Since 1937, the Wilton Playshop has been providing quality live theater to the greater Wilton area. As one of the oldest operating community theater organizations in New England, the Playshop is committed to furthering the performing arts through the efforts of a core group of volunteers and a dedicated Board of Directors. The venue presents three major productions a year, as well as several other special events, and has been a beloved and valuable artistic institution for over 80 years.
Longtime Wilton resident and local artist Gini Fischer has written an illustrated children’s book, The Wilton Playshop: Inside the Heart of a Community Theater to pay homage to this incredible theater and the people who work together to bring it to life.
Fischer first got involved with the Wilton Playshop in 2009 when she painted the set for the production of Sweet Charity. The experience was so fun and rewarding that not only did she continue to work on sets, but she also went on to be a member of the board for six years.
“It really was an amazing group of people to work with,” she said.
The journey of bringing this book to life, which she calls a labor of love, began four years ago. She set out to write a rhyming and teaching book about how a theater functions. Fischer hopes the book will illuminate the collaborative spirit of theater productions by showcasing the multitude of roles, both on stage and off, that are involved.
“I wanted to celebrate the people I worked with at the Playshop and honor the amazing theater they’ve created,” said Fischer.
One of the layered parts of putting on a production — building the sets — is represented by Fischer’s illustrations. As the story unfolds, the reader watches the process by which the sets for the productions are created.
“It can be messy work, which might surprise some people,” said Fischer, who used her own experience working on sets as the background for her illustrations.
The first draft of the book came to Fischer quickly, but then the pandemic swept the country, and progress on the book was sidelined. Fischer said that while she stayed creative during the trying stay-at-home times by sewing masks for friends and working on a unique self-portrait, she didn’t work much on the book.
But the recent death of her son though prompted her to revisit the book and commit to finishing it. “Life is too short to not go after the things you want,” she said.
A solid six-month effort brought the book to publication. “While the spirit of the original story remains, the words evolved through revisions,” Fischer said.
The book is aimed at children 6 years old and older, but really is a charming and fun way for people of all ages to learn about the inner workings of a theater. While there are many local references and hometown Wilton pride, Fischer hopes that the book contains a universal theme and would love to see it eventually reach a wider audience.
“After such a long time of being dark because of the pandemic, theaters are finally coming back now, so it’s a perfect time to celebrate them,” Fischer said.
There are 500 hardcover copies of a limited first printing now available. The book also contains eight bonus pages that list the Wilton Playshop’s 84 seasons of productions as well as two historical articles written by Skip Ploss, complete with vintage photographs.
“I’m really proud of the way the book turned out,” said Fischer.
The Wilton Playshop (15 Lovers Ln.) is hosting a book launch to celebrate and promote the book this Sunday, May 22 from 2-5 p.m. The event will include a theatrical reading and a Q&A, and will be followed by a book signing and a light reception.
Tickets, which include a copy of the book, can be purchased online.