This week’s Giving Day underscores the importance of arts programming in Fairfield County

Detail from Crystal Theater’s Fairfield Giving Day promo. (Contributed)

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As an ardent arts supporter, performer, and writer, as well as a lifelong resident of Norwalk, I’ve witnessed the strong impact that artistic organizations have on our city. I’ve witnessed the tenacity of the many incredible programs Norwalk houses, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve seen firsthand the power of the arts, and more specifically, musical theatre, in educating, entertaining, and uniting a community.

The transformative nature of theatre was one of the many reasons that co-founders Alexandrea Kemeny, David Jackins, Mariner Pezza, and I jumped at the opportunity to run some performing arts classes when then- Norwalk Recreation and Parks Department approached us in 1987. Little did we know that 35 years later, we’d have trained over 35,000 students in the performing arts and staged over 60 original musicals. In 2003, with the support of many local contractors and the city of Norwalk, which graciously leased, we renovated the unused Ben Franklin Junior High School into a 236-seat theatre with rehearsal spaces and a state-of-the-art technical system. It’s been our home ever since, and we could not be more grateful for the constant support from the city of Norwalk, which was equally generous during the early months of the pandemic when we could not afford to pay for the basic utilities. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


This Thursday, Feb. 23, is Fairfield County’s Giving Day, a 24-hour donation event where non-profits across Fairfield County compete to receive money from as many different donors as possible throughout the day. Arts organizations across Fairfield County are still reeling from the financial losses of the recent pandemic, and while we are grateful for support from CT Humanities and the Connecticut Office of the Arts, we too are struggling. This is the last year that the Fairfield County Community Foundation will be running Giving Day, so we’re encouraging Norwalk residents to donate to the arts organizations that are meaningful to them. You can donate by going to www.fcgives.org and searching for your organization.

Intrinsic to the nature of theatre, we are transforming again. In addition to our children’s productions, we have recently created and begun operating Norwalk’s only nonprofit community theatre, Crystal Community Theatre, to present adult productions of new and local works. This summer, we’re working with the City of Norwalk and Steven Christofor of Christofor Realty and the Whistleville Neighborhood Improvement Association, to present my original musical, Whistleville. Set in the Lexington-Bouton area of Norwalk by the train tracks in 1907, the musical focuses on efforts to build the St. Ladislaus Church, the tensions between the Hungarian and Italian ethnic groups, and the politics between South Norwalk and Norwalk (separate towns at the time). We’re looking forward to raising awareness about Whistleville, one of the more underserved areas in our community and one that is minutes away from our theatre.

We are excited. We hope the Norwalk community and beyond will be too.

We earnestly appreciate the support, and encourage you to support the various other non-profit arts organizations around Fairfield County as well. Together, let’s create, inspire and transform.

Cheryl E. Kemeny

President and Artistic Director of Crystal Theatre

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