Monthly Archives: April 2012

Hartford Stage Throws A Wonderfully Dark (o) Gala

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If Java ever has a party, she wants Hartford Stage artistic director Darko Tresnjak to be in charge.

The man did a superlative job when it came to spearheading the stage’s annual “Party In The Paint Shop 3” gala Saturday night, coordinating details right down to the centerpieces and the music.

“I love planning,” said the new head of Hartford Stage, who, with co-chairs Marla Byrnes and Patty Willis, was credited with an attractively “dark” night reflecting the party’s “Black Magic” theme. That meant a red, white and black color theme with oversized artificial white roses as centerpieces, classic 40s music, signature drinks, And then his stage savvy kicked in with aerialists, “living” statues, oversized, Anne Cubberly marionettes and an “informal “ formal dress code that was, for lack of a better word, interesting.

Honorary co-chairs Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and husband Charlie Ortiz showed up in matching artsy tee shirts and tuxes. Stage press rep Charlie Siedenburg sported an interesting trend, tux with a sport shirt and untied bowtie.

Winning the nearly x-rated award was guy-into-everything John Wheat who hand painted his pants with a series of nude women. He explained the artwork reflected his theme of  “wine, women and song,”  with music and song reflected in the strategically placed lyre and a couple of  bunches of grapes.

What was most noticed however was the transformation of the stage’s workshop on Murphy Road into an elegant and creative venue, effort that translated into “wow” for first timers.

“I had imagined a dingy workshop with maybe some pretty tables,” said Ivana Vater, a Middlebury resident who attended for the first time with friends. “I do admit I nearly tripped coming in because it was so dark in her , but wow, this is gorgeous,” she said, admiring the draped walls, elegantly set tables and enjoying food by Hartford’s own Billings Forge.

“Black Magic” was the chosen theme because of its tie in to the current Stage production of “Bell, Book and Candle.” Star Kate MacCluggage was expected after the evening show, but in the meantime there was some other stage celeb power working the crowd.

Daniel Davis, who will star as Prospero in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” opening at Hartford Stage on May 10, opted out of The Big Apple for the weekend to be part of the party.

And who believes in black magic? A lot of people including board member Robert Crowder’s girlfriend, Irina Eyman. “I do believe in black magic,” she said smiling at her beau. “I think I charmed him.”


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Meredith Baxter Coming to CT May 5

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Actress Meredith Baxter is an iconic television star, best known as mom, Elise Keaton on the award-winning “Family Ties” show. Behind the bright smile and seemingly perfect life however, she dealt with alcoholism, breast cancer, an abusive relationship with former husband, actor David Birney, and when it was all over, picked up the pieces to move on. Baxter, who authored “Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame and Floundering” will be the featured speaker Saturday at the Connective Alliance for Victims of Violence and their Families at the Mandell Jewish Community Center for its “An Evening of Thriver Spirit and Song” celebration. Also a producer, entrepreneur and women’s advocate, the three times married 64-year-old mother and grandmother found some time to Spill the Beans with Java as she prepares for her trip to Connecticut and her talk on “Breaking Family Ties: Empowering Ourselves to Overcome Domestic Violence.”  

Q: Most of us out in the public assumed you had it all in what appeared to be a perfect marriage to David Birney and your career. The rocky relationship, your alcoholism, the path you were on, what was really going on?

A: I had a lot of success but who ever looks to be happy. I never knew to measure happy. I don’t know. There were good times and bad times but I never took my emotional temperature. I carried a bag of rocks around as far as my beliefs system. There were enough signs things weren’t good but I pretended I didn’t see them. I didn’t know that I was doing that until I did some self-examination. I had hit an emotional bottom and thought I was going to lose my mind. I didn’t think about what I wanted. I survived moment to moment.

Q: Do you think that emotional dilemma is one that many women face?

A: I think a lot of women do that. We don’t know what works. We don’t spend enough time to see what we want. I came out of one marriage and thought I knew better. My last marriage was to a guy I didn’t like, who was greasy and oily and a promoter who was slick, hip and cool. I just got worn down when it came to marrying him and thought “maybe I should, what do I know?

Q: What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment in life, your biggest regret?

A: The accomplishment? Probably just survival. I can’t say I have achieved an awful lot but the work I have done has been okay, but not life changing. I hope I have reached people talking about domestic abuse. My biggest regret? That I am such a slow learner. I wish I had known I was going to write a book before I did. It took me so long to have realizations. When you are treading water and trying not to drown, which is how I perceived myself, you find any spar to hold onto. You don’t think about whether it is oak or elm, you just want something to hold onto.

Q: What would you tell your 19-year-old self now that you are older and wiser?

A: I had my first child at 19 and nothing else mattered. That speaks most to what I was then. I tried to make it different for my children. I got up in the morning and made them breakfast and sent them off to school. When I couldn’t be there we had a nanny but I was never in the house with them without being engaged with them.

Q: And what is your life like now?

A: I am really busy. I am doing the speaking engagement, I have taken some writing workshops, I put up a website of my art. I am an okay artist. I am looking at a couple of pilots and last week, was approached about producing a documentary that is an idea that looks very exciting. One never knows.

Q: Would you ever run for political office?

A: No, even if I were someone who had something to say. No matter how strong you are, your positions are divided once you are in public office and you have to compromise so it’s difficult to accomplish anything. If I am going to be effective, I would rather do it in small ways. I do love President Obama.

Q: Besides your professional accomplishments, you are a domestic abuse survivor, a recovered alcoholic, and a breast cancer survivor. To other women facing breast cancer, do you have any wise words?

A: On the most surface level, you are not your breasts. Get your priorities straight.

Q: And to those women who are living in a household where they are being abused?

A: Many of us think “Oh, we will change him, or he’ll change and it will be better.” People don’t change until they are highly motivated to change. When I was living with a husband who abused me, I kept thinking it was going to be okay. There would be those times when we would dance in the kitchen or sing together. Great times. I would hold onto those and then the abuse would happen again. Women who listen to me speak are “Gee, how did this happen to you?” You had everything going for you.” The reaction I have had is that women listen to me is “Gee, how did that happen to you, why wouldn’t you say get out of here?  I had everything going for me. I was terrified and after our divorce, I had no faith and found myself thinking, Oh my God, what did I do?

Q: Several years ago, you also announced you are a lesbian. You described coming out as “glorious.” Was it?

A: I made the announcement on the “Today” show. I thought who the f*** is going to care about this? I was afraid people would think it was a sad attempt to reignite my career. I am such a private person that I am still appalled that I wrote so many things that I did in my book.

Q: The role you are proudest of?

A: Probably the Betty Broderick movies. The fact that they did a two-parter on that story was great. It was great playing someone with no boundaries. It is much more fun to play someone who is bad. And probably “Winnie,” about a mentally disabled person.  I got into that character.


“An Evening of Thriver Spirit and Song”   is on May 5 at the Mandell Jewish Community Center, 336 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $50, or two for $70 in advance. Student and senior rates are $25. An additional donation of $25 per person includes a meet-and-greet with Meredith Baxter at 5:30 p.m. For ticket information for to

And Here They Are…Mr. and Mrs. Bruce DePrest!

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The deed is done. There is now a Mrs. Bruce DePrest.

Cheryl McGinnis and the WFSB chief meteorologist sealed the deal Saturday at 2 Hopewell in South Glastonbury.

Some pictures of the newlyweds, including  one of  FOX Ct’s Joe Furey who was  best man!

Baryshnikov Coming to Hartford

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As if Hartford Stage didn’t have enough of a blow-out at its Party In the Paint Shop Saturday night!!! 

This in today!










FEBRUARY 21 – MARCH 24, 2013


Hartford, CT – The Tony Award®-winning Hartford Stage, under the leadership of Darko Tresnjak, Artistic Director, and Michael Stotts, Managing Director, is proud to announce Mikhail Baryshnikov will make his Hartford Stage debut in the world premiere stage adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Man in a Case, with co-direction and choreography by Annie-B Parson and co-direction by Paul Lazar, playing February 21 – March 24, 2013.
Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, the team behind the internationally acclaimed Big Dance Theater, bring their signature style fusing theater and movement to this World Premiere adaptation of Anton Chekov’s 1898 short story, The Man in a Case.  In a tale both witty and haunting, a shy, reclusive man’s courtship of a carefree young woman forces him to stare down his own rigid nature. Mikhail Baryshnikov stars, and is joined onstage with a cast that includes Jess Barbagallo, Tymberly Canale, and Chris Giarmo.


The Man in a Case is a co-production with Baryshnikov Productions in association with ArKtype / Thomas O. Kriegsmann.

Republican Grand Dame “Mama Jo” McKenzie Dies

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Republican grand dame, Jo “Mama Jo” McKenzie passed away Friday night. She was 80.

The Republican heavyweight, who was a confidant and chief of protocol for former Republican governor John Rowland, was a well-known character in her own right, boasting a dramatic wardrob and wit, and edgy political and business savvy as well.

A veteran restaurateur who, for several years, owned the tony Copper Beech Inn in Ivoryton, McKenzie was a regular at the area’s most prestigious “must be seen” parties.

Like It KC Style At Travelers Championship

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Golf? You mean the Travelers Championship in June is about golf?

Kidding aside, June’s PGA championship at the TPC River Highlands is more than a golf tournament, it’s an event with a wide range of special activities and entertinament.

Just announced…this year’s concerts will feature KC and the Sunshine Band on June 23 and our own West Hartford resident and “The Voice” reality show winner, Javier Colon, on June 20.

Powerstation is sponsoring the shows that both begin around 7 p.m. at the tournament’s Subway Zone.

For information go to

Mayor Segarra’s Ball? A Fundraising Success!

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It may seem  like ages ago but remember Hartford Mayor Segarra’s inaugural ball at the Connecticut Convention Center earlier this year?

It was a success when it came to raising money for his new charity organization.

The numbers are in and the bash netted $100,000 for the mayor’s  Hartford Humanities Fund.

The money will be used to create grants for Hartford nonprofit organizations.

Goodspeed Opens the Season With Mame And A Party

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The world was one big party at the Goodspeed as it opened its 2012 season with the life’s a party musical “Mame” and then threw one of its own after the show was over  at the nearby Gelston House.

The show-stopping Jerry Herman tunes and nearly 20 wardrobe changes for Louise Pitre, who plays the effervescent Mame Dennis, set the tone for a fun evening that included a lot of catching up for people who had seen each other since the end of the 2011 season.

For executive director Michael Price that meant some globe-trotting including a trip to the South Pole with a stop in South America where he bought three pair of shoes at his favorite store.

Liberty Bank president Chandler Howard spent the winter meant planning his upcoming wedding on June 29 at the Farmington Club.

Howard, and fiancée, Miriam Lopez, who works in the Hartford corporation counsel’s office, will be honeymooning in Cabo San Lucas.

More than 200 people crowded the Gelston House main dining room after the show for the opening night soiree that celebrated Pitre and the other stars including Glastonbury’s own Eli Baker. Baker plays Mame’s young nephew, Patrick Dennis.

“I love it,” said the fifth-grader who attended with his mother Jessie, and sister Eden. If he looks familiar to the Hartford crowd, there is a reason. He was featured in the Hartford Stage production o The Christmas Carol.

Opening night  was also cathartic for some, like board member Joe Smith, whose brother, fourth-grade teacher Brian Smith, collapsed and died in his New London classroom two weeks ago.

“I just thought this would be a good reason to get out,” said Smith, a member of the Mohegan tribe.

Smith said there will be a tribal memorial for his late brother.

CT Ballet Razzles And Dazzles on 30th Anniversary

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It was an anniversary party, CT Ballet founder and chief executive  Brett Raphael never imagined 30 years ago.

“When I started I was dancing and the choreographer,” said Raphael at the ballet’s 30th Razzle Dazzle! anniversary party at the Bushnell. “I was a young person and did not know I would be building this,” he said about the ballet company based in Hartford and Stamford. “I didn’t know the journey I would be taking down the road.”

The celebration included a medley of ballets and special performances by students from the school’s educational outreach program.

And how have the years of bringing ballet to Connecticut changed Raphael?

“I feel older and more experienced,” he said.

Another Sad Split, NPR’s Faith Middleton And Fern Berman

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Yet another high-profile Connecticut couple has decided to part ways.

Faith Middleton, award-winning host of Connecticut Public Radio’s “Food Schmooze” and “The Faith Middleton Show, and her wife, well-known publicist Fern Berman,  have split.

   “This is a shocking, painful turn of events for me, and a personal matter,” said Middleton about the end of the nearly 10-year marriage. Berman had no comment.

The two were highlighted in the February 2012 issue of Connecticut Magazine in a Valentine’s Day, love themed feature titled “How We Met.” According to documents filed in New Haven Superior Court, Middleton filed for the divorce the month before. 

The couple married in October, 2002  at Manhattan’s Le Cirque 2000, one of Berman’s clients at the time.  The  ceremony was reported in the New York Times. Berman, who has an agency in  Branford,  owned a Manhattan public relations business then.

Over the years, the well-known, gracious couple has been involved  in many non-profit galas including Share Our Strength and MS Taste of Hope, as well as various other fundraisers and events.  

Word of the  split comes on the heels of  another power pair parting.

WFSB personality Scot Haney and his partner, Bushnell’s Paul Marte confirmed earlier this week that they are ending their relationship  after  19 years. 

Marte and Haney were also one of the featured couples  in the February  Connecticut Magazine piece.