Parks Officials Consider Proposed New Locations for Summer Theatre of New Canaan


Parks officials say they’re planning to meet with the Summer Theatre of New Canaan to figure out a possible location for the organization’s popular shows, should public health-related restrictions allow for it at the time.

The executive producer of Summer Theatre of New Canaan has inquired about two possible locations, both at Waveny, according to Recreation Director Steve Benko.

Ed Libonati asked about “the hillside that leads down to the pond, right below the walled garden,” Benko told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their regular meeting, held March 10 via videoconference.

“And the second area he asked about was possibly using the one behind the Lapham Center. What he is looking to do this year because of COVID—and we don’t know what all the restrictions are going to be yet, because the state hasn’t changed many things—I know he was looking to have the tent over the stage only and the audience would have to sit in designated circles or squares. And so he would either have to paint circles or squares. The state has given us some guidelines on that. So he would like to plan for this, so he would like to come to the Commission now.”

Ultimately Parks & Rec decided to appoint a commissioner to join a committee that will study possibilities and meet with Libonati, along with Benko and possibly Parks Superintendent John Howe. The committee, whose public meeting times have not yet been decided, is to return to the full Commission in April with a recommendation and for a vote.

Gov. Ned Lamont said this month that he plans to allow outdoor event venues to hold 50% capacity or up to 10,000 people starting April 2, while protocols such as mask-wearing and social distancing would be required.

Benko said the Summer Theatre when it launched outdoor performances years ago “started in the walled garden and that didn’t work out too well.” The organization then moved to Irwin Park and then to a location near the water towers at Waveny, now a roadway. 

“They were there until two summers ago and then they moved to the lot that the library purchased on the corner of Maple Street and South Avenue,” Benko said. “But now that lot is going to be for the library for their new addition. So Ed is looking for another place that he can possibly host the Summer Theatre.”

The organization is eyeing a summer run from July 10 to Aug. 1, Benko said.

Commissioners asked whether state regulations would allow for port-a-potties as STONC has had in the past (yes some form of portable sanitation would be required) and whether there would be a conflict with nearby events at Waveny such as the summer concert series (all of that is being taken into consideration, and there are no Waveny House weddings booked for the dates planned).

Commissioner Matt Konspore asked whether the town was considering Irwin Park as a location.

Benko said, “We can’t have nighttime meetings or activities at Irwin. We got sued by one of the neighbors and that was part of the settlement with the judge.”

According to a Jan. 26 letter from Libonati to Benko that was included in the Parks & Rec meeting packet, each of the proposed locations “has its unique benefits, safe public access and parking.”

“Public attendance would utilize open field seating following all local and state of Connecticut health protocols,” Libonati said in the letter. “The size of the audiences will be dictated by the health protocols. Electric power, if not available or sufficient would be via portable movie quiet generator as we did at Irwin Park for several years.”

One thought on “Parks Officials Consider Proposed New Locations for Summer Theatre of New Canaan

  1. I just read a troubling article in the Newcanaanite on a purposed mis-use of Waveny Park. The plans to place sani-cans, multiple semi-trailers, large generators and electrical wires combined with plywood walkways, lumber platforms and carnival tents are hardly what should be allowed in the Park. This is a public retreat and playground for the entire Town, not a rental property! Hosting paid performers from neighboring cities and states, by a profitable business, is hardly a vision the supporters of this beautiful setting have ever sought. Turning the beautiful Anderson Pond and ‘Sledding Hill’ or the grassy fields next to Lapam Center into trampled and muddy commercial sites would seem at odds to any citizen’s view for Waveny.

    There are any number of private and religious owned fields that could host this commercial endeavor. It may even be possible to arrange for the high school stadium or auditorium to be used, alternating depending on the weather. Either venue would have the necessary sanitary facilities, adequate parking and handicapped accessibility needed for these productions.

    Let’s immediately step back from the time and expense of investigating a misuse of public lands, for which they were never intended. Instead, let’s help the Libonati’s find an adequate home for their enterprise in this Town. Certainly their efforts have been appreciated and supported for several years. When directed to the appropriate location, we can then enjoy their theatrical performers and witness their talents.

    Joel Reynolds
    New Canaan

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