By R.A. Schuetz
Published 5:07 pm, Monday, December 4, 2017
NORWALK — An excited hubbub pulsed through the building a recent evening at STAR, a nonprofit that supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Executive Director Katie Banzhaf snapped head shots in the hallway, and Resident Coordinator Nancy Armstrong handed masks, wigs and other props to a crowd of 60 performers seated in a circle in a nearby room.
They had gathered to rehearse for “Twelve,” the twelfth annual STAR theater performance — a series of skits and musical numbers that will include a parody of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” in honor of the anniversary.
Mark Minnock, who created the theater program with Armstrong a dozen years ago, stood in the circle with a microphone in hand, chatting amiably with the crowd like an emcee between acts.
“What do you think of our maid of milking?” he asked as Luigi Longo donned a pair of cow horns.
Ba-da-bum, went Arunis Vaituzis (one of the drummers drumming), punctuating the moment on his snare. Longo waved at his neighbors to peals of laughter.
“The thing about this theater group is everyone who wants to be in the show is welcome, and everyone gets a part,” said Judy Bosworth, who has volunteered with the production since its first year.
“It’s so fun, trying new dances,” said Angie Daniels, one of the performers. “And them two are funny,” she said in reference to Armstrong and Minnock.
David Hutchings, dressed nattily in a beige suite and straw hat, said he’d been the play since its first year, when he played Elvis Vader, a singing sensation with lyrics of a cosmic bent. (I don’t want to be a comet, ‘cause comets ain’t the kind you love enough...)
Hutchings noted how the cast has grown since its first performance.
“We’ve gone from 20 people to 40, 60 people,” he said. “I think people come here and they get a kick out of what they’re doing. And they come back every year.”
He joined a line of performers preparing to rehearse “Singing in the Rain.”
After a false start (“No matter if you get lost: You got to keep dancing!” Armstrong advised), the group found their footing. Equipped with transparent umbrellas, dancers stepped jauntily to the music, Hutchings with a tip of his hat.
Nicki Dubiago, a self-described show queen, marched smartly with her umbrella on her shoulder, and Jassinia Mysogland, another play veteran, beamed as the moment came to unfurl the umbrellas with a satisfying click.
With their umbrellas open, the group circled and twirled like a flock of great plastic birds. They seemed to have taken Armstrong’s lesson to heart — the joyful, mildly chaotic, routine sailed through to its end without interruption.
“We’ve had to practice and practice and practice to make this happen,” said Bosworth — rehearsals last for 14 or 15 months a year. “But people come because the rehearsals are fun.” Dubiago agreed. But like all actors, she was also in it for the limelight. “I love the show because I’m important.”
“Twelve” will take place Wednesday, Dec. 20, at the Norwalk City Hall Concert Hall from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Admission is $5 or an optional donation, and can be bought on www.starct.org or at the door. Large groups are welcome, and STAR Director of Philanthropy Peter C. Saverine invites them to contact him directly at 203-846-9581, Ext. 302 about tickets.