As an actor, Christian Libonati admits taking direction from his older sister --and his Mom—is “not always easy.” “But I’ve been able to work around that,” he says, “because in the final analysis I trust the theatrical judgment of both of them.”
At 29 sis is Allegra Libonati, five years older than her kid brother and the director of Summer Theatre of New Canaan’s upcoming production of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” in Waveny Park.
Mom is Melody Meitrott Libonati, the artistic director of the theater, the director of the forthcoming musical classic “Camelot” and a Broadway musical actress. A fourth family member associated with the theater is her husband Ed, the executive director and the principal in an award-winning creative marketing agency in Norwalk called The Brandloft.
The four acknowledge sensitivity to labeling Summer Theatre of New Canaan a family enterprise. Each of them is accomplished in their own right outside of New Canaan on the stage and in the creative realm extending from advertising to TV commercials to soap operas.
But beyond that they all recognize the success of the theater is entirely dependent on continuing to generate a product that the critics in their enthusiasm describe as Broadway-level, assembled from both sides of the footlights by a core of professionals who regularly work on Broadway or a comparable orbit.
David Rosenberg, a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle, for example, identified Summer Theatre of New Canaan as “on the upswing” and listed last season’s presentation of “The Music Man” among the eight best presentations of 2008 with shows from Godspeed, Westport Country Playhouse and Long Wharf.
And as an unabashed supporter of Summer Theatre of New Canaan Broadway icon Tommy Tune drew a capacity crowd to the Rich Forum in Stamford last Feb. 7 for a benefit.
“It’s vital to our identity that we are inclusive,” Ed Libonati says, “and we recruit the best available performers and backstage talent. We look for people with uncommon energy and a commitment to the theater.”
In providing summer outdoor entertainment for adults and young people for a sixth season under a new protected all-weather outdoor theater, the intent is to broaden the audience to embrace the surrounding communities in Connecticut and New York and to add to the appeal of New Canaan as a summer destination and a cultural focus for fresh artistic expression.
The community exudes a pastoral charm and is the site of the historic Philip Johnson Glass House and numerous examples of innovative architecture by Johnson’s Harvard Five movement of modernists, plus the creative vitality of the Silvermine Guild Arts Center, the elegant estates behind the rolling lush green lawns, the bucolic 260-acre Waveny Park with its summer concerts, the chic shopping on Elm Street and seven schools dedicated to acting, singing, music and dancing...
For the first time, Summer Theatre of New Canaan is producing its entire professional season in Waveny Park under a new state-of-the-art open-air theater tent. The season opens with “Taming of the Shrew” June 19-July 11 and extends through “Camelot” July 18-Aug. 2, supplemented by presentations by Theatre for a Young Audience, “Pinocchio (A Folk Musical)” June 26-July 11 and “Shakespeare for Kids: Taming of the Shrew,” a 50-minute introduction to Shakespeare, June 27, July 4 and July 11.
Casting for the four presentations is under way now. In addition to appearing in the Shakespeare epic, Christian Libonati is the executive director of the Chicago-based Filament Theatre Ensemble, established with four of his acting associates from Northwestern University. The ensemble is mounting “Pinocchio” as an original musical “to inspire a sense of wonder and excitement” in young audiences. And he is returning to Chicago in the fall to perform in “Hair Spray”
At the Al Hirschfeld Theater meanwhile his sister Allegra is the assistant director of the Broadway revival of “Hair, the folk rock musical that defined the 1960s generation. Her interest in performing has waned as she became more immersed in directing. She is preparing to start an artistic fellowship with the American Repertory Theater associated with Harvard University.
“I’m more invigorated by the full process,” she explains, “where you can see a world in your head and have it come to life in front of you, the passion of creating the while story.”
Melody Meitrott Libonati, the artistic director, has performed as a lead on Broadway and in the soap opera “One Life to Live.” She has also been featured in numerous TV commercials and as a singer in radio jingles. She is the founding director of the Performing Arts Conservatory of New Canaan and developed the performing arts platform at King & Low Heywood Thomas High School in Stamford.
Additional information about the theatre and the season is available at www.stonc.org.
The Summer Theatre of New Canaan was established in 2004 as a 501(c) 3 professional nonprofit theater company to provide exciting performances for multigenerational audiences and learning opportunities for many of the region’s talented performers and technicians, working with professional performers and production staff.