Friday, October 25, 2019

Windham Center Stage delights audience with “Annie”

Grace (Kristen Ciampa) introduces Annie (Meghan Rivard)
to Oliver Warbucks (Randy Hunt)
By Elizabeth Richards
Windham Center Stage Theater’s (WCST) production of “Annie” was enthusiastically received by a full house on opening night, Friday, October 18th. 

“Annie” hit the movie theaters when I was a pre-teen, and my friends and I were instantly obsessed with both the movie and the soundtrack. Hours were spent acting out the plight of the little orphan and her friends, each of us taking a turn as the notorious Miss Hannigan. More than 35 years later, I can still sing every word to every song.

It’s risky seeing a production of such a beloved show – you run the risk of being severely disappointed if the cast doesn’t bring it to life in the way you envision it. But that was not the case at WCST last week. The talented cast created lively, engaging scenes that pulled me in and made me forget everything except what was happening on stage – exactly the way a live production should.

tombiczak@allstate.comThe show centers around Annie, a girl of 11 raised in an orphanage who believes with all her heart that her parents will be coming back for her someday. The orphanage, run by drunk, harried, nasty Miss Hannigan, is a dismal place, which Annie escapes temporarily by running away. The police bring her back, but in a lucky break, she is spotted by the secretary of wealthy Oliver Warbucks, who wants to host an orphan for the holiday season. 

Annie and Warbucks hit it off so well that he wants to adopt her, but before he can tell her, she tells him how much she wants to find her parents, and he vows to do everything he can to help. Hannigan, her con artist brother and his girlfriend cook up a scheme to pose as her long-lost parents and take the money Warbucks has offered if they are located. It looks as though they might succeed – until Warbucks’ resources uncover the truth.

Ultimately, this show is about hope and optimism, and the idea that dreams can come true – even if it’s not quite the way you think they will. WCST had a large, diverse cast that conveyed these themes well.

All the characters, big and small, were brought to life with perfect details interspersed throughout the production. Annie was portrayed perfectly by Meghan Rivard, a young girl with a powerful voice and just the right blend of optimism, mischief, and grit. Randy Hunt convincingly transformed Warbucks from “all business” to a caring man who would do anything for the young girl who stole his heart.

“It’s a Hard Knock Life” and “Easy Street” were particularly fun to watch, but all the musical numbers were lively, engaging, and entertaining. “Annie” at Windham Center Stage is a show well worth seeing.

The show runs through November 3rd, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at or at the door.

Gonzalez family from Raymond create memories with Halloween costume tradition

This year, the family’s Halloween costume
theme is all about bugs
By Lorraine Glowczak

It all began in 2013 with a simple hand-me down costume. It was Isabelle Gonzalez’s second Halloween and she dressed up as Jessie, a character from Pixar’s “Toy Story” films. What was missing from the costume ensemble, however, was the infamous red hat and red braided hair. That’s when Isabelle’s mother, Kaela, decided to complete the Halloween outfit by making the hat and hair herself. “For Isabelle’s first Halloween, my mother made her a Grover costume. I figured I could at least pull off a hat”, stated Kaela.

“From that point I was hooked on the idea of making costumes, and since, it has morphed into a full-blown Halloween adventure for the whole family, creating a tradition I never intended to begin,” Kaela stated of her exceptional creative outlet.

Now, the whole Gonzalez family gets in on the Halloween fun by dressing up in theme inspired costumes that are cleverly created and hand-made by Kaela and her family. In Halloween pasts, the Gonzalez clan – which has grown to include a son Alex, age six, a daughter, Lilia, age two and Kaela’s mother, Jo-Ann Laggan - have been a family of porcupines, characters from the book, “Where the Wild Things Are” and a family of chickens.“That costume took a lot of white boas to make up the feathers. I think I bought out the company in Canada that sold them,” Kaela joked about the chicken family costumes. “Lilia was just a baby then, so she was a little chick coming out of a hatched egg.” Dad and husband, Miguel, who was dressed as the farmer carried their “little chick” as the family of chickens walked from door to door along Raymond’s main street.

“I remembered that when we were chickens, I found feathers on the library lawn a week or so later.  So, we left a lasting impression,” Kaela laughed. She has also made the Halloween bags the children use every year.

This year, the family’s Halloween costume theme is all about bugs and will include a butterfly (Isabelle), praying mantas (Alex) and a monarch caterpillar (Lilia). Dad, mom and grandmother will be the entomologists, dressed in field vests carrying their magnifying glasses, insect nets, notebooks and writing utensils – because after all – entomologists always need to be prepared for scientific study.

Kaela admits that the Gonzalez family Halloween tradition can be a bit daunting and overwhelming at times, acknowledging that it takes a village to create costumes of this extent. “I was having some difficulty making the butterfly wings; I couldn’t get the two wings to stay upright and stiff. I asked around to see if anybody had any suggestions and a co-worker suggested using epoxy. And it worked! The wings remain open and stiff – just like I envisioned.”’s mother and husband help, too, whether it’s sewing or other creative undertakings. “My husband helped me hand paint Isabelle’s butterfly wings,” she said. “That was a very tedious task so having his help expedited the process and my mother made the green pants and shirt for the praying mantas.”

There are times, between the demands of her job with the Town of Raymond and raising three children, when the intensity that comes with creating the costumes can almost bring her to tears. “One day, I called my husband at work and told him I just didn’t think I could do it this year,” she explained. “This was after we purchased all the material – which can be expensive - and I had already spent a lot of time on them. He told me to take a break and spend some time with Lilia before I made my decision to continue or not. That small break is all it took and was back at it the next day.”

The costumes must be tested before the big Halloween celebration to make sure all parts are in working order. “The other day, we put Lilia in her caterpillar costume so she could walk around on the driveway and the grass to see how the wheels on the lower part of the costume would work on different surfaces,” Kaela explained. “Sure enough, a wheel came off and we had to reattach it more securely. The one thing I didn’t think of when making the caterpillar costume was how Lilia will go up and down steps.”

Despite the sometimes-overwhelming tasks that comes with such an extensively creative endeavor, Kaela stated that seeing her family all dressed up for Halloween is very rewarding and worth it in the end.“I’m creative by nature and this is one way I get to use my imagination and produce something meaningful to me; creating memories for my family,” Kaela said. “It takes perseverance, the ability to rethink and regroup when things aren’t quite working out as I envisioned and asking for help, but it is all worth it. It’s something my children can look back on and reminisce – sharing their memories of a crazy mom and her need to create - with their own families when they’re adults.”

Kaela also hopes that this Halloween family tradition imparts on her children the importance of making hand-made gifts for others and taking time for those they love and care about. “I hope my children will see the value of giving to others and how it can make others happy.”

So? What will the Gonzalez family’s Halloween theme be next year? Kaela will start thinking about it on November 1st. “As soon as Halloween is over, I begin to think about next year’s costumes. It takes me a couple of months to determine exactly what I want to create and once I do, I begin purchasing the items needed and start creating them. It literally takes a year from conception to a finished product.”

“But,” Kaela quickly added with an exhausted smile. “I just may take a break next year.”

Friday, October 18, 2019

Production begins on Mary Poppins, Jr. with new Drama Director at Windham Middle School

Suzy Cropper
By Elizabeth Richards

Suzy Cropper is no stranger to the drama scene in Windham. In addition to owning and operating a performance studio, Cropper was the musical director for Windham Middle School’s annual musical for the past eight years. Now, she has stepped into the position of Drama Director for Windham Middle School.

Cropper has been teaching both theater and voice for close to 25 years. Her studio, MainStage
Academy, was based in Windham for several years before she closed it. For three years, she was the chorus teacher at the Manchester School.  “I’ve done a lot of directing kids for a long time. I’m excited to be able to work with these kids in this capacity,” Cropper said.

Working alongside the director for eight years means that the structure and kids are familiar to Cropper, and she has a good understanding of what is involved for the director.  In addition to guiding students towards a great performance, Cropper said, she is helping them develop other important skills that they can carry with them throughout their lives.

“There are a lot of students that really find out more about themselves when they are given an opportunity to perform or stretch themselves a little bit,” Cropper said. She added that it’s exciting to see students discover that they can be good at many things, rather than only focusing on things they have done before, such as athletics. enjoys middle school students, she said, because they are teachable, excited about learning new things, and willing to try things they haven’t done before. “They’re just at a time of great exploration, so it’s nice to give them lots of opportunities while they’re still trying to figure out what they love,” she said.

Every student who wants to participate will have a role of some kind, whether a small role in the ensemble, or a major role with a lot of lines to learn. Students who have never done theater before
often participate, as do students who have been performing for much of their lives, she said. “It’s a good variety of different skills, levels and experience.”

Cropper, who has five children of her own, said she enjoys helping students discover talents they didn’t realize they had, and watching them develop new skills. “It’s been a joy to me to be able to see how their theater experience has helped them in their everyday school life, their confidence in the classroom, and learning how to be responsible about their own schedules and everything they have to do to be prepared for the production,” she said.

Some of the skills students gain include responsibility and accountability, learning to pay attention, how to be respectful of their peers, and learning to project their voices so they can be heard.
“It really does make a big difference in all aspects of their life,” Cropper said, because these skills tend to roll over into other areas of their lives, such as class presentations, communication with adults, and other life skills. “There are a lot of things more than just the actual story,” Cropper said.

That doesn’t mean the story suffers, however. “Of course, we love to put on a great production,” Cropper said. “They get very excited about it and are very proud of their work. It’s exciting to work with them and see them be really proud of what they do.” on a production of this size takes a whole team of volunteers, mostly parents of students in the production. In addition to six to ten hours of rehearsal time each week, the team puts the set together, learns lighting and sound cues, creates costumes, and attends to all the details necessary to
pull the show together. Although the director position comes with a stipend, “Most of the people who participate and help with the program are volunteers, so it’s really a tremendous undertaking and very exciting for our community,” Cropper said.

“Our community has really learned to look forward to these productions,” she added.  “I’m excited to keep it moving.”

This year’s Windham Middle School musical is Mary Poppins, Jr. Auditions took place on October 16th and 17th, and the show is scheduled to open on January 16th.

Katie Frost Franzoni inducted into the USM Sports Hall of Fame

Frost Franzoni in an NCAA game v. Bowdoin
Photo by USM Athletics 
By Matt Pascarella

For the past 12 years, Katie Frost Franzoni has been a sixth-grade teacher at Windham Middle School. Franzoni is a graduate (2006) from the University of Southern Maine (USM) and played basketball for the Huskies during her time there. Last month, she was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame, for her accomplishments on and off the court.

Created in 1985, with the first inductees in 1986, to honor coaches, administrators and former student athletes, the Husky Hall of Fame identifies excellent athletic achievement by graduates of USM and its predecessor institutions.

Katie Frost Franzoni was a four-year starting guard for the Huskies’ women’s basketball team. She helped guide Southern Maine to a record of 118 wins 11 loses from 2002-2006.

When Franzoni played for the Huskies, the team captured four Little East Conference Championships and went to the NCAA Division III National Championship four times. During their four trips to the NCAA, Franzoni and the team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight each time and twice made it to the Final Four. In 2006, the Huskies finished as the national runner up and set the program record for season wins with a record of 32-2.

Franzoni earned her Bachelor of Science degree in sociology in 2006 and her Master of Education in 2009.
“It is an honor to be recognized and inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame,” stated Franzoni. “ I am joining many other athletes who have achieved high levels in their sport while at USM. I have wonderful memories from both on and off the court that will last a lifetime. I have been playing
basketball for about 27 years. Basketball and sports were a huge part of my youth.”

Her mom was a physical education teacher and her dad was an athletic director and coach. Surrounded by sports, Franzoni longed to compete on a team. She loved going to the basketball games and cheering on the Blue Devils in her hometown of Calais. She couldn’t wait to wear the Blue Devil Jersey and represent her town.“My experience playing for USM was unbelievable,” added Franzoni.  “The successful women’s basketball program and Coach Fifield is what drew me to USM.  I wanted to play for the best and with the best. Coach Fifield, Coach McDevitt and the other assistant coaches I had throughout college were without a doubt the most knowledgeable and the most prepared coaches I have ever had.

The coaches and the women’s basketball tradition is what brought me to USM.  It was one of the best decisions of my life.”

Franzoni’s teammates made a lifelong impact on her. They played hard in practices and made each
other better. They spent time together on and off the court. Teammates became family. And that bond continued after graduation; from bachelorette parties and weddings to baby showers, they continue to support each other. No matter how much time has passed, they pick up where they left off. is the math and science teacher on the sixth grade FranDido team.  “I have had the privilege of teaching sixth grade in Windham since 2007. I love working with middle schoolers. They are eager to learn and fun to teach. They have great personalities and every day is different.  Playing basketball and being a part of a team has helped me become a successful middle school teacher.  It has taught me leadership skills, work ethic, adaptability and time management.  It has taught me the importance
of pushing yourself to do your best and learning from your mistakes.”

Franzoni lives with her husband, two children, and a dog in Windham. She states Windham is an amazing community who supports and encourages one another.

When she is not teaching, she is spending time with her family. They love being outside and playing sports. They support the New England sports teams and enjoy spending time at their camp in Calais.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Author Anna Crowley Redding shares her wisdom with middle school students

By Matt Pascarella

Since elementary school, Anna Crowley Redding has always had an interest in writing and literature. She was naturally curious and liked asking lots of questions; this later served her very well when she became an investigative TV reporter.

However, she had always dreamed of becoming a writer for young readers. After her children were born, she used her knowledge as an investigative reporter to uncover stories for kids.

She brought her knowledge to Windham Middle School on Friday, September 27th. Students had the opportunity to hear about her experiences, her writing process and participate in problem-solving activities as well as a mock press conference. started out writing articles for her college newspaper, the Northeastern News. “Learning journalism in Boston was a fantastic experience,” stated Crowley Redding. “I felt that every day I was learning from the best in the business. I worked off-air as a field producer, intern, and associate producer for NECN.” Crowley Redding became a TV reporter in Utica, New York; then Syracuse; then Charlotte, North Carolina. “Every station taught me so much about writing, investigative reporting, and on-camera presentation,” she added.

Her reporting did not go unnoticed. She has won Edward R Murrow awards which honor outstanding achievements in broadcast and digital journalism. Crowley Redding has been recognized by the Associated Press and has an Emmy for an investigative piece she did about an ice storm.

Investigative reporting allows you to make a meaningful difference in your community and in people’s lives. It’s hard work and often stressful. When you can produce results that matter to the people most’s a very fulfilling experience.”

Crowley Redding decided to switch career gears after becoming a mom. She was always reading books to her boys about following their dreams and writing for young readers had been a dream of hers since she was old enough to remember. Eventually she went for it. Her debut book, ‘Google It’ tells the story of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two Stanford College students who created what today is the most used search engine. ‘Elon Musk: A Journey to Save the World’ is a biography of the struggles Musk has gone through and his big dreams for the future. ‘Rescuing the Declaration of Independence’ (out in 2020) is Crowley Redding’s first picture book. It tells the true story of a man who risked it all to save our founding documents.
Autumn Wood, Tiffanie Scott and Mia White
work together on the domino challenge

During Crowley Redding’s presentation she spoke about the power of problem solving and the role failure plays in accomplishing your goals. Although it may look like it, success isn’t something that just happens – people have to work at it. “Don’t give up, you are enough” she stressed.

To help illustrate problem solving and failure, students had to work together in groups to stack dominoes around a large table. The goal was to be able to set them off and have the oval go successfully around the table. The students were given three tries to do this and it is a much tougher challenge than it sounds.

Another class held a mock press conference about a pretend fire that had happened in Windham. Each group had to take and sort the information given and then write a news report for the station they worked for. Each station had a different spin to their stories, e.g. appeal to a young audience, sensationalistic journalism, or Big J journalism, which focuses more on the quality of the story.“I hope that in talking to students today, they’ll feel inspired to follow their own dreams, to believe that they are enough, and that when problems and obstacles appear (and they will), that they are capable of finding a way to overcome setbacks.”

Seventh grader Fletcher Vopal observed, “It was was cool how she started out small and it’s inspirational for people who want to start doing big stuff. I learned if something fails you have to keep getting back up...keep trying and trying until you succeed.”

Seventh Grader Mia White remarked, “I learned a lot because I am starting on a graphic novel and it was a lot of good feedback about what I need to be thinking of if I do want to publish it. I was really inspired by the fact that Crowley Redding had struggles and she got up and blew everyone away. Anyone can really do anything if they set their mind to it.”

Friday, October 4, 2019

Town revitalizes former Raymond Road Runner concept to begin October 25 in The Windham Eagle newspaper

Kaela Gonzalez, Community Communication
Coordinator, will be writing and editing
the monthly newsletter that will be the center
of The Windham Eagle newspaper 
By Lorraine Glowczak

The last edition of The Raymond Road Runner, a 20-page monthly newspaper created by the Town of Raymond, was published on June 2008. It was directly mailed to the homes of Raymond residents to provide information about town happenings – including everything from municipal discussions and budgetary matters to local events and calendar items.

However, due to a significant increase in printing and distribution costs, the decision was made by the
Board of Selectmen at the time to discontinue the Road Runner newspaper after ten years of publication. According to the town’s website, “This wasn’t an easy choice, but the cost of producing the newspaper was weighed against two counterbalancing factors: the taxpayers’ need to fund essential town services and the several alternative opportunities Raymond residents have for getting news and information.”

The alternatives included emailed newsletters, reader boards, the website and cable TV. Although the substitutes were available, the direct mailing of the Road Runner was missed by many and, as such, the newsletters, etc. were often overlooked.

Fast forward 11 years and the Raymond Road Runner concept is being resurrected.

The idea began earlier in the year. It had come to the attention of the current Raymond Select Board that residents were not aware of major issues occurring in the town. “People were telling us that they weren’t getting the news they needed to make informed decisions and to be active participants in the community,” stated Select Board member, Teresa Sadak. “We wanted to find a way to bring the news to people so they could be aware of what was happening on an ultra-local level.”

As a result, Select Board Member, Rolf Olsen suggested a doing a survey. Sadak took the idea and put it together with all the different ways people could possibly receive news. The survey included questions on how people preferred to get local news and suggestions as to how to obtain information as it affects the town’s people.

“The feedback we received was varied, but the two most popular responses included: The Windham Eagle newspaper is where most people read their local news and many suggested bringing back the Road Runner,” explained Sadak. “As a result, we are bringing the two concepts together in the form of a monthly newsletter that will be a published as the center two pages of The Windham Eagle.”

The first Road Runner newsletter will be published in the October 25th Windham Eagle newspaper edition and will be written and edited by Kaela Gonzalez, Community Communications Coordinator, who also works part time in the Raymond Assessor’s Office under the direction of Curt Lebel as well as an assistant to Town Manager, Don Willard.

“Kaela has been a part time employee for the past three years. With the additional ten hours a week dedicated to the monthly newsletter, she will now be full-time,” explained Willard.

Willard went on to state that Gonzalez was chosen to write and edit the newsletter, not only due to her professionalism and experience, but due to the fact that she is an active member in the community who has a passion to serve in a variety of ways to help Raymond continue as a successful small town.
Gonzalez moved to Raymond with her husband in 2014. They have three children. Wanting to get to know the community – especially the school system in which her children would attend, Gonzalez got involved immediately.

An original copy of The Raymond Road Runner
“When we first moved here, I heard that there was a RSU14 Withdrawal Committee, so I joined just to see what it was about,” explained Gonzalez, referring to the first RSU14 withdrawal discussions that occurred six years ago. “It wasn’t that I was for or against the separation. In fact, I didn’t know what it meant. I wanted to find out, so I got involved. There are so many good things happening in Raymond, it is truly a great community to be a part of.” 

You will also find Gonzalez active in the Raymond Parent Teacher Organization, fulfilling the role as Vice President. Being involved in her multiple roles also makes her a great choice to gather pertinent news, informing the citizens regarding the latest happenings in much the same way as the original Road Runner, albeit in a more condensed version.

“We will include public notices, calendar items and reoccurring events,” stated Gonzalez. “Other article items will include municipal issues, school updates and organizations that will offer events of interest to the public.”

Since it will be a two-page newsletter, Gonzalez admits that it will be a challenge to get as much news into the space as possible. This is where The Windham Eagle newspaper will continue to offer larger article and feature stories for the town.

Willard stated that when the Raymond Road Runner newspaper discontinued, there were many disappointed residents. Long-time Raymond resident, John Manoush, was among them. “I remember John, in particular, who told me that he would greatly miss reading the Raymond paper every month,” Willard continued, smiling as he explained further. “He told me that he would even miss the excruciating detail of the Town Manager’s report.”

Manoush admits that he did miss the Raymond Road Runner when the publication ended and is
looking forward to having it reestablished.

“It is a great opportunity for the town,” Manoush said. “I look forward to reading it every month. I’ve always been a big fan of The Windham Eagle newspaper and the way it supports community and organizations who all struggle for attention and membership. This is a big step to help the Town of Raymond get the word out about what is happening in the town, how our tax money is being used and the various community events that occur. And then – of course, it will be great to get an update again on how the Town Manager is doing.”

For all Raymond residents, town offices, schools and organizations who wish to share a brief update or event in the monthly newsletter, contact Gonzalez at or by phone at 207-655-4742, ext. 133. For article length feature stories and news events, continue to contact The Windham Eagle newspaper at

Lifelong love of local library inspires Eagle Scout project

Jamie Louko (photo by Tammy Louko)
By Briana Bizier

Not many seniors in high school can say they have led a construction project, submitted building permits, or faced the town board. Yet Windham High School student and Raymond resident, Jamie Louko has done all three as part of his process to become an Eagle Scout.

Think of getting the rank of Eagle Scout as going through high school with a very big project at the end,” said Dr. Nick Bizier, Eagle Scout and Windham High School chemistry teacher. “By the time you apply for an Eagle Scout, you have to have shown proficiency in many different areas.”

That big project at the end must be a contribution of value to the community. Prospective Eagle Scouts must propose their project to the BSA and then execute the project themselves by leading other scouts and members of the community.

There was no doubt in my mind that my Eagle Scout project would be at the library,” Louko told an audience of over sixty community members at the dedication of his completed service project, an outdoor gazebo dedicated to the memory of Raymond volunteer and community leader Betty McDermott. Louko spoke to the audience at the gazebo’s dedication, he shared fond childhood memories of reading the Warriors children’s book series in the back of the Raymond Village Library while his parents browsed the adult sections. With his Eagle Scout project, he hoped to share his childhood love of reading with the next generation of Raymond children. Inspired by the gazebo in the Raymond community garden, Louko decided to build a similar structure closer to the library. Louko presented his service project plan to the Raymond Library Board of Trustees in May of 2018 and received their enthusiastic approval.

However, as Louko discovered during the course of the gazebo’s planning and construction, building Louko’s original plan for the gazebo proved to be too close to a land lot line, and his application for a building permit was turned down by the select board. This setback forced a creative reevaluation of his original plan.
projects are rarely straightforward.

We were forced to move to the front of the library, which ended up being an even better place to build,” Louko told me. “I am very thankful because I think it was for the better.”

After submitting his revised plans to the select board and finally acquiring his building permit, Louko needed to contact donors willing to provide supplies for the actual construction. Several organizations generously agreed to provide the building materials, including P&K Sand and Gravel, Hancock Lumber, Roosevelt Trail Garden Center, Machine Lumber, and Louko’s neighbor David Lind.

In order to turn a pile of donated supplies into a beautiful gazebo, Louko turned to the other members of Troop 800. “The only workers I had to help build my project were either scouts or scouts' parents,” Louko said. “Leading my fellow scouts is an important step in doing my project because it teaches me so much about how to lead effectively and what my leadership style is.”

The Eagle Scout project gets at the heart of what experiential learning really is,” Dr. Bizier added. “It teaches you to make lots of those little adjustments that are necessary to bring a complicated project to life.” the case of Jamie Louko’s Eagle Scout project, his gazebo both embodies and honors the spirit of community service. Before construction began on the gazebo, the Raymond Village Library Board approached Jamie about dedicating the structure he planned to build to Raymond resident and longtime volunteer Betty McDermott. Louko agreed, adding that the McDermott family are his next-door neighbors.

This is a great example of how Eagle Scouts can honor the past and contribute to the future through service to their community,” Dr. Bizier, Louko’s former chemistry teacher, adds. “I think it’s a wonderful thing to be an Eagle Scout.”

The new gazebo is open to the public and can be found just outside the Raymond Village Library at 3
Meadow Road.