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Backstage at the Playhouse

This Year, the Westport Country Playhouse Is Giving Thanks to the Many Patrons who Make These Local Productions Possible

Article by Sophia Babun

Photography by Mindy Briar & Maya Porrino

Originally published in Westport Lifestyle

The Westport Country Playhouse is a local treasure. The picturesque red-painted theater, nuzzled right off Post Road East, saw its beginnings in 1931. Since then it has grown to become a nationally recognized not-for-profit professional theater. The historic destination is an essential component to Westport’s unique character. There are many aspects that make the Playhouse special, but the support of the local community is perhaps one of its most extraordinary qualities. The involvement from the community is what keeps the theater going and able to produce the acclaimed performances it is known for. Not only does this theater bring the local community together, it also draws in audience members from all over the country and beyond. It has a contagious energy. It’s nothing less than heartwarming and inspiring to witness the magic of this historic theater thriving in our own little seaside town.

The Playhouse's special events help get people excited about current and future productions and create a conversation in the community. These events are a great opportunity for both avid theater lovers and those interested in learning more to mingle, learn and enjoy together. Events and fundraisers are crucial for the success of the Playhouse, since it is a nonprofit theater, and only about 40 percent of each ticket price covers the cost of productions.

“People already love the Playhouse, so my job is to help deepen their experience,” says Carole Southall, director of development at the Westport Country Playhouse.

Carole oversees the theater’s fundraising including major gifts, foundation, government and the annual gala.

“The more people know about all the parts that make a production happen plus how they feel—moved, transformed, inspired —the more they want to come back for more and be a part of keeping it alive,” she says.

One great way to get involved with and support the Westport Country Playhouse is to join the Premiere Circle.

“The Premiere Circle is a group of donors who provide annual gifts of $1,500 or more, but we also know it as a community of people who truly enjoy being together at the many social gatherings in private homes and other special invitations to unique events that come our way,” Carole says.

Members enjoy various perks and benefits, including special invitations to exclusive events such as Tech Talks and Insider Insights. These gatherings help deepen an existing love and fascination for theater and connect individuals with similar interests to each other.

If you are a Premiere Circle member interested in finding out more about what makes the magic happen on stage, then you will find the Tech Talks fascinating.

“Tech Talks brunches bring people into the nitty-gritty of all the backstage artists and technicians, led by Associate Producer David Drefoos,” she says. “They are a perk for our Premiere Circle members. We’ve had lighting, costume and set designers, each of whom gives a peek into their world and the research and reasons that inform their design decisions. The afternoon is always filled with, ‘Wow, I never knew that’ comments. After brunch at Positano’s, we walk over to the theater for a bit of a rehearsal or a backstage tour and meet additional artisans.” 

Another great event exclusive to Premiere Circle members is the Insider Insights events.

“Insider Insights are conversations in a private home with one or more of the artists connected to the production, the director, playwright or actors, all facilitated by David Kennedy, associate artistic director at the Playhouse,” Carole says. “Each gives insights to their work methodology, and their personal stories and experiences are always illuminating. It is fascinating to learn how different directors approach plays, actors and designers and incorporate them into their own process.”

Insider Insights events inspire the community by allowing theatergoers to mingle with working theater professionals currently involved in Playhouse productions.

“You know the expression, ‘The more you know, the more you love?’ Well, that’s what happens at these events. People love learning, and they fall in love with knowing how things work and get made,” she says.

The Westport Playhouse’s ability to bring people together is remarkable. Being able to see Broadway-level productions so close by is extraordinary, and this is something we can all be thankful for this November.

Carole says the Playhouse “gives people something to be moved by. We also take our role as a social convener seriously, hosting community events such as the International Women’s Day event and Team Westport’s annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration, both of which are always sell-outs.”

When asked what she is most thankful for about the Playhouse, Carole has much to say. Something that really stands out to her is the staff, board and supporters.

“I genuinely feel that we are all part of one big family, and we each have a separate but equal role to play,” she says. “Likewise, our donors…without them, we couldn’t mount these fabulous productions, and without us, they would not have a world-class theater in their own backyard. It takes a village, and there is great respect for every role that people play.”

Westport Playhouse

The Premiere Circle offers you a deeper relationship with the Playhouse. Get privileged access to special Playhouse events, our annual London trip and other travel experiences, plus unique behind-the-scenes conversations with artists and others who share your passion.

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