Curtain Call: Community Theatre at Woodbury receives an unexpected grant

Kathryn Farley is part of the Farley Foundation, which recently gifted the  Community Theatre at Woodbury a $5,000 grant.

Kathryn Farley is part of the Farley Foundation, which recently gifted the  Community Theatre at Woodbury a $5,000 grant.

Kathryn Farley / Contributed photo

Considering that most community theaters in Connecticut are stretching every cent they have and anxiously awaiting the reopening of their theaters, it was quite a joy for the Community Theatre at Woodbury (CTAW) to learn that the theater was a recipient of an unrestricted $5,000 grant from the Farley Foundation, which is is a private family foundation. CTAW Board member Sharon (Sherry) Swanhall said theater members were thrilled when they learned the news.

When I contacted Kathryn Farley who notified the theater of the grant, she spoke of her family’s legacy regarding the grant. “I come from a very successful family who raised me and my three siblings to be independent. We were not raised like spoiled rich kids. We got jobs when we were 16 years old. My parents Jim and Mary Kay Farley established the foundation so their children would give back to their communities. It was more than just giving money, it was training how to be philanthropic. When my parents passed away, my three siblings and I took over the foundation.”

Grants are distributed in three categories; community enhancement of the arts, medical research and education. According to Farley, who grew up in Greenwich, moving back to Connecticut was like moving home. She and her husband Richard Lipton moved to Middlebury in September. She heard so much about CTAW that it was the foundation’s way of supporting the theater and honoring the invaluable contribution it made to the Woodbury arts community. A grant was also given to Landmark Community Theatre in Thomaston.

“There’s a lot I miss about New York, but when we decided to move to Connecticut, little did we know that many New Yorkers were doing the same thing.” She talked about leaving New York City because of being claustrophobic in their apartment due to COVID-19, the protestors and the sound of fire engineers throughout the night.

“We wanted to experience a different part of Connecticut and decided not to return to Fairfield County. My husband was familiar with New Haven County because of his faculty appointment at Yale and when we checked out New Haven County we found our home in Middlebury and we love it here.”

Farley, who has a PhD in Performance Studies, stated that she has been involved in the arts and art education her whole life. She pointed out that considering her older brother is CEO of Ford Motors and her sister an orthopedic surgeon, and her cousin the late Chris Farley a successful actor, she feels like she has a lot to live up to. Actually, she was disappointed that her Off-Broadway debut as the lead in “Auntie Mame” was cancelled because of COVID-19.

What is most important is that the grant is not just about giving money, but getting actively involved in the community. Also, she doesn’t just write a check to any organization. "I have to make a presentation to my siblings and make a case for it. Then we vote.”

Farely is already playing a part in CTAW’s “Letters of Note,” a collaboration with the Woodbury Public Library and CTAW. This is a series of virtual readings of historical letters from books compiled by Shaun Usher. The readings will be presented via Zoom on Jan. 19 and Feb. 2 and 16 at 7 p.m.

Joanne Greco Rochman is a founder of the Connecticut Critics Circle and a longtime member of the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: