Before the Wilton Playshop raises the curtain on its new show, Relative Values, Saturday, May 2, it will honor a former member, Fenton Barnes.
When Fenton died last year at the age of 61, her family asked that memorial donations be directed to the Playshop, where she had been an active participant in the 80s, before moving with her family to Georgia, where she lived at the time of her death.
“Through their generosity, we were able to purchase beautiful awnings to grace our doorways and keep out the elements,” Playshop spokesperson Janice Dehn said last week. “Fenton’s family is flying in on May 2 for a reception in her honor, so we can acknowledge her gifts to the Playshop while she was alive and her loving legacy provided by her friends and family.”
Geoffrey Barnes, Fenton’s husband, said the Playshop “was absolutely one of her loves when we were up there. She adored doing those productions. She felt very fulfilled during that time; the most proud of her I’ve ever been was seeing her on the stage. It was a thoroughly wonderful experience.”
Fenton earned a degree in theater from Manatee Junior College in Bradenten, Fla., and continued to study acting when the couple moved to Weston in 1983. During the 11 years they lived here, Geoffrey Barnes said, “she studied with a variety of well-known directors and producers,” and “she appeared in all the New York-based soap operas,” he added with a laugh.
She also performed in three productions at the Playshop: Crimes of the Heart, Chapter Two and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.
Ralph Pastore, the Playshop’s vice president in charge of fund raising, said this week he did not know Fenton personally but he did see her perform.
“Two standout performances were roles in Crimes of the Heart and Chapter Two,” he said. A review of the latter play, published by the Danbury News-Times, said, “As the young actress who’s recovering from an unhappy marriage, Fenton Barnes is an ideal choice … sensitive and shows good skills in her characterization.”
He read from a note he received from a friend, “Fenton was such a lovely woman, always a smile on her face, a solid performer, who had kind words for her fellow actors.”
Noting that two of their three children were born at Norwalk Hospital, Barnes added that the Wilton-Weston area is still “home base for us. We have a lot of friends here.” When it came time to consider memorial contributions, he said, “I was thinking about how to contribute something very meaningful to her, and the Playshop came to mind.”
Pastore said, “The outpouring of support the Playshop received spoke very highly of her and how much she enjoyed that time.”
In addition to the awning, Pastore said, there will be a series of improvements, thanks to donations made in her name.
Barnes said he will come up for the dedication with his children and members of their families.
“We’re looking forward to seeing it,” he said.
“From my perspective, she was a lovely person,” Pastore said. “I saw her perform once, and she was brilliant. Her colleagues felt the same way, and this was a happy time she looked back at fondly.
“For all these folks to make these donations in her name just speaks to her memories of being with the Playshop, and we are all so honored.”