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Curtain Call

Community theaters are alive and well in the Berkshires



Rogue Angel Theatre, founded and directed by Pooja Ru Prema, focuses on a tradition brought from south India.

Photo by Lisa Vollmer

Monica Bliss has been acting in the Berkshires on and off for 21 years, and she can’t see herself doing anything else.

“I have like this passion and absolute desire to be onstage and performing,” she says. “And if not, my soul is dead.”

Bliss isn’t a member of any theater festival that arrives in the county each summer, nor is she in any of the year-round companies. She gets her acting fix as president of the Town Players of Pittsfield, a community-theater company that has been entertaining the city for almost a century.

Community theaters have been part of the Berkshire cultural milieu for longer than some of its most prestigious cultural institutions. In fact, the Town Players believe they are one of the oldest continually running community theaters in the country. “It was founded in 1921, and what makes it unique is that we have been continually active,” says vice president Laura Gardner. The Town Players’s roots actually date back to 1840—fans can view the group’s production history on its website. The 95-year-old company will be presenting its annual holiday variety show this December.

Several other Berkshire communities have followed Pittsfield’s theatrical lead. Mill City Productions of North Adams celebrated its decade anniversary in 2014. The company was formed by a group of theater-loving friends looking to bring more accessible, quality entertainment to their community. “We saw that disconnect between a lot of artistic opportunities that locals sometimes felt weren’t available to them—whether that was because of economics or just kind of a feeling of not fitting in—and we really wanted to do something that was a little bit more homegrown and at a lower price point so that people would feel that it was more accessible,” says Marissa Carlson, a founding member of Mill City and director of this month’s production of Clue: The Musical.

In south county, a group calling themselves the Sandisfield Players came together to produce a theatrical pageant for the town’s 250th-anniversary celebration in 2012 at the Sandisfield Arts Center. There was no plan to continue producing theater after that show, says director Benjamin Luxon, but following a successful run, many of the players were eager to get back on the stage.

“It’s basically a lot of fun for this group of people, and it’s a real community,” Luxon adds. The Sandisfield Players will be presenting Hansel & Gretel in December.

For those looking for a less traditional theater experience, Rogue Angel Theatre, founded and directed by Pooja Ru Prema, focuses on ritual theater, a tradition Prema brought from her home in south India. Her works are site-specific, often outdoors, and can range from one- to over 60-person casts of professional, amateur, and first-time actors. The company’s most recent production, The Lift, took place inside an elevator in an abandoned industrial building in Pittsfield.

“You’re in an experience that is multi-sensory and more interactive,” Prema explains of the company’s shows. “There is a level of intimacy that happens with ritual theater that’s very different. The goal of that shared experience is to transform.”

In general, these community companies will produce two to four large shows a year, ranging from drama and comedy to musicals and cabarets, often with smaller productions, such as staged readings, poetry nights, and opera dinners, in between. The goal is to make the shows accessible and affordable to the public—most shows fall under the $15 mark, with some asking only for a suggested donation. Even with the low cost, audiences can expect a high-quality theater experience, complete with beautifully designed sets, costumes, and live musicians—all in an intimate setting.

Despite a range of material and cast sizes, these companies are never short of people to fill diverse roles. “It’s nice to see people onstage and performing that you didn’t know that they had that,” says Prema. “All different ages, all different walks of life, as opposed to just only the professionals.”

Mill City’s performers encompass all experience levels, from seasoned actors to those who haven’t been on a stage since grade school. At a recent audition, Amy Van Dusen-Shapiro tried to remember all of her roles over the past six years as she filled out a form. Sitting next to her, Morgan Middlebrook of Adams, had come out for her first audition, hoping to get more onstage experience while she studies opera.

In Pittsfield, Gardner, a retired speech and language pathologist, has been involved with the Town Players for ten years and can’t imagine filling her time any other way. “I don’t think I would have ever had the courage to do an audition anywhere else if it weren’t for the encouragement and the support of a community theater like this,” she says.

And Luxon, who has plentiful stage experience as a retired baritone, truly enjoys seeing his players improve over time. “It’s a pleasure to watch people become more confident,” he says, “and watch them walk out on the stage as if they belong there. I think that’s one of the satisfying things.” 


On Stage: 
Community theater is plentiful in the Berkshires, with productions year round. 

Mill CityProductions
Building 4 North, Western Gateway Heritage State Park, North Adams
millcityproductions.org

Town Players of Pittsfield
Whitney Center for the Arts, 42 Wendell Ave., Pittsfield
townplayers.org

Sandisfield Players
Sandisfield Arts Center, 5 Hammertown Rd., Sandisfield
sandisfieldartcenter.org

Rogue Angel Theatre
rogueangeltheatre.com

National Theater of Opera Nouveau
operanouveau.com

Homespun Theatre Company
facebook.com/homespuntheatreco

 

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View map »


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More information

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Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

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ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

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In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Website »

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Drop into the Learning Center on school vacation days to enjoy unique artist-led projects. Inspired by the extreme jewelry on view in Outrageous Ornament: Extreme Jewelry in the 21st Century, each...

Cost: Members: Adults free, children $5 Non-Members: Adults $10, kids $10

Where:
Katonah Museum of Art
134 Jay Street
Katonah, NY  10536
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Sponsor: Katonah Museum of Art
Telephone: 914-232-9555
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We will celebrate the Full Moon and use its powerful energy for personal growth and spiritual development, focusing on developing intuition and the “heart’s knowing.”  Music, ritual,...

Cost: 15.00

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
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  The Garcia Project’s performances are based on actual set lists performed by The Jerry Garcia Band. All of their shows are classic recreations of a Jerry Garcia Band set list from the 1976 to...

Cost: $20.00

Where:
Wall Street Theater
71 Wall Street
Norwalk, CT  06850
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Sponsor: Wall Street Theater
Telephone: 877-987-8764
Contact Name: Jeanne Moore
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The much anticipated Great Trains Holiday Exhibit at the Wilton Historical Society opens the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, November 23, with Santa visiting on December 8! Decorated for the...

Cost: Members free, Non-member adults $10/ kids $5.

Where:
Wilton Historical Society
224 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT  06897
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Friday mornings from 10:30 to 12:30. Free, no registration. Open to adults and older teens. Participants are asked to bring their own supplies in, but some basic supplies will be provided by the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Ruth Keeler Memorial Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
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Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
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Join us for the most magical time if the year at Naumkeag! NEW: This holiday season, the gardens at two of our most popular historic homes, Naumkeag in Stockbridge and The Stevens-Coolidge Place...

Cost: Member: $12; Nonmember: $17; Children Under 12: FREE

Where:
Naumkeag
5 Prospect Hill RD
4th Floor
Stockbridge, MA  01262
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Sponsor: The Trustees
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Holiday Craft Day on Friday, November 23rd from 2 to 4 PM, followed by a 4:30 PM family movie (Disney’s COCO) for all ages. Local artist Katie Ré Scheidt will lead the Holiday Craft...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens
One Green Hill
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: The Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens
Contact Name: Laura Neminski
Website »

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It's a tradition now, eight years running! Winners of the Independent Music Awards “Best Live Performance” Category, BroJo is on a mission to make the world a more righteous...

Cost: $28 Members Save:$3 /tckt

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company StageOne
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Pequot Library’s cozy Book Sale: Come to relax, browse, and buy. Plenty of free parking! Admission is free and all items are priced as marked. All Sale proceeds support Pequot Library’s annual...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
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Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

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Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

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For over a half-decade, Mullett has proven themselves to be the Premier Rockers for Hair Band fanatics and lovers of rock n roll. By delivering the best of the 1980’s in Big...

Cost: $22

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company The Warehouse
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Website »

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PRIME FINDS Home for the Holidays opens   it pop-up store on November 16  - December 28 at West Street Yard, #113/114, Litchfield; offering previously loved furnishings, accessories,...

Cost: 0

Where:
174 West Street Yard
Suites 113/114
Litchfield, CT  06759
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Sponsor: Prime Time House
Telephone: 860-618-2479 Ext. 10
Contact Name: Kathi Weinstein
Website »

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The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
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Draw inspiration from your favorite emoticons in this workshop inspired by emojis! Design symbols that convey emotion, represent an object or favorite food, or faces that make you giggle! All ages

Cost: Free for members or with Museum admission

Where:
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT  06877
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For over a half-decade, Mullett has proven themselves to be the Premier Rockers for Hair Band fanatics and lovers of rock n roll. By delivering the best of the 1980’s in Big Hair and faithful...

Cost: $25/ticket; No Member Discount; tanding Room Only; Limited Seating Available

Where:
The Warehouse at FTC
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Website »

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On November 3rd, Heather Gaudio Fine Artis set to open “Room for Play,” a group exhibition featuring works by Ellen Carey, Deborah Kass, Robert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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KMR Arts presents Mark Seliger: Platinum Prints. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm with a reception and book signing of the monograph, MARK SELIGER PHOTOGRAPHS, with the...

Cost: no charge

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: KMR Arts
Telephone: (860)868-7533
Contact Name: Kathy McCarver Root
Website »

More information

Join us for the most magical time if the year at Naumkeag! NEW: This holiday season, the gardens at two of our most popular historic homes, Naumkeag in Stockbridge and The Stevens-Coolidge Place...

Cost: Member: $12; Nonmember: $17; Children Under 12: FREE

Where:
Naumkeag
5 Prospect Hill RD
Stockbridge, MA  01262
View map »


Sponsor: The Trustees
Website »

More information

Ridgefield Guild of Artists' 14th Annual Festive Home...All That Glitters! opens Friday evening, November 16th with a preview party from 6-8pm.  For an entry fee of $20, attendees will...

Cost: $20 Preview Night Party/Free Days

Where:
Ridgefield Guild of Artists
34 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, CT  06877
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Sponsor: Ridgefield Guild of Artists
Telephone: 203.438.8863
Contact Name: Mary Pat Devine
Website »

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On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

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Santa Visits Fairfield – a Fairfield Tradition November 24, 2018    LOCATION CHANGE FOR 2018: OLD TOWN HALL GREEN (611 Old Post Road, Fairfield) Santa is arriving and visiting Fairfield on...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Old Town Hall Green
611 Old Post Road
Corner of Old Post Rd & Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Sponsor: Fairfield Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 203-255-1011
Contact Name: Krista McCormack
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Ridgefield Guild of Artists' 14th Annual Festive Home...All That Glitters! opens Friday evening, November 16th with a preview party from 6-8pm.  For an entry fee of $20, attendees will...

Cost: $20 Preview Night Party/Free Days

Where:
Ridgefield Guild of Artists
34 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Guild of Artists
Telephone: 203.438.8863
Contact Name: Mary Pat Devine
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Menu:Sausage and Rabe Stuffed Baked Artichoke HeartsSicilian Style Polpettini with Roasted Pepper Tomato SauceSpiced Parmesan FricoEggplant Caponata Stuffed ZucchiniDuette de Crostini: Two toppings...

Cost: 110.00

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

A Thanksgiving weekend tradition continues at FTC! Come and sing-along to the most popular animated film of all time. When their kingdom becomes trapped in perpetual winter, fearless Anna joins...

Cost: 5

Where:
The Warehouse at Fairfield Theatre Company
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

PRIME FINDS Home for the Holidays opens   it pop-up store on November 16  - December 28 at West Street Yard, #113/114, Litchfield; offering previously loved furnishings, accessories,...

Cost: 0

Where:
174 West Street Yard
Suites 113/114
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Prime Time House
Telephone: 860-618-2479 Ext. 10
Contact Name: Kathi Weinstein
Website »

More information

Everyone's favorite holiday classic comes to life in the all-new touring production A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage! Join Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, and the whole Peanuts gang as...

Cost: $59

Where:
Stamford Center For The Arts - Palace Theatre
61 Atlantic St.
Stamford, CT  06901
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Telephone: 802-255-1826
Contact Name: Emily Carter
Website »

More information

Join us for another incredible evening of music featuring four local singer songwriters performing original music! Doors open at 7pm upstairs in the handicapped accessible Community Room. Snacks...

Cost: Free - donations graciously accepted

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Website »

More information

On November 3rd, Heather Gaudio Fine Artis set to open “Room for Play,” a group exhibition featuring works by Ellen Carey, Deborah Kass, Robert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Join us for the most magical time if the year at Naumkeag! NEW: This holiday season, the gardens at two of our most popular historic homes, Naumkeag in Stockbridge and The Stevens-Coolidge Place...

Cost: Member: $12; Nonmember: $17; Children Under 12: FREE

Where:
Naumkeag
5 Prospect Hill RD
Stockbridge, MA  01262
View map »


Sponsor: The Trustees
Website »

More information

The New York Times bestselling author, Simon Winchester, traces the development of technology from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age to explore the single component crucial to...

Cost: 25.00

Where:
Sandisfield Arts Center
5 Hammertown Rd.
Sandisfield, MA  01255
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Sponsor: Sandsifeld Arts Center
Telephone: 413-281-4100
Contact Name: Marcella Smith

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The Mahaiwe continues its annual tradition screening The Wizard of Oz over Thanksgiving weekend. Join Dorothy and her eccentric band of friends gathered along the way across Oz, a curious world...

Cost: $5 children / $8 adults

Where:
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
14 Castle Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
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Sponsor: Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
Telephone: 413-528-0100
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

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Enjoy an evening of music by singing storyteller David Ray. His songs have been described as "cinematic." Along with Lyle Lovett, Richie Havens, and others, his early Fast Folk recordings are now...

Cost: 20.00

Where:
Hunt Hil Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

The much anticipated Great Trains Holiday Exhibit at the Wilton Historical Society opens the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, November 23, with Santa visiting on December 8! Decorated for the...

Cost: Members free, Non-member adults $10/ kids $5.

Where:
Wilton Historical Society
224 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »

More information

KMR Arts presents Mark Seliger: Platinum Prints. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm with a reception and book signing of the monograph, MARK SELIGER PHOTOGRAPHS, with the...

Cost: no charge

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: KMR Arts
Telephone: (860)868-7533
Contact Name: Kathy McCarver Root
Website »

More information

Pequot Library’s cozy Book Sale: Come to relax, browse, and buy. Plenty of free parking! Admission is free and all items are priced as marked. All Sale proceeds support Pequot Library’s annual...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Shoplifting Saturday's are coming to PET PANTRY in Fairfield, CT!  Your pup is approved to sniff, seek and swipe ONE Earth Animal No-Hide Chew for their chomping pleasure! And they will receive a...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Pet Pantry
1876 Black Rock Turnpike
Earth Animal
Fairfield, CT  06825
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Sponsor: Earth Animal
Telephone: 203-557-3322
Contact Name: Brooke Valenti
Website »

More information

Contemporary Art Quilts by Norma Schlager Art quilts designed and sewn by Danbury quilt artist, Norma Schlager will be on display at the Gunn Memorial Library in Washington from November 24...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library Stairwell Gallery
5 Wykeham Rd.
Washington, CT  06793
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Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 860-868-7586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

Join us for the most magical time if the year at Naumkeag! NEW: This holiday season, the gardens at two of our most popular historic homes, Naumkeag in Stockbridge and The Stevens-Coolidge Place...

Cost: Member: $12; Nonmember: $17; Children Under 12: FREE

Where:
Naumkeag
5 Prospect Hill RD
4th Floor
Stockbridge, MA  01262
View map »


Sponsor: The Trustees
Website »

More information

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