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For the past five years, Christina Karasinski has been involved in helping backstage at plays at both North Haven Middle School and North Haven High School. (Photo courtesy of Christina Karasinski )
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Little did Christina Karasinski know what a big difference one form brought home from school could make in her life. When her son Tyler, who is now a senior, was in 5th grade, the middle school drama club sent flyers to the elementary schools seeking extras.
“He said he wanted to try it and he was a little orphan boy in Oliver,” says Christine, mother of Tyler and 13-year-old Avery. “It’s a great program because they start bringing elementary kids in that way and they continue from 6th- to 8th grade and then through high school when they come back to the middle school to help behind the scenes.”
Christine credits the continuity and melding of the schools and programs to Debbie Volain, the set director for the plays. As her son became more involved in the shows, Christine got to know Volain and after a few years of watching the process, she decided to see what she could do to help.
By the time Tyler was in 8th grade, Christine was helping with sets and backstage duties. When he moved on to the high school, Christine became even more involved. Now, even though Tyler just completed his final show—Phantom of the Opera—Christine has no plans of stopping her involvement.
“I have a good team of people that I’m working with and with my theater arts kid going off to college, I’d have a void so I look forward to continuing to meet with them and joking around,” says Christine. “It’s a team effort.”
While Christine is thankful that North Haven High School was able to complete their final show and take their bows, her “heart breaks for all of the high school kids who couldn’t” due to the COVID school closures. The closures are continuing to impact their family routine as her younger son, Avery, should be starting baseball season.
Christine notes that baseball has always been a big part of her family’s life and her husband, Michael, coaches the team, which usually plays from now through October.
“I’m the coach’s wife so I’m all in for baseball season. It’s a long season, but we love it,” says Christine. “We all support each other and we have our baseball friends, who are like family—our ‘framily.’”
Just as Christine is all in with baseball, Michael and Avery support her and Tyler’s dedication to theater. When he is not on stage, Tyler helps prepare the sets with Michael helping where he is needed. This year was the first year that Avery didn’t play basketball and he jumped in to learn lighting.
“Our whole family ends up helping and doing stage crew,” says Christine. “If my husband doesn’t come, he doesn’t see us ‘til 10 p.m. and every Saturday we’re there. There are days that the four of us would be there and we don’t see each other because there’s so much to do.”
Christine encourages others to get involved and see what goes into making a show happen from behind the scenes. She has seen more people join the crew recently and is grateful.
At the beginning of the school year, there was a parent meeting at which organizers distributed a sheet to parents outlining where help was needed. Committees were formed for sets, fundraising, the lobby, social media, and more. With the committees, the group was able to try many new ideas this year.
“We had a mom who was great with Facebook marketplace finding us props, we created a Facebook page [Friends of North Haven High School Drama] and posted when we needed help and people would show up or donate items,” says Christine. “We’re always look for new ways to do stuff in the lobby on show nights. This year we had the roses, but we also had 20 raffle prizes from local businesses—they were very generous. It was really good this year.”
The group also created new fundraising opportunities, including selling Super Bowl squares and a Crowns and Capes event with the students dressing up as princes, princesses, and characters for children to visit.
“They work so hard on these musicals so it was nice to see them having fun with the little kids,” says Christine, who loves working with the students. “The theater kids are good kids. I’ve fed them chicken nuggets. They gave me flowers on the closing night and they thanked me for that. They’re kind, they care about each other, and work hard together. It’s nice to know my son’s friends and see how they include his younger brother.”
In addition to getting to know the kids, Christine loves seeing the show finally come together in a performance. Despite the amount of time and the work that goes into putting on the show, Christine enjoys it—even if she only ever watches it from the wings.
“The show is completely different from the sides of the stage,” says Christine. “Sometimes I wish I could just enjoy the show, but it’s so fun to see the kids backstage, getting hair and makeup done. It’s funny to think of my husband waiting up on the catwalk with a pound of glitter waiting to drop it for a scene. There are so many people involved and it’s great when we see the people coming in to see show and excitement they have.”
While Christine has always enjoyed theater, she was never involved when she was growing up in Lisbon or when she went to school at Quinnipiac University. She met her husband, who is from New York, and they decided to make North Haven home. The couple has now lived in town for 20 years
“It’s neat to see how it’s become our children’s hometown and it’s become more of our hometown through our kids and their activities,” says Christine, who enjoys spending time outside at the beach or gardening. “Sometimes we talk about what we’re going to do when we retire and our kids say, ‘But this is where we live.’”
Christine studied education in college and was a teacher in Stratford for 10 years, but after Avery was born, she decided she needed more time at home with her family. As he grew, she started helping her mom at a catering company and from there, her new business—Bitty Bliss Bake Shop, LLC—was born.
“Baking and cooking were always hobbies and this little cake ball got created,” says Christine, whose company bakes cake truffles. “I love making my own hours. Someday I’d love to open my own kitchen to do after-school classes with kids. I’d be using my degree and kids would enjoy it.”
When it comes to her involvement with the plays, Christine has some long-term goals, too. She wants to initiate interacting between schools in the area with a program in which they could exchange props and set pieces and share ideas. Even though Tyler is graduating, she plans to continue her involvement and reiterates that it is a team effort.
“It should be people of the week or team of the week because I’m just the organizing, but without the group of people who helped with fundraising, painting the sets, gathering the props, and volunteering their time, I wouldn’t have a crew,” she says. “Debbie [Volain] has been doing this forever so I’ve learned by helping her and watching her. Now that we have more people on board and new ideas, it’s even more exciting.”
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