Tag Archives: Tommy Greenwald

Roundup: Wakeman Town Farm, Rivals …

==================================================

Slowly, the Westport Library is moving back toward pre-pandemic operations.

Effective April 5, users will enjoy:

  • Expanded operating hours.  The building will be open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will continue to close on Sundays.
  • Limited seating at socially distanced tables in the Trefz Forum and on the Mezzanine.
  • Masks will still be required, and 6-foot social distancing remains in place.
  • Printing will be available for people working in the Library and remotely.
  • Children’s Library occupancy will continue to be limited.  Patrons are encouraged to make an appointment.
  • The Café will be opened for limited service between 10 a.m. and 1  p.m.
  • Appointments will still be required for the Maker Space and Verso Studios, but are no longer necessary for the Library Store.
  • The Library will resume collecting fines owed prior to the pandemic.

We won’t see scenes like this for a while. But the Forum is reopening for limited seating.

======================================================

Wakeman Town Farm’s new partnership with Homefront Farmers is already bearing fruit.

The Redding-based organic group building a special teaching garden onsite at the Cross Highway farm.

On April 6 (7 p.m.), Homefront Farmers’ experts will lead a Zoom session about vegetable garden design, how to extend your growing season with succession planning, organic pest management, and the joys of growing organic food. Click here to register.

There’s more! Starting April 3, Homefront Farmers will donate all proceeds from gift card sales purchased through @payitfwrd.co directly to WTF.

Meanwhile, this Monday, there’s a (non-Homefront Farmers-sponsored) Pollinator Pathway talk.

University of Connecticut advanced master gardener Alice Ely will teach Zoom participants how to plant for a continuous season of bloom, with abundant blossoms for pollinators (and people!) to enjoy. Click here to register.

Wakeman Town Farm’s garden. Yours can look like this too!

=======================================================

After 9 light-hearted young readers’ books — the “Charlie Joe Jackson” and “Crimebiters” series — Tommy Greenwald turned serious.

“Game Changer” was a no-holds-barred look at youth football culture. There was not a laugh to be had. But it sure made people think.

Critics loved it. And the American Literacy Association named it one of 2019’s Top 10 books for reluctant readers.

Next up for the Westport writer (who, like his wife and 3 sons, is a Staples High School graduate): “Rivals.” A companion book to “Game Changer,” this one focuses on basketball.

The book explores the journeys of two 8th graders, Carter and Austin, as they navigate the pressures and pleasures of starring on their middle school teams, while an intrepid school sports reporter uncovers scandals that threaten to derail their season.

It’s told through a series of flashbacks, newspaper reports, social media posts and interviews — of course, in Tommy’s unique style. Click here to order, and for more information.

=======================================================

Last summer, MoCA Westport was one of the few organizations to sponsor events.

Their outdoor concerts — with strict social distancing and other COVID precautions — were a huge (and welcome) success.

This year, MoCA plans a new series. The 13 performances — jazz, pop and classical — take place on Fridays, from April through October.

Three jazz concerts will again feature performers from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Spotlight series. They include the Alexa Tarantino Quartet, a highlight of MoCA Westport’s 2020 series.

Here’s the full 2021 Music at MoCA Concert Series schedule :

  • April 30: Matt Nakoa (Pop)
  • May 14: Isaiah J. Thompson: Jazz at Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Spotlight (Jazz)
  • May 28: The Alexa Tarantino Quartet: Jazz at Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Spotlight (Jazz)
  • June 11: Jocelyn and Chris (Pop)
  • June 25: Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung, piano duo (Classical)
  • July 9: Oshima Brothers (Pop)
  • July 16: Horszowski Trio and Masumi Per Rostad; viola (Classical)
  • August 6: Catalyst String Quartet (Classical)
  • August 20: Samara Joy Ensemble: Jazz at Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Spotlight (Jazz)
  • September 3: The Simon Mulligan Trio (Jazz)
  • September 10: Escher String Quartet (Classical)
  • October : Marielle Kraft (Pop)
  • October 15: The Figgs (Pop)

Tickets are now on sale to MoCA members. They’ll be available to the general public on March 22. To learn more or to purchase tickets, please visit mocawestport.org or call 203/222-7070.

Oshima Brothers

=======================================================

And finally … Sally Grossman — the woman in red lounging in the background of the cover of Bob Dylan’s 1965 “Bringing It All Back Home” album — died last week in Woodstock, New York. She was 81.

Dylanologists have spent decades deciphering the artifacts in that photo. Among them — smack in the middle, and of special interest to “06880” readers — is “The Folk Blues of Eric von Schmidt.”

Von Schmidt is one of the most interesting Westporters I’ve ever known. The son of famed artist Harold von Schmidt, Eric was both a revered folk singer and a very accomplished artist.

His Evergreen Avenue studio was a magical place. He died in 2007. Tragically, cancer of the larynx had taken his voice. Click here for a fond remembrance.

Back to Dylan. On his first album in 1962, the singer introduced “Baby Let Me Follow You Down” this way:

“I first heard it from Rick von Schmidt. He lives in Cambridge. Rick’s a blues guitar player. I met him one day in the green pastures of Harvard University.”

In May 1964, Dylan visited von Schmidt at his then-home in Sarasota, Florida. Dylan recorded several songs there, including an early version of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” They were released in 2014 as part of Dylan’s “50th Anniversary Collection 1964.”

And in 1969, Dylan gave one more hat tip — literally — to Eric von Schmidt. Check out the cover of his “Nashville Skyline” album:

So what are we waiting for? Take it away, Bob!

 

 

COVID-19 Roundup: MakerSpace Masks; Music Gigs; Sailplane Solo; Charitable Giving; More


The Westport Library is closed (though it’s online presence is more active than ever). But its MakerSpace is wide open — and doing its part to make and supply PPE to medical personnel across Connecticut.

Westport has partnered with other spaces in the region — Fairfield County Makers Guild in Norwalk; Make Haven in New Haven; Danbury Hacker Space — to assemble face shields. Ours is the only maker space affiliated with a library.

Led by Mike Altis, the MakerSpace has already 3D-printed more than 200 pieces of PPE, such as plastic headbands. After printing, parts are dropped off for final assembly at partnering maker spaces.

Mike prints a headband every 4 hours on the library’s two best 3D printers.

Due to a shortage and slow shipping of supplies, and the need for strict distancing guidelines (only one person in the space at a time), the Westport Library has not produced completed face masks itself.

Fortunately, Mike just received materials. Soon, he and his helpers will assemble completed face shields in their own space.

MakerSpace masks at the library.


Rothbard Ale + Larder posted on Facebook yesterday: “Rothbard will be closing permanently, but we hope this is not goodbye.

“Walrus Alley will be taking its place, with American southern-inspired flavors and dishes you are sure to enjoy. Stay tuned for the occasional Rothbard pop-up, especially in October.

“We hope to see you again.”


Trader Joe’s is closed again today. It is believed another employee contracted the coronavirus.


Like many musicians, 2007 Staples High School grad Drew Angus has been hit hard by the coronavirus.

All gigs through the end of May were canceled. So too have many through August. As a “non-traditional” worker, he’s had a tough time accessing federal and state unemployment benefits.

How’s he coping?

Creatively. After a successful Zoom happy hour for friends last week, he launched “Zoom Pop-Ins.” You can book Drew for a song (or a few) for online birthday parties, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, business meetings, happy hours, whatever. They work especially well as surprises. Click here for more info

Drew also offers drive-by concerts for anyone stuck at home in a 15-mile radius of Westport. He pulls into your driveway, stays safely away, opens his mobile sound system, and plays.

And he teaches virtual guitar and voice lessons. (“Pick up a new quarantine skill!” he suggests.)  Email DrewAngusMusic@gmail.com for concerts and lessons; click here for his website.

Finally, click here for his new single, Mr. Gemini — an introspective rock tune about understanding yourself. (If you buy it on Bandcamp, 85% goes directly to Drew.)

Here’s the stop-motion video. He made it with his marketing manager, Weston High graduate Shari Goldenberg. While strictly socially distancing, of course!


Robert Jacobs has found a new way to self-isolate: soaring solo in a sailplane.

Alone in the sky 8,000 feet above the earth — with no other aircraft around — he feels safe and joyful. The other day, he shot this video:


A reader writes: “My wife and I are looking more closely at our 2020 charitable giving. This is a year for priorities. We want to give where it will have the most immediate and needed benefit, starting with our general community and moving outwards from there.

“For us, food, health, and shelter will come first. Most everything else is on hold. That includes many other very worthy areas.”

How about it, readers. What are your priorities, and why? There are no wrong answers, just opinions. Click “Comments” below.


Spotco — Tommy Greenwald’s marketing, advertising and branding agency — is renowned for its work with Broadway shows.

But with the Great White Way dark, what can they do? Well, how about an uplifting, inspiring video starring Lin-Manuel Miranda?

In just 60 seconds, he manages to let everyone know that after this “intermission,” Broadway will be back with a great 2nd act; offer a way to help people in need, and also provide info on options to assist those in the industry. Take a peek:


Seen on the internet, and worth repeating: “You know all those small businesses you always ask to help out for your silent auction, program book or other fundraiser? Well, it’s time to repay the favor.”


And finally … thanks, Kelly Clarkson, for your words of wisdom!

Tommy Greenwald: A Pandemic Diary

Broadway advertising executive/children’s book author Tommy Greenwald has lived in Westport on and off since 1967. This morning — as we all adapt to our new normal — he shares his.

Tommy also sends this message to “06880” readers: “Stay safe, stay healthy, stay calm, stays sane. And remember: Only 2 rolls of toilet paper per customer!”

DAY ONE

6:57: Wake up. Enjoy 3 seconds of ignorant bliss before remembering what’s happening in the world. Groan in abject dread, roll over, try to go back to sleep. Fail.

7:13: Go downstairs to the elliptical machine. Tell myself that one good thing that can come out of this crisis is getting in shape and losing weight. Spend the entire time on the elliptical thinking about the chocolate chip cookies I’ll have for breakfast.

8:04: Shower. Use a lot of soap. A lot of soap.

8:28: Get dressed. Have trouble deciding which pair of sweatpants to wear. My socks don’t match. Who cares?

A pandemic problem.

8:32: Say good morning to the first adult child who has moved back in. He answers with a grunt. The other 2 adult children who have moved back in aren’t up yet, though their work days start at 9. Our oldest son’s girlfriend is also with us. She’s great. Still, that’s a lot of 20-somethings for one bathroom.

8:39: Take the dogs for the first of their 19 daily walks.

9:25: Go down to the basement to my workspace. Exiled myself there for privacy, and also because the background decor has a cool funky vibe, which will come in handy for all my Zoom videoconferences.

10:00: The first Zoom videoconference of the day. “Hey, that’s a cool funky vibe you got there, Tom,” says a colleague, which makes me feel good, since she, like almost everyone I work with, is approximately the same age as my kids.

10:42: Scroll the news online, just long enough to be frightened by the state of the world, dismayed by the state of our country, depressed about the stock market, embarrassed I’m dismayed about the stock market when there are far more important things to worry about, and awed by the courage and dedication of health care workers.

11:24: Time for a snack! Go upstairs, past the room where one kid is on the phone trying to sell something to someone who really isn’t in the mood to buy anything right now, through another room, where another kid is on the phone trying to sell something to someone who really isn’t in the mood to buy anything right now, and into the kitchen, where my third kid is on the phone, telling his boss that people really aren’t in the mood to buy anything right now.  Peer longingly into my office, where my son’s girlfriend is working away. She waves cheerfully. Why wouldn’t she be cheerful? She has the sweetest spot in the house.

11:26: Can’t find a snack. The kids ate everything.

Charlie, Joe and Jack Greenwald reading their dad’s books. Well, at least Charlie and Jack are.

12:30: Another dog walk, this time at Sherwood Island. It’s not crowded, but it’s not empty. It’s gorgeous. I thank the gods it’s still open, and keep reminding my wife, who is too damn friendly to other people, to make sure to respect the 6-foot rule.

2:15: Another Zoom call. I start getting used to seeing people in little square boxes, and find myself fascinated with other people’s decors. Never would have suspected that quiet, unassuming Brad from accounts would have a giant photograph of a nude bowler in his living room, but there it is.

3:05: Road trip. work up the strength to go to the grocery store. Take a deep breath and put my gloves on. Walk in, saying to myself, Youcandothisyoucandothisyoucandothisyoucandothis. Store is moderately crowded with people, but extremely empty of toilet paper.

3:45: Wash my hands, using a lot of soap. A lot of soap.

3:55: Time to visit Mom. She’s 80, but looks 60. Ask her if she needs anything. She says no. She goes to the market every day. Tell her that’s probably not wise at this point. She says, “I enjoy it. I’m very careful. I wear gloves. I bring Purell. I’m fine.” Decide the same thing I’ve decided since I was 10 years old: arguing with my mother is pointless.

4:45: Last Zoom conference of the day. More accolades for my cool, funky vibe. I work in the theater business, so we discuss the perilous state of our industry. Everything is locked down, and will be for the foreseeable future. No shows. No ticket sales. No income. Everyone is hurting, badly. Feels slightly uncouth to complain when so many people in the world are suffering way worse than we are. We do it anyway.

Tommy Greenwald, at the White House piano. Those days are gone for a while.

5:22: Ninth dog walk of the day. Dogs look up at me like, Are you serious? Streets are filled with walkers, joggers, bikers. We all wave and smile. People are much friendlier to each other during a pandemic.

8:15: Dinner. Everyone in the house will take a turn cooking. Tonight is my middle son’s turn. He makes one thing, but makes it very well. He also cranks the music to 11 while he cooks. We plan on taking our dinners very seriously during this crisis. It’s the one time of day when we all come together, try to stop worrying for an hour, and remember how truly lucky we are that we have what we have: a roof over our heads, enough food to eat, a family that enjoys each other’s company. We even laugh a little.

9:10: We spend 20 minutes scrolling Netflix to find something we all want to watch. We fail.

10:15: My wife and I call my wife’s sister, a nurse at Norwalk Hospital. She’s been working almost every day, and is exhausted. We tell her she’s our hero. We tell her all her colleagues are our heroes too. We tell her we love her and to stay safe. She promises she will. We hang up. We worry.

11:30 – Time for bed. I take a very mild sleeping aid. So sue me.

DAY TWO

Pretty much exactly the same thing as Day One. And until further notice.

Author! Children’s Author!

Westport has a long history with children’s books. Hardie Gramatky illustrated classics like “Little Toot.” Robert Lawson wrote and drew “Rabbit Hill,” and illustrated “The Story of Ferdinand.”

While it’s easy to mourn the loss of artistic icons like these, we still play an important role in children’s literature.

Our neighbors include noted authors of historical fiction, multicultural-themed books, humor, plays — you name it.

Tracy Newman wanted to know more. She talked to some of Westport’s biggest names. Here is her report.


Sari Bodi writes plays based on myths and fairy tales for children’s magazines published by Scholastic. She credits the opportunity to fellow Westporter Lauren Tarshis — the New York Times best-selling author of the “I Survive” middle grade series, and an editorial director of children’s magazines at Scholastic.

It was in Westport that Sari transformed from writing plays and short stories for adults. She joined a children’s books writing group, hosted by Barnes & Noble (which has a robust program of author readings too).

She also appreciates the Westport Library. They help with research, and sponsor a young adult novel reading group that Sari took part in.

Sari enjoys walks on the beach and dinners with fellow writers, where they discuss current projects and the state of children’s publishing.

————————————

Tommy Greenwald

Tommy Greenwald is Westport’s hottest current young adult author. He specializes in funny stories for upper elementary and middle school children (the Charlie Joe Jackson series, which began with their “Guide to Not Reading”).

Tommy — a 1980 Staples High School graduate — also wrote “Game Changer,” a serious book about youth sports, and a picture book.

He writes at both Barnes & Noble, and the Westport Library. Tommy appreciates too Westport’s proximity to New York, for meetings with editors, agents and publicists.


Tracy Newman says, “The Westport community supports my writing in many ways — from forming critique groups and discovering like-minded pals, to offering a variety of classes, to providing a world-class library full of friendly faces, helpful staff and nearly limitless resources.”

Newman takes advantage of nearby New York City too, with trips to the Public Library, writing conferences and — as a writer of Jewish-themed books — events at the Jewish Theological Seminary and Jewish Book Council.

————————————–

Michaela MacColl

An author of historical fiction for middle school and young adult readers, Michaela MacColl has found many writing friends in Westport. She helps other authors too, organizing periodic meetings for local children’s authors.

The Westport Historical Society is an excellent resource for Michaela’s many questions. She finds inspiration in Westport’s history, especially cemeteries. (The lower one at Greens Farms Congregational Church is her favorite.)

Barnes & Noble hosts her writing group and authors’ book launches, while school media specialists have invited her to speak to classes. The Westport Library has also brought Michaela in, for book talks, WestportREADS and the Saugatuck Storytelling Festival.


Susan Ross is the author of 2 middle grade novels. “Kiki and Jacques: A Refugee Story” was this year’s WestportREADS kids’ companion book.

A Westport Writers Workshop instructor, she also takes advantage of easy access to New York’s children’s writing and book events.


Christine Pakkala

Christine Pakkala has written for very young and elementary school children. She’s authored a middle school series, and is currently working on a young adult novel.

She calls Westport “a very supportive community,” because its readers are as passionate and enthusiastic as its authors. “They’re well-read, curious and supportive.”

In her spare time, she teaches at the Westport Writers Workshop.


Fiction and non-fiction picture book writer Karlin Gray says that Westport is wonderful for providing opportunities for connections to writers who need a break from their solitary pursuits.

Meetups at Barnes & Noble, classes at the library and workshops at writing centers have provided herwith a valued community. She cites Westporter Victoria Sherrow — author of more than 80 books — with helping transform 3 of Karlin’s manuscripts into publications.


We may have missed some other Westport children’s authors. If you know of any, add details below!

Tommy Greenwald: Football’s “Game Changer”

Like many Americans, Tommy Greenwald has a complicated relationship with football.

He was thrilled when his son Jack played.

“If I saw him limping or shaking his head, I’d say ‘Get back out there!'” Tommy says. “I was as happy to see my kid hitting and getting hit as anyone else.”

In 8th grade, Jack hurt his ankle. “My first concern was not going to the doctor,” Greenwald admits. “It was, could he finish the game?”

Jack had a great football career, with Westport PAL and Staples High School. His father appreciates what he learned from intense practices, tough games and his relationship with his coaches.

But, Greenwald says, “the football culture — with its pressure to be tough and strong, to play hurt, to not be perceived as soft” — has its downsides.

That’s the heart of “Game Changer.” Published this month, it’s the local author’s 10th book — and a departure from his previous “Charlie Joe Jackson” (named for his 3 sons) and “Crimebiters” young readers’ series.

Jack Greenwald (center), with his brothers Charlie and Joe.

There’s not a laugh to be had in this one. There are no wise guys, no dog with special powers.

“Game Changer” is deadly serious — almost literally.

13-year-old Teddy lies in a coma after a football injury during preseason camp. His family and teammates flock to his bedside to support his recovery — and at the same time trade rumors and theories on social media.

Was this a tragic but fairly common result of a violent sport? Or did something more sinister — bullying and hazing perhaps — happen on the field that day?

“Game Changer” is different type of book. It mixes together dialogue, text messages, newspaper stories — and Teddy’s own inner thoughts.

It’s different too in that it’s a no-holds-barred look at the terrifying risks of a major American sport — and the entire culture supporting it.

Greenwald is emphatic that this is a work of fiction. He added an author’s note to that effect at the end. He says he never saw or heard anything like what happened in “Game Changer” during Jack’s Westport career.

But, Greenwald says, it is “based on a culture I saw through Jack. It’s not far-fetched that this could happen. We’ve all heard about terrible cases in college, high school, even middle school.”

“Game Changer” is not, he insists, a condemnation of football. “My respect for coaches, the life lessons they taught, the lifelong friendships Jack made, is amazing,” Greenwald says.

He calls Westport PAL and Staples “great programs.” And Greenwald has done enough research to know that football in Fairfield County — while intense — is “a dust speck compared to programs around the country. When football is the dominant event in a community, the pressure ratchets up unbelievably. Westport seems to have a good balance. We don’t pin our hopes and dreams on young kids.”

But his book is “a wake-up call for everyone — including me,” he adds. “People — including me — have to pay more attention to the culture and the injuries” of football.

Tommy Greenwald

Greenwald never had to confront the even more dangerous effects of football at the higher level. Though Jack was “semi-recruited” for college, he ended up at Elon and did not play. He graduated from there last June, and now works at a Boston cyber-security firm.

“Jack’s era was a tipping point,” Greenwald says. “The media started focusing on concussions, and parents started looking at football differently. If Jack wanted to play in college, that would have been a much larger discussion.”

Greenwald — who won a state championship as a Staples High School soccer captain in 1978, and whose son Joe was a Wrecker soccer captain in 2012 — remains a “huge” NFL fan.

“I read, like everyone else, about the dangers,” he says. “And like everyone else I camp out every Sunday looking for the best games.

“It’s a weird feeling to like a game you probably shouldn’t.”

(Tommy Greenwald will host a discussion on the pros and cons of youth sports at Barnes & Noble this Sunday [October 7, 12 p.m.] Panelists include his own son Jack; former Staples High School, Temple University football captain and Staples assistant coach Mac DeVito, and Dan Woog — in my role as Staples boys soccer head coach.)

Tommy Greenwald’s Malady

Nearly everyone in Westport knows Tommy Greenwald. The 1979 Staples High School grad co-founded Spotco, the New York agency specializing in Broadway and entertainment advertising. (You may have heard of one of their clients — a little show called “Hamilton.”)

He’s also the author of the “Charlie Joe Jackson young adult book series. The names come from his 3 sons. If you think Tommy (and his wife, fellow Westport native Cathy Utz) are proud parents, you’re absolutely right.

All 3 kids are already out of Staples. The oldest — Charlie — just graduated from Emerson College.

But they’re all back home. Which leads us to Tommy’s guest post on “06880” today…

Tommy Greenwald

Tommy Greenwald

Most people are well aware of Empty Nest Syndrome, those feelings of melancholy and nostalgia that parents experience when their last child goes off to college or moves away.

Much less frequently examined is Full Nest Syndrome, when the kids return en masse to turn your newly peaceful life upside down.

This affliction is more common than you might think, and scientists are finally learning more about it. For those suffering from Full Nest Syndrome, it’s important to remember: You are not alone.

Here are some symptoms most commonly associated with FNS:

  1. Your head pounds from all the deafening hip hop music in the house.
  2. Your back hurts from picking up all the dirty clothes.
  3. Your blood pressure rises from seeing all the empty cartons in the fridge.
  4. Your throat is sore from arguing about who gets the car.
  5. Your energy is low from being woken up at 2 a.m. by slamming doors, loud voices, video games or beer pong (take your pick).
  6. Your heart is full from having all the kids home again — if only for a little while.
Charlie, Jack and Joe Greenwald, settled back at home.

Charlie, Jack and Joe Greenwald, settled back at home.

 

Tommy Greenwald Hangs At The White House

Tommy Greenwald spent Monday practicing his command to the taxi driver: “The White House, please.”

When he actually got in the cab, he added: “And not for the tour.”

He and his wife, Cathy Utz, were headed for the Alexander Hamilton gate on 15th Street. After 3 airport-like security screenings — and an “unglamorous” entrance through a tent area, rather than “strolling through the front door,” as he’d imagined — the Westport couple entered the White House.

Tommy — a longtime Westporter and Staples Class of 1979 grad — is a co-founder of Spotco. The New York agency specializes in Broadway and entertainment advertising. A client is fellow Westport resident Harvey Weinstein.

Tommy Greenwald invitationThe film executive helped arrange “Broadway Day” at the White House. Students from across the country came together to enjoy performances, and learn about acting, singing and dancing. Andrew Lloyd Webber was there. Kristin Chenoweth served as host.

Michelle Obama welcomed everyone to her home. (Her husband was on a business trip, to Turkey.) Among the guests — thanks to Weinstein — were Tommy and Cathy. He got them tickets, because Tommy had created a pro bono video for the event. It airs Thanksgiving night on TLC (Optimum channel 28, 8 p.m.).

Cathy Utz and George Washington.

Cathy Utz and George Washington.

Neither Tommy nor Cathy had been in the White House before. He borrowed a tie from his son Joe. “I hadn’t worn one in 7 years,” Tommy notes. “That was the most stressful part — figuring out what to wear so I wouldn’t get tossed out.”

After being herded into a holding area — filled with things like “Benjamin Harrison’s dinner setting,” Tommy says — the group filed into the East Room. Tommy says it’s “just like any other small performance space, except for all the military people there.”

Three days after the Paris attacks, he and Cathy felt grateful to meet the men and women who protect America.

Michelle Obama - photo Tommy Greenwald

First Lady Michelle Obama enters the East Room. (Photo/Tommy Greenwald)

The First Lady strode in. “She looked fine!” Tommy says.

She gave an introductory speech; then the hour-long concert began. That was followed by a “big nosh cocktail reception.”

It was like any other social event, Tommy says, “except every room was ridiculously gorgeous, with portraits of presidents and first ladies.”

There was nothing saying “White House” that he could steal, he says — “just napkins in the bathroom.” He took a few, for his office staff in New York.

“I was hoping for better tchotchkes,” Tommy admits. “Still, it was great.”

Being around Broadway and film stars, Tommy says, “I’m usually pretty jaded. But sitting 5 feet from Michelle Obama was pretty cool. My wife said she’s never seen me so wide-eyed.”

Tommy Greenwald at the White House piano. I asked if it was the same one Richard Nixon played. Tommy did not know -- but it was definitely the one Andrew Lloyd Webber sat at just a few minutes earlier.

Tommy Greenwald at the White House piano. I asked if it was the same one Richard Nixon played. Tommy did not know — but it was definitely the one Andrew Lloyd Webber used just a few minutes earlier.

Once the concert was over though, all the “incredible organization” ended. Tommy calls it “an interestingly informal free-for-all.”

Soon enough, it was back in a taxi. I did not ask Tommy what he told his driver on the return trip.

A Greenwald Family Two-Fer

In the theater world, a “two-fer” is 2 tickets for the price of 1.

In the Greenwald house, it’s 2 plays written by members of 1 family.

Charlie Greenwald is a junior at Emerson College. On Sunday, March 1, “Surprising Simon” — a play he co-wrote — will be staged there.

The winner of the school’s Rareworks Theatre Playwrights Festival, “Simon” is a farce based on a birthday party gone wrong at many turns.

Charlie’s many friends know he’s a masterful comic (check out his George W. Bush impersonation here). In Staples Players, he participated in shows like “West Side Story” and “Into the Woods.” At Emerson he’s a communications major, involved in both sports broadcasting and play writing.

Charlie and Tommy Greenwald.

Charlie and Tommy Greenwald.

Though his father Tommy is also one of the funniest folks around (check out his “Charlie Joe Jackson Guide to Not Reading” franchise here), the play he co-wrote is an intimate musical.

Set against the background of a changing America between 1950 and 1990, it probes the complex relationships between brothers and sisters, parents and children. It’s all about connections, commitments and the healing of the human heart.

John & Jen” — starring Kate Baldwin and Conor Ryan — was first produced at Goodspeed. It opened off-Broadway in New York in 1995.

The show continues to have a healthy life in small theaters all over the country, and abroad. Now — 20 years later — it’s being revived by Keen Company at the Clurman Theatre on 42nd Street, through April 4.

Tommy — himself a 1979 Staples graduate — was not in Staples Players. (He was a soccer team captain.) But he’s an avid fan of the program. And he understands good theater: his day job is advertising Broadway shows.

So both Tommy and Charlie know something about two-fers. Of course, if you want to see both shows, you’ve got to buy 2 tickets.

(For ticket information on “John & Jen,” click here.)

It’s The 1st Day Of No School!

Like many Westporters, Tommy Greenwald and Cathy Utz long marked today — the 1st day of school — as a milestone on the annual calendar.

For 15 years, the couple watched their 3 boys — Charlie, Joe and Jack — move through the local schools. Each year they grew older, bigger, more independent. But the 1st day of school was always special.

This year is special too. Tommy and Cathy — themselves products of the Westport system — no longer have a child heading off to school here.

To celebrate/mourn, Tommy — author of the very popular “Charlie Joe Jackson” book series for young readers — wrote this poem. Enjoy/contemplate this “06880” exclusive.

Charlie, Joe and Jack Greenwald, back in the day.

Charlie, Joe and Jack Greenwald, back in the day…

It’s here! It’s finally here!
The first day of school!
The first day of the year!

There’s so much to do.
Try not to make a fuss.
And we can’t miss the school bus!

But wait.
Something is different this year.
Where are the children?
They’re not here!

There are no children to wake.
And no lunches to make.

That’s right!
They’re all grown!
Off to college, or other adventures all their own.

...and Charlie, Jack and Joe Greenwald  more recently.

…and Charlie, Jack and Joe Greenwald more recently.

So now what?
What do you do?

Do you sit around and mope?
Give up hope?
Possibly even bawl?

Absolutely not!
Well, maybe for a day or two.
You’re only human, after all.

But after that, enough.
Time to get tough.
Time to see what this can truly mean.
Peace. Quiet. Freedom. A house that’s truly clean!

A love to renew.
That long-delayed dream you can finally pursue.
That promise to yourself you can finally keep.
Or maybe just a good night’s sleep.

Just try to remember, whatever you choose.
This is honestly, truly good news.

Indeed, it’s time for the children to go.
Because guess what? Now it’s your turn to grow.

Cathy Utz and Tommy Greenwald drop their 3rd son, Jack, at college. They're now empty nesters!

Cathy Utz and Tommy Greenwald drop their 3rd son, Jack, at college. They’re now empty nesters!

A Greenwald Graduation Gracias

Longtime Westporters (and Staples grads Tom Greenwald and Cathy Utz) write:

Our youngest son, Jack, graduates from Staples this month, so it seems like a good time to express our thanks.

Thank you to the entire Westport school system, and every teacher, administrator, librarian, custodian, kitchen staff member, counselor, principal and member of the Board of Ed.

Thank you for steering our 3 children safely through their formative years.

Jack, Joe and Charlie Greenwald then...

Jack, Joe and Charlie Greenwald then…

Thank you for guiding them, helping them, praising them, chastising them, coaching them, directing them, comforting them and informing them.

Thank you for giving them the opportunity to run, jump, sing, dance, play, work, act, read, write, add, subtract, make friends and make strides.

Thank you for letting them join teams, casts, groups and clubs.

Thank you for letting them run around at recess, sit around at lunch and hang around during free periods.

...and Charlie, Jack and Joe Greenwald today.

…and Charlie, Jack and Joe Greenwald today.

Thank you for the kindergarten birthday parties, the 8th grade dances and the senior proms.

Thank you for teaching them how to respect others and think for themselves.

Thank you for returning them to us better people.

We will be forever grateful.