Tag Archives: Westport Country Playhouse

Friday Flashback #317

Most old Westport Country Playhouse photos show the famed “summer theater” during that season. Trees obscure the handsome one-time tannery.

The Playhouse season now begins earlier, and ends later. As they prepare for “From the Mississippi Delta” — their final production of 2022 — here’s a fascinating look, with the trees bare.

The photo is undated. But the Westport Country Playhouse is timeless. If you’ve got a Playhouse memory, click “Comments” below.

(Photo courtesy of Bill Stanton)

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Next Acts: Playhouse Announces ’23 Schedule

Westport Country Playhouse theater-goers have enjoyed one of the most entertaining, thought-provoking and exciting seasons ever. One more production remains: “From the Mississippi Delta,” next month.

But the creative team is already looking ahead to 2023. The 5-show season — the historic Playhouse’s 93rd — includes a musical, a thriller, a comedy and a classic.

The season — which returns to 3-week runs after a condensed 2-week schedule this year, and with more 7 p.m. curtains — opens April 11 with “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” The sassy song-and-dance tribute to jazz great Fats Waller won 5 Tony Awards in 1978.

Then comes a reimagining of “Dial ‘M’ for Murder,” with even more surprises and twists than in the legendary Alfred Hitchcock film of blackmail and revenge.

A world premiere modern translation and adaptation of “Antigone” follows. Especially resonant today, the drama explores the nature of power and resistance, as a determined young woman defies a tyrannical king.

The season concludes with “School Girls, or, The African Mean Girls Play.” It’s a comedy about the universal similarities — and glaring differences — faced by teenage girls around the globe.

A fifth production has not yet been finalized.

Ticket information will be available soon at the Playhouse website.

The historic curtain rises next spring, on the 2023 season.. (Photo/Robert Benson)

Photo Challenge #395

For a couple of years, a “Pride Bench” — decked out in rainbow colors — sat in front of Mystic Market. Everyone traveling past, on heavily trafficked Charles Street, saw it and smiled.

When the store closed in May, Westport Country Playhouse company manager, Bruce Miller thought that — given their close ties to the LGBTQ community — the Playhouse could make a good next home.

The Mystic Market folks agreed. The “Pride Bench” now sits proudly in front of the Sheffer Studio.

Fred Cantor, Lynn Untermeyer Miller, Amy Schneider and Jonathan Prager all knew the new location of the bench. Susan Iseman, Nancy Vener and Celeste Champagne, meanwhile, recognized it from its previous location. (Click here to see the photo.)

This week’s Photo Challenge is less colorful — but very interesting. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Johanna Keyser Rossi)

Westport’s Korean Convenience Store Heads West

People are talking about “Kim’s Convenience.”

The Westport Country Playhouse production has audiences buzzing. The acting, dialogue, casting; the up-front stereotypes and recognition of universal family themes — they love it all.

They particularly love the set.

Designed by You-Shin Chen, it recreates a Korean-owned convenience store in Toronto — right there on the 91-year-old Playhouse stage.

We’re not talking a shelf or two. This is aisle upon aisle of candy, chips, cigarettes, paper towels — exactly what you’d find in a store like that.

Plus fully stocked coolers, a sign demanding legal ID — even fluorescent lights and heating vents.

David Shih, Eric R. Williams, and the “Kim’s Convenience” set, at the Westport Country Playhouse. (Photo/CarolRoseggt

It’s a shame to think of striking the set when the show ends on Sunday.

Happily, it won’t be.

Instead, the fully stocked “store” will be packed up, and moved to California. In September, the entire set and most props will wow audiences at the Laguna Playhouse production of “Kim’s Convenience.”

The only items not going are the beverages in the coolers, and bread. The candy will be shipped separately, to avoid melting in the hot truck.

A professional transfer company is handling the arrangements. Chin will help.

RJ Romeo, the Playhouse’s technical director, heads to Laguna this fall. He’ll assist the production crew there with installation.

But that’s not the only rental. After the California run, the set will be shipped again — to TheatreSquared in Fayetteville, Arkansas, for their January production.

Westport Country Playhouse is nationally known for the hundreds of famed actors who starred here.

Now we’ll be known — in Southern California and Arkansas, anyway — for the Toronto Korean convenience store that once graced our stage.

(“Kim’s Convenience” runs through this Sunday, July 17. Click here for tickets, and more information.)

(“06880” relies on support from readers like you. Please click here to help.)

Westport Country Playhouse: 91 Years Young Today

On June 29, 1931, the curtain rose for the first time at the Westport Country Playhouse.

It ushered in a new chapter in town history — and the theater world nationally.

By 1930, Lawrence Langner and his wife Armina Marshall had achieved remarkable success as theater producers. The Theatre Guild — which Langner co-founded — had become perhaps the most prolific and influential producer on Broadway, and the leading producer of touring productions throughout the country.

Residents of Weston, the Langners wanted to establish a resident acting company, and experiment with new plays and reinterpretations of classics. But it had to be away from the spotlight of New York.

In the winter of 1930 they saw an old barn in an apple orchard near downtown Westport. The town was already popular with Broadway’s theatrical community.

It was exactly what they were looking for. They bought the property, with an assessed value of $14,000.

The 1930 barn.

Cleon Throckmorton — a respected Broadway set designer who had also designed the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Massachusetts — was hired to transform the 1835 tannery into a theater.

The first production — “The Streets of New York” — opened 91 years ago today.

It was called Woodland Theatre. On opening day, Langner changed the name, to Country Playhouse.

The Westport Playhouse has seen countless highlights since then. Among them:

1933: “Present Laughter” is directed by Antoinette Perry. The Tony Awards are now named for her.

1935: Langner purchases 3.5 more acres, at $2,000 an acre, to expand the facilities. Extensions to the theater and construction of a scene shop and offices cost $25,000; a refreshment stand is $225.

1939: An unknown Gene Kelly dances in a musical revue. with a pair of new composers/performers named Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

1940: Oklahoma!” was never performed on the Playhouse stage, yet it plays a critical role in its genesis. A 1940 production of Lynn Riggs’ Green Grow the Lilacs incorporates turn-of-the-century folk songs, and a square dance scene. Langner invites Fairfield resident Richard Rodgers to see a performance. Three years later the Theatre Guild produces Oklahoma! on Broadway.

An early audience outside the Playhouse.

1941: Tallulah Bankhead adds drama to Her Cardboard Lover by taking her bows carrying a lion cub in her arms. It’s such a hit, she does it every night.

1941: Lee Strasberg directs Tyrone Power in Liliom, which later becomes Carousel on Broadway. Power is ready to open at the Playhouse when Daryl Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox, demands he return to Hollywood to re-shoot movie scenes. Playhouse attorney Kenneth Bradley invokes a 300-year-old Connecticut blue law to keep Power here.

1942-45: For 4 seasons during World War II, when gas rationing prevents audiences from getting to the theater, there are no productions. The next season closure occurs 75 years later, during COVID..

1946: Just before Olivia de Havilland takes the stage on opening night of What Every Woman Knows, she marries novelist and journalist Marcus Goodrich at Langner’s Weston home.

1946: The apprentice system begins. Over the years, summer interns include Stephen Sondheim (1950) and Tammy Grimes (1954). Today the Playhouse hosts the Woodward Internship Program, a national program for emerging theater professionals. It is named for longtime Playhouse supporter Joanne Woodward.

Stephen Sondheim (crouching, top of photo), during his 1950 apprenticeship. The photo was taken at the Jolly Fisherman restaurant. Also in the photo: future film director Frank Perry (front row, left) and Richard Rodgers’ daughter Mary (2nd row, 4th from left).

1949: Helen Hayes performs with her 19-year-old daughter, Mary MacArthur, in Good Housekeeping. Mary becomes ill the day after closing, and dies of polio one week later.

1951: A world premiere comedy by Noël Coward, Island Fling, stars Claudette Colbert. Post-performance visitors to Colbert’s dressing room include Marlene Dietrich, Danny Kaye, Richard Rodgers and Otto Preminger.

 1952: Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, who had achieved great success with Brigadoon and Paint Your Wagon, struggle to create a musical from Shaw’s Pygmalion. Lerner sees it on the Playhouse stage. Four years later My Fair Lady becomes a smash on Broadway.

1954: ApprenticeTammy Grimes is fired from the box office in her first week because she is unable to make correct change. She is transferred backstage, where she irons actor Richard Kiley’s pants.

1954: A restaurant is built adjacent to the Playhouse: Players Tavern.

The iconic red Westport Country Playhouse.

1954: Christopher Plummer makes his American stage debut in Home Is the Hero. Years later, he joins the Playhouse board of trustees.

1955: The Empress includes apprentice Sally Jessy. She later earns fame as talk show host Sally Jessy Raphael.

1956: The big concern every day is how much ice to order. The theater is cooled by fans blowing over ice. Vintage posters in the lobby boast, “Air-cooled.”

Westport Country Playhouse in 1960 (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

1957: Eartha Kitt stars in Mrs. Patterson, a Tony-nominated role she originated on Broadway. Fifty years later, now a Weston resident, she returns to the Playhouse stage in All About Us, a new musical by Kander and Ebb opening the 2007 season.

1958: Hugh O’Brian, popular star of television’s “Wyatt Earp,” causes a box office frenzy as the leading man in Picnic. It is a vivid illustration of the new power of television.

1958: Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy star in Triple Play.

1960: With a film career still in the future, Jane Fonda, age 23, stars in No Concern of Mine. Her father, Henry, had appeared in The Virginian at the Playhouse in 1937, the year his daughter was born.

1964: 18-year-old Liza Minnelli receives her Equity card, appearing with Elliott Gould in The Fantasticks. On opening night, according to a Playhouse brochure, “the rather gawky teenager…received a standing ovation.”

1969: Butterflies Are Free premieres with Blythe Danner and Keir Dullea. The comedy transfers to Broadway where it runs over 3 years, earning Danner a Tony Award. The  play — one of 36 that made the leap from Westport to Broadway — is reprised as a reading for the Playhouse’s 80th anniversary in 2010, with its original stars –Danner as the mother, Dullea as the evening’s host.

1973: The Connecticut Theatre Foundation is created to operate the Playhouse as a not-for-profit.

1974: In his playbill letter for Hair, Jim McKenzie, executive producer, says, “Open your mind, open your heart and prepare for the theatrical experience of a lifetime.”

1977: Absent Friends, a Playhouse co-production plan with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, opens in Washington, following its Westport run. On the same evening, The Master Builder opens in Westport, following its engagement in DC.

1978: A fall and winter film and play series begins with the movie Gone with the Wind, plus a big barbecue hosted by Colonel Sanders himself.

1981: Eva Le Gallienne makes her last appearance at the Playhouse 45 seasons after her first, with many roles in between. Today, the Playhouse’s Green Room is named in her honor, and contains memorabilia from her career.

The green room. Think of all the legendary names that have passed through there.

1985: Philip Langner, son of founders Lawrence Langner and Armine Marshall, receives an offer of $1.2 million for the Playhouse property from Playhouse Square, the adjacent shopping center. The Connecticut Theatre Foundation, current lessee, has a right to match the offer. The Playhouse Limited Partnership, a group of 27 ardent theater supporters, is formed to purchase the property.

1985: A fall season includes A Bill of Divorcement starring Christopher Walken and Katharine Houghton, who recreates the role in which her aunt, Katharine Hepburn, made her film debut in 1932. Hepburn is in the audience.

1987: The Playhouse makes a major change: from producing 12 plays in 12 weeks to producing 6 in 12. Subscriptions spike. Seeing a show every other week is more convenient to many than committing to a weekly schedule.

1989: With the Playhouse in arrears on its mortgage and taxes, and facing major expenses to meet fire and safety codes, it asks local developer Ceruzzi Mack Properties to make good the debt, assume the mortgage, and renovate and lease back the theater for $1 a year, in return for property ownership and construction of commercial rental space on the Playhouse campus. The Planning & Zoning Commission turns down the application.

1990: The Playhouse is entered on the Connecticut State Register of Historic Places.

1991: 30-year-old Aaron Sorkin visits the Playhouse to see a production of his play A Few Good Men.

1999: Groucho: A Life in Revue is taped at the Playhouse for PBS.

2000: A campaign begins to renovate the Playhouse, and transition from summer stock to a year-round theater. Connecticut Theatre Foundation becomes owner of the Playhouse and adjacent restaurant. Contributions, bolstered by a $5 million state grant from the State of Connecticut, help reach the $30.6 million goal by the end of 2005.

The Westport Country Playhouse teoday.

2000: A 2-week run of Ancestral Voices by A. R. Gurney features a different stellar cast each week. Among them: Jane Curtin, Neil Patrick Harris, Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, Paul Rudd, Swoosie Kurtz, James Naughton.

2001: Joanne Woodward is named artistic director. She directs 3 plays and appears in several productions, including Love Letters with Paul Newman, and a Script in Hand reading of Arsenic and Old Lace with Christopher Walken. Newman also appears in Ancestral Voices, Trumbo, and a revival of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, which transfers to Broadway.

2002: Gene Wilder stars in Don’t Make Me Laugh. It’s his 4th appearance at the Playhouse, but first in a feature role. He performed here with Walter Pidgeon, Helen Hayes, and Carol Channing, “but nobody knew who I was then.”

2002: The Playhouse’s 2002 production of Our Town transfers to Broadway for a limited run, playing to full houses. The play airs on Showtime and PBS’ “Masterpiece Theatre.” Newman receives Tony and Emmy Award nominations for his performance as Stage Manager.

Local residents Jim Naughton, Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, at the Westport Country Playhouse in 2002.

2003: During a regional power outage, the Playhouse is in the middle of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons with Richard Dreyfuss and Jill Clayburgh. Most actors live in New York and cannot travel to Westport. The performance is canceled.  However, Dreyfuss is in Westport. He drives to the theater and shakes hands with whoever arrives.

2003 and 2004: Fundraising galas support the Playhouse’s planned renovation with performances by Carole King, Robin Williams, Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Harry Connick, Jr. hosted by Brian Williams.

2005: May 23, 2005 marks the re-opening of Westport Country Playhouse and its 75th anniversary season, following a major multi-million dollar renovation.

2005: The Lucille Lortel Foundation awards a $2 million grant to establish The Lucille Lortel White Barn Center at the Playhouse.

2006: Paul Newman and Chef Michel Nischan open the Dressing Room restaurant next door.

2006: Stephen Sondheim returns to the Playhouse for the first time since his 1950 apprenticeship. He is saluted on the Playhouse stage with performances by Laura Benanti, Kristin Chenoweth, Barbara Cook, and Patti LuPone.

2006: James Earl Jones appears as Thurgood Marshall in the world premiere of Thurgood. He later joins the Playhouse board of trustees. 

2008: The popular Script in Hand play reading series begins.

2009: Stephen Sondheim presents a tribute to Mary Rodgers Guettel at the annual gala, An Enchanted Evening: The Music of Richard Rodgers. Sondheim and Rodgers Guettel are former Playhouse apprentices.

2021: During its 90th anniversary — and the pandemic, the Playhouse pivots to an all-virtual season. It’s available on-demand, with captions in Spanish.

After 91 years, the view has changed little. (Photo/Robert Benson)

(Like the Westport Country Playhouse, “06880” relies on contributions for support. Please click here to help.)

Westport Playhouse Takes National Stage

Andrew Wilk could have lived many places.

One reason he chose to move here in 2006 was the Westport Country Playhouse.

The beautiful theater — and the part it plays in our town’s artistic heritage — appealed to the arts and entertainment executive, who helped found the National Geographic Channel, then worked for Sony. (The great school system, and proximity to water, were other draws.)

The 90-year-old Westport Country Playhouse.

Wilk went on to earn 5 Emmys for his work as executive producer of PBS’ “Live at Lincoln Center.”

But the 4-hour-a-day commute got to be a bit much. When a man died on a Metro-North train near Wilk, he took it as an omen. He quit his Lincoln Center gig, while maintaining his ties with PBS (and his extensive Rolodex).

During morning coffee conversations with Westport friends, the Playhouse often came up. They noted how underutilized it was — and wondered how, besides dramas and musicals, its historic stage could be used for other forms of art.

Early in the pandemic, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe asked Wilk for entertainment ideas. Always thinking outside the box, Wilk wondered: Why not move Lincoln Center’s “Stars in Concert” here?

“Stars on Stage” was born.

Andrew Wilk and one of his Emmys, in his Lincoln Center office.

Playhouse managing director Michael Barker was on board. They donated the  theater itself, plus staff and crew support

But talent does not come cheap. Wilk worked his Rolodex to find available and willing entertainers — and generous donors.

He landed Gavin Creel (Tony Winner in “Hello, Dolly!”; “The Book of Mormon”), , Brandon Victor Dixon (Aaron Burr in “Hamilton,” Emmy nominee in “Jesus Christ Superstar”) and Shoanan Bean (Billboard artist; “Wicked,” “Waitress”).

Led by Bud and Roz Seigel, Westport donors came through too.

Wilk was determined to do this right. In early September, a control truck rolled into the Playhouse parking lot. A New York production crew with 8 cameras — including an 18-foot jib and a Steadicam — and first-class sound equipment went to work.

It was not easy. COVID made the daily rehearsal and production ritual with the stars, their bands and the entire technical and production staff arduous.

Everyone had to test 72 hours, then 48 hours and finally 24 hours before contact with anyone in the show could be made.

Wilk had to hire a COVID compliance officer to check everyone in, take everyone’s temperature, and send an online questionnaire every morning at 6. There was on-site testing too, if needed.

Performer had to rehearse in masks, up till the final performance. Everyone wore lanyards, showing where they were allowed to be (stage and wings only; audience and lobby only, etc.)

Those were the same procedures mandated for every television and movie set in the country, by theatrical unions.

Finally they filmed 2 shows a night, for 3 days. The intimate setting worked wonderfully. Creel, Bean and Dixon performed show-stoppers, classic and contemporary songs, and told stories.

Audience members were thrilled. For many, it was the first live, in-person entertainment since the pandemic began.

Yet Wilk’s work had just begun. He spent the last 3 months editing, and finalizing contracts with PBS.

Today, the network announces the shows. “Stars on Stage From Westport Country Playhouse” premieres on 3 consecutive Fridays — January 7, 14 and 21, 9 p.m.) on PBS, PBS.org and the PBS Video app.

PBS calls itself “America’s largest stage.” Now — thanks to a collaboration with a much smaller, but more historic — stage, audiences across the country can enjoy a theater we sometimes take too much for granted.

Stephen Sondheim’s Westport Years: Helping Lee Strasberg, Cleaning Latrines

The Stephen Sondheim stories keep coming.

A recent New York Times story notes that the composer was famous for writing letters. Sent to “students and professionals and fans, they were thoughtful and specific, full of gratitude and good wishes, each on letterhead, each with the elegant, sloping signature that’s familiar now from the Stephen Sondheim Theater marquee.”

One of those notes — written very early in his career — has a Westport connection.

In the spring of 1950 Sondheim graduated from Williams College, and was accepted for a summer apprenticeship at Westport Country Playhouse. He replied to managing director Martin Manulis (below).

He apologized for his delay in responding to the offer , said he would not need a room as he would be commuting from his parents home in Stamford — and asked for a delay of 12 days before starting.

He wanted “a few days’ rest before transferrin from the ivory tower of education into the cold, cruel world.”

The Playhouse agreed.

More than 50 years later — in preparation for a Playhouse tribute to him, hosted by Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward — Sondheim was asked by the Times about that letter.

“I just wanted a week off,” he said.

The Westport Country Playhouse, as it looked for many years.

Sondheim’s summer at the Playhouse was eye-opening.

“You learn about all the intricacies of putting on a play: how many people are necessary to make a moment work onstage, from the writers to the stagehands,” he said.

“At Westport I got to work with non-musicals and have different actual jobs instead of just fetching coffee and typing scripts. Now the best way to learn the theater, always, is to be a stage manager, and one of the great things about the Westport program was that you got to be an assistant stage manager on at least one show during the summer.”

He did that on “My Fiddle’s Got Three Strings,” directed by Lee Strasberg and starring Maureen Stapleton. When the actors started reading, I couldn’t hear one word. You want to talk about mumbling.

He was surprised how many actors mumbled during the read-through. And the reality of watching Strasberg direct was far different than hearing him talk about his craft.

“There is a difference between theory and practice,” Sondheim said.

“To listen to what Strasberg said was amazing. To see it was terrible.”

Stephen Sondheim (crouching, top of photo), during his 1950 apprenticeship. The photo was taken at the Jolly Fisherman restaurant. Also in the photo: future film director Frank Perry (front row, left) and Richard Rodgers’ daughter Mary (2nd row, 4th from left).

Sondheim’s apprenticeship covered a range of duties. He — and fellow apprentice Frank Perry, who went on to a noted career directing films — fetched props, sold Cokes, parked cars and “cleaned latrines,” among other duties.

Stephen Sondheim’s association with the Westport Country Playhouse was long and important.

And today, his long-ago letter — with that very recognizable signature — is an important piece of Playhouse momoribilia.

Pic Of The Day #1686

The Westport Country Playhouse, from Winslow Park. Photographer Wendy Crowther says, “There was a great lighting director at work: the setting sun.”

Roundup: Stephen Sondheim, Artists Collective, Sconset Square …

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Among the many tributes to legendary composer Stephen Sondheim, this one caught Veri Krassner’s eye.

Joshua Henry — the Tony-nominated actor whose credits include “Hamilton,” “Scottsboro Boys” and the current film “Tick, Tick….Boom!” — posted a photograph of Sondheim and the cast of “Being Alive” at the Westport Country Playhouse in 2007.

He noted how memorable the show was — especially because Sondheim himself was there to see it.

Henry was just beginning his career then. But he remembered Sondheim — and Westport.

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Speaking of Sondheim and the Playhouse: The legendary theater released a statement honoring the Broadway icon. The WCP says:

“During the summer of 1950, Stephen Sondheim was an apprentice at Westport Country Playhouse. He worked in a variety of capacities on 14 shows and appeared in a production of “The Life of the Party,” written by the Playhouse’s founder Lawrence Langner. Many of Sondheim’s fellow apprentices that year continued as theater professionals, including composer Mary Rodgers, film director Frank Perry, theatrical agent Peggy Hadley, and Actors’ Equity officer Conard Fowkes.

“Fifteen years after his apprenticeship, Sondheim’s own work appeared on the Playhouse stage with a production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ (1965). ‘A Little Night Music’ (1975) and ‘Side by Side by Sondheim’ (1978) followed in the next decade.  Most recently, ‘Into the Woods’ (2012) was directed by Mark Lamos, Westport Country Playhouse artistic director.

“’Being Alive!,’ a world premiere conceived and directed by Billy Porter, took the Playhouse stage in 2007, with music and lyrics by Sondheim, who also provided collaborative assistance. The retrospective of Sondheim songs featured Chuck Cooper, Joshua Henry, and Leslie Odom, Jr., among others.

In 2006, the Playhouse honored its illustrious apprentice with a gala tribute performance, “The Ladies Who Sing Sondheim,” with Laura Benanti, Kristin Chenoweth, Barbara Cook, and Patti LuPone, directed by John Doyle.

Lamos said: “The entire Westport Country Playhouse family is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Stephen Sondheim. I got to know Stephen a bit over the years, mostly socially. He eagerly granted my request to appear in a tribute to Mary Rodgers, who he’d gotten to know while they were both apprentices here. She was our guest of honor when we saluted her father Richard Rodgers at Westport Country Playhouse’s annual gala in 2009.

“Yet when I was directing ‘A Little Night Music’ for Baltimore Center Stage and tried staging a short musical sequence that made no sense to me, I emailed him to ask about it. In minutes, he answered right back. ‘Oh you can cut that. It was something Pat (Birch, the original Broadway choreographer) and Hal (Prince, the legendary director) cooked up, but it’s not needed at all.’

“And just a year ago he graciously agreed to participate in the shooting of a short-form documentary by filmmaker Doug Tirola that celebrates the history of Westport Country Playhouse. In the video clip he wished the Playhouse a happy 90th birthday, then jokingly wished himself the same, since ‘we’re the same age.’ That’s a memory that I find particularly poignant today.”

Stephen Sondheim (crouching, top of photo), during his 1950 apprenticeship. The photo was taken at the Jolly Fisherman restaurant. Also in the photo: future film director Frank Perry (front row, left) and Richard Rodgers’ daughter Mary (2nd row, 4th from left).

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The Artists’ Collective of Westport celebrates the season with a “small works holiday show,” at their Westport Country Playhouse gallery.

An opening reception is set for December 8 (6 to 8 p.m.), with an open house from Thursday to Sunday (December 9-12, 2 to 6 p.m.).

As usual, the works are eclectic, intriguing, inspiring — and fun.

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Sconset Square merchants hosts a holiday stroll this Thursday (December 2, 5:30 to 8 p.m.).

Singers from Staples High School and Greens Farm Academy will entertain. There are events at 5 stores, plus Christopher’s French Crepe Food truck.

At Bungalow, for example, Suzie Kondi showcases her cashmeres and Westport’s Ronit Tarshis her jewels. Christopher LaGuardia of LaGuardia Design Group in the Hamptons will sign books.

Bungalow is part of Sconset Square’s Holiday Stroll.

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Plumed Serpent — the popular bridal and formal gown store in Colonial Green — was damaged in an October fire. It was contained in the front of the store, and no one was hurt.

All merchandise is gone. The store is bare. A sign says “Closed.”

However — thankfully — it’s only temporary. They’re still hosting appointments for current brides, for fittings and pick-ups.

They’re not sure when. But, they assure anxious brides and brides-to-be: They will reopen.

(Photo and hat tip/Molly Alger)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo features a red-tailed hawk, guarding its prey.

(Photo/Shira Honigstein)

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And finally … on this day in 1777, the first civilian settlement (“pueblo”) in Alta California was founded. Today we know it as San Jose.

Playhouse Prepares For 2022

It will have been 2 years.

But the Westport Country Playhouse 2022 season will be staged in person. Live.

And it promises to be very, very lively.

The historic theater’s 92nd season begins in April, and runs through November. Artistic director Mark Lamos plans 5 shows:

  • An all-new production of “Ain’t Misbehavin'”
  • A blazing interpretation of the groundbreaking musical “Next to Normal”
  • The beautiful, insightful play about generational divide, “400o Miles”
  • The exuberant “Straight White Men,” and
  • “The moving, joyful celebration of spirit: “From the Mississippi Delta.”

Season package renewals are underway now for current subscribers: in person at the box office Tuesdays through Fridays (noon to 6 p.m.); by mail (25 Powers Court, Westport, CT 06880), by phone (203-227-4177) or online.

Tickets for new season ticket buyers go on sale November 9, with savings, priority seating, restaurant discounts, and a choice of options. Single tickets will be available early next year.

But theatergoers don’t have to wait until next spring. After the Playhouse pivoted to  online, outdoor and radio shows during the pandemic, they’ll resume live performances November 2 to 20 — with a twist.

“Doubt: A Parable” will also be filmed before an in-house audience, for on-demand streaming at home.

It’s been a dark two years for the Westport Country Playhouse — both literally and figuratively.

But the lights come back up in November. They’ll burn even brighter in 2022. The second show of the year is not the only thing that will be “Next to Normal.”

Empty Playhouse seats will soon be filled. (Photo/Robert Benson)