Theater Grows From a Love of Acting

Sep 5, 2008

By Susan Stewart | NYT 

Before motherhood, Melody Libonati was an actress, with a part on the soap opera “One Life to Live” (she was Samantha Vernon), stints on Broadway (Sandy in the traveling company of “Grease”) and big commercials: Dawn detergent, Comet cleanser, Campbell’s soup, and a memorable advertisement for AT&T.

Melody Meitrott Libonati

For that last one, she said, “I was standing on my head in a lotus position talking on the phone.”

Once her children were grown, Ms. Libonati, 56, toyed with the idea of returning to acting. “But can you imagine what kind of commercials I’d be doing now?” she said, rolling her large blue eyes. “Hemorrhoids?” Instead, she started a conservatory and a summer theater in New Canaan.

Now five years and 36 productions later, the Performing Arts Conservatory of New Canaan is a thriving arts school with a staff of 15, and the Summer Theater of New Canaan is going strong, or as strong as a nonprofit arts group can go.

“The school works,” Ms. Libonati said. “It’s the theater that’s a challenge. I feel like the theater is very fragile. It just needs to be supported.”