Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 22, 2017

New display at Parsons College Alumni Hall

By The Parsons College Foundation Fund | May 16, 2017

The Parsons College Foundation Fund has announced that a new display will grace Parsons College Alumni Hall at the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts.

This new display highlights Summer Festival in 1964 and 1965.

Dr. Millard G. Roberts was in the process of growing the college from his arrival in 1956. The areas he focused on were academics, sports and theater to draw students, faculty and the community to participate with the college.

Dr. Sydney H. Spayde was recruited from the renown Cain Park Theater in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, to become the producer and director of the Summer Festivals. His mission was to bring top-notch live theater entertainment to Fairfield during the summer months.

The college was on a trimester system and many students opted to be in college year-round. The aspect of summer stock theater was a great boon to entertain the students as well as the Fairfield community.

“The musicals and other productions were ‘in the round’ with audiences on all sides at the fieldhouse.  As I look back, the whole experience was quite awesome!” said Fairfield High School and Parsons College alumna Betty Blough Downey. “Other supporting cast members were hired ... all of the costumes were provided and we used the trustee gym to distribute and try on the costumes.”

Spayde was provided a generous budget to bring this program to the forefront. Many national actors and actress’ as well as choreographers would come and stay in Fairfield for one month or sometimes the full three months of the summer. Those who came to Fairfield included Darryl Hickman, Margaret O’Brien and David Drew performing in “Gigi,” Orson Bean in “Send Me No Flowers,” Eddie Baracken in “Teahouse of the August Moon,” Hal Holbrook in “Mark Twain Tonight,” Pat and Eloise O’Brien and Mary Lynne Metternich in “Brigadoon.”

Blough Downey played opposite Mary Lynne in “Brigadoon” and “The Music Man.” She graduated from high school in 1962 and Parsons College in 1966. Other local thespians participated in these annual events.

Marcia Wallace, also a graduate of Parsons College Class of 1964, appeared frequently in many of the summer productions. She went on to be a Hollywood star with the “Bob Newhart Show.” Wallace was inducted into the Parsons College Wall of Honor inaugural class of 2009. Spayde continued on with Maharishi University of Management when it arrived in Fairfield in 1974. His name was given to the theater in the main library on the college campus.

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