Tag Archives: Staples Players

Gather ‘Round The Radio — And Dine!

Remember when the family gathered together on Sunday night, sharing dinner while listening to a drama or musical on the radio?

Neither do I.

But Westporters — and anyone else with an internet connection — can enjoy evenings in the coming weeks. Staples Players presents 3 radio shows.

And 3 local restaurants are offering special meal deals, to spice up the fun.

This Sunday (October 25, 6 p.m.), tune in to “The Wizard of Oz.” Little Barn has created a special menu including Wicked Witch Wings, Tin Man Tacos, Munchkin Burger (kid-size), Emerald City Cocktails and more.

Click here and choose “Order later” for October 25. Scroll down to the “Wizard of Oz” menu (after “Entrees”). NOTE: Glinda the Good Witch says you can order from the whole menu if you like!

Little Barn is not in Kansas anymore. Then again, it never was.

On November 8 (6 p.m.), listen to “Pride and Prejudice” whilst dining on Pemberley’s prime rib dinner, complete with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and sticky toffee pudding. It’s all courtesy of (of course) Fairfield’s Gruel Brittania.

Gruel Brittania’s sticky toffee pudding.

Then on November 22, gather round the hearth for the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The comes from a classic Westport spot: Dunville’s.

Call or text Dunville’s owner Steve Carpentieri (203-247-3113) with your order for:

  • George Bailey’s Yankee pot roast dinner for 4 (potatoes, carrots, celery, pearl onions. mixed greens salad)
  • Uncle Billy’s smoked St Louis ribs with fries and coleslaw
  • Mary Hatch’s seafood stuffed sole with mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and hollandaise sauce
  • Mr. Potter’s New Bedford day boat sea scallops with sautéed spinach, white beans, garlic, extra virgin olive oil.

Dunville’s Yankee pot roast.

Menus are available on the restaurants’ websites within a week of each show. Order ahead; quantities are limited.

(The 3 radio shows can be heard on WWPT, 90.3 FM. For the livestream, click on www.wwptfm.org.)

Staples Players Plan 3 Special Shows. Global Audience Invited!

In the 1930s, American families gathered around the radio. They listened to live dramas, musicals and comedies, complete with sound effects.

This fall — decades later — families can gather together to enjoy 3 Sunday plays, courtesy of Staples Players.

They’ll be broadcast — free! — on WWPT-FM.

It’s a novel, creative way for the high school drama troupe to put on a show in the midst of a pandemic.

And — because this is 2020 — the professional-quality entertainment can be enjoyed by Players’ relatives, alumni and many fans all around the globe. You can listen on any internet-connected device, via the school radio station’s livestream.

The shows span genres: a musical (“The Wizard of Oz”), a beloved novel (“Pride and Prejudice”) and a classic (“It’s a Wonderful Life”). The dates are October 25, November 8 and November 22, respectively. Airtime is 6 p.m.

Though Players were initially disappointed not to mount their traditional fall mainstage musical, they’ve embraced the radio shows eagerly. Over 50 students are in at least one show. Many are in 2; a few are in all 3.

The live action will be broadcast from the Black Box theater, with actors separated by Plexiglas booths. Sound effects — like the tornado in “Oz,” doors opening and feet creaking — are courtesy of the tech crew, seated next door in Staples’ TV and radio studio.

There’s live music too: Don Rickenback’s piano.

No radio show is complete without ads, of course. With no auditorium audience, Players lost an important fundraising opportunity. But local businesses — including major sponsors Gault, Melissa & Doug, Mitchells and Steve Madden Shoes — will air old-time radio ads.

(There’s still time to buy ads. Players will custom-write a jingle — and sing it. Email playersadsales2020@gmail.com.)

Most rehearsals have been by Zoom, though some have been in person (socially distanced, of course). Good weather has allowed plenty of room outdoors.

Staples Players director David Roth (right) leads an outdoor rehearsal for the upcoming radio plays. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long have made this special project a community event. Each Sunday show will have a food tie-in.

The “Wizard of Oz” menu is curated by Little Barn. Menu choices includes Wicked Witch Wings, Tin Man Tacos, Munchkin Burger (for kids) and emerald City Cocktails.

For “Pride and Prejudice,” Gruel Brittania offers Pemerley’s Prime Rib dinner complete with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and sticky toffee pudding, while “It’s a Wonderful Life”‘s classic meal comes from Dunville’s: George’s Yankee Pot Roast, Zuzu’s Scallops and Mary Hatch’s Stuffed Sole. Ordering details will be available soon.

Meanwhile, Cold Fusion — the locally owned gelato and sorbet company — is celebrating the 3 shows with limited edition special flavors.

“Somewhere Over the Rain-dough” is available for order (before Thursday, October 15!) to enjoy with “The Wizard of Oz.” “Bennet Bananas” is the perfect pairing for “Pride and Prejudice,” while “George Bailey’s Irish Cream” is on tap for “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Click here to order.

The directors are as excited about the radio plays as the actors and tech crew. “Rehearsals have been a lot of fun,” Roth says. “Each show has a different style. There’s a lot of creative energy.

“Of course they’d love to be onstage. But they love this opportunity. They appreciate all the efforts everyone is making for them. They can’t wait to perform these plays.”

(The 3 radio shows can be heard on WWPT, 90.3 FM. For the livestream, click on www.wwptfm.org.)

ENCORE: Though there’s no dancing on radio, Players are keeping their skills sharp. Choreographer Rachel MacIsaac leads dance classes 4 times a week, on the school tennis courts.

Rachel MacIsaac leads an outdoor dance class.

There are no costumes on radio either. But Players’ costume crew is doing designs for every play, just as if they were onstage.

Players runs tech workshops 2 to 3 times a week too. Students get special instruction in skills and tools.

Some of the Foley equipment used for sound effects. (Photo/Brandon Malin)

Westport Is Back! Concert Proves It

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

It’s been anything but.

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

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

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

A social bubble enjoys the show.

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

Recent graduate Sammy Guthartz and Max Herman ’19 harmonize.

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

Rising sophomore Madelyn Spera,

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a great night for Westport, too.

COVID be damned. The show must go on!

Westport Is Back! Musical Cabaret Set For Friday

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

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

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

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

Georgia Wright will perform … (Photo/Dawn Shmaruk)

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

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

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

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

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

… as will Tomaso Scotti (Photo/Dawn Shmaruk)

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

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

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

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

 

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.)