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Letters to the Editor

Synopsis of a Westfield Board of Education Meeting

April 16, 2015

VIOLENCE, VANDALISM, SUBSTANCE ABUSE & HIB REPORT The State requires school districts to report on Violence, Vandalism, and Substance Abuse and Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HI...

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Today's Events

Police Blotter

Burglaries Reported at Two Westfield Homes

April 15, 2015

April 15, 2015 1:24 a.m. Officers Bruno and Carrero arrested Marcin Krepula, age 38, of Clark for driving while intoxicated subsequent to a motor vehicle stop in the area of Nevada Street an...

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Columns

ViaNutrition

Partnering With a Health Coach to Achieve Personal Transformation

Many people find themselves in the grocery store, enticed by sugary treats or purchasing the same processed foods every week. Yet, they still find themselves with a mid-afternoon energy crash, u...

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Westfield Area Y

Westfield Area Y Thanks Volunteers in Honor of National Volunteer Week

In honor of National Volunteer Week, the Westfield Area Y is pleased to announce there were 504 individuals who donated their time and talent in 2014. The Y applauds their efforts. A special &ld...

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In the Schools

Westfield High School Donates to Good Cause

Westfield High School recently donated more than $2,000 to The Good Project to help construct a school in a remote village in Costa Rica. David Good, founder of the non-profit, The Good Project,...

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Monday with Millicent

Let’s Visit the Westfield Diner

309 North Avenue, Westfield Call: 908.233.5200 Hours: 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday to Thursday 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday FYI: Casual dress. ...

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Connecting Commerce and Community

Young Entrepreneurs from GWACC Awarded Funding to Launch Startups

On Wednesday, April 1, 14 student entrepreneurs took to the stage to present their business plans before a panel of local leaders of industry and a public audience. The students were dressed as ...

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Experts of H.O.M.E.

National Window Safety Week is April 5-11

The Window Safety Task Force works year-round to promote window safety awareness, and every April it sponsors National Window Safety Week. For 2015, Window Safety Week is observed April 5-11. ...

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Take Five

Resources for a Rocky Marriage

If you’ve been married for more than two years, odds are, you’ve had several “moments” when you started thinking that the only way you could honor Til Death Do Us Part wo...

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Guest Column

Eating Fresh Made Easy

Sign-up time is here! The team at Just Farmed is busy prepping for our 2015 farm box season, which starts the week of May 4th and ends in December. Our mission is to deliver fresh...

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Westfield Native Jessica St. Clair Talks About Her Hit Show, Playing House, and Hometown Inspiration

By SARA CARPIEN

June 18, 2014 at 10:18 PM

WESTFIELD, NJ — Jessica St. Clair, co-star/creator of USA Network comedy Playing House, hasn’t forgotten about her home town, Westfield. In fact, she weaves memories of growing up here into the hit show.

Playing House was created by real life besties St. Clair and Lennon Parham, who met while studying improv comedy at the renowned Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York.

The show follows two best friends, Emma and Maggie, who reconnect in their small childhood town of Pinebrook, CT. While Emma is visiting Pinebrook for Maggie’s baby shower, the two discover that Maggie’s husband is cheating on her. Emma decides to leave her high level position in China to help newly single Maggie raise her soon-to-be-born baby. Laverne and Shirley-type escapades ensue.

St. Clair, who graduated Westfield High School in 1994, has fond memories of growing up in Westfield and weaves them into the storyline in unique, and sometimes specific, ways.

The fictional town of Pinebrook is a lot like Westfield, she explained.

“It’s a small East Coast town where everyone knows each other,” she said.

“In one of the episodes, ‘Drumline,’ we break into the Pinebrook JCC pool,” said St. Clair, who then revealed, “We used to hop the fence and go swimming in the middle of the night senior year at the Shackamaxon Country Club.”

She sneaks Westfield into the show other ways, too, like when she drops in people's last names.

St. Clair has been named by Variety magazine as one of the 10 Comics to Watch. In addition to Playing House, has appeared in such movies as Bridesmaids, Enough Said and She’s Out of My League. But her theatrical roots were planted here in Westfield. Her first acting stint was a musical titled Logger’s Lament at Roosevelt School.

“I did a musical every year and played sports every year,” said St. Clair. 

She remembers one teacher who encouraged her from a young age.

“Drude Roessler, who happens to be the mother-in-law of USA Network President Chris McCumber, grew up in Westfield. She was my choir teacher,” said St. Clair. "My first production was written by Drude."

Other teachers who she said inspired her were advanced learning teacher Annesly Swicker, English teacher  Paula Roy and French teacher Madame Didier, who fueled St. Clair’s lifelong obsession with France, “which emptied my credit card every year.”

St. Clair’s character on Playing House is based on herself.

“One hundred percent pretty much just me,” she said. “People from my high school might be surprised that I’m a comedian. Back then I was just trying to fit in. I would keep some of my humor to myself. It wasn’t until college that I came into my own and became a comedian.”

When she met her “family” at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, St. Clair’s career started taking off, she said.

“Nobody that I knew was in show business,” said St. Clair. “I majored in drama and did improv comedy at Middlebury College, then lived at home my first year out of college and worked at CNN and at night would intern at the Upright Citizens Brigade, basically cleaning their bathrooms. Basically everybody from Playing House is from the Upright Citizens Brigade. Lennon I met from New York. The philosophy of Upright Citizens Brigade is to keep it in the family.”

She compared UCB to grad school, “if grad school was late night at bars, cleaning toilets and learning how to be a comedian.”

There, she met Amy Poehlor, a “kick-ass comedian who is fearless and also really nice. The second I was at the theater, I felt like a fish out of water. She came up to me and said, ‘Oh, hi, I’m Amy, I just wanted to thank you for helping out.’ Not only is she a fearless comedian but she also keeps it classy,” said St. Clair.

These days, St. Clair lives in Santa Monica, CA, with her husband, playwright Dan O’Brien, and eight-month-old daughter, Isobel Kelly O’Brien. She holds Westfield very dear to her heart.

“I miss [Westfield] very much. I wish I could raise my kids there,” said St. Clair. “I miss Mindowaskin Park. Walking around the downtown. Halloween – going trick or treating with that small town feeling. Going to The Brown Cow for ice cream. Feeding animal crackers to the Doberman in front of the shoe repair place. Playing sports there. Sledding at Galloping Hill and Echo Park.”

And, she added, “I especially miss the friendships that I made. My best friend, Brandi Kovac – her mom was the gymnastics coach at Westfield high school. We’ll end up in a Golden Girls situation,” she said.

When writing the show with Parham, St. Clair loosely based the story on her childhood friend who died from Leukemia in 2012.

“My childhood best friend, Kelly Feeney, a food writer for The New York Times, passed away and this show is a tribute to her in some way. She died of Leukemia about a year and a half ago. Her mother is like my second mother. This show is based on my real life friendship with Lennon, but the fact that it’s about childhood best friends, in a small town…it’s the fantasy of living in the town that you have such fond memories of and the devotion that you have to your lifelong friends,” said St. Clair.

The season finale aired Tuesday night on USA, but you can catch up on full episodes by clicking here.