Tag Archives: Theatre Arts Workshop

Go “Down The Rabbit Hole” With Theatre Artists Workshop

Theatre Artists Workshop‘s next event is “Down the Rabbit Hole: The Only Way Out is Through.”

That’s almost a metaphor for the low-key, highly productive non-profit. For 38 years, they’ve been up and down. But they keep coming through.

Theatre Artists Workshop began in Westport in 1983. Keir Dullea transplanted his Los Angeles career to the East Coast. Conceived as a playground or gym for professional theater artists, he based it on an LA organization they loved. James Mapes was a co-founder.

Ever since — in different locations — the Workshop has continued. It’s a place to hone skills, develop new work, take artistic risks and get rigorous critiques — away from the glare of agents, and commercial concerns.

Plays developed have gone on to Broadway, Off-Broadway, film and TV.

The Workshop’s original home — the Greens Farms Arts Center — ended when the town reclaimed the space for an elementary school. Most recently, the pandemic brought an eviction from the “black box” space they’d enjoyed for 25 years.

The Workshop is not the only victim of COVID. Live theater everywhere has been on hold. But local members met weekly via Zoom. They did what the Workshop always has: provide a “gym” to workout, and get feedback.

In October they produced “Tawlight Zone” on Zoom. “Down the Rabbit Hole” — a series of short plays — is also virtual. It’s accessible any time from now througg May 24. Click here for tickets.

As usual, Westporters are featured.

Susan Jacobson wrote and performs “My Story.” It was inspired by an interview with a woman who had “traveled down the rabbit hole” into QAnon. Disillusioned by everything she once believed in, she struggles to free herself from a dangerous lie.

Initially, Jacobson said, she thought all Q followers were “crazies.” But as she read about the woman — who had worked on Bernie Sanders’ campaign — she recognized “the common story we all have: a desire to belong, make a difference, find validation and be part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Rob Mobley and Melody James in “The Book Lover,” part of the “Rabbit Hole” show.

Melody James is featured as an actor and director in 3 “Rabbit Hole” plays. A noted member of Staples Players — the high school troupe — in the 1960s, her professional credits include stage, TV and film. She also taught theater at Vassar and Muhlenberg, and playmaking for the Westport Country Playhouse.

For “Rabbit Hole,” James directs “Trio Asphodel,” in which 3 female friends face a friend’s suicide and discover a secret. She also performs 3 roles in the dark comedy “The Book Lover” (an amusing unraveling of a revenge murder), and portrays a local theater director in the comedy “Rowan’s Last Bow.”

Longtime Westporter Linde Gibb gives a tail-wagging performance as Judy, an abandoned blind chihuahua in an animal shelter. “Good” is the hilarious-yet-heartbreaking story of 2 older dogs bonding, as they await adoption.

Intrigued? Click below for the trailer.

FUN THEATRE ARTISTS WORKSHOP ENCORE: Theatre Artists Workshop alumni include Anne Baxter, Theodore Bikel, Dorothy and Ed Bryce, Rita and Win Elliot, Pat Englund, John Franklin, June Havoc, Fred Hellerman, Ring Lardner Jr., Lucille Lortel, David Rogers, Brett Somers, Haila Stoddard, Max Wilk and Maggie Williams.

Remembering Patsy Englund

“06880” Mark Basile was surprised that the death in January of his longtime friend — and fellow actor — Patsy Englund did not receive any local notice. She was 93. Mark writes:

I knew and loved Patsy for 26 years. We met at the Theatre Actors Workshop. She was a very impressive woman.

Patsy Englund

Patsy’s mother, Mabel Albertson, played Darren’s mother on “Bewitched.” Her uncle was Jack Albertson, Academy Award-winning actor for “The Subject Was Roses.”

Patsy was raised in Beverly Hills by Mabel Englund and  her husband Ken. He was a screenwriter whose credits include “No No Nanette” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”

At UCLA, Patsy was directed by Charlie Chaplin in a production of “Rain.” After college she went into the Broadway company of “Oklahoma!” She then did the London production, returning to New York to take over the role of Ado Annie. She also toured the US with that show.

Patsy was then cast in Katharine Hepburn’s Broadway production of “As You Like It.” That’s where she met Cloris Leachman — who married Patsy’s brother George.

Patsy Englund in “As You Like It.”

During the 1950s Patsy did dozens of live TV dramas, including “Playhouse 90” and “Studio One,” while continuing to perform on Broadway and in regional theater. She married Dunham Barney Lefferts. They had a son, Nick, who survives her.

For several years, the family rented a 1920s cottage on Norwalk Avenue in Westport. They then bought it, and Patsy lived there permanently from about 1962 to 2002.

She was visiting Nick when Hurricane Sandy destroyed the house. She moved back to California, and lived there until her death.

In the early 1960s — while living in Westport — Patsy performed in the groundbreaking political satire TV show “That Was the Week That Was,” with David Frost. She also starred on Broadway in “The Beauty Part,” with Larry Hagman.

Patsy Englund (2nd from left) in “The Beauty Part.” The show — which also starred Bert Lahr and Larry Hagman — opened during a newspaper strike. That cost the production valuable publicity.

Throughout the ’60s Patsy commuted to New York while acting on several long-running soap operas. She also worked at Long Wharf, the Manhattan Theatre Club — and the Westport Country Playhouse.

In the mid-’80s, Patsy helped Keir Dullea and his wife Susie Fuller form the Theatre Artists Workshop. Longtime members included Theodore Bikel, Morton DaCosta, David Rogers, Haila Stoddard, and Ring Lardner Jr.

They met once a week to workshop new plays, scenes and songs, to audition pieces, and get constructive critiques from peers. The Workshop was housed at Greens Farms Elementary School and the Westport Arts Center, before moving to Norwalk.

Patsy Englund with Jim Noble of “Benson” in rehearsal at the Theatre Arts Workshop.

Patsy performed many play readings — including benefits for the Westport Library, Westport Historical Society and Westport Woman’s Club — during her 55 years in Westport.

She loved Westport very much, and is one of the great Westporters who contributed so much to the artistic legacy of this town.