colin Konstanty, who plays Laurie, says he has “a very interesting personality, which comes out a lot when he’s younger and changes as the play goes on. Because this play takes place over many years, it was tough early on to figure out how Laurie changes and grows as a person. He is also a very complex person and there’s so much to explore. It is a role I will always remember.”

“‘Little Women’ is a wonderful show that people of all ages can relate to. Although it takes place in the 19th century, it has many themes and valuable lessons that are relevant to society today.”

(The run time for “Little Women” is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Music director is Don Rickenback. Click here for the livestream link.)

 

Roundup: Christopher Plummer, Staples Players, Avi Kaner, More

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In 1987 — its bicentennial — Weston produced a history of the town.

Lots of communities do something similar.

But not many get to have theirs produced and narrated by one the most famous actors in the world.

This video — courtesy of Cristina Negrin — says all you need to know about the deep feeling Christopher Plummer had for his adopted hometown.

And Weston loved him right back.

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Due to snow, Staples Players’ 1st radio play of 2nd semester — the thriller “Sorry, Wrong Number,” broadcast live from the Black Box Theater — has been postponed. The new date is Wednesday, February 10 (7 p.m.).

The production will be streamed live (and free) at wwwptfm.org.

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Westporters know Avi Kaner as our former 2nd selectman and Board of Finance chair.

But he also co-owns Morton Williams, the noted New York City supermarket chain. It’s a 75-year-old family company, but it’s never faced a challenge like today’s pandemic and its many side effects.

The other day, Kaner spoke to NTD Business about the state of his business, and New York — including the flight to the suburbs. Click below for the fascinating interview.

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“06880 readers” can’t get enough of the “new” view of I-95 and the Beachside Avenue overpass, now that it’s been removed for reconstruction. Here’s one more shot:

(Photo/John Richers)

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This guy hung out at the Lansdowne condos yesterday. No telling what he’ll look like today.

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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Westport Town Clerk Patty Strauss retired in December. Last month, she and her husband Ed moved to North Carolina.

Yesterday, their Juniper Road was torn down. Real estate moves fast around here.

(Photo/Mark Mathias)

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Numerous fire trucks raced to Bayberry Lane this morning, to put out a fire at Belta’s farm.

The blaze was confined to an outbuilding, rented to tenants.

Belta’s farm, with fire apparatus on hand.

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And finally … Jim Weatherly died Wednesday near Nashville, of natural causes. He was 77.

He wrote hit songs for Ray Price, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers and many others. His biggest was originally called “Midnight Plane to Houston.” Gladys Knight and the Pips turned it into the much more memorable “Midnight Train to Georgia.”

 

Staples Players: Sorry, Wrong Number!

During the pandemic, we’ve all done a lot of listening.

Podcasts have boomed. Audiobook sales soared.

And — as Staples Players have discovered — there is a huge audience for old-time radio broadcasts.

The nationally recognized drama troupe pivoted last fall to radio shows. Produced virtually on Sunday evenings, they were a surprise — and welcome — addition to our vastly curtailed entertainment calendars.

This spring — the 3rd season in a row without a mainstage production — Players is back on the internet. Four shows are planned, starting next Sunday. It’s time to gather round the radio — well, the laptop — for sure.

The series kicks with “Sorry, Wrong Number” this Sunday (February 7, 5 p.m. — — yes, you’ll have plenty of time before the Super Bowl).

Orson Welles called 23-minute thriller  “the greatest radio script ever written.” A woman accidentally overhears a phone conversation about a planned murder. Terror followa quickly, as the plot unfolds in real time.

Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long wanted variety in their 4 shows. They sure have it.

“Little Women” (February 28, 6 p.m.) and “Dracula” (March 14, 6 p.m.) follow. The series concludes with “The Marvelous Mellow Melodrama of the Manager of the Mislaid Manor” (March 26, 7 p.m.), a madcap comedy that will be Players’ first-ever freshman and sophomore-only production, of any kind.

Roth and Long — and their actors and tech crews — love the radio show format. The cast is not tied down to one character for 3 months. They can create multiple personalities — with diverse accents and back stories, and grow rapidly as performers.

Sophie Rossman stars as the woman who overhears a murder plot in “Sorry, Wrong Number.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

Musicians and sound effects people have plenty to do. So do costumers, hair and makeup designers, who create special looks for the actors. They’re never seen by audiences, but they help each cast member get into his or her role.

The radio shows are intended to be performed in the Black Box theater — with social distancing, of course. But in the event of a sudden quarantine (as happened last fall), the show can be done entirely remotely.

Each performance is available on www.wwptfm.org. They are not aired on the radio station itself, due to FCC restrictions on commercials. (Highlights of each show include clever Player-produced ads for local businesses.)

Audiences appreciate the format. “People listened lots of different ways last fall,” Roth says. “Some tuned in during dinner. Some turned off the lights, built a fire and listened that way.” The length of the shows — from 23 to no more than 75 minutes — lends itself to those kinds of rituals.

The Super Bowl — this is number LV — is a relatively new American ritual. Decades earlier, Americans gathered around the radio in another communal radio.

Thanks to our new pandemic normal — and Staples Players — we can all do that again.

Staples Players Give Familiar “Carol” A Fresh Twist

The pandemic — and longer, darker days — have moved most entertainment indoors.

Streaming movies and board games are fun. But they can get old.

Somehow though, “A Christmas Carol” never goes out of fashion. Now there’s a new/old way to enjoy Charles Dickens’ 177-year-old classic: a live radio show.

Staples Players livestreams the ghost story this Sunday (December 13, 6 p.m.). It’s the 4th in a series of shows replacing the fall musical. The first 3 — “The Wizard of Oz,” “Pride and Prejudice” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” — were smashes.

“People sat together, relaxed, ate dinner and listened in,” says Players director David Roth. “They were totally into it. We’re thrilled we can introduce everyone to the pleasure of listening to stories.”

Great enthusiasm — by listeners and actors alike — impelled Roth and co-director Kerry Long to keep going. But in keeping with their longtime goal of stretching both their cast and audience, there’s a twist to the 1843 story: Ebenezer Scrooge is played by a female

“These days, there’s a big movement in theater and film to look at different types of people for roles,” Roth explains.

“Samantha Webster was a show-stopper last year as Rosie in ‘Mamma Mia!’ She did a great job as the mother in ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ She was the strongest person to audition. She’s a natural.”

Samantha Webster starred in “Mamma Mia!” This year, she serves as Staples Players president. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Webster and her entire cast are enjoying rehearsals — virtually. Due to ever-changing COVID restrictions, Roth and Long decided to do the entire show remotely. Each actor — and the tech crew sound effects — logs in from home.

It’s not easy. But it worked well with “Wonderful Life.” It’s life — and live theater — during COVID.

TPlayers have fun emphasizing the ghost story aspects of “A Christmas Carol.” That’s how Dickens wrote it — and it fits in with what Roth says was a mid-19th century tradition: telling ghost stories at holiday time.

“We’re keeping the ghosts as scary as we can make them,” he promises. “We’re not Disney-fying this.”

The cast is also spending time polishing their British and Cockney accents. “They’re quite good,” Roth notes.

Players’ costume crew designed mock ups for “A Christmas Carol.” They did not create the actual costumes — it’s a radio show, after all — but it was an important exercise for when they return to a real stage. Above: a “mood board” by Ella Grace Worraker.

As with previous Players’ shows, this production will include “old-time” radio show ads for area businesses.

“We encourage Westport listeners to shop and eat locally,” Roth says. “We’re glad we can help support the town merchants who have always supported us.”

Of course, those ads will be heard by many people far from Westport. That’s the magic of a radio show — in our new COVID-and-digital age.

(“A Christmas Carol” will be livestreamed at 6 p.m. this Sunday, December 13, at www.wwwptfm.org. The show is not funded by the Westport schools’ budget. Donations are welcome; click here.) 

Roundup: Stores, Staples Players, Sustainable Westport, Sports, More


In yesterday’s story on a new movie shot in Westport, I casually mentioned that Barnes & Noble is moving.

I did not mention where.

Its new home will be the former Restoration Hardware (and before that, Fine Arts I and II theater). Looks like the bookstore-and-more will be downsizing — after enlarging from its first Westport location (the old Pier One, just east of its current Post Road site — soon to be the new Saugatuck Grain & Grape).

So what will replace the current Barnes & Noble?

Word on the street is it’s a grocery store — possibly Amazon Go.

That would be fascinating — and not just because Westport is ripe for advanced shopping technology.

The other reason: The previous tenant, before Barnes & Noble, was Waldbaum’s.

Changes coming soon


There’s not much wonderful about 2020. But “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a wonderful 1946 film. And this Sunday (November 22, 6 p.m.) it will be a wonderful radio show, courtesy of Staples Players.

Though the high school is closed, dozens of students — actors, the tech crew, sound effects people — have been working remotely.

Which is exactly how audiences around the globe will experience the old-time, very cool show on Sunday. They’ll gather around their radios — and devices — to enjoy a wonderful experience.

In true “show must go on” fashion, directors David Roth and Kerry Long are devising ways for actors to multi-task, and come up with sound effects on their own. At the same time, they’re solving complicated technical problems.

“As always, they’re rising to the occasion,” Long reports.

To join the (free!) livestream fun, click  on www.wwwptfm.org. Westport-area residents can tune in to WWPT, 90.3 FM.

Colin Konstanty rehearses his George Bailey role, in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” before Staples High School went to full remote learning. (Photo/Kerry Long)


Sustainable Westport Advisory Team — a town body — will become simply Sustainable Westport. The new non-profit organization becomes a partner with Earthplace.

The group — which educates Westport residents and businesses to become a Net Zero community by 2050 — will continue to work with town officials.

Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich and operations director Sara Harris will be “sustainability coordinators” (aka “liaisons”).

If you think Net Zero by 2050 is far off — it’s not. It’s just as near to us as 1990.


COVID knocked out last spring’s high school sports season. Fall athletes played modified schedules. Now the virus has taken a toll on winter sports.

This morning, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference postponed the start date for tryouts and conditioning to January 19. Hundreds of  Staples students had been slated to start basketball, gymnastics, ice hockey, indoor track, skiing, squash, swimming, wrestling and cheerleading around Thanksgiving.

Earlier this month, the state issued new rules for youth sports — those run by outside (non-high school) organizations.

High-risk sports — wrestling, tackle football, boys lacrosse, competitive cheer, dance, boxing, rugby and martial arts — were halted through the end of the calendar year.

Participants in medium-risk sports like basketball, gymnastics and ice — hockey — are required to wear face coverings.

In addition, youth teams can no longer travel out of state. Regional tournaments and competitions in high- or medium-risk sports cannot be hosted in Connecticut. Venues were urged to limit spectators, and devise contact tracing protocols for players and fans.

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And finally … did you know this is International Drum Month?