As the 15th season of the Summer Theater of New Canaan approaches, Executive Producer Ed Libonati told the Parks and Recreation Commission at its regular meeting last week that moving to another location within or outside of Waveny Park for future seasons is a possibility.
The discussion came up as Libonati provided details about the company’s upcoming season, which includes an expanded five-week run of “Kiss Me Kate” starting June 28 and performances of “Peter Pan,” “Balloonacy,” and “James and the Giant Peach” by the Theatre for Young Audience starting on June 23.
Libonati said that while the company saw 99 to 100 percent capacity for the main stage performances and 75 to 80 percent capacity for the children’s performances last season, the location of the tent and the activities surrounding it has created a few challenges.
“During the summer, we bring a tent and we set it up in a field across from one of the softball fields and, this year, the fields are being repaired, which is creating some issues with getting tent up properly, so we’re working that out now with [Public Works Director] Tiger [Mann] and [Parks Superintendent] John [Howe] to make sure everything works out well,” he said during the March 14 meeting, held at Lapham Community Center.
“We’re fit into a very tight spot there between the woods, the gas pipeline, and three football fields. So, we kind of just fit in, so it’s a little tighter now that they’ve enclosed the area a little bit. I understand that they’re going to be grading the area and our hope is that it’s done in time, so that it doesn’t become a mud pit in the summer. That’s the only concern we have.”
But as Libonati continued, he also expressed concern about the activities occurring at the surrounding fields during performances, which causes further complications, such as noise and congestion.
“I understand that the town is going to be renting out the fields this summer, so there is some concern,” he said. “When there are sports events on the weekends, it’s difficult for two [reasons]: Our audiences [can’t] hear to know what’s going on because of the constant screaming and yelling coming from the field… and also the parking at that point. If it’s a large enough group, it overwhelms the parking in that area. The seniors that come, the parents, the grandparents, and the children, can’t get a parking spot.”
Recreation Director Steve Benko said that the only sporting event that may present a challenge this season is a 7-on-7 football game scheduled for July 6 and 7. “The only day that I see it being a conflict is that Saturday, but they’re usually done by 7:30 p.m.”
Libonati replied that the company has dealt with the 7-on-7 football team during previous seasons and that although it was a minor challenge, they were able to work around it.
Commissioner Jason Milligan then asked Libonati how difficult it would be to move the performances to another location.
“It’s something that we probably should be doing,” Libonati said. “We’re exploring opportunities and if that happens we’ll come back to the Parks and Rec [Commission] if it indeed involves Waveny Park.”
Libonati said that when the STONC held its performances at Irwin Park for three seasons, there wasn’t a single complaint about noise or parking. After a rough transition to the Cornfields at Waveny Park, Libonati said that its current location was a temporary compromise.
“It’s a rough location where we are. There was hard access, so we had to build walkways and such,” he said. “[But] we’re very grateful to Waveny Park and that’s the bottom line. The resources of the parking lot, the access to electricity, et cetera. works out very well. And people know where we are after 12 years.”
Libonati added that despite the challenges, he’s happy that the STONC has become “ingrained in the cultural spirit of the town and surrounding areas.”