Arts & Entertainment

Last year's second-place winner, ‘Tulip Rhapsody,’ by Steven Selles of Huntington

What better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than with a Tulip Festival? The natural beauty of the historic Heckscher Park will once again serve as the backdrop for the Town of Huntington’s highly anticipated signature spring tradition this Sunday, May 1, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Amanda Camps of Medford won first place in last year’s Tulip Festival photography contest with ‘Peach Princess.’
Amanda Camps of Medford won first place in last year’s Tulip Festival photography contest with ‘Peach Princess.’

Now in its 16th year, the event was the brainchild of Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D).

“From its inception, the Huntington Tulip Festival has been a free, family-oriented, floral celebration held in Heckscher Park. There is live entertainment for all ages on the Chapin Rainbow Stage,  dozens of booths with fun activities for the kids and thousands of bright tulips planted in beds throughout the park,” said Cuthbertson in a recent email, adding “So come out, bring your camera, and enjoy the day!”

In addition to the more than 20,000 tulips to admire throughout the park, cut tulips will be offered for sale by The Flower Petaler with proceeds benefiting the Junior Welfare League of Huntington and there will be a student art exhibit on display near the Chapin Rainbow Stage.

Volunteers are needed to distribute festival programs to visitors. Any person or community group is welcome to volunteer by calling 631- 351-3099.

Photo Contest
Since its inception, Huntington’s Tulip Festival has included an annual photo contest. Entries by amateur and professional photographers will be juried to select the images most evocative of the beauty and family orientation of the festival and must be postmarked or received by July 31, 2016.  Prize-winning images will be used in festival publicity. For details, visit http://www.huntingtonny.gov/TulipFestival PhotoContest.

Entertainment schedule

‘Water for Tulips,’ last year's third-place winner by Frank O’Brien of Huntington Station
‘Water for Tulips,’ last year’s third-place winner by Frank O’Brien of Huntington Station

11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Explore the Heckscher Museum. During this annual collaboration with the Town of Huntington, docents will be in the galleries beginning at 2 p.m.

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. ­— Student Art Contest: Building up to the festival was an art contest for area students organized by the Huntington Arts Council.  Award-winning work will be displayed near the Rainbow Chapin Stage.

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Children’s Activity Booths — A diverse selection of free activity booths with creative, hands-on projects for children of all ages will be active in Heckscher Park throughout the festival. Design pasta necklaces, get your face painted, make a windsock, make a handprint Mother’s Day craft, get a tattoo, create a rainbow fish and much, much more.

Noon to 12:45 p.m. — Jazzy Fairy Tales with Louise Rogers on the Rainbow Chapin Stage. The show combines jazz music, storytelling and improvisational theater techniques to teach young children music, literature and social skills.

‘Resting Among the Tulips,’ Honorable Mention last year, by Mary Ruppert of Huntington
‘Resting Among the Tulips,’ Honorable Mention last year, by Mary Ruppert of Huntington

Noon to 4 p.m. — Mask making art activity at the Heckscher Museum. Children of all ages are invited to create a colorful, mixed media mask to celebrate spring and wear at the festival. Free on Museum Terrace.

1 to 1:45 p.m. — Casplash, a Caribbean splash band with Steelpanist Rudi Crichlow, on the Chapin Rainbow Stage. Casplash, a.k.a. Caribbean Splash, plays music made for dancing — from calypso, soca and reggae to pop, funk, R&B and more.  Casplash takes audience members on a fantastic musical escapade via the beautiful sounds of the steel pan, soulful singing and hot tropical rhythms. The band leads audiences in familiar dances such as the electric slide, hokey pokey, conga line and limbo; they also teach a traditional  West Indian follow-the-leader style dance called brown girl in the ring.

2 to 3 p.m. — Songs & Puppetry with Janice Buckner on the Rainbow Chapin Stage. Janice has appeared on radio and television, as well as over 4,000 schools and concert halls.  She entertains audi.ences of all ages with her voice, guitars, puppets and her knowledge of Sign Language for the Deaf.  She is noted for her voice, her creativity and the outstanding quality of her lyrics.

4 p.m. ­— Festival closes (Museum exhibits on view until 5 p.m.)

Dondi Rollins, Jr. leads the entire cast in ‘Flying Low.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Fighting co-workers, a murder mystery and the future rituals of dating — Theatre Three’s shining jewel, the annual Festival of One-Act Plays, delved into all that and more as it opened last Saturday afternoon for a nine-performance run.

Now in its 19th year, the festival, under the direction of founder Jeffrey Sanzel, showcases six wonderful, original works selected from nearly 400 submissions. The actors take the audience on a marathon, performing the plays back to back.

From left, Steve Ayle, Joan St. Onge, Hans Paul Hendrickson, Amanda Geraci and Linda May star in a scene from ‘OK Computer.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.
From left, Steve Ayle, Joan St. Onge, Hans Paul Hendrickson, Amanda Geraci and Linda May star in a scene from ‘OK Computer.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

The new plays go “from page to stage; from blank slate to fully realized production,” Sanzel explained. “These are premieres; they are ‘firsts.’” Raw themes such as depression, murder, love and work relationships are all explored on an equal playing field in the intimate setting of The Ronald F. Peierls Theatre on the Second Stage.

The festival kicks off with John Kane’s “Ben and Rachel Go to the Movies,” starring veteran actors TracyLynn Conner and Brian Smith, whose relationship is revealed to the audience only by visits to the cinema over a span of more than 40 years. From their first date watching “Dr. Zhivago” (1965) to “Titanic” in the 1990s and beyond, we watch them grow old together.

Alex Dremann’s comedy “A Clean Dislike” introduces the audience to Annie (Linda May) and Marjorie (Joan St. Onge), co-workers who try, with hilarious sarcastic banter, to figure out why they don’t like each other, an issue that many can relate to. May and St. Onge tackle their roles with zeal and stay in character long after the play.

From left, Brett Chizever, Sheila Sheffield and Brian Smith star in ‘Bro.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.
From left, Brett Chizever, Sheila Sheffield and Brian Smith star in ‘Bro.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

The most emotionally draining play is presented right before intermission with Jules Tasca’s “Flying Low,” which was inspired by the crash of A320 Airbus Flight 4U 9525 last March. The plane, which was traveling from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, plunged into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board. It was later discovered that the Germanwings co-pilot had deliberately crashed the plane. Dondi Rollins Jr. gives a powerful performance as the story dissects the sequence of events leading up to the tragic event, from the co-pilot breaking up with his girlfriend to suffering acute depression and not taking his medicine, to locking the pilot out of the cockpit and, finally, making his deadly decision. At the end of Saturday’s performance, there was not a dry eye in the room and the silence was deafening.

The festival continues after intermission with Robb Willoughby’s delicious dark thriller, “Bro.” After seeing his mother put white powder in his father’s coffee and then finding him dead shortly after, Mitchell, played by Brian Smith, is convinced that his mother is a murderer. The incident has left him so shaken that he has lost his job and has become paranoid about everything. His mother (Sheila Sheffield) insists the powder was just sweetener and that her husband died of a heart attack. She summons Mitchell’s brother Morgan (Brett Chizever) to help stage an intervention and get Mitchell psychological help. Is Mitchell crazy or isn’t he? Is his mother a murderer or isn’t she? And what’s this about a life insurance policy? The plot thickens.

A scene from "A Clean Dislike." Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.
A scene from “A Clean Dislike.” Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Steve McCoy shines in his solo performance of “Why This Monologue Isn’t Memorized: A True Story” by Kurt Sass, which offers the audience a glimpse into one man’s struggle with memory loss after receiving shock treatments for his depression. In coming to terms with his fate, he concludes, “I will not remember your faces after today but I hope some of you will remember mine.”

The show closes with Tom Moran’s “OK Computer” to explore marriage and mating rituals in a futuristic dystopian world, a world in which a computer named Big Data plays matchmaker, choosing life partners for willing and unwilling bachelors. “No more guesses means no more messes” is the system’s motto. Hans Paul Hendrickson plays hapless victim Colin 3912, whose fate seems to be sealed as he is matched up with the mirror image of himself, Jillian 1293, played by Amanda Geraci.

The entire cast is superb, with notable mentions to the veteran one-act performer Smith, who has appeared in nearly three dozen plays, and newcomer Rollins who we simply must see more of.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present The 19th Annual Festival of One-Act Plays through May 14. Features adult content and language. Parental discretion is advised. Running time is two hours with one 15-minute intermission. Tickets are $18. For more information, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

China and glassware will be just two of the many different types of items offered at this weekend’s event. Photo by Catherine Quinlan

Spring is in the air and that means its time for the return of the Port Jefferson Historical Society’s largest fundraiser, the Port Jefferson Antiques & Garden Weekend Show to be held this weekend, April 23 and 24 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Returning for its ninth year, the Village Center will once again be filled with antiques and collectibles from over 40 vendors, including the society’s consignment shop and the flower boutique of the Suwassett Garden Club.

Antique seekers and collectors from Long Island, Connecticut and surrounding areas anticipate attending this annual event co-sponsored by the Village of Port Jefferson. Visitors from across Long Island Sound will be offered a two-for-one passenger walk-on discount from the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company.

All three floors of the Village Center will feature veteran vendors as well as new ones whose merchandise ranges from country, primitive and fine furniture, china and glassware, jewelry, quilts, vintage posters, art, books, paintings, garden furniture and other eclectic items.

The Suwassett Garden Club’s trellised boutique will greet visitors as they enter the Village Center. Hanging baskets, plants and patio tubs will be for sale at reasonable prices. An array of spring annuals will be set up outside for eager gardeners.

The popular 50/50 raffle and donation table has been organized by Kate von der Heyden and will offer some attractive prizes from vendors, advertisers and society friends.  Be sure to bring in your raffle stubs and checks to be in the running!  The raffle will be drawn Sunday afternoon.

The third-floor café, again chaired by Barbara Cassidy and Christine Spanbauer, promises an enticing menu of sandwiches, sides and drinks. Lunch with your friends in this sunny setting overlooking the harbor area. For dessert, select some homemade goodies at the Suwassett Garden Club’s baked goods table, arranged by Donna McBrien and Kate Thomas. Admission to the event is $6.

This yearly fundraiser relies on volunteers from both the society and garden club. The Mather House Museum complex on Prospect Street benefits from this large event. For further information or to volunteer for tasks including setup on Friday, April 22, or breakdown on April 24, please contact co-chairs Catherine Quinlan (631-428-6467) or Sandra Swenk (631-473-3253).

Pony Boy, who was named after a song by the Allman Brothers, waits for a child to pet him at the Smithtown Historical Society last weekend. Photo by Giselle Barkley

He might be under five feet tall but 25-year-old Pony Boy at the Smithtown Historical Society farm has a big presence. For this pony, the farm isn’t just a sanctuary, it is also a place where he can help teach children about animal ownership and farm life.

As the Historical Society’s sole stallion, Pony Boy will extend a helping hoof for the society’s Help a Horse Day events on April 25 and 26.

According to the society’s website, Help a Horse Day is a national campaign started by the ASPCA to raise awareness  of the plight of horses and encourage equine rescue.

Kris Melvin-Denenberg, director of Development and Public Relations at the society said Pony Boy and his companion, a female donkey named Jenni Henrietta, were purchased 14 years ago from a farm that closed in Huntington around that time. The director added that it’s possible the small horse was abused in the past. When Pony Boy first arrived on the farm, he didn’t like any male volunteers to approach him from his left side, which is where people typically approach when greeting a horse or pony.

Pony Boy’s best friend, Peter the sheep, lays in the sun after resting inside the barn. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Pony Boy’s best friend, Peter the sheep, lays in the sun after resting inside the barn. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“He’s a prime example of what a good foster [process] we do,” Melvin-Denenberg said. “Over time he became more and more accepting of men and now there are guys who can put a halter on him, which we could never do before.”

Despite his initial timid disposition Melvin-Denenberg said their pony is always gentle when interacting with children.

Pony Boy didn’t only get used to men or being in the spotlight when kids are near, but he also made a new friend while living at the farm. When Jenni Henrietta passed away several years ago, the stallion gravitated to Peter, a blind sheep living on the farm. Before Peter developed cataracts, the duo bonded. Pony Boy now helps Peter when he needs a farm friend to lean on.

While members of the historical society’s farm animals usually call out to members of their group if they are separated, Melvin-Denenberg said Pony Boy and Peter will sit in close proximity to one another and communicate. She added that horses can form a bond with any animal with whom they share their home.

“They’re herd animals,” she said about horses. “So they are very social and they get very upset if their companions … get separated. They do have concerns — they do worry and look out for each other.”

But the animals aren’t the only ones looking out for each other. Melvin-Denenberg said programs like the Help a Horse Day event teach children how to care for an animal. It also helps them understand the benefits of having a horse on a farm. In the past, horses provided transportation, plowed the crop fields and provided fresh manure for the farmer’s crops. In return, the farmer would care for the horse.

The society doesn’t just want to show families how animals like horses helped on the farm, they also want to encourage people to familiarize themselves with the needs of the animal they wish to adopt. They hope to do so through their programs.

The main difference between ponies like Pony Boy and horses is the animals’ heights. Photo by Giselle Barkley
The main difference between ponies like Pony Boy and horses is the animals’ heights. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“We want [children] to learn about the responsibilities of adopting an animal whether it be a horse, a sheep or a fish. You need to do your research,” Melvin-Denenberg said. “Find out everything you can about the animal. Learn how to properly groom the animal [and] what their veterinary needs are.”

Families can learn more about farm animals like Pony Boy  and horses overall on Monday, April 25, at the Frank Brush Barn, 211 Middle Country Road, Smithtown, at 7 p.m. as Town Historian and Board President Brad Harris presents a lecture titled Famous Horses of Smithtown. Admission is free.

As part of the society’s Spring Break programs, children ages 6 to 12 can come meet Pony Boy, learn  about animal care and how horses helped farmers, and create horse-related crafts on Tuesday, April 26, from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the Frank Brush Barn. Cost is $25 and $22.50 for members and includes a snack and a beverage. Registration is required by calling 631-265-6768.

Finally, children ages 3 to 5 can take part in a child and caregiver horse-themed reading adventure at a program titled Tales for Tots: Horses! on April 26 at the society’s Roseneath Cottage at 239 Main Street, Smithtown, from 11 a.m. to noon. This event is free but registration is required by calling the Smithtown Library at 631-360-2480.

Sari Feldman, Amanda Geraci, Aria Saltini and Melanie Acampora star in a scene fron ‘Cinderella.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

A sweet little fairy tale waltzed into Theatre Three last weekend and quickly stole the hearts of the entire audience. The theater is closing its 2015-16 children’s theater season with the perfect choice: a classic retelling of “Cinderella.”

Many little princesses sat in the audience during Saturday’s opening to see Cinderella find her true love and live happily ever after.

With book, music and lyrics by Douglas J. Quattrock, Theatre Three’s version of this rags-to-riches story is full of singing, dancing, magic, quirky characters and lots of laughs. In short, your kids will love it.

From left, Jenna Kavaler and Amanda Geraci star in a scene from ‘Cinderella.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.
From left, Jenna Kavaler and Amanda Geraci star in a scene from ‘Cinderella.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, the eight adult cast members all deliver stellar performances and clearly love the craft they have chosen. In a nod to the 17th century author of the modern Cinderella story, who is commonly referred to as the father of the fairy tale, the show’s narrator is named Charles Perrault. This “squire to the sire,” played by Andrew Gasparini, transports theatergoers to a faraway land ruled by King Utterly Charming (Steven Uihlein), who wants to retire to Boca and pass the crown on to his handsome son, Prince Charming (Hans Paul Hendrickson) — and yes, he is indeed charming. However, the king feels that his son should get married first and invites all eligible maidens to a royal ball.

The squire delivers the invitations to the home of the beautiful Cinderella (Amanda Geraci), who is still being treated badly by her wretched stepsisters (Sari Feldman and Melanie Acampora) and mean stepmother, played by newcomer Aria Saltini.

Left behind while the three meanies go to the ball, Cindy is visited by her fairy godmother, Angelica, wonderfully portrayed by Jenna Kavaler. Speaking with a Southern accent, Angelica quickly cooks up a beautiful gown and sends Cinderella on her way.

During Cinderella’s infamous missing shoe episode, Prince Charming interacts with all the little princesses in attendance, asking them for their shoe sizes as he searches for the glass slipper’s owner — a nice touch.

The songs, with Steve McCoy accompanying on piano, dominate the show. Geraci’s solo, “A Girl Like Me (And a Boy Like You),” is sweet as she dances with a broom and dreams of falling in love, and her duet with Hendrickson, “Here in Your Arms (The Waltz)” is delightful. Special mention should also be made of Gasparini’s solos, “Once Upon a Time” and “Take a Chance.”

The cast of ‘Cinderella’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.
The cast of ‘Cinderella’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Teresa Matteson’s costumes are on point, from Cinderella’s beautiful gown to Prince Charming’s crown. Feldman’s choreography ties it all together.

Meet the entire cast in the lobby after the show and stay for a special photo with Cinderella and the Prince.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “Cinderella” through June 11. The new season will begin on the Mainstage with “The Emperor’s New Clothes” from July 8 to Aug. 5 and the premiere of “The Misadventures of Robin Hood” from Aug. 5 to 13. All seats are $10. For more information, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

The Long Island Museum’s gift shop should reopen soon. Photo by Phil Corso

Two landmark Three Village institutions have received a landmark gift.

The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook and the Setauket Presbyterian Church were named beneficiaries of a $100 million charitable trust through the Kingsley Gillespie Charitable Trust, giving both groups a financial boost from a family that loved its community. The gift carried on the philanthropic contributions that both the Kingsley and Kenyon Gillespie families have made, keeping the arts, community service and faith strong.

The charitable trust came as a result of Kenyon Gillespie’s death in March 2015, which built upon the success of his father Kingsley Gillespie and mother Doris Kenyon, who both died in the 1980s. Every year, the beneficiaries will receive slices of the income earned by the $100 million trust, bringing in millions of dollars in gift money.

Neil Watson, executive director of the Long Island Museum, said the gift came at an exciting time as it approaches 80 years since the museum’s inception.

“This is a very significant gift for us — one of the biggest in our history,” he said. “It allows us to chart our own future.”

Watson said the charitable gift would allow the Long Island Museum to better maintain its 14 buildings, balance its $2.4 million budget and provide better programming for the North Shore community. Looking ahead, he said the museum would be working on launching new programs to attract new visitors, reopening the facility’s gift shop at its headquarters and investing in capital improvements to its carriage museum, which houses a 125-person meeting room dedicated to the Gillespie name.

“The board of trustees and the museum’s staff are overwhelmed by the Gillespies’ generosity,” Watson said in a statement. “This tremendous gift strengthens the LIM’s existing endowments and solidifies the museum’s financial foundation. We are forever indebted to the Gillespie family for their foresight and their belief in the important of the LIM and its place as a cultural leader in our community.”

The Setauket Presbyterian Church, founded in 1660, will also benefit considerably through the charitable trust. The institution, located on the village green at Caroline Avenue in Setauket, has been a longtime home for more than 500 people of faith.

Doris Kenyon was born in 1900 in Brooklyn, but spent summers as a child in Old Field before moving there in the 1930. She had a lifelong affection for the Three Village community, the Long Island Museum said in a press release. She was married to Kingsley Gillespie, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the two built their family in the Three Village area before retiring to Florida.

Other beneficiaries of the charitable trust include MIT and various Stamford, Conn., institutions.

Above, Aaron Feltman’s ‘How You See Me Vs. How I See Me,’ mixed media

Long Island’s Best: Young Artists at The Heckscher Museum opened on April 9 to rave reviews. The number of entries to this year’s competition was record-setting with 357 student works of art submitted from 53 high schools in Suffolk and Nassau Counties. The juried selection narrowed the field to works of art created by 83 students representing 44 schools. The exhibit is on view through May 15.

Scholarships and prizes were awarded to a number of young artists at the Long Island’s Best opening reception held on April 16. Nicole Noel of Valley Stream Central High School (teacher, Mario Bakalov) received the Celebrate Achievement Best in Show Award for a pencil drawing titled “Another Pity.” Huntington High School student Aaron Feltman (teacher, Kristin Singer) was awarded the second-place Judith Sposato Memorial Prize for the mixed media piece “How You See Me Vs. How I See Me.”

Nina Miller of Long Beach High School (teacher, Eric Fox) and Huntington Fine Arts received the third-place Hadley Prize for her sculpture “Reach with No Escape,” and Cory Levy of Sayville High School (teacher, Evan Hammer) received the fourth-place award for the drawing “The Future.”

“The quality of work we receive is exceptional. It is very difficult to narrow the entries to around 80 works for the exhibition,” said Joy Weiner, The Heckscher Museum’s director of education and public programs, in a recent press release. “The Long Island’s Best curriculum is built upon inter-disciplinary learning concepts, and enhances New York State Core Learning Standards for the Arts, Career Development, English Language Arts, and Social Studies. For example, there is a literary component to the program which requires each student to write an ‘artist statement/ to thoughtfully explain their artwork and their experience creating it.”

Nicole Noel won the “Celebrate Achievement Best in Show Award” for a pencil drawing titled “Another Pity.”
Nicole Noel won the “Celebrate Achievement Best in Show Award” for a pencil drawing titled “Another Pity.”

Now in its 20th consecutive year, Long Island’s Best is a hallmark of The Heckscher Museum’s education programs. During the school year, high school students and their teachers visit the museum for in-depth study of, and discussions about, the works of art in the galleries. Students select an “inspirational artwork” to stimulate the creation of an original work back in the classroom. Hundreds of student works are then submitted to the museum’s juried competition. A full-color exhibition catalog is published to accompany the month-long exhibition. The Heckscher Museum’s juried exhibition is the only one of its kind that provides Long Island high school students with the unparalleled opportunity to professionally present their work in a museum setting.

Alongside the Long Island’s Best exhibit will be a companion exhibition titled Celebrating 20 Years: Long Island’s Best Alumni Exhibition, which features a selection of 42 works by past Long Island’s Best artists. Over 4,500 students from Suffolk and Nassau Counties have entered Long Island’s Best prestigious juried exhibition since its inception.

“I was accepted into The Heckscher Museum’s Long Island’s Best exhibitions in both 2004 and 2005, and won awards both times. They were the first shows I ever participated in outside of an academic setting, and the feelings of validation and recognition were — frankly — intoxicating. I truly believe that each of those shows were instrumental in helping me realize that my voice as an artist — even at that young age — was unique, was substantive, and was potentially important,” said Andrew Brischler, Brooklyn-based contemporary artist and former student at Smithtown High School. “I just knew, because of my experiences at the Heckscher, that making art and having people see it was what I was meant to do,” he added. The exhibit will remain on view through May 8.

The Heckscher Museum of Art, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington, is open Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. For more information, call 631-351-3250 or visit www.heckscher.org.

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Councilwoman Valerie Cartright poses with, from left, Michele Pacala, Samantha White, Katie Zhao and Nicole Freeley. Photo by Heidi Sutton

This past Sunday the community room at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library was filled to the brim as the library, along with the family of the late Helen Stein Shack, local elected officials, and representatives from the Three Village Central School District, presented four local teens with the second annual Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Award.

The contest was open to teens in grades 7 to 12 who live in the Three Village school district.

Two $500 scholarships were awarded: one to Katie Zhao for her children’s book, “Good Night, Judy,” about a little girl who is afraid of the dark and the noises at night. The second was awarded to  Michelle Pacala for her children’s book titled “Sal the Sock,” a story told in a sing-song, rhyming tone about a sock who loses his friends in the laundry. Nicole Freeley, author of “Rainbow,” and Samantha White, author of “Honu,” received Honorable Mentions. The four books will be added to the library’s Local Focus Collection.

The grand-prize winners then read their stories to young patrons in the Children’s Department.

“What I really like seeing is the way we’re working with the schools on this,” said Library Director Ted Gutmann, who hosted the event. “We’re all part of this same community, and it’s great in this day and age to see organizations like ours working together and promoting something which is certainly very worthwhile.”

Samantha Kelly and Niva Taylor, granddaughters of the late Helen Stein Shack, shared fond memories of their grandmother and how much she loved the Emma Clark Library. “Our grandma absolutely loved books and loved this library. This was her favorite place to take us in the entire world,” said Kelly in explaining why the family started this competition here.

Paul Hennings, staff member from Senator John Flanagan’s (R-East Northport) office, brought certificates for all of the winners on behalf of the senator. Three Village school district BOE President William Connors, Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich, Assistant Superintendent Kevin Scanlon, Three Village Art Department Chairperson Jennifer Trettner, R.C. Murphy Junior High School English Department Chairperson Cathy Duffy, R.C. Murphy Junior High School Librarian Betsy Knox and Emma Clark board of trustees member Debra Blair were all in attendance to show their support.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) presented the winners with certificates from the Town of Brookhaven. “I think this is an amazing way to continue the legacy of Helen Stein Shack. I think that allowing kids to express themselves in an artistic manner — a positive artistic manner — is important,” said Councilwoman Cartright.

“You are the future leaders … keep expressing yourself. In a world today where there are so many negative things going on . . . you need to have outlets —  positive outlets — and these [books] are positive outlets, not only for you, but it puts a smile on the faces of those who actually view it,” she added, saying “I thank the community and of course the parents for encouraging our young ones to continue to do great and positive things in our community.”

Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor star in ‘National Velvet.’ Photo from the WMHO
Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor star in ‘National Velvet.’ Photo from the WMHO
Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor star in ‘National Velvet.’ Photo from the WMHO

By Ed Blair

“I was a fourteen-year-old-boy for thirty years.” So said screen superstar Mickey Rooney, and his assessment of his career was not far off. To a generation of American moviegoers, the diminutive actor was forever a youngster, first as Mickey McGuire and then as Andy Hardy — both iconic roles in Hollywood’s cast of memorable characters.

The legendary Mickey Rooney, 1945. Photo from the WMHO
The legendary Mickey Rooney, 1945. Photo from the WMHO

Mickey Rooney is the subject of a musical theater tribute taking place from May 4 through June 12 at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook Village. The Sal St. George production is a celebration of Rooney’s movie career, during which he appeared in over 300 films, as well as his successes in vaudeville, radio, television and on Broadway. His natural gift for acting, singing, dancing, comedy and drama are highlighted in a dynamic presentation featuring delightfully nostalgic songs and rollicking comedy.

Born in Brooklyn in 1920, Joe Yule Jr. first appeared on stage with his parents in a vaudeville act at the age of 17 months. When he was 7, his mother took him to audition for the role of Mickey McGuire in a short film based on the then-popular comic strip, Toonerville Trolley. The film enjoyed wide public appeal and developed into a series. Young Joe adopted the stage name of Mickey Rooney and appeared in the role of Mickey McGuire in 78 of the mini-comedies between 1927 and 1934.

Judy Garland hangs with Mickey Rooney in a scene from ‘Strike Up the Band.’ Photo from the WMHO
Judy Garland hangs with Mickey Rooney in a scene from ‘Strike Up the Band.’ Photo from the WMHO

From the time he was 16 until the age of 25, Rooney again appeared in a long-running role, this time as all-American teenager Andy Hardy, a character he portrayed in 16 films from 1937 to 1946. In three films in the series, he was paired with Judy Garland, and the two appeared together in other films as well, notably the musicals “Babes in Arms” (1939), for which Rooney, still a teenager, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, “Strike Up the Band” (1940), “Babes on Broadway” (1941), and “Girl Crazy” (1943). Of his relationship with Garland, Rooney proclaimed, “We weren’t just a team; we were magic.”

Rooney also appeared with Elizabeth Taylor in the classic “National Velvet” (1944) and showcased his dramatic acting ability, playing the role of a delinquent opposite Spencer Tracy in “Boys Town” (1938). Rooney proved to be an enduring star, appearing on Broadway, on television and on the big screen, memorably in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1962), and “The Black Stallion” (1979), for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. His film credits carried well into the twenty-first century.

Rooney’s personal life was as arresting as his stage career. First married to Ava Gardner, he ended up totaling eight marriages, leading him to quip, “I’m the only man in the world with a marriage license made out ‘To Whom It May Concern.’” Mickey Rooney passed away quietly in his sleep at the age of 93 in April of 2014.

Mickey Rooney performs in ‘Mr. Broadway,’ a television special broadcast on NBC in 1957. Photo from the WMHO
Mickey Rooney performs in ‘Mr. Broadway,’ a television special broadcast on NBC in 1957. Photo from the WMHO

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization production follows the familiar format of other St. John presentations. Showgoers play the role of a 1960s television studio audience attending a talk show hosted by actress and long-time “I’ve Got a Secret” panelist Betsy Palmer (Madeline Shaffer), who, along with her domestic, Penny (Sarah Quinn), welcomes guest star Mickey Rooney, who talks about his life and career and also performs.

Daniel Garcia, who portrays Rooney, noted, “Mickey Rooney was the only entertainer/actor who appeared in motion pictures every decade between the 1920s into 2014. He was a masterful and much-beloved entertainer. This will be quite an acting challenge for me.”

The WMHO presents Musical Theatre Performances of “The Mickey Rooney Story” partially sponsored by The Roosevelt Investment Group, at the organization’s Educational & Cultural Center at 97P Main St. in Stony Brook Village. Shows run from May 4 through June 12 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. and Sundays at 12:30 p.m. Admission is $50, $48 for seniors 60 and over and $45 for groups of 20 or more and includes a high tea luncheon catered by Crazy Beans Restaurant. Advance reservations are required by calling 631-689-5888. For further information, visit www.wmho.org.

Julien Rentsch has been playing the piano for several years. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Eighth-grader Julien Rentsch is already a celebrated music man in his community.

Julien, a 14-year-old at J. Taylor Finley Middle School in Huntington, has been composing music for years and the Finley Honors Orchestra has helped bring his music to life.

For the past two years, the orchestra has performed Julien’s pieces during their concerts under the direction of music teacher and conductor Matthew Gelfer.

“I think having a student like Julien in my orchestra is kind of what you hope for as a music teacher,” Gelfer said in a phone interview.

This past March at a concert at Huntington High School, Julien accompanied the orchestra on the piano during a performance of his piece, titled “Free Spirit.”

Julien Rentsch plays cello in the Finley Honors Orchestra. Photo from Darin Reed
Julien Rentsch plays cello in the Finley Honors Orchestra. Photo from Darin Reed

“It’s really cool,” Julien said in an interview on Friday. “It was amazing just to hear onstage and the crowd and everything.

Julien’s parents are both professional photographers, so the arts were a major part of his upbringing. He started playing piano when he was 6 or 7, though Julien said he is not a tireless worker who practices constantly. His father, Andreas Rentsch, agreed.

“It comes almost naturally,” Rentsch said of his son’s musical abilities. “He has that ability to transform his notes into beautiful music without really, I would say, trying too hard.”

Julien said he has a process for composing music. He starts by coming up with melodies to be played on the piano, then adds and subtracts separate tracks from five different instrument groups. He said he works like a chef, adding a dash of strings or a pinch of horns until his recipe is a perfect blend. Julien has three complete pieces composed for full-size orchestras.

Mother Helen Rousakis said she enjoys watching her son on stage, working with the rest of the orchestra.

“I had a perfect view and [Julien was] just having a ball,” Rousakis said of last year’s performance. “He was laughing, he was making eye contact with others. I was just blown away by the camaraderie, how they all just love to work together.”

Julien Rentsch practices the piano at his home in Huntington. Photo by Alex Petroski
Julien Rentsch practices the piano at his home in Huntington. Photo by Alex Petroski

Julien and both of his parents stressed the impact that Gelfer has had on Julien as a musician.

“Julien is just such a mature kid,” Gelfer said. “A lot of composers can be really precious about their work and what they do, [but] he came at it with a collaborative attitude.”

When it comes to the future, this 14-year-old knows exactly what he wants: to compose musical scores for films one day. He enjoys the work of John Williams, who composed music for the “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” films, among others.

For now the rest of Julien’s time is filled as a multisport athlete and a musician at Greenlawn’s St. Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Shrine Church, where he plays piano for the junior choir and church fundraisers.

“If I’m into something, I’m just into it,” Julien said about his love of music. “I don’t stop.”

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