Tag Archives: Westport Community Theatre

Finally, Town Honors F. Scott Fitzgerald

On May 14, 1920, a young couple signed a 5-month lease for a modest gray cottage on Compo Road South.

It was not big news. In fact, it took the Westporter-Herald — the local newspaper that chronicled every visitor, gathering and event in town — until the next month to run this small item:

“F. Scott Fitzgerald, a writer, has leased the Wakeman Cottage near Compo Beach.”

The iconic shot of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, in front of their Westport home.

But the honeymoon home of Fitzgerald and his new bride Zelda — they’d gotten married on April 3 –had a profound impact on both. It appears in more of their collective works than any other place they lived.

With good reason. The couple drank and partied all summer long.

On May 14, 2019 — 99 years to the day after that now-legendary lease-signing — Westport will officially recognize that event.

The cottage that once abutted larger-than-life multimillionaire Frederick E. Lewis’ property (now Longshore Club Park) still stands. Today it’s a handsome home. First Selectman Jim Marpe will stand there, and declare “Great Gatsby Day” in town.

The official proclamation — a combination of legalese and whimsy — begins:

“Whereas, it was an age of miracles. It was an age of art. It was an age of excess and it was an age of satire….”

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald slept — and partied — here, on South Compo Road.

But that’s not the only Fitzgerald-Westport connection this month.

On Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19, the Westport Community Theater presents a costumed stage reading of The Vegetable.

If you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry.

Richard “Deej” Webb — the Westport historian who collaborated with Robert Steven Williams on a film and book that describe the Fitzgeralds’ Westport sojourn, and make the strong case that it heavily influenced The Great Gatsby — calls it “his worst work.”

The Vegetable is Fitzgerald’s only full-length play. It was his lone attempt to establish himself as a successful playwright, and his sole foray into political satire.

The plot involves an accidental president who undergoes impeachment. Coming during the corrupt administration of Warren Harding — who died the year it was published — it was “ahead of its time,” Webb says.

To call it forgotten today is an understatement. According to Webb, it was last performed in the 1990s.

The WCT has modified it a bit. What Webb calls “a racist scene” has been edited out.

That may have been a product of its time. But nearly a century later, impeachment is back in the news.

And — at least in Westport — F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald are too.

(The staged reading of The Vegetable is Saturday, May 18 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, May 19 at 2 p.m. For tickets, call 203-226-1983.)

Westport Community Theatre Welcomes Kids, Worries About Future

For nearly a century, the Westport Country Playhouse has stood proudly as one of the nation’s leading regional theaters.

For many decades too, Staples Players has pushed the boundaries of what high school actors can do.

Since 1956, the Westport Community Theatre has quietly served as our town’s “other” stage.

Low-key, little-publicized and itinerant until 1978, the WCT produces 5 mainstage shows a year, plus readings and workshops. Its productions draw small but devoted audiences to its spare, intimate auditorium in the basement of Town Hall.

westport-community-theatre-logo

Now — as town officials examine whether to reclaim that space — one woman is reaching out to a demographic the WCT has long ignored: kids.

Cindy Hartog studied film and television at NYU, then got a degree from the Neighborhood Playhouse conservatory. But she realized she preferred teaching to acting, and after earning a master’s in educational theater from NYU, Cindy organized drama workshops for children and teens.

She married Mark Hartog — best known locally as deputy director of Westport EMS, but also a community theater guy. Cindy worked in the Temple Israel nursery school for over a decade, taught cooking to kids, then a couple of years ago created the WCT Juniors program.

In less than 2 years it’s grown to encompass a 12-week program of performance skills, theater games, improv and scene work, as well as weekend master classes in improv.

A Westport Community Theatre improv class, directed by Heather DeLude.

A Westport Community Theatre improv class, directed by Heather DeLude.

Unlike other theater programs, these are not performance-based. The goal is to teach confidence, public speaking and performance skills, along with scene-writing and technical expertise.

Cindy’s Juniors classes draw youngsters from 6 to 16. On Friday afternoons they warm up together, then split into 3 age-appropriate groups for voice work and other activities. They come together at the end for improv and games.

The older kids are not involved in their own high school theater programs. One, for example, attends Hopkins; 2 are home-schooled.

Cindy notes, “They find a place here, and end up making great contributions.”

Cindy Hartog

Cindy Hartog

She believes in the power of theater to change lives — whether youngsters perform a play onstage or not.

Cindy’s program “tries to help kids become better people,” she says. “We want them to be well-rounded, confident and happy.”

Yet as she uses theater to prepare youngsters for life, she worries about the future of the Westport Community Theatre. Town officials are studying how space is used in Town Hall. When its yearly lease is up, the WCT — which before 1978 bounced between Westport, Weston and Fairfield — may be forced to find a new home.

It’s a search many Westporters are oblivious to.

“We put up lawn signs,” Cindy says of the WCT’s publicity for its mainstage shows.

“We have a banner on Main Street. We march in the Memorial Day parade. But a lot of people still don’t know about us.”

Interested in learning more? Click here. For info on the Juniors program, click here


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Bill Meyer Brings Westport Together — Again

Keith Stein sent an email the other day. He wanted me to promote a special event.

Because it honors Bill Meyer, I said “sure!”

Bill Meyer

Bill Meyer

The event is a reception and staged reading of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” It’s a fundraiser for the Westport Community Theatre’s Bill Meyer Scholarship.

Bill — who died last June, at 85 — was an avid WCT supporter, and served as a director.

But he did much, much more. He:

  • was elected 9 times to the RTM
  • founded the Westport Little League softball program
  • served as Y’s Men president and membership chairman
  • was a director of Sunrise Rotary, Senior  Center, First Night, Westport’s AARP chapter, and 2 intercity Bridgeport agencies
  • served on the Saugatuck Congregational Church council
  • helped with Meals on Wheels
  • was a board member of Isaiah House in Bridgeport, which helps parolees transition from prison to life outside

All those are great reasons to support the Bill Meyer Scholarship. But here’s the really intriguing thing about Keith Stein’s email, asking me to publicize the event:

Bill was also a staunch Republican. Keith is the chair of Westport’s Democratic Town Committee.

The staged reading includes a cast of veteran WCT actors — and a bipartisan cast of local politicians, including Martha Aasen, Toni Boucher, Gail Lavielle, Dewey Loselle, Jim Marpe and Jonathan Steinberg.

Westport Community Theatre

“Bill was an enthusiastic cheerleader for Westport,” Keith says. “I’m involved in the Democratic Town Committee because I want to promote Westport. Sure, he was a Republican. But he transcended politics.”

So did Keith’s email.

Washington: Are you listening?

(The Westport Community Theatre’s fundraiser for the Bill Meyer Scholarship is set for Saturday, October 24 [6-9:30 p.m.] at the Westport Historical Society. It starts with a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception, followed by a staged reading of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” Tickets are $50 per person. Click here or call 203-226-1983.)

Westport Mourns Bob Lasprogato

Republican registrar of voters Bob Lasprogato died last night, at Norwalk Hospital. The former 3rd selectman was 71, and had been in a coma for 2 weeks after suffering a heart-related issue.

Bob was beloved in town — on both sides of the political aisle — for his many activities, ranging from Sunrise Rotary and Westport Community Theatre to Christ & Holy Trinity Church.

In decades of work as an actor, radio personality, jazz musician and entrepreneur, Bob made countless friends. Click “Comments” below to share your favorite stories and memories of this Westport icon.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Bob Lasprogato

Bob Lasprogato

Honoring Bill Meyer

Bill Meyer — Westport’s uber-mega-volunteer-extraordinaire — will be honored next Sunday (March 10).

There’s a reason the 3 p.m. event is in Christ & Holy Trinity’s magnificent Branson Hall: It’s one of the few places in town big enough to hold all of Bill’s admirers.

In his 83 years, Bill has done more than 83 normal people could in 83 lifetimes.

Professionally, he had a fulfilling career as national sales manager for several companies. “We manufactured and sold pens and pencils,” he says of one business.

That’s like saying Bruce Springsteen “plays music.” In fact, Bill managed 800 workers on a Blackfeet Indian reservation in Montana. He was so motivational and inspirational, the tribe adopted him — and gave him an honorary Indian name.

But as much as he traveled, Bill always found time for Westport.

Plenty of time.

Here is a teeny-tiny, way-too-partial list. Bill…

  • was elected 9 times to the RTM. He chairs the Parks and Recreation Committee, and serves on its  Education, and Health and Human Services Committees
  • founded the Westport Little League softball program; was a member of the Little League board of directors; umpired — and had a softball field named for him
  • served as Y’s Men president and membership chairman
  • been a director of Sunrise Rotary, Senior  Center, First Night, Westport’s AARP chapter, Westport Community Theatre, and 2 intercity Bridgeport agencies
  • served on the Saugatuck Congregational Church council
  • mentored a boy from age 5 through adolescence
  • helped with Meals on Wheels
  • volunteered on many Republican campaigns
  • was a board member of Isaiah House in Bridgeport, which helps parolees transition from prison to life outside
  • won the 2004 Service to Older Adults award
  • earned a Westport First award
  • received the YMCA’s Faces of Achievement honor.

I got tired making that list.

Bill never gets tired of anything.

He loves Staples. He loves Westport, sports, the theater, church, the Republican party, volunteering, old people, young people, and his wife Carolyn.

Bill also loves to talk.

Boy, can he talk.

When he takes the mike next Sunday — after tributes from state and local government officials; Little League, Y, LWV, First Night, Sunrise Rotary, Human Services and Saugatuck Church representatives; the Blackfeet Indians, his mentee, and his longtime friend Chris Shays — Bill will likely talk for a while.

He’ll thank all the people who helped him over the years. He’ll tell stories about his many adventures in Westport.  One tale will lead to another. Then another.

And one more.

That’s fine. Bill Meyer deserves his day in the sun.

In fact, no one deserves it more.

This photo epitomizes Bill Meyer. He's volunteering at the Great Duck Race, sponsored by Sunrise Rotary, while hugging Republican State Senator Toni Boucher.

This photo epitomizes Bill Meyer. He’s volunteering at the Great Duck Race, sponsored by Sunrise Rotary, while hugging Republican State Senator Toni Boucher.