The play Keira Naughton is about to appear in at the Westport Country Playhouse has special significance for her. That’s because it was something her mother, Pamela Naughton of Weston, who died on April 9, encouraged her to do.
Ms. Naughton was preparing for the play, The Dining Room, by A.R. Gurney, when her mother’s health started declining. For years, Pamela Naughton put up a brave fight with pancreatic cancer, but in the past few months her condition worsened.
As she watched her mother weaken, Ms. Naughton considered leaving the show. “I was going to pull out, but my mom said I had to do it. She said I needed to stay busy and to leave would be a mistake,” she said.
Ms. Naughton missed a few days of rehearsal, but ultimately followed her mother’s wishes and stayed with The Dining Room. She is looking forward to the play’s opening night on Tuesday, April 30. The show has a limited run through May 18.
Working on the play helped Ms. Naughton deal with the stress of losing her mother. “It was really good to have a steady job with structure, and to work with a great group of people in a great theater,” Ms. Naughton said.
Theater and performing are an integral part of Ms. Naughton’s life. Her father is Tony-award winning actor James Naughton. Her brother Greg Naughton is a singer-songwriter and member of the folk-rock acoustic band The Sweet Remains. His wife, Ms. Naughton’s sister-in-law, is Broadway star Kelli O’Hara.
Ms. Naughton’s mother was the only member of the family not in show business. “My mom was the rock and the glue of the family. She dedicated her life to her family and had no interest in being the center of attention. My husband is like that, too,” Ms. Naughton said.
Ms. Naughton is married to Ben Forgash, a drummer and business owner who is about to open a new bar, Dynaco, in the Bedford-Stuyvessant area of Brooklyn, N.Y.
“The theme of the bar is Topanga Canyon in the 1970s. It is really beautiful. It’s like walking into a different time period,” she said.
The couple has a 10-month old son, Charlie Naughton Forgash, whom she calls “The Napless Wonder.”
“Charlie doesn’t believe in taking naps. He’s incredibly strong. He lifted his head up high the day he was born. He’s always tapping and drumming things and likes to turn phones upside down and examine them. So I think he might be an athlete, a drummer or an engineer someday,” she said with a laugh.
Ms. Naughton has enjoyed a varied career on stage, screen and in music.
Her theater experience includes performances in The Rivals, Dance of Death and The Three Sisters on Broadway.
On film, she has appeared in Cradle Will Rock, and she was a member of the folk rock band The Petersons. She even appeared in a video called Gmail Blue, an April Fool’s joke released by Google this year, which went viral. “It was so funny. I heard from a lot of friends about that one,” Ms. Naughton said.
Ms. Naughton moved to Weston with her family when she was young. Her parents were originally from Connecticut, but lived for a time in California, while her father was working on the television show Planet of the Apes. The family eventually moved back to Connecticut and settled in Weston.
At Weston High School, Ms. Naughton performed in shows such as The Madwoman of Chaillot, directed by Doris Fiotakis. “Doris was the best! I don’t know how she managed such a large group of kids; I can barely wrangle one child,” she said.
She appreciated the plays Ms. Fiotakis chose for the theater group. “I learned a lot from her. She chose plays that taught us about different cultures,” she said.
After graduation, Ms. Naughton went to Skidmore College, where she majored in English with a concentration in creative writing. “I would like to do more writing and directing, too,” she said.
The Naughtons are a close family. In addition to their individual careers, they also like to perform together at special shows, something Ms. Naughton has enjoyed since she was a kid.
“When we were little, Greg and I liked to sing songs at family functions. We sang a song from the film Phantom of the Paradise and had no idea what it was about,” she said.
The Dining Room
Ms. Naughton’s extensive acting experience was a big help when it came to The Dining Room.
A.R. Gurney’s play is not a standard issue comedy of manners. It takes place in the dining room of a well-to-do household, as occupied by different families. There are several stories that overlap and intertwine.
The six actors in the cast play multiple roles. “In one scene I’m a little girl, then I’m an old lady, then a middle-aged sister, and even an Irish maid. There is very little change in our costumes, so you have to find your balance and make that subtle change to your character,” Ms. Naughton said.
She said it was very exciting that playwright A.R. “Pete” Gurney attended some rehearsals and gave the actors notes.
“This is a great play for the Westport Country Playhouse and its audience. I think people will really get it and appreciate it. It has a first-rate cast, and Mark Lamos is a first-rate director. It’s also a first-rate theater with an incredible history,” she said.
The Dining Room is playing at the playhouse from April 30 through May 18. For more information and tickets, call the box office at 203-227-4177 or visit westportplayhouse.org.
On Sunday, May 5, at 4:30 p.m., the playhouse is presenting a symposium, “A Conversation with Playwright A.R. Gurney,” following a performance of the play.