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Letter to the Editor: Talent in the Community

Center Stage owner & director Gary Scarpa profiles two Shelton residents performing in the theatre's current production of Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park."

When we opened Center Stage in 2005, we hadn't given a great deal of thought to where our actors and actresses would come from. If we had thought about it, we might have been scared off by the prospect. We have found, though, that there are a great many talented people right here in Shelton and in nearby communities -- people whose talent rivals that of professional actors.

One such person is Shelton resident Margaret Mikan. We met Margaret in the summer of 1975 when we were all in our 20s and Fran and I were invited to join the cast of The Boyfriend at the Polka Dot Playhouse in Bridgeport to do a specialty dance number. Margaret played Polly Brown, the central character, and we quickly learned how talented she was. We have been friends ever since!

A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, Margaret has been performing her entire life and is quite simply a major league talent. Besides studying theatre, she also became an RN and married Dr. Paul Mikan. The couple settled in Shelton where they have a family practice. Paul, coincidentally, is our family doctor!

One of the first people we invited to perform in our premier Center Stage production, Steel Magnolias, was Margaret. She turned in a powerful performance as M'Lynn Eatonton, the role made famous by Sally Field in the film version. Margaret went on to perform at Center Stage in To Kill a Mockingbird (Jean Louise Finch), On Golden Pond (Ethel Thayer), Miracle on 34th Street (Ma Bailey), and now Barefoot in the Park (Ethel Banks), a truly hilarious performance.

Besides having access to veteran, experienced actors like Margaret, we also quickly realized that we would need to find and nurture people with little or no experience on the stage. In Barefoot, Margaret plays the mother of Corrie Bratter, portrayed by another Shelton resident and a relative newcomer to theatre, Leah Salomoni. A graduate of Shelton High School and the University of Connecticut, Leah is the editor of the Shelton Patch, an online newspaper which covers local news.

It turns out that Leah is a natural. She gives a remarkably professional performance as Corrie Bratter, and Margaret and Leah have great chemistry on the stage together.

It is gratifying to create theatre with such people because, besides being immensely talented, Margaret and Leah are wonderful, caring people. At Center Stage, we are a community of theatre lovers who enjoy bringing our talent to a community who supports what we do. You make what is for us a profoundly rewarding experience possible, and we thank you!

-Gary Scarpa

For performance dates and to buy tickets, please see the play's event listing.

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