Wednesday, July 6, 2016

First Day of Rehearsal - The Invisible Hand


By AnnaBeth Crittenden
Marketing Intern

On Friday, June 24, the staff of the Playhouse filed into the Sheffer rehearsal studio to meet the cast and production team of our third show, The Invisible Hand, by Ayad Akhtar.

The play depicts the lives of a captive and his captors. When Nick Bright, a Citibank employee, is kidnapped and held hostage in Pakistan, the only way for him to earn his $10 million ransom is to teach his abductors how to play the stock market. The Invisible Hand centers on the power of the dollar to affect those who use it. It was a fitting coincidence that reharsals began only hours after the Brexit decision was released. 

(Back R-L) Fajer Kaisi (Bashir), Jameal Ali (Dar), David Kennedy
 (Associate Artistic Director)
Front (R-L) Eric Bryant (Nick Bright), Rajesh Bose (Iman Saleem)
 The show has a cast of four, directed by Associate Artistic Director, David Kennedy. Rajesh Bose (Imam Saleem) recently won the CT Critics Circle Award for his portrayal of Amir in Disgraced (also by Ayad Akhtar).  Fajer Kaisi (Bashirhas also played the role of Amir at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre. Jameal Ali (Dar) was recently in the original off-Broadway production of The Invisible Hand and Eric Bryant (Nick) appeared at the playhouse in 2013 in Room Service.

Artistic Director Mark Lamos
Artistic Director Mark Lamos talked about the significance of The Invisible Hand in light of the recent Brexit decision. “This is a big day for the world. A moment of many upheavals and scary times for, basically, everyone on the globe…this is a moment for this play to speak to all of us,” said Lamos.


Associate Artistic Director David Kennedy
David Kennedy, Playhouse Associate Artistic Director, and director of The Invisible Hand, talked about the show; particularly Akhtar’s depiction of separate worldviews brought together under the umbrella of financial loss and gain.  “[The] Invisible Hand dramatizes these competing narratives about globalization.  It doesn’t seem to affirm our prejudices, it doesn’t seem to deny them, it merely holds everything up to question,” Kennedy said.

Scenic Designer Adam Rigg

Scenic designer Adam Rigg showed the cast and crew the scenic model and concept for the set of The Invisible Hand.  The show is set in the near future in Pakistan. 







The scenic model allows the designer to convey his vision before the set is built. “[I wanted] a forensic, realistic approach to the space we’re in for the entirety of the show. It was important for me to discover a space that was real…it breaks the assumptions that we have of what a holding cell is,” said Rigg.


Following the remarks, the artistic team and actors began their first table reading of the show.


The Invisible Hand, the third show in our 2016 Season, opens on July 19. We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Art of Collecting

By Annie Keefe, Bill Scheffler
& Bud Siegel

During Art/Red in rep, the Playhouse lobby featured collections from WCP staff, supporters & friends.

Art is more than paintings or sculpture. The act of curating a personal collection is itself an art. The art of collecting takes centerstage in our upcoming production of Buyer & Cellar as we peek into a basement mall built to house a certain celebrity's collection.

Take a look!

Bud Siegel's Lego Masterpieces
This is what happens when you retire and you have no hobbies. Roz always called it the dreaded “R” word, and I thought I better quickly find something to do with my time besides walking, biking, skiing, being on a couple of Boards and just lying by the pool. So, Lego seemed like a good idea: not too expensive and you have some neat stuff when you finish.

Unfortunately this has grown into a bit of a monster as what started out as a relatively inexpensive hobby has become a beast and once our renovation is finished, the Legos will have a 1,200 sq. ft. area for a workplace and for display. The good news for Roz is it will be on the fourth floor so it will be almost as if I was still traveling for work.






William Scheffler's Historic Westport Postcards
Postcards capture the essence of a place, to save or show a friend. And when mail delivery was more frequent, up to five times a day, postcards took the place of telephone calls for quick messages – for only a penny!

I’ve collected postcards of Westport (where I live) and Weston (where I grew up) for many years, finding them at tag sales and antique fairs where dealers sit with musty shoeboxes sorted by place. Then, in the spring of 1998, when I offered to mount an exhibit for the Westport Historical Society, I discovered that there were other serious postcard collectors in Westport, as well as many “old timers” who could tell me details of where long-gone buildings had stood or what was now on the same site.

- from the introduction of “Westport and Weston in Vintage Postcards” by William L. Scheffler



Annie Keefe's Opening Night Memories
I’ve had almost 50 years of opening nights in the course of my career, and an equal number of closing nights. Both events often elicit card and/or gifts. Sometimes there are little presents which relate to the show - for opening night of Death and the Maiden, which takes place at a beach house in Argentina, the producers gave everyone beach towels with the show’s logo on them.

Here at the Playhouse we initiated opening night cards given to every cast and crew member with a memorable line from the show. To save all of these cards and gifts would mean a collection that would fill a lot of boxes. What you see here are a few reminders of shows that where important to me, from people who I came to cherish.






Art Around Westport

By Kathy Bennewitz
Westport Town Curator

After seeing Art/Red in Rep, we hope that you will take a look at some of the local art around Westport & our area. These are just a few of the local pieces to consider, as recommended by Westport Town Curator Kathy Bennewitz. Take a moment to seek them out - what do you see?


Murals
1. Banana Republic, 44 Main Street

Treasure Behind the Wall: Banana Republic's renovation in 2004 reveals New Milford artist's mural. Quirky characters--patrons eating, drinking, singing, posing, picking a pocket and even giving someone a “hotfoot”-are the focus of a mural by artist Edmund Ashe, Jr. painted in the 1930s to decorate the wall behind a bar called Triangle Tavern, later Townly’s Restaurant. It suffered damage due to a fire in the 1950s and subsequently was covered with dry wall when Klein’s, a Main Street presence since 1937, expanded into the spot. In 1999, Klein’s leased the ground floor to Banana Republic. The mural was rediscovered during the Banana Republic renovation and restored.

2. Patagonia & Town Hall (open 8:30-4:30 M-F)
Lambdin murals

Patagonia-“Hotel Square” and “Shipping on the Saugatuck”

Town Hall-“Saugatuck in the 19th Century,”


Robert L. Lambdin was commissioned by the former Westport Bank & Trust to painte muarls for the bank’s lobbies in part because of his previous accomplishments creating murals for the Depression era Works Progress Administration,” His trio of WB&T canvases representing different aspects of Westport during the 1800s. The two murals at today’s Patagonia – “Hotel Square” and “Shipping on the Saugatuck” – show a street scene along Post Road East where the old YMCA building now stands and Jesup Wharf, site of the present Taylor parking lot. “Hotel Square” also shows the area of Post Road East where the WB&T/Patagonia building now stands. The bank commissioned the two murals to “modernize” the lobby of the bank’s austere neoclassical headquarters. The third mural, “Saugatuck in the 19th Century,” is a composite showing life on the river and in the village of Saugatuck throughout the 1800s. It was commissioned for the bank’s Saugatuck branch on Charles Street when it opened in 1970 and was “saved” in 2014 when the branch closed.

Sculpture
1. Parker Harding
Parking lot on river behind Main street 

STARfish Tank (2002) by Howard Munce
Collection of the Town of Westport

The sculpture was created for a fundraiser for STAR Inc., Norwalk, a not–for-profit organization serving individuals of all ages who have developmental disabilities, as well as providing support services to their families. For the 2002 "Galaxy of STARS," which was sponsored by local businesses and individuals on behalf of STAR, local artists uniquely decorated the five-foot star sculptures, which were on display throughout the summer months in Wilton, Norwalk, Westport, Weston, Darien and New Canaan. Westport artist Howard Munce, a longtime leader in the town's arts community, turned 100 in November 2015, and pass away this year.

2. The Post Road Bridge


1807 Westport was a prosperous shipping community with wharves, docks, and shipyards along both sides of the Saugatuck River. The first Post Road Bridge was owned and built by the Connecticut Turnpike Company, a public service corporation chartered in 1806 by the General Assembly to build a highway from Fairfield to Greenwich with four toll Gates. The Westport portion was called State Street. The bridge toll charge ranged from 25 cents for two-horse stages and pleasure carriages, to 2 cents for each animal crossing the wood-plank bridge. 
1857 The newly constructed railroad forced the Connecticut Turnpike Company out of business. Ownership of the bridge was turned over to the Town of Westport (incorporated 1835). The Town constructed a hoisting draw to allow for tall river traffic. Its design flaws and frequent repairs were the subject of great town controversy. 
1917 The Strauss Bascule Bridge Co. of Chicago redesigned the earlier bridge, and town controversy subsided. This engineer's 1915 drawings show the location of the bearings in the bridge, and the way the drawbridge opened to allow boats to pass. The bridge cost $185,586.
1930s Westport was no longer a shipping center, and the Post Road was part of the State road system. In 1954, when Parker-Harding Plaza and the Library addition were built, the drawbridge was eliminated, ornamental railings and light fixtures were added, and the trolley tracks were removed.
1990-1992 The Connecticut Department of Transportation widened the bridge, lengthened the spans, and made extensive improvements. Buried bearing housings from the 1817 drawbridge were removed. This sculpture, "A Bridge in Time, " by Bobbie Kletzsch Friedman, incorporates 3 of them.


3. Earthplace, 10 Woodside Lane
Huntington, Anna Hyatt
Bears




Anna Hyatt Huntington was an American sculptor and was once among New York City's most prominent sculptors. At a time when very few women were successful artists, she had a thriving career. She exhibited often, traveled widely, received critical acclaim at home and abroad, and won awards and commissions. During the first two decades of the 20th century, Hyatt Huntington became famous for her animal sculptures, which combine vivid emotional depth with skillful realism. In 1915, she created the first public monument in New York City, outside of Central Park, by a woman: Her Joan of Arc, located on Riverside Drive at 93rd Street, is also the city’s first monument dedicated to a historical woman.

Playhouse Alums nominated for 2016 Tony Awards

By Pat Blaufuss, Public Relations Manager &
Bruce Miller, Company Manager

Recently, nominees for the 70th annual Tony Awards for excellence on Broadway were announced and several familiar Playhouse faces received recognition, including Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom, Jr., Jonathan Groff & Howell Binkley. Miranda, who also wrote the book, lyrics & music to the breakthrough hip-hop musical, has already received the Pulitzer Prize, a Grammy Award, the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History and a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant.

Here's this year's list of nominees with WCP credits:


2016 Tony Award Nominees - WCP Work

Actor/Musical

Lin-Manuel Miranda performs
at the Playhouse's 2013 Gala.
🌟 Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton)
2013 GALA-Sophisticated Lady: A Gala Evening Honoring Phylicia Rashad
🌟 Leslie Odom, Jr. (Hamilton)

2007 Being Alive!

Actress/Musical
🌟 Laura Benanti (She Loves Me)

2006 GALA-The Ladies Who Sing Sondheim

Featured Actress/Play
🌟 Jayne Houdyshell (The Humans)

Leslie Odom, Jr.
in 2007's Being Alive.
2013 The Show-Off

Featured Actor/Play
🌟 Reed Birney (The Humans)

1983 The Dining Room
1988 Return Engagements
1990 The Cocktail Hour
1905 The Member of the Wedding
2010 Harvey (Script in Hand)
2011 Chapter Two (Script in Hand)

Featured Actor/Musical
🌟 Jonathan Groff (Hamilton)
Laura Benanti at the
2006 Gala – The Ladies Who Sing Sondheim
2010 Butterflies Are Free (Script in Hand)

Best Costume Design
🌟 Jane Greenwood (Long Day's Journey Into Night)

1977 An Almost Perfect Person
1978 Gracious Living; Same Time Next Year
1994 Intimate Exchange
2006 Thurgood; The Archbishop’s Ceiling
2008 Time of My Life; Of Mice & Men
2009 Children
2013 The Dining Room
🌟 Michael Krass (Noises Off)
1990 Driving Miss Daisy
Jayne Houdyshell
in 2013's The Show-Off
2013 Oblivion

Best Lighting Design
🌟 Howell Binkley (Hamliton)

2006 A Marriage Minuet
🌟 Ben Stanton (Spring Awakening)

2008 Vigil; Scramble!

Direction/Musical
🌟 John Doyle (The Color Purple)

2006 GALA-The Ladies Who Sing Sondheim
🌟 Scott Ellis

1992 The World Goes ‘Round


Lifetime Achievement
🌟 Sheldon Harnick

2010 She Loves Me (Sunday Symposium)


Jonathan Groff (r)
in 2010's Butterflies Are Free (Script in Hand)


Scott Ellis
1992's The World Goes ‘Round
Sheldon Harnick
2010's She Loves Me (Sunday Symposium)


Reed Birney (2nd from left)
The Cocktail Hour (1990) 





Bank of America Supports the Arts

By Charlie Nork
Individual Giving Manager


A special thanks to our Art/Red in rep
corporate production sponsors, Bank of America.
If you’ve been to the Playhouse to see Art or Red (or both!) this season, you may have heard us thanking our wonderfully generous corporate production sponsors Bank of America and U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management.

In addition to relying on contributions from our individual supporters, we also partner with the tremendous businesses in our community to bring you the productions you love onstage. Bank of America allowed us to present Art and Red in repertory, an ambitious project which would not have been possible without their generous support. As one of the world’s leading corporate sponsors of the arts, Bank of America partners with thousands of arts organizations worldwide in its mission to unite diverse communities and cultures.

“We’re so pleased to be continuing our sponsorship of the Westport Country Playhouse because we believe that a thriving arts and culture sector benefits our local economy and enriches our society,” said Rob Pizzella, U.S. Trust Market Executive for Connecticut and Upstate New York.

Bank of America's Arts and Culture Program provides support through:

🎨 The Art Conservation Project provides grants to arts organizations worldwide to help conserve important cultural and historically significant works of art.

🎨 Art in our Communities allows museums and nonprofits to borrow works of art and entire exhibitions from Bank of America's private collection at no cost.

🎨 Museums on Us offers Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders free weekend access to some of the top museums and cultural institutions in America, including several in Connecticut and New York.

🎨 Community Partnerships which provide support to cultural and arts organizations worldwide (like Westport Country Playhouse) through grants and sponsorships.

“Bank of America is proud to be one of the leading supporters of the arts to help enhance our communities. I’m delighted that we are the longest running sponsor of the Westport Country Playhouse,” said Bill Tommins, Senior Vice President, Market Executive for Global Banking and Markets, as well as Market President for Southern Connecticut.

Playhouse patrons will recognize many other beneficiaries of Bank of America's generosity, including Museums on Us participants The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum and the Fairfield Museum and History Center, as well as Community Partners such as Manhattan Theater Club and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The next Museums on Us weekend is June 4th and 5th – if you’re a Bank of America cardholder, be sure to take advantage of this great benefit! And don’t forget to thank Bank of America for their contributions to Westport Country Playhouse and the world of art!

Buyer & Cellar's Michael Urie hosts the Drama Desk Awards, June 5

By Don Rebar
Associate Director of Marketing


Before his arrival in Westport, Buyer & Cellar star Michael Urie (TV's "Ugly Betty" & "The Good Wife") will host this year's Drama Desk Awards ceremony at NYC's Town Hall, June 5 at 8pm.

Mr. Urie received the 2013 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance for his portrayal of Buyer & Cellar's Alex More during the show's original off-Broadway run. Starting June 14, he'll be reprising his award-winning, tour-de-force role, as the original off-Broadway production takes the Playhouse stage. New York’s public television station THIRTEEN will tape performance of Buyer & Cellar during its Playhouse run for later broadcast on “Theater Close-Up,” the series that showcases Off-Broadway and regional not-for-profit, professional productions for Tri-state viewers.

The Drama Desk Awards honors "artistic excellence in the New York professional theater, in its multitude of forms and styles and on stages of various sizes and configurations." The awards ceremony will be live-streamed by TheaterMania at the link below:

Memoirs of an Usher

By Marilyn Harding
Friend of the Playhouse

As I was growing up the Westport Country Playhouse was an otherworldly place. And how lucky was I?

The one time cow barn, re-purposed in the 1930’s as a Victorian-style summer theater, was located smack dab in the middle of my hometown. Sometimes I would be invited to accompany my father on one of his good citizen missions where he would advise the theater’s scenic designers about the landscape design the intended play required. Backstage preparations were a circus of excitement. Stagehands painted canvases, moving and placing furniture while cast members walked the old planks reading their lines. Still to this day I can’t forget the head stage designer, an elderly woman who hung on every word my dad spoke, but it was her presence that I remember most. Unlike Shakespeare’s quote “beauty dothe vanish with age”, this thespian hadn’t lost any of what I surmised to have been her previous glamour. She was all about the stage and its enchanting remnants were seen all over her face.

The summers always brought tickets to the Westport Country Playhouse and I would be enthralled as I watched my parents leave the house dressed in their very best, letting their excitement be known to us kids; they were off to enjoy a theatrical evening in that little red barn down the road, but we knew it was just as likely their elation lay in the fact that their four rambunctious children would be left behind.

Helen Hayes in Playhouse dressing room
with her daughter Mary MacArthur, 1949.
Sometimes we would go to a children’s matinee where the puppets played, the dancers tiptoed around Swan Lake and our live introduction to Tom Sawyer would make a lasting impression. It was after one of those adventures that my Mom told me of a Westport Country Playhouse tragedy that has haunted me ever since. It seems the noted American actress and would-be Oscar winner, Helen Hayes was starring in a play called Good Housekeeping together with her daughter, Mary. While in Westport Mary felt ill and thinking it was a bad cold she retreated to the family home in Nyack, NY to recover. Sadly the 19 year old actress died a few days later of polio, at the time an incurable disease that was to reach epidemic proportions, victimizing Westporters as well as many others in the area.

The show must go on and so it did with the best of Broadway and a history-making list of actresses and actors performing their magic throughout the decades. In my crowd it was customary to name drop as to who was in town, rate their sex appeal and then think up schemes to meet the ones who won our favor. So, in my junior year at Staples when I was asked to be an usher at the Westport Country Playhouse I couldn’t refuse. All this history was speaking to me and besides, I loved that quaint little place. Its musty smell of paint, polish, and aging upholstery, the diminutive theater seats, the creaky floors and the expectation that fame can spark in one’s imagination was heady stuff.

I found my string of pearls, whacked three inches off the hem of my black silk sheath--after all it was the 60’s--dusted off my Capezios, pulled my hair into a French twist and I was out the door. The instructor of the ushers was a friendly sort requiring nothing more of us than we educate ourselves about the quirks of the theater’s seating chart, greet each guest with a polite, “Good evening” as we requested their tickets and help them to find their seats. It was all so civilized. I never encountered a complaining or obnoxious patron. One even had time to enjoy the fashion parade that presented itself at the very small entrance of the theater.

The men were always dressed in respectable suits of black or grey while the really dapper gentlemen would attire themselves in summer’s fashionable off-white linen. The groovy young college guys wore seersucker and some even sported the new brightly printed Lilly Pulitzer ties. The women were a different story of princesses and peacocks--always fashionable, whether it was a knowing nod to the elegance found in New York’s finest emporiums, the Tailored Woman or Bergdorf Goodman, the younger women who were big proponents of the preppy style with Candice Bergen-styled clones strolling around the theater’s grounds. The gigantic Twiggy trend had just begun and one could spot her look-alikes wearing mod minis, boyish haircuts, and paste’em-on thick eyelashes as they walked through the playhouse doors, pranced down the aisle, and took their seats. In retrospect I don’t recall seeing any t-shirts or jeans, just interesting people enjoying the incredible talents of Cyril Ritchard, Gloria Swanson, Tallulah Bankhead, Sammy Davis Jr., Carol Channing, Joel Grey, Liza Minnelli, and a very brave Helen Hayes who returned to the playhouse in 1964.

Today, that wonderful cramped little theater is all grown up and looking glorious thanks in large part to Joanne Woodward’s marvelous makeover, but to me the days of ushering at the old Westport Country Playhouse were indeed, the best of times.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Will you be their mother? (or father, sister, brother!)

By Pat Blaufuss
Public Relations Manager


Westport Country Playhouse has partnered with Westport Animal Shelter Advocates (WASA) and the Pet Animal Welfare Society of CT (PAWS) around the Family Festivities show, “Are You My Mother?,” based on the popular book about a baby bird searching for its mother.

The pet adoption organizations will bring some of their dogs for possible placement with families, on Sunday, April 10, from 2 to 3:45 p.m., in the Lucille Lortel White Barn Center on the Playhouse campus. There will be a chance to meet dogs currently available for adoption with applications on hand to start the adoption process.

“The hope is to bring awareness of the pet adoption organizations to our audiences in between the performances of ‘Are You My Mother?’ and to get a few pups placed with new families,” said Peter Chenot, Playhouse director of marketing. “I have a family of rescued cats and a dog so this is near to my heart.”

Peter Chenot's trusty pal Rhody.
who found a loving home through animal adoption.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

#ArtIsEverywhere Special Event series

By Elizabeth Marks Juvilier
Director of Community Engagement & Special Events

Look around, what do you see? During the Playhouse’s presentation of Art/Red in rep, we invite you to explore the relationship between art and the world around you. Where do you see art? How can you create art? What is art?

Here are just a few of the fun receptions, in-depth discussions & hands-on activities that celebrate art: making it, owning it, creating it, believing in it. Hope you will join us!

“What do you see”
Bring out your inner artist at our 2016 Season Kick-Off Block Party on Saturday, April 9th 4-7:00pm. Inspired by the paintings of Georges Seurat, all you have to do is paint a small dab of color on our canvas. So, join up with other Block Party guests to create an amazing piece of art that will be displayed in the Playhouse lobby during the run of Art/Red in repertory. We'll supply the paint, you supply the points - no experience necessary!

Westport Art Scavenger Hunt
In keeping with the theme of our season opening productions of Art/Red in repertory, win fun prizes by finding local art pieces in everyday places during our #ArtIsEverywhere scavenger hunt!

Discussion series with Fiona Garland, Westport Art Historian

May 4 & 18: post-show ART discussion: Is Antrios a real artist or is he based on someone else? What are these all white paintings about? What constitutes art anyway? After you have seen the play Art, join us to learn more & have your questions answered!

May 11 & 25: pre-show RED discussion: In the play Red, Mark Rothko and his assistant examine what it means to create great art, who influences artists, which great masters does one build upon and which ones does one tear down. Join us for a pre-show discussion that will give context to Red, while exploring some of the great works and artistic movements mentioned throughout the play.

... and more to come!

Playhouse staff visit local elementary & middle schools

Wolf Pit Elementary School students perform original takes on Charlotte's Web

By Don Rebar

Associate Director of Marketing

Teaching artist Jennifer Katona
leads students in discussion.
Nearly fifty students from Norwalk's Wolf Pit Elementary School wrote, staged and acted in their own versions of E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, as the culmination of an in-school theater workshop led by Playhouse teaching artists Mina Hartong & Jennifer Katona.

After reading and discussing the full book in the classroom, fifth grade students in Mrs. McAuley's and Mrs. Panagiotidis' classrooms explored the art of theater through basic theater exercises in improvisation, cooperation, playwriting and acting skills. They then wrote plays which reflected their original takes on the story, and began rehearsing their versions of Wilbur, Charlotte, Fern and the rest of Mr. Zuckerman's farm.

Wolf Pit students take a bow following
their presentations in the Sheffer Studio.
These plays were presented in front of a packed house of parents, families and teachers in the Playhouse's Sheffer Studio in the Lucille Lortel White Barn Center, before the 4pm Family Festivities performance of Charlotte's Web. Following their own productions, students watched professional actors from Theatreworks U.S.A. present their musical adaptation in the Jason Robards Theater.

For many of these fifth grade students, this workshop offered a first taste of the benefits that theater arts activities can offer, such as improved confidence, self-esteem and creative writing skills. We hope to continue working with schools in our community and sharing our love of theater with young students in the days to come.



- - - - -

Read Across America at Coleytown Elementary School


By Don Rebar

Associate Director of Marketing

On Wednesday, March 2, the Playhouse joined with nearly 45 million Americans to celebrate Read Across America, a nationwide event intended to promote children's literacy.

The Playhouse had the good fortune of teaming up with the amazing students & teachers at Coleytown Elementary School for this nationwide day of reading. As the Playhouse's representative, I had a wonderful time reading P.D. Eastman's beloved Are You My Mother? with kindergarten & 3rd grade classes at the Westport school.

When I arrived at the school, I was warmly greeted by school librarian & Read Across America coordinator Maggie Parkhurst, who walked me to Ms. Deering's classroom, where her kindergarteners were sitting in a circle, discussing several Dr. Seuss books that they had previoulsy read. We were shortly joined by Mrs. Hawkins' 3rd grade class, who served as 'big brothers & sisters' for the younger students.

As we traveled through the illustrated pages of P.D. Eastman's classic tale, we had great fun following Baby Bird on his journey to find his mother. Between pages, the students excitedly voiced the sounds that each character made (the baby bird's 'tweet', the kitten's 'meow' and - our absolute favorite - the power shovel's loud 'SNORT'). Afterwards, the students discussed their favorite Are You My Mother? characters and their reactions to the book.

As someone who spends the majority of their time behind the scenes at the Playhouse, it really was a great pleasure to meet & play with these exciting, thoughtful students - all while sharing the virtues of reading. So, a huge thank you once again to Maggie Parkhurst, Ms. Deering, Mrs. Hawkins and the kindergarten & 3rd grade classes at Coleytown Elementary!

- - - - -

Minds in Motion at Bedford Middle School

By Samantha Goober

Artistic & Management Associate

On Saturday, March 19th I had the pleasure of attending Westport’s Minds in Motion event as a workshop leader. I spent the afternoon at Westport’s Bedford Middle School, playing theater games and having a ton of fun with some local kindergartners and first graders.

I taught two hour-long classes, each with nine energetic students who had a clear eagerness to learn and an excitement about theater. Titled “Theater in Motion”, my classes focused on movement and games, where the kids were able to embrace their inner monkey or kangaroo, learn about stage directions through a special game of “Simon Says”, and even create stories of their own. I’m honestly not sure who had more fun, myself or the kids.

I was also lucky enough to be joined by a special assistant during my second class, Westport 4th grader Jojo Treisman. After hour-long sessions of dancing and moving and acting it out, the kids somehow left class with energy to spare. Attending Minds in Motion was a great experience, and I hope to be able to represent the Playhouse at next year’s event.

Works by Israel Horovitz, Peter Kellogg & Stephen Weiner highlight New Works Initiative

By Charlie Nork, Individual Giving Manager
& Samantha Goober, Artistic & Management Associate

The month of February was a busy one for the Playhouse’s New Works Initiative, which was created to develop new plays and musicals through workshops and reading opportunities.

During the week of February 22nd, the Initiative’s inaugural project, a new play by Israel Horovitz titled Out of the Mouths of Babes, came to the Playhouse's Sheffer Studio in the Lucille Lortel White Barn. Actors Estelle Parsons, Judith Ivey, Francesca Choy-Kee and Angelina Fiordellisi, along with director Barnet Kellman and Mr. Horovitz, spent the first half of the week working on the text and staging a reading to be performed for an audience. On Wednesday, these four very talented ladies performed a reading in an open rehearsal setting in the Sheffer for a group of our New Works Circle members and special guests. After hearing his play read for an audience, Mr. Horovitz went home that night to make some more changes to the script.

The Out of the Mouths of Babes team.
Director Barnet Kellman, playwright Israel Horovitz,
Judith Ivey, Angelina Fiordellisi, Estelle Parsons
& Francesca Choy-Key.
The next day, the group moved into the Jason Robards Theater for a public reading of Babes that night. The play was a hit, with much adoration from the audience, and much appreciation from Mr. Horovitz: “The response to both readings of Babes was so helpful… and gave us all a major shot of confidence with the project.” Out of the Mouths of Babes will be playing a full production at New York’s Cherry Lane Theater this June.

The following Monday, February 29th, another exciting new work made its way to the Playhouse. After spending the prior week rehearsing in New York, director John Rando brought a company of ten talented Broadway actors to the Sheffer Studio for a performance of a new musical adaptation of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1776 play The Rivals, with book & lyrics by Peter Kellogg and music by Stephen Weiner. After a brief final rehearsal, about 75 New Works Circle members and invited guests filled the Sheffer studio to experience a lively and hilarious fresh take on the play. After watching the cast’s talent ooze from the studio and hearing the audience’s laughter fill the room, Mr. Kellogg and Mr. Weiner were incredibly appreciative of the opportunity to work on their show, and thanked the New Works Circle for making that possible.

In just two short weeks, the Playhouse was brightened by two new and exciting pieces of theater. We are excited for the projects lying ahead for our New Works Circle & Initiative. If you are interested in becoming a member of our New Works Circle or would like more information on the project, please contact Artistic & Management Associate Samantha Goober at sgoober@westportplayhouse.org or (203) 571–1141.