Authors Posts by Heidi Sutton

Heidi Sutton

Heidi Sutton

HAC Executive Director Marc Coutrade with Honorable Mention winner George Gough. Photo by Heidi Sutton

The Huntington Arts Council, 213 Main St., Huntington, held an artist reception for its latest exhibit, Earth, Air and Water: A Celebration of Tri-State Wildlife and Nature on Feb. 19. Executive Director Marc Coutrade thanked a packed house for coming and then introduced the judge, New Jersey-based photographer Andrew Darlow.

“It was really an honor to see everyone’s pictures and, like every judge says, it was extremely difficult to choose. There was so much great work and I felt like these were really pictures that were from the area around people’s homes — I could feel it. So often I’ve judged contests with pictures from Bali and all these other places and that’s great but I really felt that spirit and I’m so happy that we kept it in our little Tri-State region,” said Darlow.

Best in Show went to “Crab Meadow Sunset” by Irene Andreadis. Darlow stated, “[The photograph] stands out both as an ideal representation of the show’s theme and for its sheer beauty. The photographer captured the sunlit foreground in sharp focus, with its wonderful desert-like texture. The eye is then led toward two bodies of shimmering water captured perfectly with a bird in flight that appears to have been heaven sent.”

The judge also commented on Honorable Mention “Osprey in the Rain” by Tom Reichert, stating, “This image captures the power of nature via the movement of the rain in the air, plus the miracle of life in the form of a young bird of prey” and Honorable Mention “Cutchogue Barn” by George Gough —“The photographer skillfully combined just a hint of foreground brush to draw us into the image and framed the photograph to make us feel as though we were standing there together with him or her, feet (and possibly a tripod) firmly planted in the snow.”

The photography exhibit will run through Feb. 27. For further information, call 631-271-8423 or visit

Farmers markets have certainly evolved over the years and the Long Island Winter Farmers Market at the Jack Abrams School at 155 Lowndes Ave. in Huntington Station is no exception.

On a recent Sunday morning, the market was bustling with activity. Bread, vegetables, preserves, fudge, cheese, granola, salad dressings, smoked salmon, pickles, champagne tea , yogurt and coffee, to name just a view, were available for purchase as live music played.

Vendors, who came from as far as Brooklyn and Manhattan, offered free samples of their products and were eager to answer any questions.

The Huntington Station winter farmers market will run every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through April 24. For more information and a list of select vendors, visit

Jenna Kavaler and Hans Paul Hendrickson in a scene from Theatre Three's 'Little Red Riding Hood' [1/28/16, 11:01 AM] Heidi Sutton ( Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

Making its world premiere on Theatre Three’s Mainstage in Port Jefferson, “Little Red Riding Hood: A Tale of Safety for Today,” is a musical gem. Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Kevin F. Story and directed by Sanzel, this modern version follows the classic Grimm fairy tale closely but also uses the tale as a tool to teach “stranger danger” in an effective way. The six-member adult cast, coupled with a clever and witty script, come together to create a truly special production.

The story revolves around Amanda Sally Desdemona Estella Barbara Temple, whom everyone calls Little Red Riding Hood because she always wears a red cape. Asked by her mother to go check on her grandmother, Granny Beckett, she ventures out over the river and through the woods to bring her some Girl Scout cookies. Her twin sisters, Blanche and Nora, accompany her halfway there; but Little Red Riding Hood sends them back home because Nora has a cold. Now alone, she encounters a stranger (William “Billy” de Wolf) and commits a series of safety mistakes, putting her grandmother and herself in grave danger.

Steven Uihlein serves as narrator and does a wonderful job introducing each scene. Uihlein also steps in periodically to play numerous supporting roles, including a policeman and a mailman.

Jenna Kavaler is perfectly cast as Little Red Riding Hood and tackles the role with aplomb. Her character’s changes in mood from annoyed to scared to confident are compelling.

The entire cast of ‘Little Red Riding Hood: A Tale of Safety for Today’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Melanie Acampora shines in the delicious role of Mrs. Temple, Little Red’s mother, who is so forgetful she can’t even remember her children’s names or who’s who.

Granny Beckett is superbly played by Andrew Gasparini, who clearly enjoys the role, poking fun at himself with an occasional deep note. His solo, “Who’s at My Door?,” is terrific.

Compared to the original tale, the wolf — played to the hilt by Hans Paul Hendrickson — is a relative pussycat, asking the audience if they have any steak or a bone, as he is always hungry. And his howl is not too shabby. Spoiler alert: He doesn’t eat Granny Beckett — she gets away.

Perhaps the most difficult role in the show is the one of twins Blanche and Nora, both played by Amanda Geraci. Geraci switches roles effortlessly, skipping on stage as Blanche, disappearing behind a wall and then returning with a shuffle as Nora, who is fighting a terrible cold. It’s not an easy task, but she pulls it off with perfection. Any minute audience members expect both of them to appear on stage — Geraci is that convincing.

Sanzel knows his target audience well and does an excellent job keeping the story moving along in a fun and captivating way. The action scenes are a nice touch, as the wolf chases Granny and Little Red around Granny’s house and is then chased by the entire cast.

In the last 10 minutes of the show, the actors discuss the safety mistakes that Little Red Riding Hood made, including talking to strangers, and what she should have done instead, a valuable lesson in a less than perfect world.

Teresa Matteson’s costumes are spot-on, from the head-to-toe fake fur on the wolf to Granny Beckett’s nightgown and shawl to Little Red’s cape. The musical numbers, accompanied on piano by the multitalented Steve McCoy, are the icing on the cake, especially “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Granny, What’s Happened to You?” Choreography by Sari Feldman is as top-notch as always.

The great story line, the wonderful songs and the important message it conveys makes this show a perfect reason to step in from the cold. The entire cast will be in the lobby after the show for photo-ops.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Little Red Riding Hood – A Tale of Safety for Today” for ages 3 and up through Feb. 20. Tickets are $10 each.

The season continues with “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” from March 5 to 26, followed by “Cinderella” from April 16 to June 11.  For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit

From left, Councilmembers Valerie Cartwright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Dan Panico (R-Manorville), Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Handler Greg Drossel with Hal, Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) and Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro celebrating Groundhog Day in 2014. Photo by Elyse Sutton

Pennsylvania may have the legendary groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, but New York has Malverne Mel, Holtsville Hal, Sweetbriar Sam and even Staten Island Chuck and Dunkirk Dave.

In the Town of Brookhaven, the great prognosticator of prognosticators, Holtsville Hal will be the star of the day as the Brookhaven Wildlife and Ecology Center will celebrate with its annual Groundhog Day event on Feb. 2 with the gates opening at  7 a.m. Wayne Carrington will return as the master of ceremonies and Hal will be handled by Greg Drossel.

According to tradition, if a groundhog sees its shadow after stirring from hibernation on Groundhog Day, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; if not, spring should arrive early. After a relatively mild season until this past weekend, anticipation into what Hal’s prediction will be is building. Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro will serve as “Mayor of the Day” and reveal Hal’s famous forecast at approximately 7:25 a.m. in an official ceremony.

“Groundhog Day at the Ecology Site is always an enjoyable tradition for so many local families,” said Losquadro in a press release. “After the last two winters, we’re hoping Hal will not see his shadow and predict an early spring. I want to thank the employees at the Ecology Site for making this a much-anticipated event each year in Brookhaven Town,” he added.

“Town residents have been braving the cold weather to celebrate Groundhog Day for years,” said Supervisor Ed Romaine in the same press release. “Last year’s weather caused Holtsville Hal’s public appearance to be canceled. This year, I look forward to some good news from Hal.”

Following the ceremony, visitors are welcome to enjoy some free hot chocolate and visit the more than 100 animals that live at the animal preserve, which will remain open until 3 p.m.

The Brookhaven Wildlife and Ecology Center Animal Preserve is located at 249 Buckley Road, Holtsville. Parking is free. For more information, call 631-758-9664.

Mummenschanz is headed to Stony Brook’s Staller Center in 2016. Photo from Staller Center

After a brief hiatus, Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts is gearing up for its second half of the 2015-2016 season with an exciting lineup filled with dance, music, film, comedy, theater and much more.

“The Staller Center season here at Stony Brook goes into full swing with the family-friendly mime theater troupe, Mummenschanz, on Sunday evening, Jan. 31. The humorous and whimsical sketches will surely entertain all ages. The season continues with variety in mind, from the actor, comedian and author Paul Reiser in a stand-up comedy show to a wonderful cirque theater, Company Finzi Pasca, in a surrealistic, Salvador Dali-inspired performance entitled ‘La Verita,’” said Alan Inkles director of the Staller Center. “We also have Philadelphia’s Walnut Theatre performing ‘A Moon for the Misbegotten,’ Eugene O’Neill’s romantic drama, which will give our patrons an unforgettable theater experience,” he added.

A scene from ‘A Moon for the Misbegotten.’ Photo from Staller Center
A scene from ‘A Moon for the Misbegotten.’ Photo from Staller Center

The lineup will be as follows:

Musical Performances

The Aulos Ensemble, featuring cellist Myron Lutzke; oboist Marc Schachman; violinist Linda Quan; harpsichordist Arthur Haas; and flutist Christopher Krueger will present a concert titled The Bach Connection on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. in the Recital Hall. Tickets are $38.

Starry Nights returns on Tuesday, March 8, at 8 p.m. in the Recital Hall with Carol Wincenc on flute; Nancy Allen on harp; Nicholas Cords on violin; Gilbert Kalish on piano; and Colin Carr on cello. The  program will include works by Bach, Ibert, Debussy, Ravel and Fauré. Tickets are $36.

Enjoy the sounds of Louisiana Creole dance music as celebrated accordion player and zydeco musician Stanley “Buckwheat Zydeco” Dural takes the stage in the Staller Center’s Recital Hall with his band, on Saturday, March 12, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $42.

Featuring current and former stars of Broadway’s smash hits “Jersey Boys” and “Motown: The Musical,” The Doo Wop Project will take the audience on a musical journey with tunes from Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and more on the Main Stage on Saturday, March 19, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $42.

The center’s Gala 2016 will be held on March 5 at 8 p.m. on the Main Stage. Natalie Cole, who passed away on Dec. 31 from congestive heart failure, was originally scheduled to appear in concert. Peabo Bryson and Vanessa Williams have graciously stepped in as replacements. The two celebrated singers will entertain with solos and duets. Tickets are $75 each.

The award-winning Emerson String Quartet returns to the Recital Hall on April 5 at 8 p.m. for the third concert in their series, Passing the Torch, featuring works by Haydn and Beethoven. Tickets are $48.

A Judy Garland tribute featuring Hilary Kole will grace the Recital Hall stage on Saturday, April 9, at 8 p.m. Titled Over the Rainbow, the evening will feature songs made famous by Garland including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “The Trolley Song,” “Look for the Silver Lining” and more. Tickets are $42.

Berenstain Bears Live! is headed to Stony Brook’s Staller Center in 2016. Photo from Staller Center
Berenstain Bears Live! is headed to Stony Brook’s Staller Center in 2016. Photo from Staller Center

Artists-in-residence The Calidore String Quartet will return in concert to the Staller Center on Wednesday, May 4, in the Recital Hall at 8 p.m. With special guests The Emerson String Quartet, the program will include works by Bach and Mendelssohn. Tickets are $36.


Without uttering a word, the famous Swiss mime theater troupe Mummenschanz will entertain the Staller audiences with their masks, shadow, light and endless creativity “turning the ordinary into the extraordinary” on the Main Stage on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $42.

Company Finzi Pasca’s “La Verita” will transport the audience to another world as performers pay a theatrical homage to the life and work of artist Salvador Dali on Saturday, April 16, on the Main Stage at 8 p.m. Tickets are $42.

The season will close with the Paul Taylor Dance Company and an evening of modern dance on Saturday, May 7, at 8 p.m. on the Main Stage. Tickets are $42.


Comedian, actor and author Paul Reiser will bring his stand-up show to the Main Stage on Saturday, Feb. 6, at 8 p.m. as part of his national comedy tour highlighting the funny things about life, love and relationships. Tickets are $48.


The Walnut Street Theatre will present Eugene O’Neill’s final play, “A Moon for the Misbegotten,” on the Main Stage on Saturday, Feb. 13, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $36.

Buckwheat Zydeco is headed to Stony Brook’s Staller Center in 2016. Photo from Staller Center
Buckwheat Zydeco is headed to Stony Brook’s Staller Center in 2016. Photo from Staller Center

Not Just for Kids

As part of the Not Just for Kids family entertainment series, the center will present An Afternoon with the Bach Family featuring The Aulos Ensemble on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 4 p.m. in the Recital Hall. The one-hour program is designed specifically for school-age musicians and their families. Tickets are $20 each.

Adapted from the classic children’s book series by Stan and Jan Berenstain, Berenstain Bears Live! will take to the Main Stage with “Family Matters The Musical” on Sunday, March 13, at 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 each.


The Staller Center’s spring semester films are all scheduled for Friday evenings. The lineup includes the latest  award-winning documentaries and star-studded feature films.

The series begins on Feb. 5 with the screening of the documentary “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” at 7 p.m. followed by the thriller “Shanghai” starring John Cusack at 9:30 p.m. “A Ballerina’s Tale,” a documentary on the American Ballet Theater’s first African American Principal Ballerina Misty Copeland will be screened on Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. followed by “Suffragette” at 8:45 p.m. “Harry and the Snowman” will be screened on Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. followed by “Freeheld” at 9 p.m.

After a short break, the series returns with a screening of “Brooklyn” on April 1 at 7 p.m. and “The Danish Girl” at 9:15 p.m. The final films will be screened on April 8 and include “Youth” at 7 p.m. and “Macbeth” at 9:15 p.m. Tickets are $9 adults, $7 seniors, students and children. A film pass may be purchased for $25.

The Met: Live in HD

As part of The Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD series, the center will present live performances of “Les Pecheurs de Perles” (Bizet) on Jan. 16 at 1 p.m. and “Turandot” (Puccini) on Jan. 30 at 1 p.m.; and encore presentations of “Manon Lescaut” (Puccini) on March 6 at 1 p.m., “Madama Butterfly” (Puccini) on April 3 at 1 p.m., “Roberto Devereux” (Donizetti) on April 17 at 6 p.m. and “Elektra” (Strauss) on May 14 at 7 p.m.

All operas are screened in the Main Stage theater. Tickets are $22 adults, $20 seniors, $15 children 12 and under.

Music Department

The Stony Brook University Music Department will also present a number of concerts and recitals, including performances by the Stony Brook Opera, Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra, the Contemporary Chamber Players, the Stony Brook Composers and choral ensembles.

For tickets and further information, visit or call 631- 632-ARTS (2787).

Kate Keating and Austin Morgan in a scene from ‘Frosty.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

The holidays are upon us and that means it’s time for “Frosty” to come to life at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. Under the direction of Richard T. Dolce, the annual production, with a spirited cast of five adult actors, presents a lively show with song and dance that is perfect for its target audience.

Uber-talented Kate Keating reprises her role as Jenny, a young girl living in the town of Chillsville who loves the snow and loves winter. With the help of her mother, lovingly played by Courtney Fekete, Jenny builds a snowman who magically comes alive, and the duo are quickly best pals. Making his Engeman debut, Austin Morgan is a terrific Frosty and quickly connects with the audience, especially after he dances to “It’s Your Birthday.”

Jen Casey is the villain Ethel Pierpot, who wants to make Chillsville warm and snow-free so she can build a new factory. Her weather machine starts to make everything melt, including Frosty. With the help of the audience, Ethel Pierpot’s plan is foiled and, after a thrilling chase scene through the theater and an intense snowball fight, the machine is turned off.

From the very beginning the theatergoers become part of the show, thanks to the efforts of the narrator, Michael Verre, who guides the audience through the story with comedic genius. Verre draws the most laughs as he goes from being bundled up for winter to wearing less and less each time he makes an appearance on stage to demonstrate how warm Chillsville is getting.

Asking a full house last Sunday how to stop Ethel Pierpot from turning Frosty into a puddle of water, Verre received some creative suggestions, including have Frosty “go to a new town where there’s plenty of snow,” “put Frosty in an ice cream truck” and “reverse the machine to cold.” At the end of the show, all the children are asked to wish for snow to keep Frosty from melting and are rewarded for their efforts.

There was magic in the air at the Engeman Theater that morning — yes, a snowman came to life and, yes, it snowed inside the theater. But even more magical than that were the priceless expressions of joy, excitement and wonderment on the faces of the children in the audience.

Meet the cast after the show for pictures and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located at the back of the program.

Take your child or grandchild to see “Frosty” and let them experience the magic of live theater. They will love you for it.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “Frosty” through Jan. 3. Tickets are $15 each. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit

The entire cast of ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

During the month of December, Santa Claus has taken up residence at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson with Mrs. Claus and the whole gang for the theater’s 12th annual original production of “Barnaby Saves Christmas.”

The entire cast of ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.
The entire cast of ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

With the book by Douglas Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel and music and lyrics by Quattrock, this adorable children’s musical has become a yearly tradition for many local families.

Under the direction of Sanzel, an enthusiastic cast of nine adult actors whisk the audience away to the North Pole. It’s Christmas Day and Santa, his elves and reindeer are on their way to deliver presents to all the children. Realizing Santa has left behind one of the presents, a teddy bear, the littlest elf Barnaby convinces the littlest reindeer, Franklynne, to set off on an adventure “to save Christmas.” Along the way they meet a Jewish family and learn all about Hanukkah, and bump into an evil villain who’s trying to ruin Christmas — ultimately learning the true meaning of the holiday season.

Reprising his role as Barnaby, Hans Paul Hendrickson is delightful as an elf trying desperately to fit in. His solo, “Still with the Ribbon on Top,” is heartfelt and his duet with Sari Feldman as Franklynne, titled “I’m Gonna Fly Now,” is terrific. Feldman is wonderful, playing her character with the perfect level of spunkiness and determination. The audience connects with the two from the beginning.

Steven Uihlein and Phyllis March are Santa and Mrs. Claus and double as the Jewish aunt and nephew characters, Sarah and Andrew. Uihlein’s solo, “Within Our Hearts,” is superb and March’s rendition of “Miracles” is moving.

Although it is Santa the children look forward to seeing, it is S. B. (Spoiled Brat) Dombulbury who steals the show. The incomparable Brett Chizever tackles the role of the evil villain with utter glee. Just a big kid himself, Chizever is perfectly cast. This is a fun role and Chizever relishes in it. Dana Bush, as Irmagarde, his partner in crime, is also an audience favorite. The only original cast member in the show, Bush always gives a strong performance as the wannabe songwriter who follows her heart.

Marquez Catherine Stewart gives a superbly humorous performance as Sam, the head elf who is desperately trying to stay on schedule and keep everything running smoothly. Amanda Geraci and Jenna Kavaler in the roles of Blizzard and Crystal, respectively, are an amazing supporting cast.

Choreographed by Stewart, the dance numbers are fresh and exciting, incorporating the Whip and the Nae Nae as well as a tap-dancing number — “Like Me!” — that is top rate.

This sweet, cleverly written holiday musical is a perfectly wrapped package with a bow on top. The story line, the songs and the message are all timeless and wonderful. And the audience agreed, as the children — yes, the children — yelled, “Encore!” over and over at the end.

Stay after for photos with Santa Claus if you wish — the $5 fee will support the theater’s scholarship fund — and meet the rest of the cast in the lobby.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “Barnaby Saves Christmas” on Dec. 5, 12, 19 and 26, with a special Christmas Eve performance on Dec. 24. All shows begin at 11 a.m. Tickets are $10 per person. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit

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From left, Douglas Quattrock, Jeffrey Sanzel and Hans Paul Hendrickson in a scene from ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Photo by Elizabeth Castrogiovanni, Kayline Images

Theatre Three’s 32nd annual performance of “A Christmas Carol” opened last weekend. “Too early,” you may say. “It’s not even Thanksgiving yet.” Perhaps, but the spirit of Christmas — giving selflessly and spending time with the ones you love — is a message that holds true all year.

The show is based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel of cranky old miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is concerned only with business. One Christmas Eve, the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley appears, wearing the chains he’d forged in life, “link by link,” and tells Scrooge he will be visited by three spirits — the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, who help him discover the true meaning of Christmas.

Published more than 170 years ago, Dickens’ tale of redemption quickly resonated with the working class and has remained a holiday favorite ever since.

Adapted for the stage by Theatre Three Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel in 1983, the production is constantly evolving, revising itself, with subtle changes that keep it fresh. The audience is led through a gamut of emotions, from fear to sadness to pure joy — a true testament to the magic of live theater.

The show brings back familiar faces year after year, with Sanzel (Scrooge), Douglas Quattrock (Bob Cratchit), Steve McCoy (Jacob Marley) and George Liberman (Mr. Fezziwig) leading a talented cast of 20 who, combined, play nearly 100 roles. The entire company, from the seasoned actors to the children, does a phenomenal job.

Sanzel, who also directs, is in every scene and is wonderful. In a scene with the Ghost of Christmas Past, he instantly transforms from an old, hunched-over tired man to a young man again, dancing the night away at Fezziwig’s holiday party. The transition is effortless and quite remarkable.

Quattrock’s performance as Bob Cratchit is particularly moving, especially in his scenes with Tiny Tim (played by Ryan M. Becker), and Steve McCoy is a daunting Marley. Other standouts include Liberman as the jolly Mr. Fezziwig, Kiernan Urso in the role of young Scrooge and Amanda Geraci, who reprises her role as the sweet but sassy Ghost of Christmas Past. James D. Schultz tackles a new role this year as the cheeky Ghost of Christmas Present “to show the joys of mankind” and does a tremendous job. Newcomer Hans Paul Hendrickson brings an elevated level of tenderness to the role of Scrooge’s optimistic nephew, Fred Halliwell, that is top-notch and operates the towering Ghost of Christmas Future with ease.

A Victorian set designed by Randall Parsons, period costumes by Parsons and Bonnie Vidal, lighting by Robert W. Henderson Jr., music and sound by Ellen Michelmore and the many special effects pull it all together nicely to create a first-class production. Be it your second time or your 32nd, Theatre Three’s “A Christmas Carol” is well worth revisiting.

Arrive a little early and be treated to a selection of Christmas carols by the actors in the lobby and stay afterward for photo ops with Scrooge (proceeds benefit the theater’s scholarship fund).

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “A Christmas Carol” on the Mainstage through Dec. 27. New this year, all evening shows begin at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $15 to $30. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit

Gen. George Washington (John Galla) with his headquarter’s flag. Photo by Heidi Sutton
Gen. Benedict Arnold (Brian Cea). Photo by Heidi Sutton
Gen. Benedict Arnold (Brian Cea). Photo by Heidi Sutton

The chilly 45-degree weather did not deter almost 300 brave souls who came out for a special walk through local history last Saturday night as the Three Village Historical Society held its 21st annual Spirits Tour, “The Culper Spy Ring: From Secrecy to Victory.”

“The Culper Spy Ring has really been making news lately,” Carolyn Benson, one of the tour guides, said. This tour shows “how many people from this area were involved.”

The host of the tour, Emma S. Clark, whose name graces the library in Setauket and was portrayed by Karin Lynch, set the scene for what was to come.

“The Culper Spy Ring was a group of men known as the Secret Six who helped George Washington win the war. … Their identity was so secretive that Gen. Washington never knew their true identity. Their messages were written in code and their letters were in invisible ink,” she said. “Tonight you will meet with these patriots and some loyalists who will share their stories with you about what it was like during and after the war.”

Helen ‘Morningstar’ Sells and Nellie Edwards of the Setalcott Nation. Photo by Heidi Sutton
Helen ‘Morningstar’ Sells and Nellie Edwards of the Setalcott Nation. Photo by Heidi Sutton

The 1.5-hour tours ran throughout the evening, beginning with the Young Historian tours. Each group, carrying flashlights and lanterns, was led through the cemeteries of the Setauket Presbyterian Church [established in the late 17th century] and the Caroline Church of Brookhaven [established in 1729].

All the key players were present, from the ring’s most active operatives — Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge, Caleb Brewster, Austin Roe, Anna Smith Strong, James Rivington and Robert Townsend — to Gen. George Washington and Abraham Woodhull, the leader of the Culper Spy Ring, to Gen. Benedict Arnold, the infamous traitor. Woodhull, portrayed by Dennis O’Connor, appeared at the foot of his own grave in the Presbyterian cemetery during the tour.

Lesser-known community spirits made appearances as well, including Bette Harmon, born into slavery to the Strong family; Maj. John Andre, a British spy whose capture exposed Benedict Arnold as a traitor; loyalist Col. Benjamin Floyd; patriot Rev. Zachariah Greene; and a special appearance by  Setalcott Nation members Helen “Morning Star” Sells and Nellie Edwards. In total, 20 spirits were conjured to provide an insight into their lives during the Revolutionary War. The period costumes, provided by Nan Guzzetta, gave the entire event an eerily authentic feel.

Private David Williams (George Monez), Major John Andre (Pat DiVisconti), Private Isaac Van Wart (Sage Hardy). Photo by Heidi Sutton
Private David Williams (George Monez), Major John Andre (Pat DiVisconti), Private Isaac Van Wart (Sage Hardy). Photo by Heidi Sutton

At each stop, the spirits gave out secret codes that, when compiled and decoded, formed a secret letter for Gen. Washington, who was the last stop of the night.

Nine-year-old Alex Perrone, of Stony Brook, was experiencing the tour for the first time with his mother, Lauren, but came well prepared.

“My mom and I read a book called ‘Redcoats and Petticoats,’” he said.

Alex enjoyed the tour, especially meeting Washington and learning about the Setalcott tribe and their longhouses, and said he would definitely do it again. His mom agreed, adding, “I just thought it was really informative and I thought the actors were wonderful and I think it was a great way to learn about local history and this special place.”

In all, the 21st annual Spirits Tour was a rare historical treat. For more information, visit the historical society at

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Artist Sungsook Setton demonstrates Asian brush painting. Photo by Heidi Sutton

After three years of planning and a groundbreaking ceremony last October, Gallery North officially opened its Community Art Center to the public last Sunday afternoon with a launch party followed by a ribbon cutting.

Baldassano Architecture of Patchogue designed the 1,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art building, which features LED lighting, radiant floor heating and an insulating glass wall. Construction company LoDuca Associates of Holbrook paid tribute to the site’s history as a 1935 Mobil filling station, keeping the original front door and garage door.

The new center, located adjacent to the gallery, will offer innovative fine arts education and outreach activities for children and adults, advanced workshop opportunities for professional practicing artists, inspiring ArTalks — combined visual and educational experiences — and arts- and film-related discussion series. Its open layout has been designed to cater to art-making processes, including printmaking, sculpture, drawing and painting.

Hundreds of community members, along with local artists and elected officials, came out to help celebrate and show their support. The event featured a tour of the facility, art activities for children such as monotype printing and working with clay, live music by the Roberta Fabiano Trio, refreshments and a champagne toast.

The highlight of the afternoon was the unique art demonstrations, featuring Asian brush painting by Sungsook Setton, batik-making by Fernanda Vargas — which models the Japanese art of cloth-dyeing — and several different types of printmaking techniques by Lorena Salcedo-Watson and Larissa Grass.

“The future community art center at Gallery North is here [and] it’s really exciting,” said Gallery North’s Director Judith Levy who went on to thank sponsors, donors, the teaching staff and the board for all their continued support.

“We want to be a resource for the community, not only here in this room … where classes are offered for children, teens, adults, professional artists and adults with disabilities and early stage dementia,” said Nancy Goroff, president of the board. “We are trying to offer programs for the whole community and we are really gratified by the response we’ve gotten.”

Elected officials also spoke at the event.

“[The gallery has had] a long 50-year legacy of bringing art and culture and education to adults and kids alike and building this, creating this just will expand that legacy,” Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. “I know there were struggles along the way, but thank you for your perseverance, for sticking with it, because you are going to do so many great things and so many children, teenagers, adults will have an outlet for their creativity, and who knows what can happen because of that?”

Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) added, “This is such an ideal year to have a community art center on the 50th anniversary of Gallery North. It was a vision and now it is a reality … It’s so important that we stick together as a community, and this is a perfect example of that.”

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) commented on how wonderful it was to see everyone supporting the growth of arts in the community “and Gallery North’s contribution to that over a third of a century now has come to a crescendo with this spectacular re-construction of a pre-existing building.”

“Congratulations to the trustees for your vision and determination in taking an old garage that was filled with broken auto parts and grease and transforming it into this,” he added. “Hats off to all who’ve been involved … and now our children and our families and all the creative energies of our community have a new focus.”

If you would like to find out about upcoming events and studio art classes at the new Community Art Center, located at 84 N. Country Road in Setauket, please call 631-751-2676 or visit