Arts & Entertainment

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Talking wine with Louisa Hargrave

By Alex Petroski

 

The frigid temperatures and daunting weather last weekend aside, spring is right around the corner. It’s never too early to start thinking about fun weekend activities for the warm weather. I could think of none better to act as a guide to the vineyards of the North Fork than the woman who is widely considered the “Mother of the Long Island wine industry.”

‘The people that work at the wineries now work together. I think it’s something that does evolve as a region goes along.’ — Louisa Hargrave
‘The people that work at the wineries now work together. I think it’s something that does evolve as a region goes along.’ — Louisa Hargrave

Louisa Hargrave and her then-husband Alex Hargrave were pioneers of the Long Island wine scene back in the early 1970s. The couple drove cross-country to Napa Valley to learn more about the art of growing grapes in 1972, Louisa Hargrave said in a phone interview this week. Though they knew nothing about wine, the couple was eager to learn and to find an ideal place to grow grapes that would produce delicious, French-style wines.

“If you’re pioneers, you’ll be the ones with arrows in your backs,” Hargrave said was a piece of advice she was given before she began her wine growing endeavor on Long Island. “We’re 24 and 25 years old. If this doesn’t work we’ll try something else. We were very excited to find this special place,” she said.

Long Island’s climate was especially conducive to growing nicely ripened fruit, the Hargraves would soon find out once they got to work.

“[The wines] had a particularly vivacious quality. The reds came out a little bit lighter then we had hoped, but they had such complexity,” Hargrave said. Things have only gotten better with improvements to technology and technique. Teamwork has also played an important role in the development of the region as a whole, Hargrave said.

“One of the things I see that’s so terrific now is there were separate capsules of people then; now it’s a real industry,” Hargrave said. “The people that work at the wineries now work together. I think it’s something that does evolve as a region goes along. I have seen it in California. There are some people that are so dogmatically noninterventionists that look at the grapes and hope they turn into wine.”

Those noninterventionists with that frame of mind are luckily few and far between on Long Island, according to Hargrave.

When asked what her favorite wineries to visit from her current residence in Jamesport are, Hargrave answered quickly and definitively — Pellegrini Vineyards in Cutchogue. Her answer comes with a bit of bias however, being that her son Zander Hargrave is currently their winemaker.

“I visit my son’s winery quite often,” she said with a laugh.

McCall Wines in Cutchogue was another of her favorites that she mentioned. McCall is the true essence of the North Fork (winemakers Russ and Brewster McCall),” Hargrave said. “To go there, it’s just so low key. It’s really just the essence of the North Fork.”

For her favorite wine picks, other than Zander’s Pellegrini Sauvignon Blanc, Hargrave mentioned Lenz Cuvée, a sparkling white from the Lenz Winery in Peconic made by winemaker Eric Fry, which she said was on par with French Champagnes. As far as reds go, Paumanok’s Petit Verdot from winemaker Kareem Massoud stood out to her.

For the last leg of winter, bundle up, grab some Long Island wines and fantasize about warmer days ahead on the North Fork. Also, keep an eye out for the “Get to know a Long Island winery” series once a month in Arts & Lifestyles.

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‘Apple Blossoms,’ Mixed Media on Canvas, by Ross Barbera

By Rita J. Egan

Ross Barbera has cherished the natural beauty of the outdoors since he was a child, and through the decades, he has recreated what he has seen on canvas and paper. During the month of February, art lovers can view the results of his passion at the Port Jefferson Free Library exhibit, Landscape and Flower Paintings.

While this is his first exhibit at the library, the award-winning artist has been exhibiting his work for decades at Manhattan venues such as the Razor Gallery, OK Harris Annex and the Jean Lumbard Gallery as well as the Clark Whitney Gallery in Massachusetts and Long Island libraries.

Growing up in Brooklyn, the Ronkonkoma resident said he would visit his grandparents in Smithtown during the summer, and when he was older, his parents bought a vacation home upstate in Peakville.

Barbera said he still has paintings from when he was about 10 years old, and even though traveling to Smithtown cultivated his love for the outdoors, it wasn’t until his parents bought the upstate home that he really began to appreciate nature, especially landscapes. He described the town in Delaware County as a quiet one where the nearest neighbor could be a couple of miles down the road, and while he said Long Island is equally as beautiful, it doesn’t have the diversity of the mountains and streams and lakes that upstate does.

‘White Camelia,’ Mixed Media on Canvas, by Ross Barbera
‘White Camelia,’ Mixed Media on Canvas, by Ross Barbera

“In upstate New York I fell in love with the landscapes, and the streams, and just some beautiful stuff,” Barbera said. “And so that became my subject matter.”

While the artist may recreate the beauty of bodies of water, forest settings and more that he finds outdoors, it’s indoors where the painting occurs. He said he is a studio-based artist as opposed to a plein air painter due to the size of his paintings, which measure 4 feet by 6 feet and in his earlier days were 72 inches squared.

Barbera said cameras have always been his sketch pad. In the late 1960s, he owned a Pentax Spotmatic 35mm camera, and he said he would run around his family’s property trying to photograph as much as possible. However, he was very thoughtful at times about what to take a photo of with his first camera, because he had to keep in mind his budget for the film and developing. He said nowadays with his Nikon D7000, he can take thousands of photos a year.

“The camera has been a very important influence in my life. The kind of information I need is encapsulated in the photographs that I take. So I see all the subtlety and nuance and tone and form, because it’s recorded photographically,” he said.

Barbera said he also utilizes his iPad to display images so he can enlarge areas to get a closer look, or he sometimes will go into Adobe Photoshop and change the picture to create the perfect photo on the computer before creating it on canvas or paper. “It’s just amazing what technology allows you to do,” he said. 

While landscapes have been his primary focus since childhood, over the years Barbera has developed an interest in painting flowers. To find the right subject, he often visits the Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay to take photos. “I love doing a close-up of a flower, because a flower is something that when you really look at it it’s an abstract thing that’s colorful and beautiful to look at,” the artist said.

Barbera, who considers himself a representational painter, said on canvas he uses acrylic paints and on paper watercolors. When he was younger, he used oil paints; however, after being overexposed to the paint and turpentine, he became overly sensitive and switched for health reasons. He said while they may not be as easy to use as oil paint at first, he quickly became acclimated to using them and recommends acrylics and watercolors to all painters.

'Yellow Orchid,’ Mixed Media on Canvas, by Ross Barbera
‘Yellow Orchid,’ Mixed Media on Canvas, by Ross Barbera

In addition to being an artist, Barbera designs jewelry and has been teaching since 1980. He is currently an instructor at St. John’s University in Queens offering classes in painting and jewelry making. The teacher has many techniques to share with his students, but if there’s one piece of advice he could give them, he said it would be that you need to love and enjoy what you’re doing, “because the people who are driven usually become successful at their craft after a while if they pursue it. You have to like what you do.”

Successful at his craft is something the artist knows about after selling the majority of his work in the late ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s. He is now going through slides and digital transfers so he can track and have a catalogue of his previous work. Barbera said in recent years he has been keeping most of his paintings but from time to time will sell a piece. “I am at a point of my life that I’m holding on to what I have and my most recent work simply to be able to exhibit it,” he said.

While Barbera is choosing to sell his paintings less often these days, he said he sells his jewelry creations on a regular basis through his website and even blogs about the process. 

The artist said occasionally he’ll receive a call from a lawyer asking the value of a painting due to an estate sale or a divorce, but recently he heard directly from a woman who inherited a painting of his from her father. She wanted to let Barbera know how much her parents would enjoy relaxing and looking at the painting.

It was a welcomed call for the artist who said he enjoys sharing his passion with nature with others. “I’m showing people through my painting, things I like to look at. It’s as simple as that, and I hope they enjoy the same — the view — when they look at it,” Barbera said.

The exhibit Landscape and Flower Paintings will be on display in the Meeting Room of the Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson Street, Port Jefferson, during the month of February. For more information on the exhibit, visit www.portjefflibrary.org or call 631-473-0022. To view Ross Barbera’s work, visit www.rossbarbera.com.

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The Sound Symphony Orchestra’s Family concert will feature music from ‘Peter and the Wolf’ and ‘Frozen.’ File photo

The Sound Symphony Orchestra is putting a twist on a classic family-friendly composition. Nearly every year the orchestra holds its family concert, and this year is no exception with its unique rendition of “Peter and the Wolf — Lost in the Museum!” this Sunday at the Comsewogue School District’s John F. Kennedy Middle School, 200 Jayne Blvd., Port Jefferson Station.

“We’ve built an extended narrative around Peter and the Wolf. So while the kids and their families are going  to be hearing the story of “Peter and the Wolf” in its entirety, we’ve embedded it in a larger story,” said Dorothy Savitch, music director and conductor of the orchestra.

The original “Peter and the Wolf” symphony was written by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev in 1936 with the intent to cultivate “musical tastes in children from the first years of school.” The story follows a young boy named Peter, a bird, a cat and a duck on an adventure to catch a devilish wolf.

However, the Sound Symphony Orchestra’s rendition depicts a boy of the same name whose drawing of a wolf comes to life and jumps into a painting during a trip to the art museum. The orchestra helps bring the paintings and the story to life alongside narrator Comsewogue School District Superintendent Joseph Rella, as Peter gets lost during his quest for the wolf.

According to Savitch, the orchestra hopes to excite children and spark their imaginations by incorporating paintings from the Brooklyn Museum.

“I think by letting our imaginations go, by allowing different kinds of art to speak to each other and speak to us, we can better express ourselves,” Savitch said.

“Frozen” will also get its five minutes of fame as the orchestra highlights portions of the film in the concert, which is always a big hit among younger audiences. Savitch added that “kids always start singing along with all the melodies they know so well.”

But viewers of all ages won’t simply be entertained but also treated to passes to the Brooklyn Museum upon request. The Brooklyn Museum donated 125 passes to the orchestra in light of the concert. Those interested in exploring the museum and finding the painting incorporated in “Peter and the Wolf — Lost in the Museum!” can get a pass at the door once the concert ends. Children can also receive handouts with games and puzzles based on the concert.

While children do not perform in the orchestra, the 65-member ensemble has a variety of musicians from 17 to around 80 years old. Savitch said some orchestra musicians have served the ensemble for around 30 years. Now, they have several generations of family members who perform for the ensemble. Savitch started working with the orchestra around 20 years ago.

For Savitch, the concert’s story line hits a sweet spot. “For me and for many people [in the orchestra], the composition was our doorway into loving classical music.”

Residents can see Peter find his wolf and a way home on Sunday, Jan. 31, at the John F. Kennedy Middle School’s auditorium at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students and will be sold at the door. Admission is free for children 12 years old and under. For more information, call 631-827-9022.

From left, Nancy Lemenager, Mickey Solis, Alet Taylor and Chris Kipiniak in a scene from ‘God of Carnage’ at the Engeman. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Charles J. Morgan

Four highly skilled Equity members starred equally in Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater’s production of “God of Carnage” that opened Friday, Jan. 21. This tightly written effort was written by Yasmina Reza in French and translated to English by Christopher Hampton. Direction was by Richard T. Dolce, who is also producing artistic director of the Engeman.

On a gleaming geometrical set with little depth and one, little used exit, the four characters — two sets of parents — meet to discuss in a calm, adult, logical manner the fact that the son of one of the couples had clobbered the other’s son with a stick, knocking out two of his teeth. The concessive discussion gradually escalates into a full-scale riot of threats, name-calling, replete with blistering vulgarities, physical assaults and, amid slugs of Puerto Rican rum and (let’s admit it), a technically pointedly directed vomiting scene right down stage center! At the height of it husband goes after wife to make it an eight-way free-for-all.

Chris Kipiniak and Alet Taylor play the first couple, Alan and Annette. The “offended” pair are played by Nancy Lemenager and Mickey Solis as Veronica and Michael. The two couples are equally combative, each with their own strategies.

But what are the strategies? Reza wants to bring out the inner rage that is in us all exemplified by the four battlers. They appear to be happily married upper-middle-class types, but this is a veneer. The furnaces of hate, vindictiveness and self-righteousness not too gradually come to the surface, shattering the patina of class politeness and sociability. This tsunami of ill will is made out to be what is truly natural, all else being a glaze of neighborliness under which lies not a madeleine but deadly nightshade.

It is a compelling play as a vehicle for getting inside the head and heart of the audience. And this it accomplishes piercingly. The intra and the inter of family squabbling is not exactly the story line. Reza uses more than a scalpel to surgically excise and reveal to the light the inner workings of the human psyche … she wields a meat cleaver.

If it would be productive to prescind from criticizing the show and talk about the acting, let’s proceed with vigor! The quartet performed as a theatrical exemplar. Kipiniak as Alan, an attorney, is wrapped up in one thing only … his cellphone. Taylor, as his wife Annette, starts off as a loving monument to marriage and motherhood. Lemenager as Veronica and Solis as Michael have careers; she an art loving crusader for the unfortunates of Darfur, he a toilet bowl salesman. All deserve high praise for their acting skills especially in the manner in which they gradually get at each others’ throats. This invaluable skill even prevented the whole thing from degenerating unto pie-in-the-face slapstick.

Your scribe would not say that Dolce had an easy task in this no-intermission show. He had to infuse real life into all four, and to block them accordingly, a result he achieved masterfully not only with aplomb but with art.   

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “God of Carnage” through March 6. Tickets range from $59 to $64. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

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.

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.

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 (leisure@tbrnewspapers.com): Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.
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 (leisure@tbrnewspapers.com): 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 www.theatrethree.com.

Ad in the Port Jefferson Echo: Jan. 13, 1927, page 2. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

Athena Hall, now known as Theatre Three on Main Street in Port Jefferson, was a community hall from 1874, when it was built, until it was remodeled into the Port Jefferson Theatre in 1928 with raked seating for 473.

Until then, it was an open flat-floor area above Griswold’s machine shop, where vaudeville and minstrel shows, magic lantern shows, automobile shows, local plays and other events were held which usually included music and entertainment, and by the early 1900s, “moving pictures” as well.

Ad in the Port Jefferson Echo: Jan. 13, 1927, page 2. Photo from Beverly Tyler
Ad in the Port Jefferson Echo: Jan. 13, 1927, page 2. Photo from Beverly Tyler

Athena Hall was also used for the high school graduations, as a meeting house, election headquarters, dance hall, roller skating ring and by various organizations such as the Port Jefferson fire department which held a benefit show in 1927, featuring a one-act play, a movie and the Port Jefferson High School orchestra. Earlier the same year, Bridgeport radio station WICC held a two-night show featuring Charlie Cole and His Famous Radio Singing Orchestra, with music for dancing every night from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. There were even musical and Charleston dance contests during the auto show in January 1927.

About this same year, 12-year-old Blanche Carlton was asked to play the piano before the film that day and to accompany her close friend Veronica “Ronnie” Matfeld who would be singing. Blanche (Carlton) Tyler Davis is my mom and she told me this story over tea one day just recently.

Mom said, “I believe it was all arranged by Charlie Ruggles who got the director to run the skits at the theater before the movie. I think the director’s name was John. Ronnie was going to sing and I would play the piano. I could hear the tunes so I didn’t need the music and I could pick out other tunes. For the last piece Ronnie sang “Ave Maria” and when she reached the higher notes I was supposed to be at the top notes on the piano and then when Ronnie reached the highest note I was to reach for the notes beyond the piano and fall off the stool onto the stage — and I did.” That was the end of the skit. My mom Blanche and Veronica went off the back of the stage and the movie started.

Ruggles came to live in East Setauket in 1926 and purchased a property at 16 Old Coach Road. He maintained this East Coast residence until 1942.

Ruggles was probably best known for his performances as a character actor in films such as “Bringing Up Baby” (1938) with stars Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. In this crazy, hectic comedy film he played Maj. Applegate, a big-game hunter. Ruggles appeared in about 100 feature films over a more-than 50-year career.

He began on the stage and became well known for his work in radio and television.

Ruggle’s career included Long Island at the Players-Lasky studio (later to become Paramount Pictures), based in Astoria, where he made four silent films in 1915. His comedic talents also extended to his personal relationships and he made many friends, some famous in their own right, as detailed in the Brooklyn Daily Star for May 13, 1927.

“Due to the cordial relations existing between Charles Ruggles, popular comedian of ‘Queen High,’ at the Ambassador Theater, and Lieutenant Commander Byrd, Clarence Chamberlain, Bert Acosta and other famous airmen, the actor has erected a huge searchlight on his estate near East Setauket, L. I., to guide the flyers in their aerial navigation during the night hours.”

Ruggles didn’t spend a lot of time on Long Island. After all, he couldn’t be here and make all those films and be on the stage in New York as well as in radio and television. However, in a story headlined “Movie Star at East Setauket,” as detailed in the Mid-Island Mail, Oct. 1, 1936, he did come here often: “Charles Ruggles of the movies flew from the coast last week to spend several days at his home in East Setauket. The well-known comedian is a frequent visitor here.” Ruggles was also here enough to be included in the 1930 census for East Setauket along with his future wife Marion La Barba.

Many other vaudeville, minstrel and Broadway actors came to this area with its pleasant villages and picturesque harbors. Getting out of the noise and smells of the city was one reason to come to places like Port Jefferson and Setauket and the presence of local theaters, dance halls and entertainment venues just added to the appeal.

Beverly Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society.

From homemade goods to good ole’ cooking, the Port Jefferson Winter Farmers Market has it all.

More than 25 vendors packed into the Port Jefferson Village Center’s first and second floors for the sixth annual Winters Farmers Market last Sunday, Jan. 17. Breads, fudge, preserves, alcohol,  jewelry and more were available for the more than 100 visitors to purchase between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The crowd also enjoyed live music and was able to sample some of the food and drink items being sold.

Market organizer Melissa Dunstatter, owner of Sweet Melissa Dips, 1932 Farm to Table Management and 1932 Farm to Table Farm and Food Truck, opened this year’s winter market in December.

“Farmers [markets are] a way to learn about different food products that are available on Long Island,” said Dunstatter in a recent interview. Many of these vendors are small businesses that have been around for a couple of months to a few years. She added that supporting these small businesses will help boost Long Island’s economy and help educate people on healthy eating.

The Port Jefferson Winter Farmers Market is one of Dunstatter’s five farmers markets including her new market in Sayville. She plans on opening four more farmers markets this year. 

The Port Jefferson Village Center, 101A E. Broadway, Port Jefferson, will host the Port Jefferson Winter Farmers Market every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through May 1. For more information, call 516-551-8461.

‘Coffee Pot Sunset,’ Orient Point Lighthouse. Photo by Jerry McGrath

By Rita J. Egan

Photographer Jerry McGrath has a keen eye when it comes to capturing the beauty of wildlife and landscapes, and through the end of February, nature lovers can enjoy his work at the North Shore Public Library in Shoreham. The exhibit will include approximately 20 images — the majority taken right here on Long Island with a couple from his trips to Alaska — printed on canvas from the Wading River resident’s collection.

‘All in the Family,’ a mother fox with her kits on Fire Island. Photo by Jerry McGrath
‘All in the Family,’ a mother fox with her kits on Fire Island. Photo by Jerry McGrath

The library’s art coordinator Hildegard Kroeger said a few years ago when the library displayed McGrath’s photos, they were well received. She said library patrons will enjoy the new exhibit with stunning photos that capture the impressive wingspans of birds or the eye color of the creatures. “He captures them in a very artistic way, and it may open up the eyes of people to look at things differently,” Kroeger said.

McGrath said becoming involved in photography opened up a whole new world for him. A former fifth-grade teacher at Wading River Elementary School for 30 years, the educator’s love of the art form developed slowly over the decades. He said he bought his first 35mm camera in 1968 while stationed in Vietnam. At the time, it was to simply record his experiences there. He never imagined the purchase would one day lead to the passion it has become for him the past five or six years as well as a small source of income.

McGrath said when he prepares for an exhibit he sees the images coming out of the printer, and he becomes energized knowing that he was part of creating the work and just wants to share it with others, and it can be difficult to choose his favorites to display.

“I just love when the picture comes out of the printer, and I see how that final product looks. And when it looks really sharp and crisp, just the right subject, it’s just something that I get a charge out of. I don’t know what it is,” he said.

‘Metropolis,’ winter town of Elfin Cove, Alaska. Photo by Jerry McGrath
‘Metropolis,’ winter town of Elfin Cove, Alaska. Photo by Jerry McGrath

An avid fisherman, McGrath was inspired to become more involved in photography after a fishing trip to Alaska that led to winning a photo contest. The photographer, who is also a former licensed charter boat captain and conducts a fishing course through the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, has been visiting Alaska for fishing trips annually for over 15 years.

A few years ago during one trip, he caught a halibut that weighed over 200 pounds. McGrath asked his friend Mike to take a photo of him with his catch, while he held the tail of the fish and sat down with his feet stretched out next to the head of the halibut to give perspective of just how big it was. When he returned home, he entered the picture in a fishing photo contest sponsored by Alaska Airlines and won. With this win, he thought about how he coordinated the photo and started thinking that he may have a knack for capturing a moment.

Winning two round-trip tickets to wherever the airline traveled, he and his wife Cathie decided to take a trip to Hawaii. McGrath said he felt that not any camera would do for such a scenic vacation so he purchased his first DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera. The photographer said he found it easier to use than previous manual exposure cameras that he owned, as well as an inexpensive way to take photos, and he began taking more.

‘Wings,’ a great egret in Baiting Hollow. Photo by Jerry McGrath
‘Wings,’ a great egret in Baiting Hollow. Photo by Jerry McGrath

He said places such as Hawaii and Alaska are beautiful spots to take stunning photos. “You can’t take a bad picture of the sun creeping behind the mountains at sunset at 11 o’clock at night up in Elfin Cove, Alaska. It’s just spectacular,” McGrath said.

However, while he has taken gorgeous photos on vacations, the Long Islander said his favorite spots to take photos are close to home. He said he loves going to the Wading River Marsh Preserve where he easily finds birds by the water or even deer in the woods to photograph.

He added that his own backyard is a great place to take photos, especially of birds such as cardinals, blue jays and mourning doves. McGrath said he never paid much attention to birds, but once he started photographing them he started reading up on the different types and now can identify many of them.

“It opened a whole new world for me,” McGrath said.

A tender photo of a mother fox and her cubs that will be on display at the library was taken on Fire Island. According to McGrath, many of his wildlife photos are possible not only due to a good deal of patience while waiting for the perfect shot, but also by using a 300mm lens and 2x extender, which enables him to get great shots even when he is relatively far away from the subject. He now has a collection of three DSLR cameras, and from time to time, he will use a monopod to remain steady.

‘Fishing Duck,’ a female hooded merganser at the Wading River Duck Pond. Photo by Jerry McGrath
‘Fishing Duck,’ a female hooded merganser at the Wading River Duck Pond. Photo by Jerry McGrath

Visitors to the library exhibit who are interested in purchasing prints will be able to do so directly from McGrath. The photographer said after his first exhibit at the North Shore Public Library a few years ago, he displayed his work at the former Grind Cafe in Wading River and realized people wanted to buy his photos. He said he was amazed when during the two months of the café exhibit he sold 14 or 15 pieces that started at $150 or more. While the sales encouraged him to try to sell more of his photos, he said, “I just love taking the pictures. I would take the pictures whether I was getting paid or not.”

The North Shore Public Library, 250 Route 25A, Shoreham, will present McGrath’s exhibit through Feb. 27. An artist reception, hosted by the Friends of the Library, will be held to meet the photographer on Feb. 7 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.northshorepubliclibrary.org or call 631-929-4488. To view McGrath’s work, visit www.facebook.com/CapturedMcgraphicsPhotosByJerryMcgrath.

Samantha Rosario with the cast of ‘In the Heights.’ Photo by Lisa Schindlar

By Charles J. Morgan

In the theater when the aesthetic  and technical coalesce, it engenders a happy marriage of entertainment; a delight to the audience. Such a meld was achieved at Oakdale’s CMPAC’s production of “In the Heights” that opened to a sold-out house on Jan. 16.

The “Heights” are Washington Heights in Manhattan and those who live there are Puerto Rican and/or Dominican. They are poverty stricken but struggle to make the most of it. There is plenty of Spanish spoken and sung,  but the language that carries the show along is English in the form of rap. This trigger-tongue  delivery in rhyming (and sometimes not rhyming) doublets with occasional tercets is handled in a talk-sing manner best by the lead Joseph Gonzalez with surprising articulation. These high-speed passages are long, yet his strong tenor delivered them handily. They may have been enunciated with the speed of an M-4 with the safety off, but each “bullet” was clearly on target.

Set design was by Jenn Hocker. She constructed a suggestion of the Heights; its stores, apartments, streets, laundry, fire escapes and an upstage center suggestion of the Manhattan Bridge … geographically incongruent but piercingly pertinent. Lighting was handled by Allison Weinberger with remarkable success, even down to a dance number done in the dark with flashlights.

Which brings us to choreographer M.E. Junge. A mainstay on the Main Stage, “ME” is a highly talented terpsichorean artist. In this show she affected a sometimes rapid, sometimes nuanced evolution on the boards, replete with the staccato, offbeat Latin rhythms to a masterful degree.

Overall direction was by Michael Mehmet who was confronted with the daunting task of creating individuation to a massive cast as well as blocking each group and individual actor. His long list of talents enabled him to come through handsomely.

Ariana Valdes and Joseph Gonzalez in a scene from ‘In the Heights.’ Photo by Lisa Schindlar
Ariana Valdes and Joseph Gonzalez in a scene from ‘In the Heights.’ Photo by Lisa Schindlar

A live eight-man pit band was headed by Anthony Brindisi with Laura Mitrache and Brindisi on keyboards, Patrick Lehosky on percussion, Brett Beiersdorfer on drums, Kevin Merkel on trumpet, Andrew Lenahan on reeds, John Snyder on bass and Conrad Scuza on trombone. This crew handled the complexities of the Latin rhythms most expertly. In the standard tempi of the “North American” songs they were great, but when it went “Caribbean” they were noteworthy.

Back on the boards. We have Leyland Patrick as Benny who with Gina Morgigno as Nina sing “Benny’s Dispatch” and “When You’re Home” with the whole company. In Act II they are back with “When the Sun Goes Down,” musical trifecta for them.

No review would be complete without mentioning the role of Daniela played to the hilt by Erica Giglio. Her enormous soprano, bursting with far-reaching range, brought down the house both with twin weapons of sarcastic spoken lines and dominant singing voice. One cannot neglect her talented dance abilities. She led the whole company in “Alabanza” and “Carnaval del Barrio” and shone in “No Me Diga” with Nina, Carla (Christina Martinez) and Vanessa (Samantha Rosario).

Kevin is a unique part. He is the aging paterfamilias and is gifted with a pleasing, plangent romantic tenor by Charlie Rivera. His “Inutil”  in Act I and “Atencion” in Act II were tributes to his voice capabilities. A whole page could be devoted to Ariana Valdes as Abuela. She is opera-trained and, with this background the powerful soprano in a solo number about a winning lottery ticket, brought a deserved standing ovation.

The Ensemble comprising Liza Aquilino, Savannah Beckford, Alex Esquivel, Kin-Zale Jackson, Matthew Kadam, Michelle LaBozzetta, Tori Lewis and Edward Martinez were the aesthetic armature of it all along with Luke Rosario as Sonny; Kyle Perry as Piragua Guy; Lori Beth Belkin as Camilla; and Paul Edme as Grafitti Pete. When the Playbill read “Company” this group filled the spot with expertise rarely seen in regional theater.

This effort actually was an example of what CMPAC is capable of theatrically. The amalgam of expert management and a high-grade talent puts this company in the foreground, downstage center, the house ringing with applause.

The CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Highway, Oakdale, will present “In the Heights” through Feb. 7. Tickets range from $20 to $29. For more information, call 631-218-2810 or visit www.cmpac.com.

Some of the craft beers now for sale at the Cinema Arts Centre Sky Room Cafe. Photo from Raj Tawney

The Sky Room Café has expanded its menu, now offering craft beer and wine.

According to Raj Tawney, director of publicity and promotion at the Cinema Arts Centre, located at 423 Park Ave., Huntington, this is part of a continuing effort to make the Sky Café into its own entity.

Aside from a wide-ranging menu, the Sky Café also hosts Cult Café, Sky Room Talks, Pop Culture Café, Hard Luck Café, movie trivia night and various music acts every month.

Cult Café is a new film series aimed at a younger audience that shows popular cult classic films. The first film featured was “The Big Lebowski,” which ran last Saturday and had an audience of more than 100 people. Movies to come include “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.”

Sky Room Talks is a series where local film historians give talks and play clips from different films and television shows. One talk focused on the still popular “Twilight Zone” TV series from the early 1960s and was led by historian Philip Harwood.

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