Lorah Haskins, owner of the The Studio for Performing Arts on Forest Street, had been trying for 10-plus years to pull together a teacher concert —a difficult task with so many of the Studio’s instructors coming up from New York City.
Then when actor and director Kate Simone came on staff as a voice and acting instructor in the fall of 2019 with a desire to see it done, the pair thought, “Let’s pool all of our resources and use all of these incredible actors that are Broadway performers who come up to New Canaan all the time and teach our kids,” Haskins recalled.
“And the kids want to see them perform, and we thought New Canaan should get to see them perform,” she said.
So the pair devised the idea of launching their own nonprofit theater company and now, on the 20th anniversary of the Studio, Haskins and Simone are announcing the launch of the Connecticut Stage Company. Based in New Canaan and dedicated to producing quality theatrical performances with and for its community, the new organization will bring more theater productions to a community that loves the arts, its co-founders say.
The Connecticut Stage Company’s debut performance—Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” musical, to be held Monday at New Canaan Library—sold out even before the organization could get the word out to the wider community (get on the waitlist here).
“We are so excited that it’s finally happening,” Simone, a longtime town resident, told NewCanaanite.com. “We felt like October 23rd was so far away for such a long time, and now that it’s here, we really can’t wait. We’ve had some rehearsals with our cast, and everything sounds so amazing. We’re just excited to be at the library and introduce ourselves to the community.”
The pair had originally hoped to launch the organization in 2022, but was unable to secure the rights to “Into the Woods” in time, they said. So the past year has included not only getting those rights to perform the show, but also casting it, scheduling rehearsals, hiring a music director, rehearsing, cutting the script and doing all of that while creating the Connecticut Stage Company.
“I’ve worked for a nonprofit theater company for the past eight years and so I sort of dove into my history with them and spent a few months creating our nonprofit,” Haskins said. “ It just takes a long time to go through the paperwork to get that all done.”
Simone added, “And then of course there’s the website and the social media and the logos and the signage and just getting some visibility for ourselves.”
They chose “Into the Woods” very deliberately.
“What we love about it is that it takes all those fairy tales that we know and love and grew up with—like Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, for example—and really weaves them together and tells a story in a way that makes you question a lot of life morals,” Simone said.
Haskins added that “everyone will be able to connect with one of the characters of one of the storylines.”
“It talks a lot about parent relationships, child relationships, friendships, found families, created families, families you were born into and those you weren’t,” she said. “And for us, since we’re celebrating 20 years of the studio, the story that it tells about children and listening to children, but teaching children, it tells this really beautiful, vulnerable story that will really get everybody thinking and questioning what they know and thinking about how to talk to children, and how to parent your children.”
Asked what the rapid sell-out of “Into the Woods” says about demand for local theater, haskins said, “I think that the town is yearning for more performing arts. It’s already got so many great things. There are so many great arts in this town already, and we are here to supplement that, to bring more. People are dying to see more professional theatre and we can bring it.”
Near-term plans call for the Connecticut Stage Company to work with the library to produce musicals that are based on literature twice per year, “bringing Broadway talent” to the library and “getting our feet wet producing shows, then building from there,” Simone said.
“If you asked us where we’d like to be in five, 10 years, we’d love to have our own space and be producing theater year-round,” she said.