Happening in the Hills
Faces, places, treasures, and trends that caught our attention
JoAnne Torti, Founder & executive Director of ASAP!

One Night Only, ASAP!

Celebrating 20 years, ASAP! gears up for a night to remember, filled with exquisite performances, great food, and live entertainment. Be there! June 1st at The Gunnery.

Twenty years ago choreographer, dancer, and teacher JoAnne Torti presented a program to include local artists and arts organizations teaching workshops in dance, music, and visual arts for middle schoolers. The program was ASAP! and it soon became a vital cultural organization in Litchfield County and beyond. This year ASAP! is celebrating 20 years of serving the communities in the area.

In 1999 members of the Waterbury Foundation, now the CT Community Foundation, Ann Burton, Marlene Smith, Ann Bazos, Jeanne Paparazzo, and Lisa Baker, recognized the need for an after school arts program for middle schoolers in Region 12 (Washington, Roxbury, Bridgewater). The CT Community Foundation invited area artists and arts organizations to a meeting where they could collaboratively brainstorm ideas for the after school program. Over fifty artists, teachers, and community members attended the meeting. The foundation committed to providing $30,000 per year for a three year period to help fund the program. At the end of the meeting everyone agreed to return in two weeks for another session. At the next meeting JoAnne Torti’s proposal was approved.

For the next five years JoAnne ran the program from her home with ASAP! under the umbrella of the Washington Parks and Recreation. During that time the program grew from 72 participants from grades 6-9 to over 350 from grades 3 through adult. The budget also grew from $32,000 to over $300,000 and was supported by grants, corporations, individuals, fundraising events, and tuition. In 2004 ASAP! was established as a 501(c)3 non-profit and in 2005 moved to its first office in the building of the New Preston’s Womens Club with JoAnne as Executive Director and its first full-time employee. Since 2008 ASAP!’s office has been located in Washington Depot. It presently has three full-time employees and two part-time employee including JoAnne as the Executive Director.

Today, ASAP! is recognized as the place for quality and innovative arts education offering environmental, literary, performing, visual, and culinary programs year round for pre-k through adult. Programs are held during and after school, on weekends, and during the summer and are lead by professional artists. ASAP!’s community includes families and children of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds from over 100 towns. Each year 8,000 – 10,000 people engage in ASAP!.

The program impacts kids by exposing them to experiential learning opportunities that encourage them to think creatively, ask questions, and explore possibilities. Since its inception ASAP! has provided nearly $500,000 in financial aid and scholarships to families in need. ASAP! never turns a child away.

ASAP!’s mission is clear and simple: To foster creative, hands-on learning through the arts. For twenty years, the organization has been honoring and fulfilling that mission. Here’s how:

  • In 1999, there were 72 students, and 135 participations; today there are 4,000 students and more than 9,000 participations.
  • In 1999, the program serviced Grades 6-9; it is now offered to students from pre-School through adults.
  • In 1999, ASAP! had affiliations with 4 arts organizations; today it has affiliations with over 45 artists and organizations.
  • In 1999, its offerings were in dance, music, and art; today the areas are in literary, performing (music, dance, and theatre), visual (sculpture, pottery, painting, drawing, photography, fashion, textile/fabric), culinary, field trips, events, environmental arts programs, and school-based STEAM programs (science, technology, engineering, art, and math).
  • In 1999, there was no Scholarship Program; today the organization offers $500,000 in Scholarships and Financial Aid.

ASAP! was voted top culural arts organization and received the CultureMax Award 2016 from the Northwest CT Arts Council and CT Office of the Arts for its excellence in arts educational programming and the positive impact it makes on regional communities.

And who can forget the Annual Young Writers Celebration, a most popular event that brought the talents of young writers to the spotlight by featuring students alongside accomplished writers, actors, and celebrities and by recognizing the success of teachers in the area?

Asap!’s Board of Directors is headed by Tal Fagin as President, Rob Parker as Treasurer, and Andrew Linde as Secretary. Other board members are Judy Auchincloss, Amy Julia Becker, Sande Breakstone, Barbara Gold, Bruce Haims, Beatrice Rossi-Landi, Sara Savage, and Tony Vengrove, and the Executive Director and Founder is JoAnne Torti.

One Night Only, ASAP! Celebrates 20 Years promises to be an unforgettable night of exquisite performances, memorable moments, great food, and live entertainment, and above all gratitude, as ASAP! celebrates 20 years. The evening begins with a show curated by Nicole Tongue and hosted by Congresswoman Jahana Hayes featuring side-by-side performances with students and professional artists. The festive celebration continues under a tent with host Michael Lombardi, dinner, dancing, and a nine-piece band with special guest appearances.


Congresswoman Jahana Flemming Hayes is an American educator and politician who is the U.S. Representative for Connecticut’s 5th congressional district. She has been recognized as a Connecticut and National Teacher of the Year.


Michael Lombardi is an American actor and musician, known for his role as firefighter Mike Silletti in the television series Rescue Me. Lombardi is also the front man and founder of the rock group Apache Stone.


Nicole Tongue is a creative director and choreographer. Nicole has worked on Carmen, Madame Butterfly, Rigoletto, Wozzeck, La Boheme and The Barber of Seville collaborating with Michael Grandage, Mark Lamos, Lee Blakeley, Daniel Slater and Doug Varone. These productions have taken her to Princeton, Santa Fe, Houston, LA, Glyndebourne and Boston.


The Host Committee for the 20 Year Celebration is: Linda Allard, Chrissy Armstrong & Ben Nickoll, Mona & Ajay Bijoor, Isabel & Winston Fowlkes, Merle Ginsberg, Betsy & David Goldin, Susannah Grey & John Lyons, Jane Whitney Gruson, Anne & Nikko Hayes, Stepanie & Tim Ingrassia, Susan & Larry Kessler, Carolyn Klemm, Jill Flaherty Lloyd & Michael Lloyd, Brita Lombardi, Maria & Michael Lombardi, Stacey & Pels Matthews, Kathy McCarver, Ellen McCourt, Carolyn & Matthew Muszala, Dani Shapiro & Michael Marren, Kasia & Hamilton Smith, Marlene & Chris Smith, and Michael Williams.

Saturday, June 1, 2019
One Night Only, ASAP! Celebrates 20 Years
At The Gunnery in Washington
6 to 10:30 pm
Doors open at 6 pm
The show begins at 6:30 pm
Cocktails, Buffet Dinner, and Dancing at 7:30 pm
Festive Attire
There is limited seating, please purchase your tickets early.
860.868.0740, ext. 302

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