Tag Archives: Triple Threat Academy

Roundup: Distracted Driving, Breakfast Club, Shake Shack …

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If you drove on I-95 or the Merritt Parkway yesterday, you noticed electronic signs warning against distracted driving: “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”

They’re part of a state Department of Transportation campaign for April — it’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The Westport Police have joined the effort too.

Connecticut law prohibits the use of any hand-held electronic device while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers 16 or 17 years of age are prohibited from using a cell phone or mobile device any time, even a hands-free one.

Drivers who are ticketed pay $200 for the first offense, $375 for the next, and $625 for the third and subsequent offenses.

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If you never saw “The Breakfast Club”: You missed a classic.

If you missed Triple Threat Academy’s staged workshop production of it at Toquet Hall: You missed another classic.

But you’re in luck! Excerpts have just been posted on YouTube.

The performance grew out of TripleThreat’s Zoom production, directed by founder and “Fame” star Cynthia Gibb during the pandemic.

The cast brought such energy and power to their Zoom sessions that Gibb vowed to bring it to the stage as soon as it was safe.

Despite only 10 hours of rehearsal, the show earned a standing ovation. Triple Threat plans more productions like it. Their spring session begins April 12, with acting and improv classes for youth, teens and adults at Toquet Hall.

Click here for details. As for video below: Hey, it’s “The Breakfast Club.” Beware of f-bombs.

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Could Shake Shack be leaving?

It looked that way, from from the commercial real estate listing:

Turns out it’s the small rooms that are being rented by Pinnacle Fitness — perhaps to a physical therapist, chiropractor or similar tenant. Yuri’s Gym has closed.

Sounds like a great opportunity. Especially for a health professional who likes hamburgers. (Hat tip: Steven Goldstein)

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Aspetuck Land Trust’s popular “Lunch & Learn” series returns this Friday (April 8, noon to 1:15 p.m., Zoom).

“Invasives to Natives: A Backyard Restoration” features super-gardener Pam Roman. She’ll talk about her COVID-time project that transformed her garden — and also healed her heart and soul. Click here to register.

Pam Roman, in her garden.

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Fortunately, NASA has a deflection plan. Just as fortuitously, the Westport Astronomical Society’s next online lecture is with Dr. Nancy Chabot. She’s the planetary chief scientist at Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory. She’ll talk about DART — the “Double Asteroid Redirection Test” defense mission.Here’s one more: an asteroid smashing into earth.

The event is April 19 (8 p.m.). Click here for the Zoom link. Click here for  the YouTube livestream.

It should be fascinating. If nothing has happened to the world in the meantime.

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Former Westporter Barbara Webster died in February at her Oklahoma City home, from complications of dementia. She was  85.

She retired in 2016 after a storied career as a teacher, counselor, professional dancer, choreographer and arts administrator. Her last appointments were as a career counselor at Bunnell High School in Stratford, and executive director of the Connecticut Dance School in Fairfield.

Webster taught dance and fitness for decades through the Westport adult education and summer school programs, and in studios across Fairfield County (including with former Broadway star Bambi Lynn).

She helped choreograph productions and enhanced costumes for Staples Players and at Coleytown Junior High School in the 1970s and ’80s, including shows like “Oklahoma!”, “My Fair Lady,” “Carousel” and “Dromio, Dromio!.” She served as a substitute teacher and guidance counselor too.

She performed with the Dancers of Faith and with Heritage Productions throughout the tri-state region, and presented her original work at the Unitarian Church in Westport. She held additional arts administration roles at the Levitt Pavilion, executive director of the Stamford Community Arts Council, and director of ARTSPACE in New Haven.

An accomplished seamstress and costume designer, Webster was one of 12 needlewomen working on Westport’s Bicentennial Quilt. She also created an original ornament for the Westport Heritage Christmas Tree.

In 1977 Webster co-founded Giftbags, Ltd. She helped develop a customized line of reusable felt bags and puppets for gifts, wine and treats that were featured at the Metropolitan Opera, and local boutiques. Later, she co-created puppets for sale at Blue Man Group performances.A native of New Jersey, Webster graduated first in her class from Barringer High School (Newark) in 1953 and received her BA degree from Douglass College, Rutgers University, in 1957. She earned a Master of Education degree from Rutgers in 1965.

Webster was predeceased by her husband Russell and brother, Dr. Edward C. Sheppard. Survivors include her children Russell Todd Webster of Anchorage, and Catherine Sheppard Webster of Oklahoma City, and grandchildren Haven Barnett, Teddy Webster, and Meredith and Thayer Dycus.

A memorial service will be held August 7 (2 p.m., Unitarian Church in Westport).

The family has requested that contributions in her memory be sent to a scholarship established in her name at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Barbara Webster

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Many “06880” readers sent photos of yesterday’s gorgeous rainbow over Compo Beach. Jeanine Esposito’s made the cut as today’s “Westport … Naturally” image.

(Photo/Jeanine Esposito)

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And finally … gamed jazz guitarist Larry Coryell was born today in 1943. He died in 2017.

Roundup: Breakfast Club, Library Trustees, Rugby Rout …

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A full house at Toquet Hall enjoyed yesterday’s Triple Threat Academy workshop production of “The Breakfast Club.”

The cast — a mix of old and young — nailed the iconic (and now 37-year-old) movie.

Highlights included Michael Sharits — a professional actor and Triple Threat student — who jumped in as Claire’s dad with just 2 hour’s notice when a cast member had COVID exposure.

In addition, there were 2 Staples Players parent/child duos: Nick Sadler (Principal Vernon) and Cooper Sadler (John Bender), plus Jean Pitaro (Brian’s mom) and Josy Pitaro (Claire).

Triple Threat founder (and Staples High School graduate) Cynthia Gibb was in the audience, watching acting teacher/Juilliard grad Keith Contreras-McDonald’s production.

Cynthia’s mom Linde was there too. She’s in Triple Threat’s adult acting class.

For more on Triple Threat’s acting and improv classes for youth, teens and adults, dance classes, audition workshops, private voice lessons and more, click here.

“The Breakfast Club” cast, outside Toquet Hall.

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The Westport Library gives so much to Westport. Here’s a chance to give back.

There are vacancies on the board of trustees. The Library seeks candidates with previous board experience. and expertise in finance, fundraising and development for non-profits; knowledge, expertise and understanding of trends in media and information technology, and entrepreneurs with experience in business, economic development and innovation.

Trustees must be Westport residents, and serve for 4-year terms beginning July 1. There are 20 members; half are appointed by the Representative Town Meeting, half by the Library Board itself. For more information about trustees’ roles, click here.

To apply, email a resume and letter of interest to rpowell@westportlibrary.org. The deadline is April 25.

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The Staples High School rugby team is ranked 9th in the nation, by Goff Rugby Report. Georgetown Prep of Maryland is 8th.

But the Wreckers traveled south, and demolished the Hoyas yesterday 45-7. The livestreamed match was watched by dozens of Staples parents, siblings and fans — and plenty of ex-pat former ruggers from South Africa and Australia — at Little Barn restaurant.

Congratulations to 1st-year head coach Neil Seideman and his excellent team on their 2nd win in 2 games. They opened the season with a 38-3 trouncing of Xavier-Middletown. (Hat tip: Terry Brannigan)

Cheering on Staples rugby, at Little Barn.

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Speaking of sports: This weekend marks the return — after 2 canceled COVID years — of the Westport Soccer Association’s WIN tournament.

Over 160 teams from throughout the tri-state region compete indoors and outside, at Staples High and Bedford Middle School, and Wakeman. In 40 years of existence, the event has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Coleman Brothers Fund. It honors former Westport athletes Scott and Keith Coleman, who were killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Boys teams ages 9 through 19 played yesterday. Girls play today. Congratulations to the Wreckers of Westport, who won the U-19 championship yesterday, including a 6-0 thrashing of Dynamo in the final.

U-19 champions (front row, from left): Avery Mueller, Ben Tanen, Aidan Mermagen. Back row: Thomas Corridon, Brewster Galley, Bruno Guiduli, Jaden Mueller, Jesse Sanchez. Missing: Santi Alfageme, Jacob Greenberger. (Photo/Barry Guiduli)

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Speaking still of sports: Chad Knight — for the former Staples High School and Little League World Series star — leads the Duke University baseball team in hitting. The 6-0, 220-pound catcher/designated hitter has a .350 average for the 11-8 Blue Devils. (Hat tip: Steve McCoy)

Chad Knight

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Bistro du Soleil is not just a great restaurant. It’s also an inspiring art venue. Westport artist Karen Silver Bloom — known for her unique collectible shadow boxes —  is next up, at the popular Riverside Avenue spot. An opening reception is set for March 27 (4 to 7 p.m.). The shadow boxes will be on display at Bistro du Soleil on weekends through May 8.

Karen Silver Bloom and friend, in her studio.

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Just announced: an interesting CNN+ and HBO Max project focusing on Westport’s own Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

Ethan Hawke is the director. Martin Scorsese is the executive producer. Deadline says, “The Last Movie Stars will celebrate the enigmatic personas, incandescent talent and love story of the 2 actors, who occupy a unique space in the Hollywood pantheon.

“Central to the film is a long-abandoned project that Newman, who died in 2008, commissioned…. (Stewart Stern interviewed) Woodward, Elia Kazan, Sidney Lumet, Karl Malden, Sidney Pollack, Gore Vidal, Jacqueline Witte and others for a planned memoir.

“He also interviewed Newman…. They discussed his youth, first marriage, romance and life with Woodward, personal demons, and the loss of his son Scott.”

Click here for the full story. (Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein)

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman.

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Congratulations to Staples High School’s March Students of the Month.

Senior Olivia Marshall, juniors Lucy Dockter and Mirian Hurley, and freshmen Perrin Root and Ocean Banska were selected, principal Stafford Thomas said, for helping make their school “a welcoming place for peers and teachers. They are the ‘glue’ of the Staples community: the type of kind, cheerful, hard-working, trustworthy students who keep the high school together, making it the special place it is.”

Staples Students of the Month Perrin Root, Miriam Hurley, Lucy Dockter and Olivia Marshall. Missing: Ocean Bansak.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” selection is a first: a video.

Susie Kowalsky captured — on film, that is — these swans nesting on the Saugatuck River. It’s a scene we don’t always see, but can always admire.

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And finally … in honor of “The Breakfast Club” (see story above):

 

 

 

Roundup: Vaccine, Leah Rondon, Rotary $$ …

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The latest COVID news, via Kerry Foley and Facebook’s “Westport Coronavirus Info” page:

  • “Tens of thousands” of additional doses should be added to the system this week. That means appointment slots will open up soon.
  • If you have a vaccine appointment in  April May or June, you should be able to get an earlier date in the next 3 weeks. If you do get an earlier date, cancel your later appointment.
  • The state is on target to open appointments to the 45 to 54 age group on March 22.

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For several years, a Birthday Bash in honor of Leah Rondon raised money for several scholarships. It honored the 6-year-old daughter of Bedford Middle School teacher Colleen Rondon, who was killed when struck by a car while playing at a friend’s house.

COVID canceled the most recent event. But the show goes on — literally.

This Saturday (March 6, 6 p.m.), a cabaret with young performers from around the globe will be livestreamed on Triple Threat Academy‘s Facebook and YouTube pages. Triple Threat founder/noted “Fame” actress/Staples High School grad Cynthia Gibb co-hosts, with Leah’s mom Colleen.

Performers – most of whom train with Triple Threat in Westport and Hollywood — include Makayla Joy Connolly of Broadway’s “Harry Potter,” and Westport’s own Jamie Mann, of Netflix’s new show “Country  Comfort.”

Leah’s brother Sam joins on sax, Cooper Sadler tears it up at the Levitt Pavilion, and Sophie Walther sings her heart out from the UK.

The family-friendly benefit relies on donations from viewers and supporters. Click here for the link; click for the livestream via Triple Threat’s Facebook Live and YouTube pages.

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It’s been a tough year for non-profits. In-person fundraising has suffered, while demands for their services has spiked.

But thanks to one organization, another can continue its work.

Westport Rotary Club recently donated $1,075 to Homes with Hope. The funds will provide transportation for children living in supportive housing to HwH’s After School Academic Program, where they receive food, tutoring and mentoring. It’s especially important with the rise in online learning, and the widening academic gap for children without a parent to assist them.

Westport Rotary will distribute all of the funds donated by the community to its 2020 LobsterFest Charitable Giving fundraiser. More grant recipients will be announced soon.

Rotary meetings now held virtually 3 Tuesdays a month (12:30 to 1:30 p.m.). For more information, click here.

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March is Women’s History Month. For 25 years, Winged Monkey has been a woman-owned Westport business.

To celebrate both the month and their 25th anniversary, the popular Post Road East shop is offering — yes — 25% sales. There are other promotions all month long too.

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And finally … 3 big birthdays today. They represent a wide range of genres.

Karen Carpenter was born March 2, 1950. She died in 1983.

Jon Bon Jovi was born today in 1962.

And happy 50th birthday to Method Man.

Cynthia Gibb’s Triple Threat For Aspiring Actors, Writers, Dancers

As Westport teens and tweens settle down to life in a pandemic, they’re learning how to learn online.

Academics and extracurriculars are all done virtually now. But it’s one thing to learn math or history that way, or do your judo or piano lessons.

What about all those theater kids? When Mickey Rooney said “let’s put on a show!” he wasn’t talking to himself.

Cynthia Gibb rides to the rescue.

The 1981 Staples High School graduate sure has the credentials. She’s starred in “Search for Tomorrow” and “Fame”; played Karen Carpenter in her biopic; starred with Shirley Jones, Dick Van Dyke, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze and Burt Reynolds, and been on “Law and Order/SVU” and “Criminal Minds” too.

Cynthia Gibb earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Gypsy Rose Lee in “Gypsy,” with Bette Midler.

Cynthia worked with Oliver Stone, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins. Her credits include 13 features, 3 network series, 24 TV movies, countless TV pilots, commercials, voiceovers and print work.

A decade ago she returned to Westport, and opened Triple Threat Academy. It’s nurtured and inspired hundreds of young and adult actors, singers and dancers. Many have gone on to schools like Tisch and Carnegie Mellon, and careers on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Cynthia Gibb, at the “Fame” reunion in Italy.

When the coronavirus pandemic turned “Contagion” into reality, acting teacher Nick Sadler (“True Grit,” “Scent of a Woman”) brainstormed how to keep youngsters — so many of whose shows were canceled just days before opening night — engaged. It had to be more than a watching-and-waiting scene study class.

Cynthia had an idea: a pandemic monologue play.

Students could journal about their experiences during this crazy time, and craft a monologue. At the end of 6 weeks, it will be performed via Zoom. With Triple Threat’s help, actors might take the resulting play to a real stage or screen — even on tour — once people can congregate again.

Westport native Jamie Mann (right) and Josie Todd (middle), last summer in “Because of Winn Dixie” at the Goodspeed Opera House. The pair will perform together again — this time virtually — in Triple Threat Academy’s upcoming online plays. 
(Photo/Diane Sobolewski)

Cynthia’s “Monologue and Play Development Class” meets for 6 weeks, starting next week (high schoolers on Wednesdays, middle schoolers on Tuesdays, from 5 to 6 p.m.).

Monologues will be good, bad, fearful funny. (Remember, “A Chorus Line” started out as monologues too.) Enrollment already includes teenagers with extensive — even professional — experience.

“Art always reflects what is going on in life,” Cynthia says. “Just think about ‘Rent’ and the AIDS crisis. We now have an opportunity to find the light in dark times, the humanity behind the grim news, and the positivity to push forward — all through the powers of creativity, collaboration and storytelling.”

Meanwhile, Nick has organized a hybrid of traditional radio theater and today’s podcasts. (Remember when Americans huddled around the radio, listening to plays? Hey — we’re back huddling together.)

Nick Sadler (center) with Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Scent of a Woman,” starring Al Pacino. Sadler landed this supporting role shortly after graduating from Juilliard.

His “Virtual Play Series” will teach students how to stage a fast-paced play (or two). Each week the cast will meet via Zoom to read, rehearse and ultimately “release” the play to an online audience.

Students will take on multiple roles, challenging them to invent a variety of characters. It’s a collaborative effort — just like all great theater. (An adult version is in the works too.)

It runs for 7 Sundays, from 3 to 4 p.m. for high schoolers, and 5 to 6 p.m. for middle schoolers. The first session is this Sunday (March 29).

Meanwhile, the third part of Triple Threat — dance — heads online too. Kim Porio offers a class this Sunday (10:45 to 11:45 a.m.) for young actors and singers. It’s “Bring a Friend Day,” so even those not enrolled can try it out.

It all should be quite a show.

(For more information about Triple Threat Academy’s offerings, including registration, click here, email TripleThreatAcademyCT@gmail.com, search on Facebook, or follow @TripleThreatAcademy on Instagram.)