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Community Theater: Seven Angels Theatre
Waterbury, (203) 757-4676 (sevenangelstheatre.org)
Talent flocks to Seven Angels Theatre, a regional and community staple founded in 1988 by Waterbury native and actress Semina De Laurentis. Mainstage shows star professional actors, while Stage II Community Productions feature local talent. Seven Angels offers not only quality work and a memorable theater-going experience, but also educational opportunities. Check out their adult classes and youth theater programs, which include seasonal classes, summer camp and internships for high school students. The 23rd mainstage season kicks off on Sept. 26 with Ring of Fire, a musical spotlighting the songs of Johnny Cash.
Equity Theater: Yale Repertory Theatre
New Haven, (203) 432-1234 (yalerep.org)
For incredible theater, save yourself the trouble of traveling to Manhattan and head to Chapel Street in New Haven. Yale Rep—the winner of a Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre—consistently produces Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning plays featuring leading names (Paul Giamatti starred in Hamlet earlier this year). Housed in a beautiful 19th-century church, the Rep is at once a city, state and theater-industry landmark. Its 2013-14 season kicks off Sept. 20 with A Streetcar Named Desire.
Hidden Gem: Eugene O’Neill Theater Center
Waterford, (860) 443-5378 (theoneill.org)
Theater enthusiasts all over the globe know the O’Neill: Named for the esteemed Connecticut dramatist, it’s where playwrights (both professional and aspiring), actors and directors gather every summer to develop new works for the stage. Part of that process involves public performances, but we’d bet most state residents have yet to discover the pleasure of being the first to see a Broadway-caliber play or musical, at decidedly un-Broadwaylike prices, find its legs (John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves, August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, Avenue Q and Nine all workshopped here). Adding immeasurably to the experience is the fact that the campus, close by Waterford Beach and Harkness Park, is one of the most drop-dead gorgeous backdrops any production could want.
Independent Cinema: Cinestudio
Hartford, (860) 297-2463 (cinestudio.org)
Cinestudio was born in 1970 when a group of Trinity College students founded a cinema cooperative and converted a chemistry lecture hall into a 1930s-style movie house. Today, more than 40 years later, the theater stays true to its roots: Seven days a week, you can still walk into Trinity’s chemistry building, be greeted by the student and community volunteers who run screenings, sit in the curved balcony surrounded by deep red walls, and watch the gold Austrian shade curtain rise to reveal the best foreign, indie, golden-age Hollywood and wide-release films.
Movie Experience: Sunday Movie Club at Madison Art Cinemas
Madison, (203) 245-3456 (madisonartcinemas.com)
Arnold Gorlick’s independent theater is one of just eight theaters in the country to host Cinema Club screenings—preview showings of independent and foreign films (kept a secret until screening day) accompanied by audience discussions moderated by local film experts. Yale professors John MacKay and Michael Kerbel continue as moderators for the Movie Club’s fall season, which runs on Sunday mornings from Sept. 22 to Dec. 22. In addition to sneak peeks at the best new films and great conversation, Gorlick provides breakfast treats. (For membership info, visit thecinemaclub.com.)
Outdoor Venue: Ives Concert Park
Danbury, (203) 837-9226 (ivesconcertpark.com)
What do The Beach Boys, ZZ Top, Earth, Wind & Fire and Tony Bennett have in common? They’ve all performed at Ives Concert Park, a gorgeous amphitheater on Western Connecticut State University’s campus that hosts some of music’s biggest acts at its annual series of summertime shows. In a park spanning 40 acres of gardens and hiking trails, Ives’ stage sits in a gazebo next to a small pond. Water, trees and the starry sky become the serene backdrop for every lively show. There’s no better place to enjoy both a big-name concert and Connecticut’s natural beauty.