Arts & Culture
Connecticut practically invented summer theater, and it has long been the symbolic home of the American preppy. Now would be the time to get out to some summer shows on stages where Hepburn, Brando, Barrymore and others once spoke their lines. And an exhibit on "prep style" can lead you on a delightful tour of that American subculture. Summer stock and prep style - they go pretty well together, old sport.
Connecticut: The Preppy State
Any study of American culture will soon lead to the conclusion that Connecticut is the home of preppy style, as well as being home to many preppies, too. With so many prestigious boarding schools and private day schools located within its borders, it seems only natural that the state should be the go-to place for deck shoes, crew races and all things pink and green. That designation gets another boost this summer at Waterbury’s Mattatuck Museum with the opening of “The Origin of Preppy: John Meyer of Norwich.” The exhibit, which opens June 9 and runs through the summer, details the history and fashion designs of the eastern Connecticut company that in the 1950s put Bermuda shorts on female college students and young suburban women and otherwise introduced what soon enough would become known as “prep” style to America.
If John Meyer of Norwich defined the preppy look 60 years ago, it may well be that another Connecticut company, Vineyard Vines, does so today. The Murray brothers founded the company a couple of decades ago with a line of ties and seems to have grown exponentially ever since. You can visit their flagship store at 145 Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich.
And what study of prep style in Connecticut would not include a visit to an actual prep school? This summer, Hotchkiss School, located in the lovely northwestern Connecticut town of Lakeville, will host a series of string quartet on campus at the Esther Eastman Music Center. You can catch the Miro Quartet on June 28, the Shanghai Quartet July 5 and the Brentano Quartet July 12.
And if you’re looking for a little more excitement and superb people watching, take in one of the Greenwich Polo Club’s USPA high-goal polo matches held Sundays in June, July and September on the club’s grounds. The picnicking is almost as intense as the polo, and summer prep styles abound.
The Summer Circuit
Connecticut has a long history as a place to enjoy summer theater. Whether it was called “summer stock” or the “straw hat circuit,” whether it took place in a tent, a barn or a real theater building, the productions were a part of life each summer. They still are. Summer theater remains a big part of the state’s cultural scene, and a great reason to visit Connecticut.
With its first production opening the week of June 17, 1930, Ivoryton Playhouse staked its claim as the first self-supporting summer theater in America. Founded by Broadway’s Milton Stiefel as a retreat from the busy New York scene, Ivoryton found its home in a 1911 rec hall built for employees from a nearby factory. During the intervening years, Katharine Hepburn, Marlon Brando, Groucho Marx, Helen Hayes and many others have appeared on its stage. This summer, look for Footloose and Dreamgirls to light up the warm nights.
Meanwhile, down in Fairfield County, Lawrence Langner and his wife, Armina Marshall, residents of Weston and well known as theater producers, were looking for a place outside New York to experiment with new plays and reinterpret classics. They found it nearby in an old cow barn that grew to become the Westport Country Playhouse. Following its first production in 1931, the playhouse has seen the likes of Henry Fonda, Julie Harris, Ethel Barrymore and Paul Robeson tread its boards. This summer season brings The Show-Off, Loot and a world premiere of Oblivion.
The founding of the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam goes back to 1876, but after many years of neglect it was reborn in 1963 and has been one of the nation’s great sources for musical theater ever since. In fact, 19 of its productions have gone on to Broadway. This summer, the venerable Hello, Dolly! takes up residence, while a new musical, LMNOP, takes the stage at the Goodspeed’s nearby Norma Terris Theater.
- Top 10 -- Connecticut’s Top 10 Fan-Favorite Towns
- 5 Things to Add to Your Connecticut Summer Bucket List!
- Outdoor Concert Series
- Get Out! 5 Outdoor Activities to Try in Connecticut
- Beach Rentals
- Connecticut Favorites 2013
- Connecticut's Blossom Season
- Hike Connecticut’s Blue-Blazed Trails
- Spring Walks
- Outdoor Dining in Connecticut
- Unplug & Relax
- Find the Perfect Ale along Connecticut's Beer Trail
- 2013 Visitors Guide Now Available
- Connecticut's Quaint New England Towns & Villages
- Connecticut's Cultural Treasures
- Connecticut Chocolate Trail
- Revolutionary Events in Connecticut History
- Connect with Connecticut on Facebook and Twitter!