Authors Posts by Heidi Sutton

Heidi Sutton

Heidi Sutton

‘Abacus: Small Enough to Jail’ will be screened on March 27.

By Heidi Sutton

Soul music, Asperger’s syndrome, circus life, terrorism, race in America — these diverse subject matters and more will be explored at length as the Port Jefferson Documentary Series (PJDS) kicks off its spring 2017 season Monday evening, March 13. Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, the PJDS, now in its 11th year, will present seven award-winning documentaries from March 13 to May 1, alternating between two venues — Theatre Three in Port Jefferson and The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. Each screening will be followed by a Q-and-A with guest speakers.

‘Circus Kid’ will be screened on April 17 at Theatre Three.

The documentaries are chosen by a six-member film board, affectionately known as “the film ladies,” who each choose one film to present and then a seventh film is chosen unanimously by the group. The ladies, who include co-directors Lyn Boland and Barbara Sverd, Wendy Feinberg, Honey Katz, Phyliss Ross and Lorie Rothstein, recently found out that the PJDS was chosen by Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s Best of Long Island survey as the Best Film Festival on Long Island for 2017. The series beat out the Stony Brook Film Festival, the Hamptons International Film Festival and the Gold Coast Film Festival.

“Ecstatic would not be too mild a description,” said Boland. “We were really delighted [about the news].” Sverd added, “We never found out who had nominated us, but we are very grateful to that person!”

According to Sverd, the group started out 11 years ago sitting around a dining room table at the late Sondra Edward’s home “brainstorming about how to improve the Greater Port Jefferson/Northern Brookhaven’s existing film series. It was there that the idea of a documentary series began to emerge.” Back then, Sverd said, “We knew that documentaries were an emerging art form and that our community was missing opportunities to see them, as they mostly played in New York for a limited time. We now face new challenges in an age of streaming and HBO, but our mission [to present new documentaries] has remained the same.”

This past fall, the group traveled to the Tribeca Film Festival and the New York Documentary Film Festival in Manhattan and attended the Stony Brook Film Festival, searching for documentaries that generated a lot of interest and offered wide appeal.

‘I Am Not Your Negro’ will be screened on April 3 at the Long Island Museum.

This season, both Boland and Sverd are most excited about presenting “I Am Not Your Negro,” which is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Based on the writings of James Baldwin, it tells the story of race in modern America. One of the scheduled guest speakers, Prof. Michael Theiwill, was a colleague and friend of Baldwin. “It’s an exciting film, it’s very, very sophisticated and it’s so on point,” said Boland. “It’s a little demanding in terms of what it asks the audience to listen to and to be aware of, but it is very on point for what’s going on. You realize how you thought everything was changing, but there is still this basic unyielding racism that we find very difficult to understand.”

Boland is also looking forward to showing “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” on March 27. “It’s such a great story about this little bank in Queens that the district attorney decides to pick on for financial irregularities” and how the family that owned the bank fought back and won.

The co-directors encourage the audience to stay after the screenings for the Q-and-A part which can get quite spirited. “A documentary is like taking a college course,” said Sverd, adding, “I believe that the reason documentaries have become so popular is because people love to learn about other people, places and things. Having a director for an up-close and personal Q-and-A after each screening makes it an even more special classroom experience.” “For me it is much more exciting to get a little bit of the backstory after the movie. Having the director or someone from the film there to answer questions right away was something that we really wanted,” said Boland. The group is always looking for volunteers to help distribute posters and flyers, taking tickets and program assistance. To sign up, please call 631-473-5200.

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series will be held at 7 p.m. every Monday from March 13 to May 1 at Theatre Three, 412 Main Street, Port Jefferson or The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. Tickets, sold at the door, are $7 per person (no credit cards please). For more information, visit

Film schedule:

▶ The spring season will kick off with a screening of “Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing” at Theatre Three on March 13. The dramatic story of the April 2013 terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon is recounted through the emotional experiences of individuals whose lives were forever impacted. The film follows events as they unfolded that day and over the next two years, to the death penalty sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Winner of the Audience Award Best Documentary at the Woodstock Film Festival, “Marathon” shows how cities and communities come together and find strength through dark times. Guest speakers will be directors Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg.

“The Uncondemned,” the second film in the series, will be screened at Theatre Three on March 20. Both a real-life courtroom thriller and a moving human drama, the documentary tells the gripping story of a group of young international lawyers and activists who fought to have rape recognized as a war crime and the Rwandan women who came forward to testify and win justice for the crimes committed against them. The film won the Brizzolara Family Foundation Award for a Film of Conflict and Resolution and the Victor Rabinowitz and Joanne Grant Award for Social Justice at the Hamptons International Film Festival. Co-sponsored by the Africana Studies Department at Stony Brook University. Guest speaker will be director Michele Mitchell.

▶ On March 27, The Long Island Museum will host a screening of “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.” Directed by Steve James and produced by Julie Goldman and Mark Mitten, the film tells the fascinating David and Goliath story of the government’s decision to prosecute a small, immigrant-owned financial institution, Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown owned by the Sung family, of mortgage fraud while overlooking far more egregious behavior at much larger institutions. The Sung family spent over $10 million in a five-year battle to save the family business, their honor and to stand up for their community. Producer Julie Goldman, Associated Producer Sean Lyness and bankers Jill and Vera Sung will be the guest speakers for the evening.

▶ The fourth film, titled “I Am Not Your Negro,” will be screened at The Long Island Museum on April 3. Built around James Baldwin’s unfinished 1979 book about the lives and successive assassinations of his friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, the film, directed by Raoul Peck, delves into the complex legacy of those three lives and deaths that permanently marked the American social and political landscape complimented by archival footage, photographs and television clips. Winner of the Audience Award at the Chicago International Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Hamptons International Film Festival, People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, short-listed for the Academy Awards and countless other accolades, “I Am Not Your Negro” has been called “One of the best movies you are likely to see this year” by the New York Times. Guest Speakers will include Prof. Zebulon Miletsky, African American Studies, SUNY, and Author/Prof. Michael Thelwell, U. Mass, Amherst. Co-sponsored by the Africana Studies Department at Stony Brook University.

Director Lorenzo Pisoni will be the guest speaker on April 17.

▶ The series continues on April 17 at Theatre Three with “Circus Kid.” A ring of daring, danger, spirit and lunacy can lead many a young child into a romantic fantasy of running away to join the circus. But for Lorenzo Pisoni, director of this autobiographical documentary, and guest speaker for the evening, the reality of growing up as the golden child in his family’s cult classic Pickle Family Circus, his dreams were about running away from it. Archival footage of vaudeville-style acts and interviews include Pickle Family participants, including parents Larry and Peggy, daughter Gypsy and Pickle member Bill Irwin.

“Bang! The Bert Berns Story” will be screened at Theatre Three on April 24. Music meets the Mob in this biographical documentary, narrated by Steven Van Zandt, about the life and career of songwriter and record producer Bert Berns whose hits include “Twist and Shout,”“Tell Him,” “Hang on Sloopy,” “Here Comes the Night” and “Piece of My Heart.” Berns helped launch the careers of Wilson Pickett, Van Morrison and Neil Diamond and produced some of the greatest soul music ever made. Filmmaker Brett Berns, who will be the evening’s guest speaker, brings his late father’s story to the screen through interviews with Ronald Isley, Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Van Morrison, Paul McCartney and Keith Richards and rare performance footage. Co-sponsored by the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.

▶ The final film for the spring 2106 series, to be screened at Theatre Three on May 1, will be “Off the Rails,” the remarkable true story of Darius McCollum, a man with Asperger’s syndrome whose overwhelming love of transit has landed him in jail 32 times for impersonating New York City bus drivers and subway conductors and driving their routes. Winner of Best Documentary at the DocUtah Film Festival, the Newport Beach Film Festival, the Woods Hole Film Festival and the Buffalo International Film Festival, to name just a few. Director Adam Irving will be the guest speaker via Skype.

Malcolm J. Bowman and R. Lawrence Swanson will receive The Robert Cushman Memorial Award at the TVHS award dinner. Photo by Heidi Sutton

On Wednesday, March 22, the Three Village Historical Society will host its 40th Annual Awards Dinner honoring volunteers and area residents who have made outstanding contributions to the Society and the local community.

Among the honorees will be R. Lawrence Swanson and Malcolm J. Bowman, who will receive The Robert Cushman Memorial Award in recognition of significant contribution to the preservation and conservation of our natural environment. Both are on the faculty of the Marine Science Department at Stony Brook University and are being recognized for their recently published book “Between Stony Brook Harbor Tides —The Natural History of a Long Island Pocket Bay.” This distinguished award has only been given eight times since 1987.

Carlton “Hub” Edwards will receive the  Kate Wheeler Strong Memorial Award  in recognition of significant contribution toward the fostering of interest in local history. Edwards is a lifelong resident of the Three Villages and his knowledge of the area is something to treasure, as are the memories he shares of his 85 years lived here and his work on the Three Village Society’s Chicken Hill, A Community Lost to Time exhibit.

Millie Mastrion a longtime member, past trustee and volunteer will receive The Maggie Gillie Memorial Award for contributions by a member of the society in recognition of overall dedicated service, and for significant contributions furthering the goals of the society.

From left, Katherine Johnson, Kristin Moller and Sean Mullen will be honored at the TVHS awards dinner. Photo courtesy of TVHS

Deep interest in history led Sean Mullen to the Three Village Historical Society.  Mullen has applied his knowledge by volunteering at the society’s archives while pursuing his degree in history at SUNY Stony Brook.  He has been working with the society’s collections, especially those relating to the Revolutionary era and the Culper Spy Ring. For that, Mullen will receive the Gayle Becher Memorial Award in recognition of volunteer efforts to help the society by performing those necessary tasks that facilitate its efficient operation. This award honors volunteers whose work consists of loyal support repeated on a regular basis.

Katherine Johnson and Kristin Moller, both students at Ward Melville High School, are this year’s honorees for the Sherman Mills Young Historian Award, a prestigious award presented for contributions to the society by a young person.  Kristen and Katherine have both volunteered many hours to society exhibits and events.

Three community award certificates will be handed out this year. The first, for enhancing or restoring a building used as a commercial structure in a way that contributes to the historic beauty of the area will be awarded to Michael and Anthony Butera of ATM Butera Mason Contractors & Landscaping for the reconstruction of the 1892 chimney on the Emma Clark Library. The second, for house restoration or renovation and ongoing maintenance and preservation in keeping with the original architectural integrity, will be awarded to John and Christine Negus for their home at 34 Old Post Road. The third award, for ornamental plantings or landscaping that enhances the beauty of the Three Village area, will be awarded to John and Randy Prinzivalli of 6 Old Field Road in Setauket.

The Awards Dinner will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Old Field Club located at 86 West Meadow Road in East Setauket. A three-course dinner, which will include cheese/fruit/crudité, North Fork Salad, choice of entree (sliced grilled sirloin steak, herb-crusted salmon or grilled vegetable lasagna) and dessert, will be served. There will be a cash bar and music will be provided by Dylan Maggio, Alex Attard and Hugh Ferguson from Ward Melville High School Jazz Band under the direction of Jason Chapman. Tickets are $65 per person, $55 members. To order, visit or call 631-751-3730.

Photo courtesy of Harbor Country Day School

On Feb. 4, 20 students from Harbor Country Day School’s Mandarin program in St. James performed for a full house at the Charles Wang Center during Stony Brook University’s renowned Confucius Institute’s 2017 Chinese New Year Celebration. First- and second-graders sang songs during the ceremony, and fourth-, sixth- and seventh-graders performed Chinese tongue twisters. Dozens of other performers from New York City, Flushing and other parts of Long Island participated in the institute’s annual show.

The school has developed a close relationship with the Confucius Institute, which enables Harbor Country Day’s students to participate in cultural events at the university. This year marks the third year Harbor Country Day has participated in the show, and Mandarin teacher Hong Snyder is grateful for such unique opportunities. “I believe it’s important for the children to have an intimate understanding of the culture of the language they are studying,” said Snyder. “Otherwise, they are learning the language in a vacuum, which makes it very difficult for them to fully understand and absorb what they’ve learned. Here at Harbor, we try very hard to give them many different opportunities to experience the Chinese culture, from dance and music, to cuisine, to performances like those at the Confucius Institute.”

Harbor Country Day also hosted a Chinese Lantern Festival on its campus on Feb. 11, to mark the end of the Chinese New Year with traditional Chinese music, performances and food and drink.

Attention job seekers! Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd., Centereach will host a Job Fair on March 7 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Presented by the Suffolk County One-Stop Employment Center, representatives from over 40 businesses are scheduled to attend, including ACLD, Amneal Pharmaceuticals, BJG Electronics, Castella Imports, Catapult Staffing, Comfort Keepers, Developmental Disabilities Institute, DiCarlo Distributors, Dollar Tree, East End Bus Lines, East End Disabilities, Eastern Suffolk BOCES, EOC of Suffolk, Express Employment Pros, FREE, FJC Security, Goodwill, Home Depot, Home Instead Senior Care, HW Staffing, Ideal Home Care, Interim Healthcare, LI Cares, LIRR, Lowes, New Vitality, NRL Strategies, NY Life Insurance Co., NYS Civil Service, Options for Community Living, Precious Lambs Childcare, Prudential, Right at Home, SCO Family of Services, South Shore Home Health, Suffolk County Water Authority, UCP of Suffolk, Urban League Mature Workers Program, US Postal Service, Utopia Home Care and Windowrama.

All are welcome and no registration is required. Bring copies of your resume and dress to impress. For more information, call 631-585-9393.

Do your kids love to cook? The Chai Center, 501 Vanderbilt Parkway, Dix Hills will hold a cooking class, Kids in the Kitchen, for children ages 8 to 12 on Tuesdays, March 7, 14 and 21 from 5 to 6 p.m. Learn how to make some great kid-approved dishes such as personal pizzas, waffles and cookies in a large state-of-the-art kitchen. Fee is $20 per class, $55 for all three classes. Advance registration is required. Register online at or call 631-351-8672.

Reviewed by Heidi Sutton

When Center Moriches resident Lauren Coffey was recovering from surgery eight years ago, she used that time to write her first children’s book “The Adventures of Lola Larissa Lily a little lady bug.” On March 9, she will release a sequel to that book, “The Adventures of Lola Larissa Lily a little lady bug finds a fantastic friend.” Recommended for ages 2 to 9, the 27-page picture book, with adorable illustrations by Charles Berton, uses a fun, whimsical writing style that children can relate to in order to teach an important life lesson. Coffey recently took time out from preparing for a book launch at the Book Revue in Huntington to answer a few questions about her latest venture.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am originally from Center Moriches on the eastern end of Long Island and have always loved working with children. I went to college for early childhood education but then switched to business and psychology. I moved around a lot for work in my 20s and then ultimately moved back to Long Island as I just missed it too much.

For most of the last decade I have been working in the benefits field, primarily with Aflac. My partner and I have a full-service insurance firm called the Coffatello Group. I made that switch after I had a pretty major accident myself. I love what I do because of how I am helping people and currently expanded my passion for helping others into the business community as well. In addition, for the past two years I have been acting in the capacity of business development and events planning for a regional networking organization.

What were your favorite books growing up?

I loved all of the Dr. Seuss books. I still have the originals that my brother and I read together. I also enjoyed anything that involved horses. I actually read the “Encyclopedia of the Horse” as child over and over.

Why did you decide to start writing children’s books?

I don’t think it started as a conscious decision. I always had journals of short stories and poems that I would scribble in. The first book was actually written in 2009 after I had a bad accident and a major surgery that put me out of commission for many months. I was going stir crazy and I was immobile and one can only watch so much TV. I decided to make a storyboard for my first niece. That didn’t take me as long as I had hoped so I wrote a story for all of the creatures I had just made to tell her. Everyone told me for years that I should publish this; so in 2014 I did. “The Adventures of Lola Larissa Lily a little lady bug” was born.  Then people started telling me how much their children loved it and asked for a sequel.

How would you summarize the book?

The book introduces a new character and teaches an important lesson; never judge others by how they look. Similar to the first in that it involves all the characters in the series, the book shows camaraderie and the close relationship they have overlooking the types of creatures they are, i.e., frog friends with a dragonfly and lion with a zebra.

What do you hope children will learn from reading this book?

I hope that they learn in a fun way to be accepting of others by taking the time to learn about one another, diversity and treating people or any living being with respect instead of just assuming and judging someone.

Why did you decide to make the main character a lady bug? 

Who doesn’t like lady bugs? Often people who hate bugs often will like lady bugs. It just sort of happened organically as I started writing the story.

What other types of creatures are found in the book?

Zebra, flamingo, frog, turtle, lion, dragonfly, lady bug, giraffe and elephant and Lola Larissa Lily’s new fantastic friend … who is revealed in the new story … but you have to read it to find out!

All of the characters have funny names like Dee Dee Delilah Danda and Fiona Florence Fatima. Why did you decide to do that?

I love laughing, having fun and being silly. I was imagining the laughter of my niece and now the children as I was thinking of the most ridiculous combinations possible but try to have them be rhythmic as well. Mainly I wanted names that are not commonly used.

How would you describe Lola Larissa Lily? 

I think that she is a very open-minded, optimistic, all inclusive and an empathetic little lady bug who loves living life and having fun with all her friends. Lola Larissa Lily also has grit, determination and loyalty, which we saw in the first book.

Will there be more adventures with Lola Larissa Lily in the future?

Yes! There will definitely be more adventures and I can’t wait to share them!

Tell us more about your book launch at the Book Revue on March 9.

I will be reading an excerpt from the book and doing a signing at 7 p.m. All of my books will be available for purchase at the Book Revue that day, and there will be some fun activities for the kids. Many of my events have a pajama-optional invite and this one is no different. It will be a great time for everyone. Future book signings will all be posted on my Facebook page and at

Why do you think reading to a young child is so important?

I feel like it creates such a bond and is a time to connect with your children or any little one in your life. I know I looked forward to it as a child and my future step-son really does too. He looks forward to picking out a book every night before bed.  Today’s world is very disconnected with the introduction of more and more technology.  This simple act of reading to a child is a special time to spend and share with one another and create memories and let your imagination run wild. Kindle is great and my books are also available on there, but I still think having a physical book collection is a great thing.

I’ve noticed you’ve used the same illustrator for all three books. Tell us about him.

Charles Berton ( is a very talented man who can almost read my mind as to what I am picturing in my head. He has an ability to take the written word and capture it with his drawings. My choice was to make the characters very cartoonlike, but he can draw an image that looks like a photograph.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write a book?

I would say just go for it. Don’t put pressure on yourself like a school or work assignment. My first book was written by just putting down my thoughts or a scene in the story fragmented and then put together. My second book, “The Boy Who Did Not Care He Would Not Share” was written in 24 hours. If you want to write, write. If you want to paint, paint. Life is short so do what makes you happy.

Check out the rest of Lauren Coffey’s children’s books, available at

Councilwoman Susan A. Berland with Joel Grey at the Cinema Arts Centre. Photo by Alex Wolff, Concierge Photography
Joel Grey with two specialty cakes at a reception after the event. Photo by Alex Wolff, Concierge Photography

Oscar, Tony and Golden Globe winner Joel Grey made a special appearance at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington on Feb. 23 for a rare big-screen presentation of Bob Fosse’s 1973 “Cabaret,” which stars Grey as Emcee and Liza Minelli as Sally Bowles, followed by an audience Q-and-A moderated by Jud Newborn.

Grey also signed copies of his revealing memoir “Master of Ceremonies” which recounts his fascinating and complex behind-the-stage life story, acting career, family and love life. Councilwoman Susan A. Berland (D) presented a Town of Huntington Proclamation to Grey after the sold-out event. “It was an honor to present a proclamation to Joel Grey for his career as one of the most renowned American entertainers,” said the councilwoman.

Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

It’s going to be a bumpy night! “All About Eve” will return to select cinemas nationwide on March 5 and 8, courtesy of TCM Big Screen Classics Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies and Twentieth Century Fox. The 1950 film, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and George Sanders won six Oscars including Best Picture.

From left, Gary Merrill, Anne Baxter and Bette Davis in a scene from ‘All About Eve.’ Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

From the moment she glimpses her idol on Broadway, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) strives to upstage Margo Channing (Bette Davis). After cunningly stealing Margo’s role, Eve disrupts the lives of anyone close to the actress in this timeless cinematic masterpiece. The two-day event will also include exclusive commentary from Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz, who will give insight into this classic film.

Participating movie theaters in our neck of the woods include AMC Loews Stony Brook 17 (at 2 and 7 p.m. on both days), Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas (on March 5 at 2 p.m., March 8 at 2 and 7 p.m.) and Island 16 Cinema de Lux in Holtsville (on March 5 at 2 p.m., March 8 at 2 and 7 p.m.). For more information or to purchase your ticket in advance, visit

Above, John Cissell, Eric Westervelt and George Lombardi talk education. Photo courtesy of Harbor Country Day School
Eric Westervelt is interviewed by Terry Sheridan of WSHU during the event. Photo courtesy of Harbor Country Day School

Award-winning journalist Eric Westervelt visited Harbor Country Day School on Feb. 15 to share his thoughts about the state of education today, gleaned from his experience as NPR’s national education correspondent.

The gymnasium of the nonprofit independent school in St. James was filled with parents, current and former educators and school administrators, students and others eager to hear Westervelt’s perspective on topics ranging from technology in schools to environmental education. The event was made possible by WSHU Public Radio.

Terry Sheridan, bureau chief of the Long Island News Bureau of WSHU, moderated the discussion, which included a lively audience Q-and-A session. The event was part of WSHU’s acclaimed “Join the Conversation” lecture series, which brings together thought leaders and public radio listeners for engaging discussions.

“We are so pleased to have been able to bring NPR’s Eric Westervelt to Harbor County Day School,” said George Lombardi, WSHU Public Radio general manager. “An important part of WSHU’s mission is to engage with our community on important topics, and the discussion we had last night is a wonderful example of that.” John Cissel, head of school at Harbor Country Day, added, “We were honored to have had this opportunity to host such distinguished guests as Eric and his colleagues from NPR.”

The event was the second public outreach event to take place at Harbor Country Day this school year. In November the school hosted a public screening of the documentary film “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age.”




He’s at Kent Animal Shelter, of course! Waldo is a 1½-year-old basset hound mix who would just love to be a part of your family! He likes other dogs and children, loves to go for walks and weighs approximately 34 pounds.

Waldo is neutered, microchipped, dewormed and is up to date on all his vaccines. Come meet him today! Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. For more information on Waldo and other adoptable pets at Kent, please call 631-727-5731 or visit

Update: Waldo has been adopted!