Beanbags were flying, puppets were play acting, beer was flowing and custard was making little fingers sticky. There was plenty of drama, but it was off stage for a change as the Westport Country Playhouse hosted a "block party" Saturday to help launch its coming season of productions.
The party featured a range of activities to appeal to all ages, including guided backstage tours so visitors gained a perspective on how performers see the venerable playhouse. There also were previews of the theater's new offerings this season, a Beaver Beer tasting, food trucks serving up pizza, crepes and lobster rolls, custard from Shake Shack, and games and activities for kids. The playhouse also offered one-day-only ticket discounts as well as savings on single tickets for this year's slate of shows.
Standing near the beanbag toss, Annie Keefe, the playhouse artistic director, said, "The playhouse is such a great asset to the community. Every once in a while, it's nice to open the doors and let people peek into the corners they don't get to see, like the dressing rooms, wings and backstage areas where all the magic happens."
In the patio area near the theater's front entrance, daffodils sprouted here and trees were budding, prompting Keefe to add, "Spring is an appropriate time of year for this event. As the gardens are popping up, the rehearsals are in full bloom, scenery is being built and the box office is selling single tickets. It's a time of fresh starts and renewals -- including subscriptions."
Noting that the theater's Powers Court setting is slightly removed from the town's center, Keefe said, "As we're not in the downtown area, it's fun to invite people down the driveway to see us. We're 82 years old, but getting younger every minute."
The food vendors, like Christophe Ensenat of Christophe's Crepes, were glad to be part of the celebration. "I'm donating a portion of sales today to support the playhouse," he said. "I love the arts and like to support the community. It's fun to be here or the block party."
Watching children race about the property as red-and-white balloons swayed in a chilly spring breeze and families enjoyed food at picnic tables in the courtyard, Michael Ross, the playhouse managing director, talked a bit about a highlight of the coming season.
"We start the season on April 30 with A.R. Gurney's `The Dining Room,' " he said. "Gurney is a playhouse favorite. People love his work -- it's very Westport. The dining room is one of the most important rooms in our homes; this play is a portrayal of what happens in that room over time. It centers around family and family interaction."
The playhouse, Ross said, is "a great gathering place, with great pre-shows, family dinners, socials, tours -- always something going on beyond the planned stae shows. We're a jewel in the community and a great experience place."
For more information about the Westport Country Playhouse and its coming season, check http://www.westportplayhouse.org