AEDs (automated external defibrillators) have been installed in Westport thanks to the generosity of town residents MaryGrace and Mark Gudis. An AED is a portable device that delivers electrical shock to a heart that is not beating with the intent of restoring normal electrical rhythm so that the heart will beat again.

The Gudis family partnered with Norwalk Hospital to donate 100 AEDs for distribution in the towns of New Canaan, Norwalk, Westport, Weston and Wilton.

A near tragedy in the town of Westport earlier this year underscored the importance of having AEDs accessible in public places. Norwalk Hospital Trustee Mark Gudis helped save the life of a 17-year old student who experienced sudden cardiac arrest at a sporting event at Staples High School. Fortunately, Gudis, a Staples parent, had an AED in his car and took immediate action while athletic trainers and two parents performed CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) and called 911. The student made a full recovery.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States, affecting nearly 400,000 people each year, according to Matt Soicher, director of EMS at Norwalk Hospital. It can happen anywhere and to people of all ages; less than 1 in 10 survive. Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical system of the heart malfunctions, resulting in very irregular and potentially fatal heart rhythm. Using AEDs and performing CPR immediately (within a few minutes) can greatly impact the victim’s chance of survival.

Studying abroad

Cole Gendels, of Westport will study abroad during Union College's fall term. Gendels is traveling to Athens, Greece, studying Greek culture and language, art, history and mythology. Gendels is a member of the Class of 2018 majoring in Economics.

New management at Playhouse

After an extensive six-month search, Westport Country Playhouse’s board of trustees announced that Michael Barker will be the Connecticut theater’s new managing director. Barker, 36, comes to Westport from Mill Valley, Calif., where he was the managing director of Marin Theatre Company. He will assume the Playhouse post in early September.

Barker will partner with Mark Lamos, the Westport Country Playhouse artistic director, to lead the not-for-profit, professional theater, currently in its 86th season. As managing director, Barker will work closely with the theater’s board of trustees, as well as the staff of the artistic, administrative, marketing, development, production, and finance departments, to oversee a $4.2 million annual budget.

Barker joins Westport Country Playhouse after serving since 2013 as managing director of Marin Theatre Company, where in partnership with its artistic director he led a staff of 23 administrators, artists, and production personnel. Previously, Barker was general manager of Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach, Calif. and managing director for the Los Angeles classical theater ensemble The Antaeus Company.

Before moving to California, Barker was associate managing director at Yale Repertory Theatre and managing director of Yale Summer Cabaret, where he produced the first annual Carlotta Festival of New Plays. He was Seattle Repertory Theatre’s 2008 Managing Director Fellow.

Barker holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in theater management from Yale School of Drama and an Master of Business Administration from Yale School of Management. He currently serves as vice president of the board of the Yale School of Management Alumni Association. Prior to graduate school, he was associate director of marketing for Court Theatre in Chicago, Ill., and also worked with Goodman Theatre, American Theater Company, Sansculottes Theater Company and The Playground Theater.

Barker is married to Heidi Hanson, a costume designer and graduate of Yale School of Drama. They have a son, Lawrence.

Barker succeeds Michael Ross, who served as Playhouse managing director since 2009, stepping down on June 30 to rejoin Center Stage in Baltimore, Md.

For Westport Country Playhouse information, go to or call the box office at 203-227-4177.