Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15th to October 15th

Sources: United States Census Bureau; History.com

National Hispanic Heritage Month is annually celebrated from September 15th to October 15th in the United States, recognizing the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements for the United States. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) defines “Hispanic or Latino” as a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.

The term Hispanic or Latino (or the more recent term Latinx) refers to a person’s culture or origin—regardless of race. On the 2020 Census form, people were counted as Hispanic or Latino or Spanish if they could identify as having Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or “another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.”

Hispanic Heritage Month always starts on September 15th, a historically significant day marking the independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The designated period is also a nod to those from Mexico and Chile, which celebrate their independence September 16th and September 18th, respectively.

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the culture and contributions of Americans tracing their roots to Spain, Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Spanish-speaking nations of the Caribbean. The observance was born in 1968 when Congress authorized the president to issue an annual proclamation designating National Hispanic Heritage Week. Two decades later, lawmakers expanded it to a month-long celebration, stretching from September 15th to October 15th.

Facts for Hispanic Heritage Month

  • 8% of Hispanics age 25 and over had a college degree in 2020.
  • Over half of Hispanics in the U.S. live in California, Texas, or Florida.
  • In 2020, the Hispanic population made up the largest racial or ethnic group in New Mexico (47.7%) and California (39.4%).
  • In 2019, approximately 6% or 347,000 businesses in the U.S. were Hispanic-owned.

Did you know?

People of Hispanic origin are the nation’s second largest racial or ethnic group.  The Hispanic population grew 2.4 percentage points over the decade from 16.3% in 2010 to 18.7% in 2020.

 

62.6 million: The Hispanic population of the United States as of July 1, 2021, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest racial or ethnic minority — 18.9% of the total population.

 

13: The number of states with a population of one million or more Hispanic residents in 2021 — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.

 

34,289The increase (from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021) in the number of Hispanics in Riverside County, California, the county with the nation’s greatest growth in this population during this period. Source:  County Population by Characteristics: 2020-2021 (census.gov)

 

30.5The median age of the Hispanic population, up from 30.2 in 2020.

Source: National Population by Characteristics: 2020-2021 (census.gov)

 

More Stats

American Hispanic/Latino history is rich, diverse and long, with immigrants, refugees and Spanish-speaking or Indigenous people living in the United States long before the nation was established, bringing with them traditions and culture from Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other Latin American and Iberian nations.

 

From early Spanish colonialism to civil and worker rights laws to famous firsts to recent Supreme Court decisions on immigration, here’s a timeline of notable events in U.S. Hispanic and Latino history.

 

Early Spanish Explorers Reach America:  April 2, 1513.  Searching for the “Fountain of Youth,” Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon lands along the Florida coast, claiming the territory in the name of the Spanish crown. He would return in 1521 to establish a colony, but his party, attacked by Native Americans, were forced to retreat to Cuba, where he died.

 

Sept. 8, 1565.  Spanish admiral and explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles lands at what will become the settlement of St. Augustine, Florida, near the spot Ponce de Leon reached 52 years earlier. Now the oldest continually inhabited American city, St. Augustine was under Spanish rule for 256 years, and British rule for 20 years and served as a Civil War battle site.

 

1609-1610:  Conquistador Don Pedro de Peralta settles Santa, Fe New Mexico, making it the oldest capital city in North America, the oldest European community west of the Mississippi River and the first foreign capital captured by the United States, in 1846, during the Mexican-American War. The original capital of New Mexico had been established by Don Juan de Onate in 1598 at San Juan Pueblo, but it was moved to Santa Fe in 1610.

 

May 1, 1718:  Spanish priest Father Antonio Olivares founds the Mission San Antonio de Valero, better known as The Alamo, the first mission in San Antonio, Texas. Formed to convert Native Americans to Christianity, it became a fort and site of rebellion in 1835.

 

Battle of the Alamo, Mexican-American War March 6, 1836:  After 13 days of siege, Mexico President and General Antonio Lopez Santa Anna, with 1,000-plus Mexican soldiers, storm the Alamo, killing most of the Texan soldiers inside, who include now-famous heroes Davy Crockett, James Bowie and Lt. Col. William Travis, even those who had surrendered. “Remember the Alamo!” becomes a battle cry for the Texas militia, which eventually wins independence. In 1845, Texas is annexed by the United States.

 

1846-1848

The Mexican-American War takes place, following a dispute over border control following America’s annexation of Texas. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the war, setting a border at the Rio Grande River between Texas and Mexico, and also giving America control of California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, a majority of Colorado and Arizona and part of Oklahoma, Wyoming and Kansas.

 

July 9, 1868

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is adopted. Section 1 states that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

 

April 21, 1898

The U.S. declares war against Spain, with major campaigns fought in Cuba and the Philippines. The Spanish-American War, which ends December 10, 1898 with the Treaty of Paris, marks the end of Spain’s colonial power, with the country granting Cuba independence and ceding Guam, Puerto Rico and the Phillipines to the United States. Hawaii is also annexed during the war.

 

1910-1917

The long and violent Mexican Revolution causes a surge of Mexicans to cross the U.S. border, with El Paso, Texas, serving as “Mexican Ellis Island,” according to the Library of Congress. The U.S. census finds Mexican immigrants to have tripled in population between 1910 and 1930, from 200,000 to 600,000.

 

Feb. 5, 1917

Congress overrides a veto by President Woodrow Wilson to pass the Immigration Act of 1917, the first sweeping legislation to limit immigration in America. Also referred to as the Asiatic Barred Zone Act and the Literacy Act, it bans immigrants from most Asian countries. It also includes a literacy test for all immigrants older than 16, requiring them to read English or another listed language for entry, and bars convicted criminals, alcoholics, anarchists, those with contagious diseases and epileptics.

 

Puerto Ricans Granted US Citizenship:  March 2, 1917

President Wilson signs the Jones-Shafroth Act, granting U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans and creating a bicameral legislature in the island territory. With the United States about to enter World War I, it also gives America a stronghold and allows Puerto Ricans to join the U.S. Army. Eventually, 20,000 Puerto Ricans are drafted to serve during the conflict, many charged with guarding the important Panama Canal.

 

May 28, 1924

Congress creates the Border Patrol, part of the Department of Labor’s Immigration Bureau, as established in the Labor Appropriation Act of 1924. In 1925, its patrol areas include the seacoast, and later, in 1932, it is divided with one director in charge of the Canadian border, and one in charge of the Mexico border.

 

Dec. 7, 1928

Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo of New Mexico is sworn in as the country’s first Hispanic senator. The Republican attorney, born in Mexico, immigrated to the United States when he was a boy. He served one term as governor of New Mexico and later was elected twice to the state House of Representatives before running for the U.S. Senate. But his time in Washington didn’t last long: In January he fell gravely ill and returned to New Mexico where he died April 7, 1930.

 

Dec. 7, 1941

Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, drawing the U.S. into World War II. More than 500,000 Mexican Americans serve in the American military during the conflict, with 13 Medals of Honor awarded to Latinos. The 158th Regimental Combat Team, largely composed of Latino and Native American soldiers who fought in the Philippines and New Guinea, is called “the greatest fighting combat team ever deployed in battle” by Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

 

Aug. 4, 1942

The U.S. and Mexico sign the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement, called the Bracero Program, America’s biggest guest-worker program created to avoid labor shortages during the war that would go on to last more than two decades until 1964. The controversial program allows manual workers (braceros) from Mexico to work in the United States short-term, mostly in agriculture, with basic protections, such as a minimum wage, insurance and free housing, although employers did not ignore those standards.

 

April 14, 1947

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals makes a landmark ruling prohibiting segregation in California public schools in Mendez v. Westminster School District. In the case, the family of Sylvia Mendez, then 9, and others sued four school districts for being denied entrance to Westminster Elementary School because they were Mexican. The ruling sets precedent for the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case seven years later.

 

June 9, 1954

President Dwight D. Eisenhower institutes “Operation Wetback,” a controversial mass deportation using a racial slur, in which the government rounds up more than 1 million people. Blaming illegal immigrants for low wages, the raids start in California and Arizona, and, according to a publication in the U.S. House of Representatives archives, disrupt agriculture. Funding runs out after a few months, bringing the operation to an end.

 

April 17, 1961

U.S.-trained Cuban exiles invade their homeland during the botched Bay of Pigs in a failed attempt to overthrow Dictator Fidel Castro. Soon after his inauguration, President John. F. Kennedy authorizes the plan. When the 1,400 exiles land at the Bay of Pigs on Cuba’s southern coast, they come under a swift counterattack by 20,000 Cuban troops and the invasion ends April 19, with nearly all of the exiles surrendering and 100 dead. Two months later, the prisoners begin to be released in exchange for $53 million worth of medicine and baby food.

 

July 2, 1964

The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 becomes law, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and outlawing discrimination based on race, sex, religion, color or national origin. The act also creates the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce federal job discrimination laws. One immediate effect of the act: an end to segregated facilities requiring Black Americans and Mexican-Americans to use only designated areas.

 

Oct. 3, 1965

President Johnson signs the landmark Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, better known as the Hart-Celler Act, into law, an immigration reform bill that ends a quota system established in 1924 based on country of origin (70 percent of immigrants were to go to Northern Europeans). The act gives priority to highly skilled immigrants and those with family already living in America. Post Hart-Celler, nearly 500,000 people immigrate annually, with 80 percent coming from countries other than Europe.

 

March 17, 1966

 

Cesar Chavez, general director of the National Farm Workers Association, leads 75 Latino and Filipino farm workers on a historic 340-mile march from Delano, California to the state capitol in Sacramento. Drawing attention to the demands of grape growers, the march, held at the onset of a strike that would last five years, lasts 25 days, and upon arrival in Sacramento on Easter Sunday, the group is met by a crowd of 10,000. Later that summer, the NFWA merges with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to form the United Farm Workers union that affiliates with the AFL-CIO.

 

April 16, 1973

The Dade County Commission unanimously passes a resolution from Miami’s mayor making Spanish the city’s second official language and creating a department of bilingual and bicultural affairs. In 1974, the Florida city is home to 350,000 Cubans who have been fleeing the country under Fidel Castro’s regime for more than 15 years. On November 8, 1973, Maurice A. Ferré is elected Miami’s first Hispanic mayor, also becoming the first Puerto Rican to lead a major U.S. mainland city.

 

March 20, 1973

Puerto Rican right fielder Roberto Clemente is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame 11 weeks after he was killed in a small plane crash while traveling from Puerto Rico to Nicaragua to assist in earthquake relief efforts. The owner of four National League batting titles, he received 12 straight Golden Glove awards, was the 1966 NL MVP, and, in 1971 at age 37, led his Pittsburgh Pirates to a World Series victory, earning the MVP title. Voted into the hall in a special election, he is the first Latin-American baseball player admitted.

 

Aug. 6, 1975

President Gerald Ford extends the Voting Rights Act of 1965, with the amended Section 203 mandating that bilingual ballots be provided in certain areas.

 

April 20, 1980

Fidel Castro announces that Cuban citizens may immigrate to Florida from the port of Mariel with their own arranged boat transport. In the months that follow, 125,000 Cubans flee the country, in what came to be called the Mariel Boatlift. Many of the immigrants were law-abiding citizens and families, but others, called “marielitos” were prisoners, criminals and the mentally ill sent by Castro, causing President Jimmy Carter political woes.

 

Nov. 6, 1986

President Ronald Reagan signs the Immigration Reform and Control Act into law, granting 2.7 million long-term immigrants permanent legal status, but also imposing restrictions, increasing border security and making it illegal for employers to knowingly hire unauthorized workers.

 

Sept. 21, 1988

Dr. Lauro Cavazos, a Texan, is sworn in by Vice President George H.W. Bush as secretary of education, making him the first Hispanic to serve in a presidential cabinet.

 

Aug. 29, 1989

Cuban immigrant Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress, later becoming the first woman to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Over 30 years—15 terms—the Republican from Miami served in the Florida House and Senate before representing the state’s 110th District. In 1990, Dr. Antonia Novello is appointed the first women and first Hispanic U.S. surgeon general under Bush, and, in 1993 Ellen Ochoa becomes the first Hispanic woman to travel to outer space.

 

Jan. 22, 1993:

Federico Pena, who previously served as Denver’s first Hispanic mayor, is confirmed by the Senate as U.S. Secretary of Transportation under the nomination of President Bill Clinton, making him the first Hispanic to hold the position. He also spends two years as the first Hispanic Secretary of Energy under Clinton, immediately followed in that role by another Hispanic, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

 

Jan. 1, 1994

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Mexico and Canada takes effect, establishing a North American trade-free zone and lifting tariffs of most goods. It is replaced, in 2020, by the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

 

Nov. 8, 1994

Proposition 187, called “Save Our State,” is passed in California, a controversial ballot measure requiring law enforcement, teachers and health care professionals to verify and report the immigration status of all individuals, in an effort to “prevent illegal aliens in the United States from receiving benefits or public services in the State of California.” Lawsuits and challenges are immediately filed, with a U.S. District Court judge issuing temporary restraining order just days later and another District Court judge declaring most of it unconstitutional in 1998.

 

Jan. 22, 2003

The U.S. Census Bureau releases statistics showing Hispanics are the country’s largest minority group, with a population of 37 million, while the Black population stands at 36.2 million.

 

Aug. 8, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor is sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts as the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice and the third woman to serve on the court. Raised in a housing project in the South Bronx, N.Y., she is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents and previously served on the board of directors for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

 

June 25, 2012

In a 5-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down most of SB1070, an Arizona immigration law in Arizona v. United States. The decision finds three of the four provisions of the statute are preempted by federal law: the section making it a crime to reside in the country illegally, the section making it unlawful for undocumented workers to apply for a job and the section allowing warrantless arrest based on probable cause of unlawful presence. However, the court does uphold the law’s requirement that law enforcement officers verify immigration status during lawful stops.

 

June 23, 2016

In a one-sentence ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court announces it is equally divided in a case involving a lower court’s decision to block President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive immigration order, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), granting deportation relief to 4 million-plus undocumented people living in the U.S. providing they pay taxes, pass background checks and reside in the country for more than five years.

 

June 18, 2020

In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court blocks an attempt by the Trump administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program protecting immigrants who came to the country as children from being deported. Established in 2012 under President Obama, DACA protects 700,000 “Dreamers.”

 

The Stratford Hispanic Heritage Committee

The Stratford Hispanic Heritage Committee started promoting the pride of Hispanic heritage in Stratford in 2005 as part of National Heritage Month to increase cultural sensitivity, foster understanding, and celebrate the literacy, music, and the artistic expression Hispanic cultures.

 

One of the committee’s primary goals is to provide scholarships for qualified students of Hispanic Heritage to attend college.  Since 2009 the committee has awarded approximately $70,000 to students attending Bunnell and Stratford High School.

 

Their main fundraising event for the scholarship program is their annual Scholarship Gala.  This year’s event will take place on October 8th at the Trumbull Marriott Hotel on Hawley Lane in Trumbull.  Dance the night away from 7 p.m.- 11 p.m., enjoy dinner with a Latin flare.

 

For tickets contact Olga Pena, 203-820-3658.  Presale 2 tickets for $150, at the door $95 earch.

 

New Year Greetings: High Holidays Begin with Rosh Hashanah

Sunday at Sundown

Sources: Chabad-Lubavitch of the Shoreline; History.com; jewfaq.org.

Rosh Hashanah

The two-day holiday of Rosh Hashanah is the head of the Jewish year, the time when G‑d reinvests Himself in creation as we crown Him king of the universe through prayer, shofar blasts, and celebration.

What: It is the birthday of the universe, the day G‑d created Adam and Eve, and it’s celebrated as the head of the Jewish year.

When: The first two days of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah 2022 begins at sundown on September 25th and continues through nightfall on September 27th

How: Candle lighting in the evenings, festive meals with sweet delicacies during the night and day, prayer services that include the sounding of the ram’s horn (shofar) on both mornings, and desisting from creative work.

As we read in the Rosh Hashanah prayers, each year on this day “all inhabitants of the world pass before G‑d like a flock of sheep,” and it is decreed in the heavenly court “who shall live, and who shall die … who shall be impoverished and who shall be enriched; who shall fall and who shall rise.”

It is a day of prayer, a time to ask the Almighty to grant us a year of peace, prosperity and blessing. But it is also a joyous day when we proclaim G‑d King of the Universe. The Kabbalists teach that the continued existence of the universe depends on G‑d’s desire for a world, a desire that is renewed when we accept His kingship anew each year on Rosh Hashanah.

In our prayers, we often call it Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance) and Yom Hadin (Day of Judgement) since this is the day when G‑d recalls all of His creations and determines their fate for the year ahead.

Together with Yom Kippur (which follows 10 days later), it is part of the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe, or: High Holiday)

The Bible refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikkaron, meaning the day of remembrance, or Yom Teruah, the day of the sounding of the shofar.

The shofar is a trumpet made from a ram’s horn and is an essential part of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The sound of the horn serves as a call to repentance and a “reminder to Jews that God is their king,” according to History.com.

One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue. A total of 100 notes are sounded each day. There are four different types of shofar notes: tekiah, a 3 second sustained note; shevarim, three 1-second notes rising in tone, teruah, a series of short, staccato notes extending over a period of about 3 seconds; and tekiah gedolah (literally, “big tekiah”), the final blast in a set, which lasts 10 seconds minimum. The Bible gives no specific reason for this practice. One that has been suggested is that the shofar’s sound is a call to repentance. The shofar is traditionally not blown if the holiday falls on Shabbat, although the traditional synagogues that observe that restriction observe the second day of Rosh Hashanah and blow the shofar on Sunday.

Customs of Rosh Hashanah

After religious services are over, many Jews celebrate with a festive meal and other customs. Here are a few symbols and customs of Rosh Hashanah.

Apples and honey – Ancient Jews believed apples had healing properties and honey signifies the hope that the new year will be sweet.

Round challah – On Jewish holidays, Jews eat loaves of the traditional braided bread known as challah. On Rosh Hashanah, the bread is often baked in a round shape to symbolize the circle of life and the crown of God.

Tashlich – Some Jews practice this custom which means “casting off.” Casting off is the practice of throwing pieces of bread into a flowing body of water while reciting prayers. The bread symbolizes the sins of the past year.

L’shana tovah – This Hebrew phrase means “for a good year” and Jews will greet each other this way on Rosh Hashanah.

No work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah. Much of the day is spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded. In fact, there is a special prayer book called the machzor used for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because of the extensive liturgical insertions for these holidays.

Sunset Boulevard

Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk

If You Ask Me

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

“Sunset Boulevard” Opens Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) Season: Good voices highlight an otherwise lacking revival of “Sunset Boulevard” currently at the Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk. The intimate theatre is not an ideal venue for a big Broadway musical like this, but MTC has come through before with similar productions in scaled down versions like “Falsettoland” and “Ragtime”. “Sunset Boulevard”, however, is not really a show that should be produced on the cheap.

With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton and based on the classic 1950 film by Billy Wilder, “Sunset Boulevard” finds struggling Hollywood screenwriter Joe Gillis (an excellent Trevor Martin) newly hired by aging silent film star Norma Desmond (Elizabeth Ward Land). Norma is well past her prime living in the delusion that she is ready for a new film venture. She’s written a screenplay and hires Joe first as her editor and then as her lover. Joe’s ambivalence about their relationship and Norma’s unwillingness to let go leads to violence, madness and death.

The musical was first and foremost designed as a showcase for a Broadway diva of a certain age (Elaine Page, Patti LuPone, Glenn Close) and it was the sheer force of the personality of that star that made “Sunset Boulevard” work. There are only two songs of any note in the show and both are sung by Norma: “With One Look” and “As If We Never Said Goodbye”. The remaining score is bland even though Mr. Martin can probably make a case for his strongly sung rendering of the title song. There’s still a question, though, of “why” with this show. Like many recent musicals derived from popular films (“Tootsie”, “Rocky” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” come to mind), there’s really no reason to tinker with Wilder’s film noir masterpiece.

This is abundantly clear at MTC where the cozy theatre is far from the ideal venue needed to reflect the outsized acting and faded Hollywood glamour of “Sunset Boulevard”. Lindsay Fuori’s scenic design does not begin to suggest this lost world and relies instead on a simple raised platform and some red curtains. A scaled down “Ragtime” a few seasons back worked fine for the theatre, but “Sunset Boulevard” demands much more. Norma’s Gothic home is almost another character in the show, but it is nowhere to be found at MTC.

To their credit, however, MTC has an accomplished cast in the major roles beginning with Martin, whose cynical swagger and powerful singing makes you wish you were seeing him in a better vehicle.

Land makes for a sexy Norma (nicely costumed by Jimm Halliday) and she sells her two signature songs with aplomb. If she seemed to run down a little by act two at Sunday’s matinee, it may be the result of a long weekend of challenging performances.

James Patterson, as Norma’s ever-loyal manservant Max, has a booming operatic voice and he nails the dignified servitude that defines his role. The other cast members work hard but the roles pretty much define “thankless” and their several Hollywood babble songs are interchangeable and forgettable.

Credit director Kevin Connors for attempting this ambitious project and, with musical director David John Madore in fine form, everything pretty much sounds as it should here. (I do question, however, if Connors really needed all four of Norma’s visiting haberdashers to be flamboyantly gay?) An admirable attempt to be sure, but despite valiant efforts from a game company, this is still a rather dim “Sunset”.
“Sunset Boulevard” continues at the Music Theatre of Connecticut, 509 Westport Avenue in Norwalk, Connecticut through October 2nd. Masks are required at all performances. For further information, call the box office at: 203.454.3883 or visit: www.musictheatreofct.com.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

Light House Tours and Legends

Sources: National Archives; New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide; LighthouseFriends.com; Wikipedia; The History of Lordship, “Stratford Point Lighthouse Keepers and Stories – The light must never go out”; Lighthouses – US Coast Guard Historian’s Office

By Barbara Heimlich
Editor

On Sunday, September 4th and September 11th, from 12 p.m. until 3 p.m., the Stratford Historical Society, in conjunction with the Town of Stratford, will be hosting a limited Historical Open House of the Stratford Point lighthouse property.

A slideshow presentation will be available of the interior of the lighthouse and an historical walking tour will be offered of Stratford Point. Three program times slots are available at 12 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3.p.m. Advance registration is required through the Stratford Recreation Department.  Tour size is limited to 25 individuals per time slot.

The Stratford Point Lighthouse is owned by the U.S. Coast Guard, who in 2019 gave Town access to the lighthouse and its surrounding buildings and property provided the Town paid for the care and maintenance. The lighthouse itself is filled with lead contamination and cannot be entered, or viewed from the interior, at this time.

The keeper’s cottage may be accessed and so may the lighthouse grounds. The former Remington Gun Club property, under the management of Audubon Connecticut, is also available to the public during the Open House tours.

Fun Facts and History of the Stratford Point Lighthouse

Stratford Point Light is a historic lighthouse at the mouth of the Housatonic River. The second tower was one of the first prefabricated cylindrical lighthouses in the country and remains active.  It sits on a 4-acre tract at the southeastern tip of Stratford Point.

Stratford was an active port in coastal trade, shipbuilding and oystering in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There was a light at Stratford Point long before a formal lighthouse was built. Tradition holds that in colonial times a bonfire was lit at the point when a boat was expected on a foggy night, and later, wood was kept burning in an iron basket attached to a pole.

After congress allocated $4,000 on March 3, 1821, four acres of land were purchased on Stratford Point from Betsy Walker, and a twenty-eight-foot wooden octagonal lighthouse was built under the direction of Judson Curtis. Just the third light station erected on Long Island Sound, Stratford Point Lighthouse was established in 1822 and consisted of the octagonal tower, with its sides painted alternately black and white, attached to a one-and-a-half-story keeper’s quarters.

President Thomas Jefferson dedicated the Stratford Point Light.

Autumn of 1822 brought one of the worst gales ever recorded at Stratford Point. Houses blew off their foundations, and hundreds of trees were ripped from the ground. The seas were so high and the winds so strong that salt spray was recorded three-and-a-half miles inland. Miraculously, the new lighthouse withstood it all.

Stratford Point Light has often felt the brunt of storms, and the location is frequently foggy. One keeper had to ring the fog bell for 32 consecutive hours; another rang it in a February storm for 104 hours; then another 103 hours after a brief rest.

In 1911, there was an installation of a compressed-air fog siren. The bell tower was removed during the work and replaced with a brick building used to house the two engines needed to operate the siren’s air compressor.  “On foggy nights, the mournful notes of the great horns flinging their penetrating warning far out into the Sound awaken the echoes of the Housatonic River.”

Neighbors did not take kindly to the new fog signal. One woman rang up Keeper Judson and asked him why he wanted to ruin everyone’s nerves. “Well Mrs. Dunbar,” Judson replied, “If that old siren was a noted singer in New York you would be the first one to go hear him and say it was fine. Anyway, I cannot stop it. Maybe if you ring up President Roosevelt he might do something for you. You see he’s got more power than I have.”

A sounding board and reflector were soon erected to focus the sound out over the water as much as possible.

According to The History of Lordship, in 1872 “the buildings of this station are very old and unfit for occupation.”  An estimate for a suitable dwelling over which the tower may be placed, was submitted in the last annual report (to the United State Coast Guard). It is recommended that the amount then submitted be appropriated, $15,000.

The Guiding Light

 

The records of the lighthouse show that there have been a large number of gallant rescues made by keepers of the light at various times of persons who had got into difficulty in craft among the rocks and in the mouth of the Housatonic River to the east of the Point. In 1855 a fifth order lens was added to the 28-foot wooden tower. In 1881, the tower and dwelling were razed and replaced with a 35-foot tall, brick lined cast-iron tower and equipped with a third order Fresnel lens.

 

With the ever increasing activity in navigation on the Sound and the value mariners placed on Stratford Light, the United States Lighthouse Service decided that it would still further increase the efficiency of the light be superseding the old oil system with electricity, a beam of light that sweeps from Old Stratford Point from a powerful 750 watt electric lamp operated by current derived by transmission wires from shore. By means of powerful prismatic lenses the light is caught up, collected and thrown out in one concentrated ray with an intensity of over 300,000 candlepower. Once every 30 seconds the flash sweeps the sea being visible for many miles, forming a strong reliable light visible in any fog, a light that mariners invariably use as their chief departure beacon in setting their course down the Sound.

 

Electricity also superseded the old gasoline engine in the operation of the fog horn which sends a three blast warning seawards every 40 seconds  Stratford Point Lighthouse lost its lantern room in 1969 to accommodate the installation of automated DCB-224 aerobeacons.  These powerful beacons for a time made the light the most powerful on Long Island Sound.

 

The old lantern was donated to the Stratford Historical Society, and it was displayed at Boothe Memorial Park in Stratford for 21 years.

 

Coast Guard personnel continued to live at the lighthouse until 1978, after which the station was controlled via microwave radio from Eaton’s Neck on Long Island. The light was automated in 1970 with a modern beacon. It is an active aid to navigation and used for Coast Guard housing.  To prevent vandalism, the dwelling was restored and again occupied by the Coast Guard starting in 1982.

 

In 1990, a smaller optic was installed and the lantern was refurbished and reinstalled at a cost of about $80,000, with a dedication ceremony on July 14, 1990. The tower was repainted in 1996, keeping its distinctive markings of white with a brown band in the middle.

The tower was repainted in 1996, keeping its distinctive markings of white with a brown band in the middle. Today, the unfailing light still guides mariners past the shifting sand bars of the mouth of the Housatonic River.

 

The lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Head keepers (And Their Assistants)

Lighthouse keepers became civil service employees in 1896. The care of the nation’s lighthouses moved from agency to agency until 1910, when Congress created the Bureau of Lighthouses. The U.S. Coast Guard took over responsibility in 1939.

When researching Stratford Point lighthouse keepers from various sources the following list was found.  This list, as well as keeper information, in all probability is incomplete.

Samuel Buddington (1822 – 1843)

Samuel Buddington was hired as the light’s first keeper, and members of the Buddington family continued to watch over Stratford Point for almost fifty years. Samuel Buddington’s maintenance and housekeeping habits apparently left something to be desired, at least according to an 1837 inspection report: “This lighthouse is in the worst order imaginable. The oil was when I visited it dripping from the lantern nearly to the base – the copper of the lantern deck is ripped up in many places, allowing a free passage for the oil form the lamps, under which there are no drippings [tray] to catch it. There are the strongest indications of this lighthouse being kept in the most careless, and slovenly manner.”

 

William Merwin (1843 – 1844)

 

Samuel Buddington (1844 – 1848)

 

Amy Buddington (1848 – 1861)

After Samuel Buddington passed away in 1848, his wife Amy became keeper, and she received the following glowing report in 1850, “Light-house and dwelling, and in fact the whole establishment, is in good order.” Her son Rufus, who became the official keeper in 1861, assisted Amy Buddington.

 

Rufus Warren Buddington (1861 – 1869) Edward W. Buddington, Assistant, (1866 – 1869)

Rufus and Eliza Buddington raised eight children in the keeper’s cottage, but lost four of them to diphtheria during the winter of 1861 – 1862.

 

Benedict Lillingston (1869 – 1874); Assistant Frederick Lillingston (1869 – 1874)

“There was no gathering storm in the October night air in 1871 as the steamer Elm City passed Stratford Point Lighthouse. No apparent reason why the light burned unusually dim, but even still, the captain was grateful for that small light warning of the shifting sand bars and strong currents formed where the Housatonic River meets Long Island Sound.

 

It was many years later, when the Bridgeport Sunday Post interviewed the then grown granddaughter of the keeper of Stratford Point Lighthouse, that the mystery of the dim light was revealed. On that night in 1871, Keeper Benedict Lillingston and his son, Assistant Frederick Lillingston, left the lighthouse to answer the call of a distressed vessel. Twelve-year-old Lottie Lillingston, visiting her grandfather and uncle and left alone at the lighthouse, noticed the light had gone out. There was one thing she was certain off, the importance of the light. She lit a brass safety lamp, then carefully climbed the steps of the tower. Going only by what she had seen her grandfather do, she stopped the clockwork, suspended the safety lamp in the lantern, and then restarted the rotation.”

Assistant Charles Hurst (1874 -1875)

John L. Brush (1874 – 1879), Assistant Abigail W. Brush (1875 – 1879)

March 19, 1879 – John L. Brush, keeper of the Stratford light, has resigned and his resignation has been accepted by the proper officers. The cause is not stated, but perhaps the life was too exciting, dangerously accelerating the action of the heart. We say perhaps! Light housekeeping is not generally perilous. (History of Lordship)

 

Jerome B. Tuttle (1879 – 1880), Assistant Mary Tuttle (1879 – 1880)

By 1867 the original tower was in disrepair and the keeper’s house was considered too small for a keeper and assistant. The authorities delayed rebuilding by appointing a married couple, Jerome and Mary Tuttle, as keeper and assistant. They were succeeded by another husband and wife, Theodore and Kate Judson. The present cast-iron tower, 35 feet tall, was finally built along with a new keeper’s house in 1881.

Assistant Joshua A. Overton (1898 – 1899),

Theodore Judson (1880 – 1919), Assistant Kate F. Judson (1880 – 1882)

“Theed” Judson was keeper from 1880 to 1921. It was said when Judson retired that he had not had a vacation in 39 years.

 

Judson once made an extraordinary claim in a local newspaper. He said that he had seen as many as 12 to 15 mermaids frolicking in the waves off the point. In fact, he said he once almost caught one of them, and he managed to salvage her oyster shell hairbrush. “They’re a grand sight,” he said of the mermaids. It is said that Judson’s friends were never able to get him to retract the mermaid tale.

In July 1897, Herman Chase and Edward Howe of Bridgeport were having good luck fishing off Stratford Point while the tide was slack. When the tide turned, the men attempted to raise anchor, but in so doing upset their small boat. Chase valiantly helped Howe, who couldn’t swim, stay afloat, but this extra load made it impossible to reach the upset boat.

Agnes Judson, the keeper’s daughter, gained fame as a swimmer who won competitions in the area. One summer day when she was 17, Agnes watched from the top of the lighthouse as the seas became increasingly rough. Two fishermen about 100 yards offshore were trying to pull up the anchor of their small yawl, and the waves caused both to fall into the sea.

Agnes ran down the lighthouse stairs, rang the fog bell to attract attention, and then swam out to assist them. Keeper Judson and his son Henry were working in a field at the time, but when they heard the fog bell, they rushed to the scene and swam out to the fishermen’s boat. She called to her brother Henry, and both swam out to the fishermen. One of them was about to go under a second time when Agnes got a rope to him in the nick of time. Agnes and Henry managed to pull both of the men safely back to shore and reach the upset boat.

After righting the boat, the Judson’s picked up Agnes and the two men and safely transported them to shore. Agnes refused to accept any gift or recognition for her heroism, and after having dried their clothes, the two fishermen returned to Bridgeport.

When contacted by a reporter, Anges said, “I do not see what makes people try to make such amount of matter of such a little thing. It was of no consequence, and did not amount to much. You will oblige me by saying nothing about it.”

In 1900, Keeper Judson and his son saw two deer wade into the sound near the lighthouse and start to swim. Curious as to where they were headed, Judson launched a boat and followed behind them as far as Stratford Shoal Lighthouse, at which point he was convinced they were intent on swimming the entire thirteen miles to Long Island.

On June 20th, 1911, a little tin can sealed at both ends floated ashore at the Stratford lighthouse and was picked up by Theodore Judson, keeper of the light. On being opened the can was found to contain a scrap of old paper bag on which was written the following: “Ship Mary S. Crayne, London to River Platte, wrecked off Hatteras, February 2d, 1901. Have been on raft ten days. Last bit ate and drank. Please tell mother. James P. O’Reilly. No. 22 St. Catherine Street, Montreal, Canada.”

“December 24, 1912: Captain Herbert Buck, while painting the tower at the Stratford lighthouse, fell from a ladder to the ground, a distance of over 30 feet.  Keeper Thene Judson picked up the victim and found him in a dangerous condition. A hurry call brought a physician who found a fractured rib besides the shock of the fall. Captain Thene took in the patient and will care for him at his home. If there are no internal injuries, Captain Buck will be the first man to live after falling from a lighthouse tower. His escape is considered almost miraculous.”  History of Lordship

After thirty-four years at Stratford Point, sixty-five-year-old Keeper Judson was informed in 1914 that he was being transferred to a light off Newport, Rhode Island. Officials of various steamboat companies, whose steamers transited the sound, signed a petition protesting the action, and one captain stated that he always felt safe with Judson on the point as not once during his service had the light or fog signal failed. The protestations proved successful, and Judson remained at the station until his retirement in 1919.

Assistant Clarence R. Redfield (1911)

Assistant Henry B. Morris (1911 – at least 1912)

William J. Lavell ( – 1913)

February 20, 1914: LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER ALLEGES FRAME UP: Theodore Judson, keeper of Stratford Point Lighthouse, who was ordered to take charge of an offshore light at Newport, Rhode Island, declared today that he was a victim of a frame up. Judson has been the keeper of the Stratford Point Light for thirty-four years. Recently he has had trouble with his assistant, William Lavelle who preferred charges against his superior a short time ago. The charges were returned after an investigation with the statement that here was little or no foundation for them. Judson filed counter charges against Lavelle.

 

Assistant William F. Petzolt (1913 – 1919)

For about 30 years Captain Judson maintained the light without an assistant except what he received from his wife, a son, and his two daughters. In 1913 he was allowed an assistant. William Petzolt, who succeeded him to the care of the light.  Petzolt was from Stamford, and for a number of years had charge of the Governor’s Island light in New York harbor.

William F. Petzolt (1919 – 1946), Assistant James A. Kirkwood (1928 – 1946)

JUNE 10, 1925 – Lightkeeper Pitzolt, after experiencing nearly as many varieties of weather and temperature in a fortnight as the proverbial “57” ranging from nearly 100 in the shade, through hail and thunderstorms to 10 degrees above freezing, Lordship and the adjacent coastline settled down for the night to a dense fog at ten o’clock Monday evening, when Lightkeeper Pitzolt started the fog horn engine at Stratford Point.  In the absence of Assistant Lightkeeper Dean, who is a away with Mrs. Dean on a two days trip to Hartford, Mr. Pitzolt must do relief-duty as well, which means a continuous vigil without delay until his assistant’s return.

 

Head Keeper Petzolt and Second Keeper James Kirkwood are on duty day and night. During the long hours between dusk and dawn there is much to be done in watching the light, keeping the mechanism that operates the revolving apparatus wound up, holding in readiness for immediate use the auxiliary oil burners that are installed in the lantern room in case the electricity fails. For it is the creed and motto of every member of Uncle Sams Lighthouse service that the light must never go out. (History of Lordship)

 

Assistant George H. Tooker (1919 – at least 1920)

Assistant Phillips A. Channell (at least 1921)

Assistant Arthur G. Reuter (at least 1922)

Assistant Harry B. Dean (at least 1925)

Daniel F. McCoart (1946 – 1963), Assistant William A. Shackley (1946 – at least 1962)

Daniel F. McCoart, a Providence native, Navy veteran and former light heavyweight boxer, was the civilian keeper from 1945 to 1963. He lived at the lighthouse with his family. William Shackley was the assistant keeper for many years, and he also lived in the keeper’s house with his family. Keeper McCoart retired in 1963 after 44 years in the Lighthouse Service.

 

Coast Guard Engineman 1st Class Richard Fox (1963 – 1967)

The Coast Guard gave up lighthouse keeping on January 19th, 1967

The American Worker

Arts Alliance of Stratford September Arts Meeting

Tuesday, September 6th 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Zoom Meeting, Free, and Open To All

Join us at the September Monthly meeting of Arts Alliance of Stratford. Meet and network with other local creative people.

Theme Challenge: The American Worker

The challenge is open to visual art, writing, poetry, music or performance.

September begins by honoring the American worker with the Labor Day holiday. Thomas Hart Benton honored the American worker with the murals he was commissioned to paint for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression. Our roads, bridges, skyscrapers and homes were built by generations of workers. How will you honor them?

You can use the photo of the carpenter on a construction site as a starting point to explore your own idea of how to interpret the American worker. Visit the registration page to download your own copy from the Pixabay website. You can also come up with your own Interpretation.

Grab your paints, pencils, writing pad or other creative implements and make something inspired based on The American Worker. Use the theme to create something unique. Follow your imagination where it takes you.

Each month the challenge theme is announced at the end of the monthly meeting. The finished challenge work will be presented at the following meeting.

Share some of your artwork

Ask for advice if you are stalled on a piece and don’t know how to proceed

Have you attended an online figure group (doesn’t have to be ours)? Show us some of your figure work.

Have you written something you would like to share?

Have some recent work? let us see it.

Free to attend but you must register on our website.  Register at:

https://artsallianceofstratford.org/event/september-2022-monthly-arts-networking-meeting

(The Zoom meeting link will be emailed to you)

“Monday Matinees” Fall Lineup

Free Monthly Screenings of Popular Films 2022

Stratford Library in the Lovell Room at 12 p.m.

The Stratford Library continues its popular film series offering free showings of recent, popular films shown uncut and on widescreen each month through the fall.  All films will be screened in the Lovell Room starting at 12 p.m.

Downton Abbey: A New Era

Monday, September 12th

The much-anticipated return of the global phenomenon reunites the beloved cast as they go on a grand journey to the South of France to uncover the mystery of the Dowager Countess’ newly inherited villa.  PG, 125 minutes

The Black Phone 

Monday, October 10th

Finney, a shy teenager is abducted by a sadistic killer (Ethan Hawk) and trapped in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. When a disconnected phone on the wall begins to ring, Finney discovers that he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims.  Chilling thriller!  R, 102 minutes

Where The Crawdads Sing    

Monday, November 21st

From Delia Owen’s best-selling novel comes a captivating mystery about Kya, an abandoned girl who raised herself to adulthood in the dangerous marshlands of North Carolina.  She has for years, been known as the “Marsh Girl” isolating the sharp and resilient Kya from her community. Drawn to two young men from town, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world; but when one of them is found dead, the community immediately casts her as the main suspect.   PG-13, 125 minutes

Top Gun: Maverick 

Monday, December 12th

After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him.  Blockbuster sequel to “Top Gun”.   PG-13, 131 minutes.

For information call: 203.385.4162

If You Ask Me…

Goodspeed Offers Promising World Premiere

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

A star is born in the Goodspeed Opera House’s current production, a world premiere musical based on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic young adult novel, “Anne of Green Gables”.  Her name is Juliette Redden and she will not soon be forgotten.  The new musical she heads also has plenty of promise.  A trip to Goodspeed is highly recommended.

With book and lyrics by Matte O’Brien and music by Matt Vinson, “Anne of Green Gables” finds aging siblings Matthew (D.C. Anderson) and Marilla Cuthbert (Sharon Catherine Brown) awaiting the arrival of an orphan boy they’ve secured to work on Green Gables, their family farm on Prince Edward Island.

Much to Marilla’s chagrin, the orphanage sends a girl named Anne Shirley (Redden) instead.  Anne soon distinguishes herself in the small-minded town as a “different kind of girl” who makes fast friends and uses her brains instead of her looks which she often derides.  Born with flaming red hair and freckles and boasting a feminism that seems way ahead of its time, this is a stirring coming-of-age story about Anne and those in her orbit. There’s the possibility of romance, of course, but progressive Anne is far more interested in expanding her mind than accepting marriage proposals.

In an exceptional cast, Juliette Redden is the true anchor for a show that relies heavily on its title character.  She has the requisite Broadway belt with a voice that never falters.  She also radiates pure energy and purpose as the forward-thinking Anne with a passion for learning and truth.  She is a real find.

Anderson and Brown are wonderful as the Cuthberts with Brown especially good as Matthew’s stern sister.  Her deadpan delivery and common sense practicality is often very funny.  She also gets a terrific 11 o’clock number late in act two that nearly brings down the house.

Pierre Marais, as the high school heartthrob, Gilbert, has the charisma and charm to win both sexes at his school and Tristen Buettel, an understudy for Michelle Veintimilla at the performance I caught, is everything her dream girl role calls for never suggesting she was unprepared to go on.

Stealing scenes as the Cuthbert’s endlessly nosy neighbor, Rachel, Aurelia Williams is superb and has a great second act duet with Redden called “Make a Move”.

Some caveats:  The show is in very good shape for a world premiere, but there’s no doubt that its first act is stronger with a second act that could use some tinkering as it meanders with at least three different endings.  The score is tuneful without being especially memorable but is so well sung by the accomplished cast and so creatively choreographed by Jennifer Jancuska, you may not notice.

The period is confused, though, with the sensibilities of the 1950s but costuming (Tracy Christensen) that is all over the map and a score sounding very contemporary with its soaring ballads and “American Idol” belting.

Director Jenn Thompson has cast superbly but allows some odd business having actors pile all the props in the center of the stage at the end of act one and then just putting it all back at the top of act two.  It looks like busy work for no purpose.  Scenic designer Wilson Chin has gone for a less-is-more effect with a bare bones setting, but the rotating platform stage center doesn’t really register and isn’t well-used.  Philip S. Rosenberg’s lighting design, however, is a constant highlight.

There is talk of a Broadway run for “Anne of Green Gables” but whether audiences will support an old-fashioned family musical like this in the age of “Hamilton” and “A Strange Loop”, is yet to be seen.  Still, the show is very much at home on the Goodspeed stage which, not that long ago, made a substantial musical hit of another red-haired orphan with a similar name who went on to Tony winning glory on Broadway.  Fingers crossed!

“Anne of Green Gables” continues at Goodspeed Musicals, 6 Main Street in East Haddam, through September 14th and masks are required. For further information, call the box office at: 860.873.8668 or visit: http://www.goodspeed.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

New Strategic Plan Unveiled by Stratford Library

The Stratford Library Board of Trustees approved a new Strategic Plan for the Library. The new plan will guide and prioritize the Library’s work over the next several years, in response to all that the Library has learned from community members, patrons and colleagues from other Connecticut libraries.

“There is no better way to celebrate the Stratford Library’s 125th Anniversary of serving the residents of Stratford than to give serious thought to and plan how the library will meet current and future needs”, according to Board member and Strategic Planning Chairman Beth Daponte. “The Stratford Library’s 2022-2025 Strategic Plan, created under the wise tutelage of Plan A Advisors, represents the results of a comprehensive process of community and board engagement. The Strategic Plan and the process behind it helps prioritize the important work of the library’s incredible staff and committed Board of Trustees.”

The Strategic Plan updates the library’s Mission and Vision Statements and has a series of goals designed to fulfill them. The mission statement of the Stratford Library is: to empower and enrich our diverse community by providing access to innovative services, information, and ideas.

The vision statement crafted to serve as a headline for the entire plan is: Our Library will be a welcoming and dynamic community center for a diverse and evolving Stratford, recognized as the Town’s essential partner in guiding all residents to access the informational, educational, and cultural resources they need to thrive.

“This mission statement emphasizes the Library’s role as the Town’s essential partner”, according to Library Director Sheri Szymanski. “This is intentional as it recognizes that the Library is first and foremost a civic institution that shares responsibility with several agencies for Stratford residents’ wellbeing.”

Goal I of the plan reinforces that sentiment: The Stratford Library will advance the social, economic and educational needs of residents through programming and resources that support their success.

Goal 2 makes it clear that the Library has a responsibility to serve ALL Stratford residents, not just those who use the facility regularly, and that the Town offers many resources that the Stratford Library is ideally suited to connect them with. The goal states: The Stratford Library will expand community outreach and engagement so that every Stratford resident feels connected to the Library’s and Town’s rich resources.

Goal 3 states: The Stratford Library will partner with human service providers to connect residents in need to resources that ensure their well-being. Stratford librarians are increasingly asked to provide residents with information about human services and this need has increased substantially in recent years. Librarians are not trained counselors or case workers, but libraries are appreciated by many for offering information and programs without stigma or judgment

Goal 4 is more inward looking: The Stratford Library will strengthen both physical and organizational infrastructure to position it for continued excellence in its programs and services. This recognizes that any successful institution or enterprise, whether a school, a hospital, a coffee shop or a retail outlet must continue to invest in itself and its infrastructure to remain at the top of its game.

Each goal is supported by a series of objectives designed to implement each goal. The entirety of the Stratford Library’s new Strategic Plan can be found on their website at: www.stratfordlibrary.org/strategic-plan.

7.29.22

Want To Be A Screenwriter?

Masterclass on Creative Writing: Screenwriting Fundamentals

On-Line Workshop on Saturday, August 13th from 10:00 a.m. – Noon
Sterling House Community Center

From Arts Alliance of Stratford

TV Shows and Films engage us. They make us forget time, tie our stomach in knots, cause involuntary tears or laughter, and sometimes they even help us transcend our limits and look at our struggles in a new way.

Screen stories inspire us.

What makes good drama? What is the invisible structure that makes a story either nail-bitingly suspenseful or fall flat so we are reaching for the remote? How do we learn to craft our own life stories into actual dramatic scenes that people will want to listen to, and if they get made, watch them over and over again?

These essential questions will be answered in this Screenwriting Fundamentals Masterclass where participants will learn:

• How to create drama and avoid the pitfalls of flat storytelling
• How to master suspense and leave your audience satisfied but also wanting more
• How to begin using proper screenplay format, including terminology, basic rules of the page and insider tips
• And how to spot and use the invisible story structure underlying every movie and TV show you’ve ever seen.

If you like good movies but loathe wasting time on bad movies then this class will give you the inside scoop on how screenwriters manipulate expectations, build suspense and shock or delight us with twists and turns. Put down the remote and pick up a pen. It’s time your story came to life.

Online workshop – Once registration is complete, the Zoom meeting link will be emailed to you.

Arts Alliance of Stratford members: $30.00
Non-members: $40.00

Register at https://artsallianceofstratford.org/all-creative-writing-classes

Beginning to advanced writers welcome.–

If You Ask Me: “Athena”

Thrown Stone Theatre Company in Ridgefield

“Athena” Opens Thrown Stone Theatre Company Season

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

The plucky Thrown Stone Theatre Company now in its fifth season has reopened at their intimate 50-seat venue after a pandemic delay with a double-bill of female-centric plays making their New England premieres.

“Athena” by Gracie Gardner and “Hysterical!” by Elenna Stauffer will be offered in rotating repertory at the Ridgefield theatre under the banner, “GRL PWR”. The company is clearly not about to offer you summer comfort food with brainless comedies or frothy musicals. Good for them.

At this writing I have only seen “Athena” which was in excellent shape at its first preview last week. The lights rise and we are in the middle of a fencing match between the aggressive Athena (Shannon Helene Barnes) who has chosen the name because she is the goddess of strategic warfare, and sensitive Mary Wallace (Olivia Billings), a fencer of lesser skill but tremendous heart. They are polar opposites so naturally they must bond by agreeing to train together for the upcoming Nationals. And, like fencing, there is plenty of parry and thrust, advancing to and retreating from each other as we witness this uneasy friendship progress.

Like Sarah DeLappe’s “The Wolves” about a team of female soccer players, Gardner’s ear for how sporty teenage girls talk and spar is right on the money and it’s refreshing to see how seriously she takes them, passing no judgement in the process. It helps that the actors here are both terrific. Barnes’ brash bravado masks a crushing insecurity and Billings is touching and immensely funny especially in a 30-second sequence that finds the actress trying to speak while wearing a mouth guard. Priceless.

The 80-minute (no intermission) dramedy examines competition and friendship with some familiar tropes and, yes, you can pretty well guess where it all will end up. However, director Tracey Brigden (a real “get” for Thrown Stone!) makes this inevitable scenario tense, funny and suspenseful while drawing consistently excellent performances from her actors.

Fencing Coach Michael Martin has helped make the women very convincing competitors and the simple but effective scenic design is by Emmie Finckel. Expert lighting by Adam Lobelson and an essential sound design by Kevin Mambo and Jason Peck complete this polished production.

“Athena” continues in repertory with “Hysterical!” at Thrown Stone Theatre Company, 440 Main Street in Ridgefield, through August 7th. ID and proof of vaccination along with masks are required at all performances. For further information, call the box office at: 203.442.1714 or visit: www.thrownstone.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.