Wednesday, July 22, 2015

WICC's Interview with Maureen Anderman

Audio courtesy WICC

Actress Maureen Anderman plays the character of Corneila Cunningham in A.R. Gurney's world premiere comedy, Love & Money (co-produced with New York's Signature Theatre).

Listen as Maureen shares her thoughts on what it's like to work with playwright A.R. Gurney and director Mark Lamos, and the challenges of bringing a world premiere production to life.

Maureen Anderman
Westport Country Playhouse: The Year of Magical Thinking, Later Life, After-Play. Works by A. R. Gurney: The Cocktail Hour (Huntington Theatre), Ancestral Voices (Lincoln Center), Later Life (Playwrights Horizons and Off-Broadway). Recent work includes Pygmalion (Williamstown Theatre Festival), A Delicate Balance (Berkshire Theatre Festival, Palm Beach Dramaworks), Doubt (Maltz Jupiter Theatre), Richard III (Bridge Project world tour, Old Vic, BAM, Documentary NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage). Broadway and Off-Broadway premieres of plays by Edward Albee (3), Kenneth Lonergan, Christopher Durang, Michael Weller, Gore Vidal, Joan Didion. Pinter and Pendleton (Long Wharf Theatre); Molière and O'Neill (Hartford Stage); Kaufman and Ferber (Yale Repertory Theatre); Shakespeare (Guthrie Theater, Old Globe, Arena Stage, American Shakespeare Festival). Drama Desk, Tony, IRNE nominations. Theatre World Award, Connecticut Critics Circle Award, Westport Arts Award.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Join us to discuss A.R. Gurney's Love & Money

By Don Rebar
Community Engagement & Digital Content Manager

During the upcoming run of A.R. Gurney's Love & Money (co-produced with Signature Theatre), we invite you to attend a "Post-Show Salon," following selected performances of the play.

These informal sessions, held in the Smilow Donor Lounge, are your chance to share your observations and reactions with Playhouse staff & other members of the audience.

Love & Money is a world premiere production, meaning that you are among the very first to witness this new play. Because of this, your insights are invaluable as the play gears up for its off-Broadway run at the Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre.

At Westport Country Playhouse, we aspire to create "Theater Worth Talking About." We hope that you will join the discussion as our "Post-Show Salon" series begins!

Selected Performances with Post-Show Salons

Tuesday, July 21 @ 7pm
Wednesday, July 22 @ 8pm
Thursday, July 23 @ 8pm
Friday, July 24 @ 8pm

Tuesday, July 28 @ 7pm
Wednesday, July 29 @ 8pm
Thursday, July 30 @ 8pm
Friday, July 31 @ 8pm
Saturday, Aug 1 @ 8pm
Sunday, Aug 2 @ 3pm

Tuesday, Aug 4 @ 7pm
Wednesday, Aug 5 @ 8pm
Friday, Aug 7 @ 8pm
Saturday, Aug 8 @ 8pm

Matthew Morrison to Honor Kelly O'Hara at 2015 Gala

By Charlie Nork
Individual Giving Manager

We are thrilled to announce that Broadway and television star Matthew Morrison will be joining us on September 21st to honor 2015 Tony Award winner Kelli O’Hara. This is an incredible one-night-only event that you won’t want to miss!

Matthew and Kelli appeared together in “The Light in the Piazza,” for which the two actors were each nominated for Tony Awards. He also portrayed Lt. Cable, while Kelli played Nellie Forbush, in the Tony Award-winning revival of “South Pacific” at Lincoln Center Theater. Matthew currently stars on Broadway as J.M Barrie in the musical “Finding Neverland.” He is perhaps best known for his role of Mr. Schuester on Fox’s musical comedy series “Glee”, which received Golden Globe Awards for “Best Television Series – Comedy or Musical” in 2010 and 2011.

The annual Playhouse Gala is a night of celebration of the artists and individuals whose work has impacted not only the Playhouse but the American theater at-large; our honorees have ranged from the beloved actress Phylicia Rashad, to Playhouse favorite A.R. Gurney, to celebrated composer John Kander.

This year, “Something Wonderful!” celebrates the work of Tony Award-winner Kelli O’Hara, who currently stars as Anna in the Broadway revival of “The King and I”. We are also proud to present the third annual Playhouse Leadership Award to John Samuelson.

The Playhouse Gala will take place on Monday, September 21, 2015, and tickets start at $250.

Click here to purchase tickets, or for more information, contact Elizabeth Marks Juviler, director of corporate relations and special events, at (203) 571-1293 or

New Works Circle Visits the O'Neill

By Don Rebar
Community Engagement & Digital Content Manager

Members of the Playhouse's New Works Circle recently visited the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT to take a closer look at the development process at the National Playwrights' Conference & National Musical Theater Conference.

Six guests from the New Works Circle were joined by WCP's Managing Director Michael Ross, Associate Artistic Director David Kennedy, Associate Artist Annie Keefe and Artistic & Management Coordinator Chad Kinsman, who toured the O'Neill's idyllic beach-side campus and attended developmental readings of No One's Sonata, by Steven Sater, and ZM by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis.

The New Works Circle was created as part of the Playhouse's renewed commitment to the development and production of new plays. During the Playhouse's 85 year history, 43 new works - including A.R. Gurney's Love & Money - have been produced.

Now celebrating it's 50th year, The O'Neill is known as a pioneer of new work, having developed over 600 plays during its existence, including works from John Guare, David Henry Hwang, David Lindsay-Abaire, Wendy Wasserstein and August Wilson.

CLICK HERE to find out more about the New Works Circle & how you can be a part of special programs at the Playhouse.

Photos by Ian Devlin

Meet our 2015 Woodward Interns!

by Alexandra Scordato 
Marketing Intern

Each summer the staff of Westport Country Playhouse welcomes a group of aspiring theater professionals to join them in numerous areas of production and management during the dynamic season. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, this year there are nine excited interns coming from all over the country to work in marketing, development, stage management, scenic painting and general production. All of us are thrilled to have been given the opportunity to learn how an excellent regional theater operates. (Click here to learn more about how you can help support the Woodward Internship Program.)

Angela Alvarez, Scenic Painting Intern
University of Michigan, 2015

Why do you love theater?
Theater is a kind of storytelling that demands the utmost of care from all involved, and with each show, a new family is built. With every production, I love the opportunity to create tangible, emotional, and, ultimately, temporary expressions for audiences to enjoy.

Why did you choose WCP?
WCP is the best of both worlds; it allows its artists to work from the historical, adorable, and idyllic Connecticut, with all of the benefits of being a short train ride away from the cultural hub that is New York City. I was excited at the chance to tiptoe my way into the city.

Fun Fact about yourself
I have a black and white tuxedo cat named Malibu (after the rum, not the city).

Alexander Garnett, General Production/Props Intern
East Carolina University, 2016

Why do you love theater?
Theater is an art form that is always evolving and the energy of live performance is a rare experience only felt in theatre today.

Why did you choose WCP?
I have heard many great things about the Playhouse from previous interns and wanted to experience what they had before.

Fun Fact about yourself
I wear short shorts if it’s too hot, because regular shorts just don't cut it. My power level is over 9000!!

Katherine Hustmyre, Stage Management Intern
Northwestern State University of Louisiana, 2014

Why do you love theater?
I am a part of something on a daily basis that has the power to change people's lives.  An art form that is a living, breathing, piece of work and not something tangible.  It fills me with joy and purpose to know this is what I do for a living.

Why did you choose WCP?
I have been looking at WCP for a few years now, and I have wanted to work here the whole time!  I always respected the mission of WCP, and the work that is produced here.  I wanted to be a part of such an influential theater, and I can't believe I am here!  I feel so very lucky to be a Woodward Intern of 2015.

Fun Fact about yourself
I love to tap dance.

Kathryn Marshall, Development Intern
Temple University, 2015

Why do you love theater?
I love theater because it connects people in beautiful ways and explores the human condition.

Why did you choose WCP?
I chose WCP because it seemed like such a welcoming community when I came up to see a show in the fall. Also, a friend interned here a few years ago and loved it.

Fun Fact about yourself
I've traveled to Japan!

Emily Mazelin, Stage Management Intern
Greensboro College, 2016

Why do you love theater?
I love theater because it is an art form that thrives on variety, process, and collaboration. Theater (be it a show, an acting exercise, or a conversation between designers) can mirror the best and worst versions of persons and society, inspire and condemn, entertain and educate. Theater is about the creation of reality, and every person involved - behind-the-scenes, onstage, or in the audience - communally experiences a creative endeavor within that reality that can affect them both as individuals and as a group. There is a nugget of truth in even the most absurd theater, and the process of any theatrical endeavor offers an opportunity for growth for anyone willing to engage it. I love being a part of that incredible force.

Why did you choose WCP?
The Playhouse's mission to "enlighten, enrich, and engage a diverse community..." resonated on my heartstrings, and I immediately knew I had to help create art within an organization whose values so closely resemble my own. Add in its New England location, high profile, educational seminars, and the professional hands-on experience in my field, and you could not wish for a better internship program!

Fun Fact about yourself
I also have a passion for spoken word, comedy, and magic!

Nick Newsam, General Production/Carpentry Intern
Murray State University, December 2015

Why do you love theater?
For some of us theater is all we have. My entire life has been consumed by it and I literally can't think of anything else I could be doing with my life. Theater has opened so many doors for me and looking back at where I started…I can't wait to see where I'm going. And I'm not even half way there yet!

Why did you choose WCP?
Out of all of the companies I interviewed with at the Southeastern Theater Conference, Westport Country Playhouse was the only one that made me feel like they actually wanted to talk with me. They produce such quality theater and were literally the nicest people I met at the conference. All of my friends agreed, WCP was our top pick and I'm still grateful that they chose me.

Fun Fact about yourself
I'm secretly a cat. If you scratch my back you're probably my new best friend. I've also memorized the majority of Hocus Pocus. No shame.

Alexandra Scordato, Marketing Intern
Skidmore College, 2015

Why do you love theater?
The feeling of watching a live performance that you had a part in creating is intoxicating, and there is no other feeling like it.

Why did you choose WCP?       
My family and I have been going to the Playhouse ever since we moved to Westport, and when I really started to think about theater as a career, I knew I wanted to work here. Not only is Westport Country Playhouse one of the most prestigious regional theaters in the country, it is run by a group of talented and caring professionals.                                 
Fun Fact about yourself
I'm a big science fiction and fantasy nerd. Valar Morghulis. 

Brooke Thomas, General Production/Wardrobe Intern
Arkansas State University, 2016

Why do you love theater?
The sense of community I get from working with other theater people is unlike any other feeling. There's no place I feel more accepted and valued.

Why did you choose WCP?
The environment is so welcoming and informative. The staff is just as excited to be there as the fresh-faced interns. It was my first choice when researching internships.

Fun Fact about yourself
In high school, I won the international title for sewing a button at the International Thespian Festival. 32 seconds.

Laura Wilson, Company Management Intern
Rider University, December 2015

Why do you love theater?
I truly believe it has the power to change lives- it certainly did for me!

Why did you choose WCP?
I was very excited to work at a theater with such a rich history.  I specifically wanted to come here for the company management internship because I knew I would be interacting with extremely talented and passionate artists and administrators.  I am truly grateful to be having this experience.

Fun Fact about yourself
I like cheese.  All kinds of cheese.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Creative Escape: An Interview with A.R. Gurney and Mark Lamos

By Nathaniel French
Courtesy Signature Theatre Company

Mark Lamos & A. R. Gurney. Photo by Peter Chenot.
Over the course of more than forty plays, Residency One playwright A.R. (Pete) Gurney has established himself as America’s leading chronicler of the manners and traditions of New England’s WASP establishment. Now, he returns to Signature with the final play of his residency, the World Premiere of Love and Money. Longtime Gurney collaborator Mark Lamos directs this incisive comedy, in which the wealthy widow Cornelia attempts to say goodbye to WASP culture by donating her vast estate to charity. Along the way, an unexpected visitor arrives, spurring her to imagine the legacy—and the family—she’d like to leave behind.

Signature is thrilled to partner with the Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut—where Lamos is the Artistic Director—for this co-production: the play will run for three weeks in Westport before arriving at The Pershing Square Signature Center.

Earlier this summer, Gurney and Lamos sat down with Signature Literary Associate Nathaniel French to discuss their years of collaboration, theatre as escape, and finding value in rarely-produced work.

Sig: This is your seventh time working together. Mark, what do you find so enduring about Pete's work?

A. R. Gurney's The Dining Room, directed by Mark Lamos.
Featuring Chris Henry Coffey, Jake Robards, Jennifer Van Dyke,
Charles Socarides, Keira Naughton & Heidi Armbruster.
Photo by Carol Rosegg.
ML: I grew up in the Midwest, but I've always been fascinated by this so-called WASP culture, which seemed to be in power in New England. When I then came to Hartford Stage [in 1980], that was really my first time in that WASP territory, and I began to really have them around me. I mean, they were on the board of directors of the theatre, they were in the audience, they were on the street, and I began to be absolutely fascinated by this kind of person. So when I decided to produce Pete’s play Children [at Hartford Stage in 1987], it was, for me, an anthropological expedition. Just understanding what those people were like from someone who was part of the tribe. That's always what excites me about Pete’s plays. I also think I’ve come to understand the rhythms of his writing and the give and take of the characters. There's this sense of a conversation happening. It's also challenging. I've worked on so many projects—operas, big classical plays—where the stage is filled with people, and it’s very challenging to be in a three-character, four-character play [like one of Pete’s] and make sure that the bodies in motion are telling a story, are working off each other visually in a way that's interesting and true.

Sig: Pete, what does Mark bring into the rehearsal room as a director?

ARG: Mark is an ex-actor himself, and you can tell he knows how to talk to actors. I never, in any serious way, acted on the stage, so it’s his knowledge of the practicality of saying a line, getting on, getting off, that’s always appealed to me, ‘cause he's been there. All the actors always like him. He has no enemies. He doesn't boss them around, which some directors can do. He has a real sympathy and understanding and an ability to get good performances out of them.

Mark Lamos & A. R. Gurney at WCP's 2013 Gala.
Photo by Dave Matlow.
Sig: How did Love and Money come about?

ARG: When Mark says that WASP culture always interested always interested me, too! And I had established a reputation to talk about that culture, so now—I'm 84 years old. I wanted to say goodbye to that culture, and I wanted that culture in a sense to say goodbye to itself because I think it’s over. I wanted to write a play which dealt with that.

Sig: Where does the title come from?

ARG: It was an old expression..."You can't get that for love or money." But I thought it would be Love and Money, not Love or Money, 'cause the play isn't about the combat between feelings and money, it’s all mixed up together: what money does to love and all the rest.

Sig: How does the music of Cole Porter fit into the world of the play?

ARG: If we had to pin down a poet of WASP culture, I'd say Cole Porter is it. Cole Porter went to Yale, he was two classes ahead of my father, and everybody talked about what fun he was, and so I find myself turning to him when I'm trying to write about this culture. In my play Sylvia, there's a great Cole Porter song that they all sing when he has to say goodbye to his dog and take a trip, and she gets on the couch—which she's not allowed to do—and sings “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.” And certainly my play The Fourth Wall is nothing but Cole Porter. Cole Porter is the music that best illustrates both the wit and cleverness of the WASP culture, but also its dissolute quality, the booze, the "…in the still of the night, do you love me?" kinds of questions that he asks...

Sig: What does the theatre represent to these characters?

ARG: It’s the most communal endeavor that you can do. I think it's very important that our country—where we are all so diverse—have a theatre, because we learn to connect with other people, and that's what Cornelia wants at the end of the play.

ML: I always think in Pete’s plays, theatre is a kind of escape from the constrictions of the WASP background.

ARG: I agree. The WASP culture has a number of ways of escaping. Too much of it being about booze. The theatre is a way of escaping creatively. And speaking to others in an outgoing way.

ML: Sharing. It's sending a letter to the world and welcoming a diverse audience into a world and a vision.

Sig: Pete, this is the final play of your Signature residency. Do you have any thoughts looking back on your time here?

ARG: I think it's a great place to work. In both plays of mine so far, Signature resurrected plays that I didn't really think had a chance, particularly The Wayside Motor Inn. I said to Jim, “This play is never done. Are you sure you want to do it?” And he said, "Yeah." The same thing happened with What I Did Last Summer. Signature allowed [director] Jim Simpson to put a drummer in, allowed the designer, Michael Yeargan, to use rear screen projections in a new way. I said, “It’s not gonna work.” But it worked! So my experience of Signature was them pointing out to me value in work of mine that I didn't think had much value. And that's a special thing about Signature.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Notes from Annie's Garden: Working with playwright A.R. Gurney

By Annie Keefe
Associate Artist

I finally met A.R. (Pete) Gurney in 2000 when he graciously waived the royalties on his beautiful play LOVE LETTERS so that the newly minted board of the Playhouse could do one of its first fundraisers, with Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman playing Melissa Gardner & Andrew Makepeace Ladd, III. It was early days, and all hands on deck. I was busy driving around Fairfield looking for a refectory table, some dictionary stands and some appropriate chairs for the event and then I stage managed it. The meeting was brief, probably a hand shake and a thank you, but it began a lovely friendship with one of the dearest theatre professionals one would ever want to meet. The Playhouse had already had a long association with Pete Gurney by the time we did that legendary Gala. Pete often credits the Playhouse with keeping him alive in the 80’s. I did my first season as resident stage manager in 1976 and Pete did his first show here in 1980. Before writing this post, I checked the number of Gurney plays done since that first production of CHILDREN. The grand total if you count this season’s LOVE AND MONEY is 15! I saw them all, and worked on four of them.

Sylvia, 1996
One of the most fun was his SYLVIA. This is his very funny tale of a man and his love for his Golden Retriever. Stephanie Zimbalist, then known for her role in the television show Remington Steele played the title role. The Playhouse was still part of a summer stock circuit so we played Ogunquit and The Cape Playhouse before coming to Westport. Jim McKenzie, a strong supporter of Pete’s work for nearly 20 years saw a runthru of the play in the rehearsal hall before we headed out on tour. Some of the language was very strong, and Jim asked Pete if he could tone it down for the run in Westport. To his credit, Pete said ‘no, the language stands’. To his credit Jim backed off, and when Stephanie/Sylvia had her famous altercations with that cat under the car, the air in the Playhouse was Blue!

Ancestral Voices, 2000
In 2000 Joanne and I programmed ANCESTRAL VOICES for a full run at the Playhouse. As is often done with Love Letters, we did a rotating cast. The first week saw the incomparable Fritz Weaver and the recently deceased Elizabeth Wilson. The second week saw Paul Newman and Joanne. It caused some considerable consternation with the people who missed ‘the home team’ in spite of the two excellent casts!

When in 2011 Pete had done some more work on a play of his called THE GOLDEN AGE, he came to the Playhouse to see if we would do a reading of his updated version so he could hear his changes with an audience. Of course we agreed and had a great time working with our dear friends Richard Thomas, Frances Sternhagen and the very funny Kathleen McNenny. And of course one of our all-time Gurney favorites was THE DINING ROOM, most recently produced in our 2013 season.

We are so excited to be doing the world premiere of LOVE AND MONEY before it goes to Signature Theatre in the fall with our cast and artistic team. Our next Gurney adventure! And the best part is that Pete will be around – a lot!

It is our great good fortune to have A.R. Gurney as a supporter. He is generous with his time, he attends our performances regularly and was our Gala Honoree last year. Pete and the Playhouse – a mutual admiration society – Long may it continue.

Annie with cast of
The Golden Age, 2011
The Dining Room, 2013

Photo Credits
Sylvia – Edmond Genest, Stephanie Zimbalist.  Photo by Jayson Byrd

Ancestral Voices (Company B) – James Naughton, Joanne Woodward, Paul Rudd, Paul Newman, Swoosie Kurtz.  Photo by Jayson Byrd

The Golden Age - Seated (l-r)  Kathleen McNenny, Frances Sternhagen, Richard Thomas. Standing (l-r) Anne Keefe, curator, John Tillinger, director, Kim Furano, stage directions.  Photo by Dave Matlow

The Dining Room - Clockwise, from left:   Keira Naughton, Charles Socarides, Heidi Armbruster, Chris Henry Coffey, Jake Robards, and Jennifer Van Dyck.  Photo by Carol Rosegg

First Rehearsal for "Love and Money"

A.R. Gurney, Kahyun Kim, Mark Lamos, Maureen Anderman, 
Gabriel Brown, Pamela Dunlap, and Joe Paulik.

By Peter Chenot
Director of Marketing

Gabriel Brown and A.R. Gurney.
Excitement filled the room at the Signature Theatre's Ford Rehearsal Studio as the full production team came together to kick off the first rehearsal of A.R. (Pete) Gurney's world premiere of Love and Money. Some actors and designers met for the first time while many others greeted each other with hugs of long and fast friendships. Many Playhouse staffers made the trip down to 42nd and 10th in NYC to join in on the celebration and get started working on the play with their counterparts at Signature.

After introductions of the close to one hundred people in the room Mark Lamos spoke about this new endeavor. 

Collected dramaturgy for the play
"If you know Peter Pan, that wonderful old play by J.M. Barrie, there's a line when he thinks he's going to be drowning. He's on a rock and the waters are rising and there's nobody in sight, and the pirates have deposited him there and he says 'dying is going to be an awfully big adventure.' And since I really started getting older I thought to myself, it's not dying that's the big adventure, it's aging, aging is a huge adventure! It's extraordinary! It's absolutely extraordinary where it takes you both in your body and in the way you deal with the world."

Mark Lamos and A.R. Gurney

He went on to say,"and here we have a play about a woman of a certain age who has decided late in life to really change her life.  And that's one of the most exciting things about the play."  

Pete Gurney stood next to Mark nodding and smiling while the collected company listened attentively. Shortly afterward, following a few design presentations and welcoming words from the Signature staff, the cast sat down at the table to read the play, officially starting the work in the room.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

'Make Do & Mend' - Fashion at the time of And a Nightingale Sang

By Alysia Miller
Patron Services Supervisor/1st Time Subscriber Concierge

The start of WWII, in 1939, brought much change for the fashion of the day in Britain. Rationing, which began on June 1, 1941, produced most of the major changes in fashion. Civilians would be given a certain amount of coupons to redeem for clothing. “The rationing scheme worked by allocating each type of clothing item a 'points' value which varied according to how much material and labour went into its manufacture.” These changes forced people to be more aware of the articles of clothing that they purchased and be more creative in their fashion and style. The government also introduced 'Make Do and Mend', to encourage people to revive and repair worn-out clothes. “Sewing and knitting became popular as it was a way to create and mend clothes and cost a lot less than purchasing garments. Old blankets and un-rationed materials, like fabric for blackout curtains, were transformed into dresses. Men's suits left behind by serving soldiers became their wives' skirts and jackets.”

Then in 1942, the government introduced utility clothes which were made from limited fabrics. These higher quality clothes were able to be produced more efficiently in British factories. “Utility fabrics- and clothes made from these materials – gave the public a guarantee of quality and value for their money and coupons. In Autumn 1941 it became compulsory for all Utility clothes and garments to be marked ‘CC41’. The distinctive logo- often likened to two cheeses- stood for Civilian Clothing 1941’.”

CC41 Utility Mark
“Creativity was applied to cosmetics as well as clothing. Women were constantly encouraged by magazines to invest in their appearance, and worries about shabbiness as a sign of low morale were very real. The face powder compact in the shape of a US Army officer’s cap made a popular gift for servicewomen and the wives and girlfriends of servicemen. But the production of metal compact cases ceased in 1942. The drastic reduction in cosmetic manufacture to spare raw materials for the war effort became a problem and women had to be sparing in their use of the limited make-up produced. Many face powders came without the usual puff to apply it. Other forms of makeup suffered but inspired ingenious solutions. Beetroot juice to stain the lips was a substitute for lipstick. Other beauty tricks included using boot polish for mascara and drawing lines up the back of the legs to give the impression of stockings.”

“Developments in large scale garment manufacturing helped to accelerate the growth of mass market fashion, which in turn helped department stores to flourish. The trend towards a more relaxed and informal style of dress also gathered pace in wartime. The Utility scheme ended in 1952, but it had given consumers new confidence to demand value for money and led to regulated standards in materials and manufacture. Through the Utility scheme, high end fashion designers produced styles for the mass market for the first time. The manufacture of Utility clothes required efficiency in production and less wastage- principles which today align with the desire for sustainability in many companies. In recent years even the concept of Make Do and Mend has had a revival. Crafts such as knitting and sewing are popular outlets for creativity and invention, just as they were in the 1940s.”

Utility Suit, designed by Edward Molyneux for the Utility Scheme, 1942; now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum; Museum no. T.43-1942


WCP Celebrates 84th Birthday

By Chad Kinsman
Artistic & Management Coordinator

You wouldn’t know it by looking at us, but on June 29th the Playhouse celebrates its 84th birthday (we’re slightly younger than the Empire State Building!).

For 84 years, the Playhouse has produced high-quality, entertaining and effecting theater for our community, and the wider American theater. Along the way, we’ve premiered exciting new work, helped many actors along in their career, trained the next generation of theater artists and leaders, and even figured out how to tweet!

Thank you for being a part of our past, our present, and our future.

Photo Credits: Robert Benson (Top left)Wells Studio (Bottom Left); Playhouse Archives (Top Right, Bottom Right)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Can you guess the WCP celebs?

Al Hirschfeld, who will be celebrated at Westport Country Playhouse on Monday evening, June 29, created an original work of art exclusively for the Playhouse in 1987.

Twenty famous stars who appeared at the Playhouse since it opened in 1931, through 1987, are depicted in their iconic roles.  Can you name the actors? (Answer key is below)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Vera Lynn, the Andrews Sisters & the music of "And a Nightingale Sang"

By Alexandra Scordato
Marketing Intern

Dame Vera Lynn.  Image Source.
Vera Lynn was born on March 20th in what we know now as East London and began performing at a very young age. She rose to fame in 1939 after her song “We’ll Meet Again” became a hit. 

At the start of World War II, the Daily Express in Britain polled the soldiers, asking them who their favorite singer was, and Vera Lynn was named favorite, after which she received the nickname: “The Force’s Sweetheart." During the war, she started her own radio program called Sincerely Yours, where she would send messages through the radio from the home front to them. 

Her song “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” is a prominent song in the show, and was the inspiration for the play's title. Two of her other well-known songs, “The White Cliffs of Dover” and “Yours” are also featured.

The Andrews Sisters, born in Mound, Minnesota, were a well-known trio whose hit “To Me, You Are Beautiful” put them on the charts in 1937, and by 1940 their subsequent albums solidified their fame. During World War II, they entertained soldiers all across the world, volunteering their time and energy to make soldier’s lives better. Three of their hits are prominent songs that Helen’s father George sings in the show: “Beer Barrel Polka”, “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!”, and “Ferryboat Serenade”. 

Two other famous songs and their respective singers are featured in the show: Jimmie Davis’ “You Are My Sunshine” and Carroll Gibbons “I'm Gonna Get Lit Up  (When The lights Go On In London)”. 

Listen to all of the songs featured in And A Nightingale Sang below!

A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square 1940 by Vera Lynn

The White Cliffs of Dover by Vera Lynn

Yours by Vera Lynn

Beer Barrel Polka (Roll Out The Barrel) by The Andrews Sisters

Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh! by The Andrews Sisters

Ferryboat Serenade by The Andrews Sisters

You Are My Sunshine by Jimmie Davis

Carroll Gibbons - I'm Gonna Get Lit Up (When The lights Go On In London)

Nylons: To Paint or not to Paint?

By Alexandra Scordato
Marketing Intern

In the late 1930s, fashionable women desired to wear nylons, a sheer nude pantyhose with a black seam up the back. The DuPont Company, a large chemical company, developed the first nylon stocking in the 1920s and its popularity spread like wildfire: almost 4 million were being purchased daily. After the war started, DuPont switched their nylon factories over from making stockings to making parachutes and rope for soldiers, leaving women all across Britain and the United States without nylons.

As the war was under way, the fashion industry sold products by using marketing that told women it was patriotic to keep up your beauty routine. However, because a lot of products were made in small quantities and sold out very quickly, women had to adapt in order to maintain their fashion sense. 

If you wanted to look like you were wearing nylons, you had two options: either find them on the black market or use makeup on your legs to make it look like you were wearing stockings. Only women with money could afford the high price of nylons on the black market, so women without money had to make do with leg tanner. 

While getting ready in the morning, if the woman wanted to look like she was wearing nylons, she would apply a leg tanner all over her legs. Occasionally, women would even go so far as to draw the black seam up the back to really create the appearance.

In the photo above, “Hollywood starlet Kay Bensel applied her faux stocking seams with a device ‘made from a screw driver handle, bicycle leg-clip, and an ordinary eyebrow pencil”. A drawback: if it rained during the day, your “nylons” would wash off!

After the war, the DuPont Company was able to resume producing nylons, which stayed in fashion until pantyhose were developed, which is what women wear today.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Tony Awards & WCP

by Bruce Miller
Company Manager

Did you know the Tony Award was named for Antoinette Perry, an actress, director, and producer?  Ms. Perry directed two productions at Westport Country Playhouse in the 1933 season: Present Laughter and Gaily I Sin.

Perry (1888-1946) helped found the American Theatre Wing, which operated the Stage Door Canteens during World War II, providing entertainment to servicemen in several American cities.  Among her Broadway directing credits was the hugely successful, Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvey by Mary Chase.

After her death, the American Theatre Wing created a series of awards in her honor. Since 1947, the Antoinette Perry Awards have been given annually for distinguished achievement in theater, and are one of the theater world's most coveted honors.  They are universally known by their nickname, the Tony Awards. 

Here are the 2015 Tony Award nominees who have appeared at Westport Country Playhouse:

Best Leading Actress/Play

Geneva Carr 

’07 Relatively Speaking 
’08 Time of My Life
’09 How the Other Half Loves
’14 Things We Do for Love

Readings: And Then There Were None
Bedroom Farce
Chapter Two
Mornings at 7
Mary, Mary
Mouse Trap

Best Leading Actress/Musical

Kelli O’Hara 

'09 GalaReadings: Selected Shorts
The Philadelphia Story

Featured Actor/Musical

Max von Essen 

'10 & '11 Galas

Best Scenic Design

Michael Yeargan 

’09 Of Mice & Men
      Breath of Life
’13 The Dining Room
’15 Love & Money
      Broken Glass

Best Costume Design

Jane Greenwood 

’77 An Almost Perfect Person
’78 Gracious Living
      Same Time Next Year
’94 Intimate Exchange
’06 Thurgood
      The Archbishop’s Ceiling
’08 Time of My Life
      Of Mice & Men
’09 Children
’13 The Dining Room

Best Lighting Design

Japhy Weideman 

’06 Old Wicked Songs
’12 Harbor
’13 Oblivion

Ben Stanton 

’08 Vigil

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Help us honor our WWII heroes & heroines

Gloria & Harry Brinton (grandparents of Peter Chenot,
WCP's Marketing Director) as newlyweds. With Harry
due to ship out, they were married on the same day as
Gloria's college graduation. Harry served in the US
Coast Guard, Merchant Marine & Navy. 
By Don Rebar
Community Engagement & Digital Content Manager

As cities around the world celebrate the 70th anniversary of V-E Day, rehearsals have begun for C.P. Taylor's WWII romance, "And a Nightingale Sang." This play, set on the British home-front, tells one family's story of perseverance during uncertain times.

While this dramatic work draws attention to the difficulties of life 'across the pond,' there are many tales of humor, romance & sacrifice from our own community which also deserve to be recognized.

If your life - or a friend or family member's - was impacted by the events surrounding WWII, we encourage you to help us honor "The Greatest Generation" by submitting photos or stories of those who participated in our wartime efforts. The Playhouse will turn these submissions into a video tribute to our local heroes & heroines that will be played in the lobby during "And a Nightingale Sang."

Please email your photos & stories to with the subject line "WWII Salute." If you do not have digital copies but would still like to participate, please call (203) 571-1140.

Meet Don Rebar, Our New Community Engagement & Digital Content Manager

By Chad Kinsman
Artistic & Management Coordinator

Our 2015 Season is off to a great start! The work you see on stage wouldn't be possible without our great staff supporting it (quite literally too, as the staff offices are underneath the building)! Joining us for our 85th Season of producing live theater is Don Rebar, our new Community Engagement & Digital Content Manager.

If you “like” us on Facebook, attend a pre-show event, or see our table at a community event, chances are you’ll be interacting with Don, so Artistic & Management Coordinator Chad Kinsman recently sat down with him to introduce him to our community.

Where were you before starting at the Playhouse? 

I worked as the marketing director at The Gateway, the oldest professional theatre on Long Island. In addition to my marketing duties, I helped to build arts education programs with local school districts.

What interested you about working at the Playhouse?

Many things!

I first learned a bit about the Playhouse’s rich history while researching actress Eva LeGallienne for a project on Long Island and was fascinated to discover that our green room is named in her honor. It’s a wonderful feeling to help carry on the Playhouse’s legacy, first forged by so many great artists throughout the years.

The Playhouse also has many community programs & events – such as our Sunday Symposium discussions & Together at the Table family dinners – which are intended to give our audiences in-depth access to live theater. In my experience, it’s rare to see an organization that is so focused on building personalized relationships with its guests.

What is your favorite thing about working at the Playhouse so far?

While our staff has been so wonderful and supportive in welcoming someone new to the team, it’s also been a blast getting to know members of our community via our live events and social media channels.  Say hello to the Playhouse on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram and I’ll say hello back!

What are you most looking forward to at the Playhouse in 2015? What are your goals for the year?

I’m very excited to be working on this year’s Playhouse Initiative. As in years past, we’re planning a multitude of educational events and activities around our final production of the season: Arthur Miller’s “Broken Glass.” In addition to the themes discussed in the play, 2015 marks Miller’s centennial year. Since Miller was a Connecticut resident, we have a chance to reflect on the late playwright’s life and work on a large scale.

I bring up the initiative because, to me, the project is a great example of my goals.  I wish to play a role in helping our guests discover the world around us through the art of theater. I’m looking forward to finding moments which could lead to a greater curiosity or insight about the work that lives on the Playhouse stage.

If you could rename your position based on your first few month’s experience, what would you call it?

Resident Twit(ter)!