Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Robert Redford

Five Films About the Newspaper Industry


With the upcoming released biopic, The Post, starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep already garnering Oscar buzz, it seems like a good time to consider other times movies have brought the news industry into the spotlight. At a time when the future of newspapers and journalism seems so uncertain the following films are especially relevant.

All The President’s Men (1976) This classic political thriller tells the now legendary story of how Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) investigation and reporting of an a minor break-in at the Watergate led to a tangled web that brought down the Nixon presidency. (It also ensured that all future scandals would have the title ‘gate’ attached to their name.) Directed by Alan Pakula (Klute, The Parallax View) and with a screenplay by William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Princess Bride) it was an instant commercial and critical success. It would garner eight Academy Award nominations and four awards including Best Screenplay for Goldman and Best Supporting Actor for Jason Robards. It currently holds a fresh rating of 93% on the Tomatometer.

Fletch (1985) Los Angeles Times reporter and master of disguise Irwin Fletcher (Chevy Chase in what he would call his favorite roll) is posing as a junkie while researching an expose on drug trafficking. A millionaire approaches him and claiming to be terminally ill hires Fletch to kill him. When further investigation reveals the millionaire to be in perfect health, Fletch realizes he’s on to a potentially much bigger story. To get at it, will take all his considerable wits. The movie was a critical and commercial hit spawning a sequel and has gone on to garner a cult following as well.

The Paper (1994) Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) directed this American comedy-drama taking place over 24 hectic hours in the life of Henry Hackett (Michael Keaton) Metro editor for the New York Sun, a fictional tabloid. The Sun is experiencing cash flow problems and is making drastic cuts. Meanwhile Henry’s wife, Martha (Marisa Tomei), is expecting their first child and aggravated with his workaholism. She wants him to take a job at the New York Sentinel (a thinly disguised version of the New York Times). Meanwhile a sensational double homicide of two white businessman and subsequent arrest of two African American teenagers has Harry’s news sense tingling. The all star cast also includes Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Randy Quaid, and Jason Robards (again!). It currently holds an 88% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes with critics praising the film for capturing the frenetic high energy environment of actual newsrooms.

State of Play (2009) This taut political thriller was an adaption of a six-part BBC series by the same name. Russell Crowe turns in a pitch perfect performance as investigative reporter Cal McAffrey who probes the suspicious death of Congressman Stephen Collins’ (Ben Affleck) mistress. Matters are further complicated by the fact that McAffrey and Collins were once old friends and that Cal had an affair with Stephen’s wife Anne (Robin Wright). Cal convinces his wary, long suffering editor Cameron (the always fabulous Helen Mirren) to let him dig deeper into the matter with the help of young reporter and blogger Della (Rachel McAdams at her most charming). Needless to say twists and turns abound in an intricate plot of layered conspiracy. State of Play garnered generally favorable reviews and Crowe won the Best Actor award from the Australia Film Institute.

Spotlight (2015) This searing biographical crime drama follows how The Boston Globe’s ‘Spotlight’ team uncovered a pattern of widespread systemic sexual abuse by priests in the Boston area, that kicked off an international scandal. Starring Michael Keaton (again!), Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams (again!), Stanley Tucci, and Liev Schreiber it’s an instant masterpiece demonstrating how a culture of complicity and silence enabled generations of abuse. It was nominated for six Academy Awards and won Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture. (Read our earlier review.)

Top photo: Bigstock

The Arts Heal: Newtown & NewArts


On December 14, 2012, twenty year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children between six and seven years old and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Someone flipped the PA switch at the time. Everyone heard what was happening. Lanza then committed suicide.

How do wails of local community rise above the cacophony of international human need? How does one begin to offer more than temporary balm?

“The country is …wounded, bleeding, hurt…the country needs to be healed…Art is the healing force.” Robert Redford- National Arts Policy Roundtable

Prologue: From Broadway with Love

Concert POster


Shortly after the tragedy, producer Van Dean reached out on Facebook to his community-theater people. Michael Unger was asked to direct what became FROM BROADWAY WITH LOVE, A Benefit Concert for Newtown. Twenty Broadway stars the caliber of Brian Stokes Mitchell and Christine Ebersole volunteered time and talent. Innumerable volunteers managed busing, catering, lighting, sound…

Feeling it imperative that local kids be involved, Unger arranged with Sandy Hook Music Teacher Maryrose Kristopik to videotape three hundred elementary school students singing their school song. Area dance schools contributed seventy kids who performed to Mark Shaiman’s “Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray, with the songwriter himself at the piano. Six young dancers had been working on “Good Morning Baltimore” from that musical. One was killed. The other five performed as Shaiman played and the film’s Tracy Turnblad, Nikki Blonsky, sang.

“Kids from Newtown made it special, not the stars. Sesame Street folks who have done more than anyone in the universe to help kids, said it was the most moving thing they’d ever done. It was about showing support, giving the community two hours of joy.” Michael Unger.

 The concert DVD is available here

To Encourage and Enhance

Dr. Michael Baroody heard news reports of the shooting in real time on the 14th. He telephoned his wife to pick up their daughter at a neighboring school. When she arrived, the building was already in lockdown. One of the kids at Sandy Hook who didn’t make it had appeared in a piano recital with his daughter the week before. Her father, a state trooper, stood unknowingly in front with an assault rifle. Another child lost was a patient Dr. Baroody had operated on several times. I asked how he explained to his daughter what occurred. “We said there was a bad person with a gun who shot her friend at school. The police came and everyone was safe now.”

Sandy Hook School Gifts  (Photo from Shutterstock)

Teddy bears and toys poured in. These were, at best, appropriate Band-Aids. Recognizing this might “victimize” children and that people would write them off, Dr. Baroody wondered how to empower survivors. A few months later, he founded the nonprofit 1214 Foundation. “…I’m a plastic surgeon. I see a problem and try to make it better…when a 6 year-old kid looks up at you with silent trust…The things I do for a living I couldn’t implement.”

The concerned parent of young girls decided on a two pronged approach. A division called NewArts would establish an ongoing summer theater program providing a cathartic way for those affected to express themselves, while character workshops he eventually called ARC would offer life tools. Dr. Baroody had no background in either field, just unerring instinct.

In theater, this architect of potential envisioned a way the community could come together with the people they were assisting. His premise was that the kids needed to push themselves to prove they could still deal with a challenge; to believe it, not just be told; to be able to say look what I did. Participating in shows would provide a communal context.  Dr. Baroody asked Michael Unger to be the Producing Artistic Director of NewArts, The Theater Division of the foundation.

Having worked with children many times during his multifaceted career and a father himself, Unger was not only enthusiastic but experienced. “We wanted to give these kids an environment where they could trust everything as well as opportunity to get cheered by an audience and their peers. Love puts everything back into balance.”

They were the stars, I was just a lucky guest.” Actor John Tartaglia

Seussical rehearsal 1

Michael Unger Leading Seussical Rehearsal

Unger chose Lynn Ahrens/Stephen Flaherty’s Seussical for their first production because it’s about protecting the community. The show centers on a big-hearted elephant named Horton hearing tiny voices cry out from a dust speck that turns out to be Whoville. Moved by its vulnerability, he vows to protect the community: “Don’t give up! I believe in you all. A person’s a person, no matter how small!” Because no one else can hear them, Horton is criticized and ridiculed; the speck is stolen and must be rescued. In order to prove they exist, every Who in Whoville must make a loud enough noise.

Auditions were held. Dozens of untrained children came in quaking, often accompanied by an older sibling or parent. Some had never been in a show. Though initially uncomfortable onstage, Unger had faith that ultimately the experience would be good for them. “I was honored to be their leader, their friend, and part of a family.”

working on Egg- Nest & Tree for Seussical

Two NewArts Students Building Egg Nest & Tree for Seussical

Opening an astonishing ten weeks after Unger met D. Baroody, NewArts’ Seussical featured eighty-four nonprofessional Newtown performers ages five through high school. It starred Broadway veteran John Tartaglia. Lynn Ahrens rewrote a few lyrics and the creative team sensitively cut an army section. Otherwise the musical played as if created for the occasion. Twenty design professionals, stage manager, choreographer, etc. worked for a pittance. The orchestra was comprised of professional theater musicians, parents and even a few students.

“You can’t bring back what we had beforehand, but the ability to cope with it, we can help with that… you can choose how you respond.” A Newtown parent

During rehearsal, when Horton loses, then regains the dust spec on which Whoville is situated, the teenager playing him didn’t convey how upset and determined the character was feeling. “So I said, we all failed to protect this community in December 2012. Your job right now is to make that dust spec Newtown. You have a second chance to commit to protect those who survived and to honor those that were lost… He did the scene again and I’ve never seen a connection between performer and material so locked in. We had a big cry fest.”

Willem Sandercox as Horton - photo Charles T. Erickson

Willem Sandercox  as Horton in Seussical (Photo: T. Charles Erickson )

“I told them to let Seussical be THEIR story, if even for 75 minutes, four times in the next week. We all had a new understanding of how we must fight to protect each other and embrace what makes us different so that fear doesn’t divide us.” Michael Unger

For many years a cast member of Sesame Street, then Avenue Q, Tartaglia’s empathy with children is highly developed. “Also I’m a wacky performer who can do voices…My go-to when I walk into a room is to do or say something funny because it breaks the ice. (Pitch perfect for the kids.) I want them to know that I’m one of them, just there to help keep everything moving.” The actor wondered whether these particular amateurs would be “super introverted or cry”, but instead found fellow thespians completely focused under Unger’s benign but demanding direction. Not a line was forgotten at any performance.

Occasionally a parent or teacher would take Tartaglia aside to explain the way a child might behave because of what happened. The company was warned in advance about sudden loud sounds or bright lights. Still, “in many ways, you just wouldn’t know the tragedy had occurred, some of those initially most shy shone brightest onstage.”


Opening of Seussical (Photo: Charles T. Erickson)

“Theater is a healing art form. Sometimes the only way you can learn to express yourself is through the arts, getting things out on stage in secure surroundings. These kids showed you just gotta keep moving on. They don’t know a right or wrong way to deal with tragedy. It’s like- Yup, we’re all just here doin’ a show. The wall of healing energy was viscerally overwhelming. I left with hope for humankind. They were the stars, I was just a lucky guest”

Midsummer in Newtown

The next year Unger decided on two shows in repertory. The first was a sympathetic version of 101 Dalmatians by Styx member Dennis DeYoung and B. T. McNicholl (Unger had permission to eliminate killing the puppies and Cruela de Vil’s death). One child was too frightened to go on. The director said, that’s ok, whenever you’re ready…She joined the company for a number at the end of the show. Closing night, the girl told him she wanted a bigger part next year.

The second show was an original pop music version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “The play starts in a world of imbalance and disorder…it’s about finding harmony.”

Unger approached composer Eric Svejcar about collaborating on what became  A Rockin’ Midsummer Night’s Dream:  85% verbatim lyrics by Shakespeare, adaptation by Unger and Svejcar. Not only was the young cast learning dialogue, blocking, and choreography, they were now tasked with delivering Shakespeare. If a young person didn’t understand something, meaning was explained in modern terms. Svejcar’s lively music structured phrasing to help the bard sound natural.

Marla Mindelle at Titania in A Rockin' Midsummer Night's Dream- photo Richard Termine

Marla Mindelle as Titania in A Rockin’ Midsummer Night’s Dream (Photo: Richard Termine)

Around this time, the NewArts director met filmmaker Tom Yellin of The Documentary Group on a bench outside their respective daughters’ ballet class. Yellin became interested in the project and enlisted Director Lloyd Kramer who spent about four months in Newtown with a crew.

Kramer found the children knew much more than assumed. He spoke with parents first asking whether there was anything he shouldn’t talk about, but in any case, never brought up the event. If someone showed signs of upset, he moved on. A parent was always present during interviews. “Kids were tentative at first. The undercurrent was always there. No one wants to be branded…”The filmmaker watched kids he initially perceived as “lost souls” evolve.

“I feel like I have my before-the-incident child back.” A NewArts child’s parent


Curtain Call: A Rockin Midsummer Night’s Dream (Photo Richard Termine)

“Participating gave them courage. Bonding with people in the town, creating something positive, reminded them about the warmth of community. They all understood what they were doing was a shared experience.” Lloyd Kramer

“The average adult will have trouble understanding Newton even if he’s lost someone. We get to be 37. My son was 8. His heart was broken when he lost his sister. We wanted to wrap him in a bubble and lock him in the house, but we let ourselves be lead by him.”  A Newtown parent from the documentary Midsummer in Newtown

The splendid Midsummer in Newtown particularly tracks kids from three families starting with auditions. It includes children talking to the camera, candid parents, rehearsal, and performance footage through a triumphant opening night. You won’t find more stirring affirmation to the transformative power of the arts. It’s poignant, honest, respectful and immensely uplifting. Sometimes heroism is just getting on with it.


Midsummer in Newtown

Watch the Trailer here

Meanwhile, Offstage…

“All the kids said Seussical changed their lives. What was important was for experiences to affect the way they approach problems off stage, to enrich values and life skills. Dr. Baroody turned his thoughts towards character development. The arts, he reflected, touch people in ways that make them human. Continuing to explore outside the box, convinced we underestimate kids, he solicited participation by The Yale School of Management normally hired by enlightened businesses.

L to R (back) Nicole Kolitsas- Marina Kolitsas- Kat Wolff- Kyle Mangold- Olyvia Shaw- Kirsten Liniger- Claire Alexander- Lexi Tobin- L to R (front) Sammy Vertucci- Victoria Madden- Abbi Winter

ARC Workshop L to R (back) Nicole Kolitsas, Marina Kolitsas, Kat Wolff, Kyle Mangold,  Olyvia Shaw, Kirsten Liniger, Claire Alexander, Lexi Tobin; L to R (front) Sammy Vertucci, Victoria Madden, Abbi Winter

Ted Kolditz, the director of the program wrote that 70% of leadership is learned and that he wished he had more time with students. Dr. Baroody proposed giving him ten years with ten year-olds. Kolditz responded the same night. “I drove up. He didn’t say, Oh my God, you’re from Newtown. He said, let’s make this happen.” Dr. Baroody. The second division of 1214 Foundation synergistically meshes with NewArts. It’s acronym is  ARC: Aspire, Reach, Confidence.

Kolditz found fifteen willing practitioners. The now monthly program, free to kids five and up, has greatly expanded. Dr. Baroody has been trained to lead groups between visiting experts. “When my patients go to sleep, I hold their hands. They relax and smile. I transfer my confidence to them…” He looks at ARC’s process the same way.

The four aims of ARC are:

  1. Develop personal strength and the ability to recognize strength in others
  2. Develop confidence and transfer confidence to other people
  3. Develop emotional agility and intelligence
  4. Recognize fear and anxiety when it appears and use it to push yourself forward


ARC Workshop

A program is being developed with teachers for kindergartners. Dr. Baroody and his team are writing a workbook to take home and a guidebook for other communities. “The tragedy needs to have an exponential benefit to the world. These are universal concepts that may be implemented in other communities…”

“I kind of need it to survive.” A Newtown/NewArts student

Kids who personally experienced the tragedy are now in 5th grade; some have transferred to another school. (Sandy Hook itself was torn down and rebuilt)  Many have appeared in a NewArts production or two every summer. (Most attend ARC workshops.) Rehearsal to performance of both shows lasts six to seven weeks. In so0me productions leads are double cast to give actors a taste of the spotlight.

“One boy had survivor guilt. He didn’t know why he was alive and thought if he was an angel, he’d be safer. Processing seemed impossible. Diving into this creative environment gave him a haven, a place to have fun and make new friends.” Michael Unger

power tools

ARC Workshop Power Tools

“If I wasn’t here, I would still be the broken person I was…”

“After the tragedy, we felt that nothing would ever be the same until NewArts came…”

“If NewArts were not here, a lot of kids would be lost”

“NewArts means renewal”

“I kind of need it to survive.”

Testimonials from Newtown NewArts students


Newtown NewArts students

Apprentices are taken on to work with Scenic, Light and Sound designers. Two have moved on to higher education, but return to Newton for the season. This year, Unger is reaching out to local college students offering intern opportunities.

A wide roster of professionals are enlisted for every show. Those that don’t commute often sleep in the private homes of participants. Costumes and props are stored in people’s basements. Productions look so good, many people don’t realize the organization needs funding. “We had 38 wireless mikes for Midsummer. I beg, borrow, or steal.” Michael Unger. NewArts’ goal is to create a bricks and mortar Center for Creativity. Until such time as monies are accrued, the organization is hosted by a local church theater.

Much of the foundation’s start up endowment came directly out of Dr. Baroody’s pocket. Shows break even with tickets currently ranging from $18-$26, program sales, and donations. There is now a sliding scale tuition to participate in the summer program (and scholarships.) The 1214 Foundation is actively researching grants.


Banners Made by the Children

The further away we are from a tragedy, the less sensitive people are to it. 1214 Foundation was created to help a suffering community. It now offers life tools to all kids, attempts to help them connect and collaborate, encourages confidence, supports courage, and celebrates perseverance. With the value of Arts programs being challenged, 2014’s NewArts stands out as a prime example of their value and potency. This is what the reach of compassionate creative thinking looks like.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot/Nothing is going to get better. It’s not. Dr. Seuss from The Lorax

The 1214 Foundation


Shows for summer 2017 include: Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka (Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley) July 28-30 (not to be confused with a version of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory currently on Broadway) and Joseph  and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber) August 11-13

shows this summer
Opening Photo: John Tartaglia as the Cat in the Hat and Nicole Kolitsas as Jojo (Photo: T. Charles Ericsson)

All unattributed photos courtesy of NewArts

Five Great Flicks Featuring Con Artists


April Fool’s Day is upon us where we all get free reign to play pranks on one another and lie with impunity. In the spirit of this holiday, here are five note-worthy films celebrating hoaxsters, tricksters, and plain old flim-flam men. Enjoy! (But watch your wallet.)

The Music Man (1962) Based on the Broadway musical of the same name, Robert Preston’s performance of slick tongued salesman Harold Hill and how he transforms and is transformed in turn by River City, Iowa is one of the most iconic of all time. Also starring Buddy Hackett, Shirley Jones, and Paul Ford it was one of the highest grossing films of the year. It won the Academy Award for Best Musical Score and was nominated for five more including Best Picture. It later holds up as one of the best and most beloved movie musicals of all time and indeed ‘Harold Hill’ has now become cultural shorthand for swindlers everywhere!

The Sting (1973) Directed by the legendary George Roy Hill (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as two professional grifter’s in the Depression era, who pull on a complicated confidence scam on a mob boss played by Robert Shaw. A box office smash, The Sting was nominated for 10 Oscar Awards and won seven including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

Six Degrees of Separation (1993)  Directed by Frank Schepesi and adapted from the Pulitzer Prize nominated John Guare play of the same name and based on the true story of David Hampton. Fifth Avenue Socialite Ouisa Kittredge (Stockard Channing) and her husband Flan (Donald Sutherland) get taken in by slick young hustler Paul (Will Smith in his first major film debut) who convinces them that he’s the son of Sidney Poitier. Stockard Channing’s performance was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.

Catch Me If You Can (2002) Steven Spielburg directed this biographical crime film based on the life of Frank Abagnale who successfully impersonated a pilot, a doctor, a lawyer and made off with huge sums of cash-while he was still a teenager. Leonardo DiCaprio gives an astonishing performance as Frank, Christopher Walken plays his father Frank Sr., and Tom Hanks is Carl Hanratty, the FBI agent assigned to take him down. It was a financial and critical success with a 96% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and Christopher Walken was nominated for an Academy Award.

The Hoax (2006) Directed by Lasse Halstrom (The Cider House Rules, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?) and starring Richard Gere as Clifford Irving. It tells the story of Irving’s elaborate hoax of writing and publishing the autobiography of Howard Hughes – without ever even speaking to Howard Hughes himself. Anchored by Gere’s performance the movie also sports an all star cast including Al Molina, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, and Stanley Tucci. Which helps explain why it made the Top 10 Films lists for both the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek.

Five Films for Campaign Season


As we enter the final days of a presidential campaign that has been both historic and unusually ahem interesting we are more aware than ever of the vital need to engage in politics, (however distasteful it can sometimes be.) Here are some movies dedicated to examining how the sausage making of electing political leaders actually occurs.

The Best Man (1964) Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (Planet of the Apes, Patton) and written by Gore Vidal was based on his own play of the same title. Starring Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Edie Adams, Margaret Leighton and Lee Tracy this drama details the sordid maneuverings behind the nomination of a presidential candidate. Tracy was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in what was to be his final film.

The Candidate (1972) This satirical comedy drama was directed by Michael Ritchie (The Bad News Bears, Fletch) and written by former Eugene McCarthy speechwriter Jeremy Larner. Political specialist Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) needs a Democratic candidate to oppose a popular Republican incumbent (Don Porter).  Since no serious candidate will enter such an unwinnable race Lucas seeks out Bob McKay (Robert Redford) the son of a former Democratic governor who wants to use the campaign solely as bully pulpit to spread his idealistic platform. Things don’t go as planned. It was widely acclaimed for Redford’s performance and Larner’s script, and the latter won an Oscar.

Bob Roberts (1992) This satirical mockumentary was written and directed by Tim Robbins who also starred in the title role as a conservative Republican folk singer who becomes the challenger against a Democratic incumbent for one of Pennsylvania’s Senate seats.  Shot through the perspective of Terry Manchester (stage star Brian Murray) who’s doing a documentary on Roberts’ campaign while a young reporter Bugs Raplin (Giancarlo Esposito) attempts to expose Roberts as a fraud. It currently has a 100% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Wag the Dog (1997) This hysterical black comedy produced and directed by Barry Levinson kicks off with allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of the President and an adorable firefly girl…less than two weeks before the election.  Trouble shooter Conrad Bean (Robert DeNiro) is brought in to save the situation and he concocts an elaborate scheme to distract the public by creating a fake war with Albania. To that end he recruits legendary Hollywood producer Stanley Motts (Dustin Hoffman) and then things get very, VERY complicated. Besides Hoffman and DeNino we also get Anne Heche, William H. Macy, Denis Leary, and Woody Harrelson all at the top of their game as well. Small wonder it has an 85% rating at Rotten Tomatoes as well as Oscar nominations for Dustin Hoffman for Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Primary Colors (1998) Based on the novel of the same name, directed by Mike Nichols (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Silkwood) and starring John Travolta as a charismatic Southern governor trying to win the Democratic Party nomination for President. (Three guesses who this is based on.) Besides Travolta we also get winning turns by Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, and Adrian Lester. Bates was nominated by the Academy for Best Supporting Actress and screenwriter Elaine May (Ishtar, The Birdcage) also received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Top photo from Bigstock