Arts & Entertainment

‘Breakfast Memories’ by Irene Ruddock

By Ellen Barcel

The Suffolk County Parks historic Deepwells Farm and Mansion on Route 25A in St. James will host the Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club’s Associates’ and Members’ Non-Juried Art Exhibition from April 12 to 26.

“It’s a new tradition” for the club said board member and co-chair Jeanette Dick of Belle Terre. “This exhibit is an additional undertaking by the club to fulfill their mission to promote the work of women artists. It [will be] a bi-annual event held at different galleries and museums in the tri-state area.” The first was at the museum in Water Mill and the second at a gallery in Connecticut. This one, at Deepwells, will be the third. “It’s a new adventure for us, a new venue,” for the 118-year-old club, she said.

Catharine Lorillard Wolfe was a philanthropist, art collector and one of the founders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, bequeathing her collection of paintings to it. The art club was formed in 1896 to “provide aid, counsel and exhibition opportunities to young women artists in New York City.” The club, which meets in Grace Church in NYC, has grown over the years with membership spanning the country.

One of the board members of the club, Setauket artist Irene Ruddock said, “It’s so nice meeting women from all over the country and they are good. [The club] is one of the most prestigious [art] organizations.” Ruddock went on to add, “Our own wonderful Jeannette Dick is taking over as president of this organization. It’s an honor for her to be president.”

"Pungent Aroma" watercolor by Eleanor Meier
“Pungent Aroma” watercolor by Eleanor Meier

Added Dick, who referred to herself as currently president-in-training, “It’s a wonderful club with women I greatly admire — a wonderful group of women to work with who are very talented.”

According to Eleanor Meier, co-chair of the exhibit and club board member, Deepwells Mansion was selected as the site for the current exhibit because it’s “a nice venue and close to the St. James railroad station for those coming out from the city.”

The mansion was built in approximately 1845 and has been home to Joel L.G. Smith, a descendent of Richard “Bull” Smith of Smithtown and William L. Gaynor, mayor of New York City from 1910 to 1913. The Greek Revival mansion and part of the farm property was acquired by Suffolk County in 1989 and has been the site of many events including art shows, arts and crafts festivals and holiday boutiques.

Open to professional artists, the show will include a wide variety of media including watercolors, acrylics, oils and etchings. Seventy-four works of art from associates and members of the club will be on display. Noted Dick, “It’s a good sized show with a good mix of media.” She added that the show includes sculpture. Pat Solan of Port Jefferson Station will be showing a sculpture as will Priscilla Heep-Coll from Brooklyn.

Ruddock noted, “The whole point of the show is to give the associates who never had a show a change to exhibit. It’s very hard to get into this club. Some people try for years.” It’s not a juried show, she added. “If you’re an associate [of the club] you can show,” with each artist submitting a work that was “representative of their style.”

Ruddock’s submission, “Breakfast Memories,” is a still life done in pastels of brown eggs and an antique canister set. “It was so much fun to do,” she noted. Of the brown eggs, she said, “each one was different with its speckles. I fell madly in love with a canister set in an antique shop, [a set] that I’d been looking for for years. I took it home and set it up with the eggs to paint. It was exciting … I have so much fun with art.”

"Pecking Order" pastel, by Jeanette Dick
“Pecking Order” pastel, by Jeanette Dick

While the show is open to associates and members across the country, many Long Island artists will be represented including members of the Setauket Artists, including Renee Caine, Patty Yantz, Anne Katz, Paula Pelletier, Patty Schwarz, Flo Kemp, Jane McGraw-Teubner, Jeanette Dick, Irene Ruddock, Eleanor Meier, Angela Stratton, Carole Scinta, Pat Solan, Joan Rockwell and Sheila Breck. Other Long Island artists include Mary Maran, Joyce Bressler, Alexandra Marinaccio, Marion Cohen, Lillian Forziat, Helen Giaquinto, Lucille Berrill Paulson, Liz Jorg Masi, Debra Grossman and Alexandra Albano.

Most of the works are for sale with proceeds to benefit the club’s scholarship programs. Expect a very good show as, said Meier, “the club has high standards.” A reception for artists and invited friends will be held on April 12. The exhibit will be open daily from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

Michael Verre tries to squeeze a shoe on Kate Keating as Alyson Clancy and Maryellen Molfetta look on during a scene from 'Cinderella' at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully

The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport was a sea of blue princess dresses last Saturday morning at the theater’s opening of the classic fairy tale, “Cinderella.” Directed by Jennifer Collester Tully, the story follows the original plot closely with lots of fun and laughter. The inclusion of a few younger actors is a nice addition, making this show the perfect choice to introduce children to the magic of live theater.

Allie Eibler and Michael Verre fall in love in a scene from ‘Cinderella' at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully
Allie Eibler and Michael Verre fall in love in a scene from ‘Cinderella’ at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully

Allie Eibler stars as the sweet and innocent Ella, a young girl whose father dies, leaving her at the mercy of her evil stepmother and mean stepsisters. Forced to do all the chores and sleep in the kitchen by the fireplace, she is nicknamed Cinderella. Her miserable plight attracts the attention of her fairy godmother, played wonderfully with a warm Southern accent by Suzanne Mason, who is determined to rescue her. Aided by her helpers, energetic 13-year-olds Ryan J. McInnes and Meaghan Maher (both last seen in “A Christmas Story”), the fairy godmother arranges for Cinderella to attend the royal ball, where she steals the heart of the young prince, played by the handsome Michael Verre, and, after the shoe fits, lives happily ever after.

The talented Maryellen Molfetta plays the role of the stepmother with just enough selfishness and greediness, and Alyson Clancy as Henrietta and Kate Keating as Gertrude are hilarious as the jealous stepsisters.

Maryellen Molfetta, Alyson Clancy, Kate Keating and Allie Eibler star in 'Cinderella' at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully
Maryellen Molfetta, Alyson Clancy, Kate Keating and Allie Eibler star in ‘Cinderella’ at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully

It is the incomparable Kevin Burns, however (seen most recently as the Cowardly Lion in the “Wizard of Oz” and as Frosty in “Frosty the Snowman”), in the role of the king, who steals the show.  Blind as a bat, he fumbles around the set, always headed in the wrong direction, mistaking a topiary for a guard, and almost falls off the stage at one point, drawing the most laughs.

There is a lot of audience interaction in this show — something the kids just love. The actors walk up and down the aisles during scene changes, serving as a nice distraction. The king even wanders up and down the aisles with Cinderella’s glass slipper, asking little girls to try it on as the prince stands by with eager anticipation. Even the youngest guests won’t have time to grow restless as they participate in “The Sneeze Polka” dance and are asked questions by the cast.

Suzanne Mason bewitches the audience in a scene from 'Cinderella' at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully
Suzanne Mason bewitches the audience in a scene from ‘Cinderella’ at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully

Designed by Laurén Paragallo, the colorful costumes, ranging from the stepsister’s hilarious outfits to Cinderella’s breathtaking ball gown, to the royal garbs for the king and prince, are spot on. Choreography by Marquez Catherine Stewart is terrific, especially evident during the “The Sneeze Polka.”

Meet the cast after the show for pictures and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located in the back of the program. The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “Cinderella” on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through May 10. Tickets are $15 each.

For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Fresh out of the box, roller skates wait patiently for their first customers at the Rinx in Port Jefferson. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Rita J. Egan

With the temperatures rising, a transformation is underway at The Rinx at the Harborfront Park’s Village Center in Port Jefferson. From April 10 to July 25, locals can change those ice skating blades for wheels as the outdoor rink will offer roller skating for the first time.

Renee Lemmerman, Village of Port Jefferson superintendent of recreation, said she saw Tom Palamara, owner of The Rinx, at the park last summer and said to him, “Hey, did you ever think of doing roller skating when ice skating ends?”

The two later met to talk about the possibility, and Palamara started looking into different types of surfaces and companies that could undertake such a project, according to Lemmerman. The superintendent said there are currently no roller rinks in Suffolk County, and she thought it would be a fun activity for local children. However, she soon found out roller skating isn’t just for kids when she was speaking with various people.

Lemmerman said one woman to whom she told the news, who was around 50 years old, said to her, “Oh my God, I want to go roller skating! I would never go ice skating but I used to roller skate.” The superintendent said she realized after talking to the woman, “Wow, we’re going to hit a whole different demographic here.”

Palamara said once the news started spreading that roller skating would arrive in Port Jefferson, people began approaching him asking if it was true. “It’s really amazing the level of interest we have gotten from random people,” he said.

While researching to find out if there had ever been a rink in Port Jefferson during the 20th century, Palamara found a newspaper article from “The Brooklyn Daily Eagle” dated July 5, 1908. According to the article, roller skating took place at Athena Hall located in the building now occupied by Theatre Three. With the absence of the activity from the village for decades, the owner said everyone at The Rinx is excited about offering roller skating and providing another pastime for village visitors.  He also has found from the ice skating season that Harborfront Park provides the perfect spot for a family gathering or night out for couples. “The thing that is great about the rink in Port Jefferson is it’s a nice, small, Rockfeller-Center-like rink,” Palamara said.

Ice skating ended on March 15, and the ice will be replaced with a multi-purpose, athletic sports court floor. Palamara said quad skates will be available to rent as the style of skates have a much wider platform than roller blades, making them easier for new or rusty skaters. The owner said attendees are also welcomed to bring their own skates, and the roller rink will be available for birthday and private parties.

Admission rates are $11 adults, $5.50 seniors and $8.50 children 11 and under, except for Friday and Saturday nights when admission is $12 for all. Skate rental is an additional $5.50.

The Rinx is located at the Port Jefferson Village Center, 101-A East Broadway, Port Jefferson. For more information on session times and discount passes, visit www.TheRinx.com/Roller or call 631-403-4357 for more information.

‘Frozen’ sing along edition and ‘Cars’ are just two of the Disney movies to be screened next week in Smithtown. Image from SCPA

There’s no better way to spend a week off from school than watching some of the best Disney movies around on the big screen.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts is hosting a Disney classic movie week that takes place during many districts’ spring breaks April 4 to 12. Each day, a different movie that caters to both boys and girls will be shown.

“The kids are off from school [and] we always try to do something for when kids are off from school,” owner Ken Washington said.

The movies include “Frozen” (sing along version) on April 4, “Wreck-It Ralph” on April 6, “Tangled” on April 7, “Cars” on April 8, “Sleeping Beauty” on April 9, “Brave” on April 10 and “Toy Story” on April 12.
“The biggest response so far has to be Disney’s ‘Frozen,’” Washington said.

Each movie starts at 1:30 p.m. and tickets are $5 each. Advance tickets are on sale now.

But it’s not just Disney the center is celebrating. On select dates through October, classic movies are being shown at the theater. Coming up in April is “A League of Their Own,” “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “The Sting,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “As Good As It Gets.”

Since bringing the classic movies back to the theater in November 2014, the theater has experienced a very positive response, Washington said.

In June, the theater will be showing “E.T.” and “Jaws,” which Washington expects to be the biggest movies of the season.

Washington had a hand at picking all the classic movies that will play and he worked hard to find movies that everyone would like. “I kind of picked the whole roster,” Washington said. “I started at the top 100 films of all time.”

Another big weekend at the theater will be superhero weekend in May, where movie lovers can see “The Amazing Spiderman” 1 and 2, “Superman” 1 and 2, “Batman” and “Batman Begins” as well as “Ironman” 1 and 2. The theater will also host a Lord of the Ring trilogy, which is expected to be a 12-hour adventure.

Part of the reason the theater is taking part in the movie events is because the town is celebrating its 350th anniversary and Washington wanted the theater to be a part of that.

“I think it’s been enough of a response that we are looking to continue [the classic movie series] next year,” Washington said.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts is located at 2 E. Main St., Smithtown. For more information on the theater’s classic movies, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org/show-schedule/movie-nights.

Jessica Lee Goldyn in a scene from ‘A Chorus Line’ at the Engeman. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Charles J. Morgan

“A Chorus Line” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport last weekend and was a top-notch terpsichorean treat! If your scribe could marshal more alliterative allusions evoking the theatrical theophany that burst forth last Saturday, he would be demeaning the meaning of accurate critical acumen. But enough of Roccoco doggerel! The show, directed by Drew Humphrey was, well, a smash hit.

Since it was all about dance and nothing but dance, a word about the choreography is in order. Dena DiGiacinto was in charge, and her fully charged crew put out a potpourri of evolutions and contortions in every genre including tango, tap, ballet and culminating in an all-hands-on-stage finale entitled “One,” which brought out a standing ovation rife with shouts of “Bravo!” DiGiacinto is immensely talented, having played a role in it on Broadway. However, she is the one who managed the unbelievable precision, coordination and aesthetic unitive finality that was a tribute to the totality of the show.

Since dance requires music, there was James Olmstead leading his magnificent crew with associate Bob Kelly and featuring Joe Boardman on trumpet, Brent Chiarello on trombone, Russ Brown on bass, Mark Gatz on reeds and Josh Enflich on percussion. In your scribe’s opinion previously expressed about this band, they could easily supplant a Broadway pit outfit including its string section.

The main lead is Zach, the choreographer charged with getting a chorus line in shape for a forthcoming performance. He is played by James Ludwig who reveals not only talent in dancing but a genuine stage presence as an actor. He even appears as a dancer in that knockout finale.

Then we have Jessica Lee Goldyn as Cassie who gives an empty-stage dance  solo in “The Music and the Mirror” as well as an emotional dialog with Zach that can only be described as riveting.

Stephanie Israelson is Valerie. She has two breakaway numbers. In Act I with Andrew Matzger and Sissy Bell called “And…” in which her dancing skills are obvious and in Act II a solo on “”Dance: 10; Looks: 3” in which those skills are more ubiquitous. DJ Petrosino as Al and Rachel Marie Bell as Kristine are hilarious in a number called “Sing.”

In another number entitled “At the Ballet” Kelly Sheehan, Abby Church and Courtney Moran manifested evident skill. Patent progress was also evident in Danny Wilfred’s performance as  Richie.

It should be remembered that every single person on the boards is a dancer. There are no walk-ons, no characters who have only dialog — it is dance and music all the way. Lighting was effected by Cory Pattak who handled the fast-paced action with consummate skill.

There was no set. Even the back wall upstage was seen; after all it was rehearsal and audition time. Laura Shubert on sound design made her  ability to balance, increase/decrease, volume shine through. Your scribe even picked up a brief solo by Josh Endlich played on sizzling high-hats. The beats of all the numbers was so complete that your scribe’s slightly arthritic knee grew tired from his left foot tapping. He actually had to switch to his right.

All in all, the entire performance is sharply and professionally performed, something that the Engeman has consistently presented to theater audiences.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “A Chorus Line” through May 10. Tickets are $69. For more information, call 261-2900 or visit www.engemean theater.com.

Council head mulls creating new lecture series

Marc Courtade photo from Huntington Arts Council

Marc Courtade, the new executive director of the Huntington Arts Council, is rolling up his sleeves and getting ready to work.

Courtade follows Diana Cherryholmes as the new leader of the arts organization and officially stepped in to fill her position on March 2. Cherryholmes, who was at the helm of the Huntington Arts Council for more than 16 years, left to work for Suffolk County.

Before joining the Huntington Arts Council, Courtade was the business manager for Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU Post for the past 17 years.

“I am delighted to bring my skills, passion and energy to the Huntington Arts Council, and look forward to helping the arts remain a vibrant part of our community,” he said in a statement.

While at Tilles, Courtade was an integral part of the center’s performance season, where he assisted in planning and organizing many of the performances and special events. At Tilles, he also created the pre-performance series, “Performance PLUS!” while simultaneously producing and acting as artistic director for 10 years. Courtade continues to teach musical theater and opera courses for the honors program at LIU and The Hutton House Lectures at Lorber Hall.

“At the moment, I just want to help to continue the good work and move the organization forward … I’m still transitioning and working on a 50th anniversary reception,” he said in a phone interview. “This is the 50th anniversary of the concerts at Heckscher Park, so we’re currently working on finalizing that programming.”

Courtade said that the planning for the 50th anniversary of the concerts in the park is all still in the works, but he is looking to hold a small reception before the anniversary concert on June 27.

Courtade said that over the years he has given many lectures and would like to continue that while at HAC.

“I would love to begin a lecture series here, presentations about the arts,” he said. “Different art genres. I would like to tailor it across a wide variety of art genres. I would give some and I would like to have speakers from the outside as well on arts-related topics.”

While Courtade’s personal focus is in the performing arts, the Huntington Arts Council offers a wide variety of arts, including both performing and visual.

Courtade said that on April 10, HAC will be holding its opening reception of a self-portrait visual arts show entitled, “I see me!” It will be a juried show and the winners will be announced very soon, he said.

In addition to his involvement at Tilles and now at HAC, Courtade has been a speaker for the New York Council for the Humanities since 2007. He is a frequent speaker all over Long Island and the New York-area.

Before Tilles, Courtade worked in development for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and New York City Opera.

'Queensborough,' oil on prepared acid free paper. Image from Gallery North

Gallery North is mourning the loss of illustrator and friend Jeffrey K. Fisher. Beginning Friday, March 27, the gallery honors this dynamic illustrator with a one-man show titled “By Default: The Work of Jeffrey K. Fisher.”

Judith Levy, director of Gallery North, speaks of Fisher with both tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. “I knew Jeff for four and a half years. He helped me with a couple of important exhibitions. He was an exuberant person!”

The name of the show evolved from a joke Fisher had with Levy in which he said he was “only in the Gallery’s shows by default.” It was his tongue-in-cheek way of joking about why his work was included in its shows. Fisher’s passing has left a void in the art community. Levy said the reception and show will “represent the spirit, the energy and the fun of Jeffrey Fisher.”

Fisher, an award-winning artist, cast his spell on everyone he met. Adrian Sinnot, illustrator and friend of Fisher, shared words of praise, which will resonate with those who knew the artist. “He was a giant of a man both physically and artistically. At 6 feet 4 inches he towered over the members of the Berndt Toast Gang, the Long Island chapter of the National Cartoonists Society.” He continued to say that Jeff was a “prime example of a fellow artist who was always willing to help other artists in the highly competitive professional work they were engaged in.”

Artist Jeffrey K. Fisher at last year's 'The Drawn Word' opening reception. Photo by Jeff Foster
Artist Jeffrey K. Fisher at last year’s ‘The Drawn Word’ opening reception. Photo by Jeff Foster

From professional organizations such as the Society of Illustrators to his formation of the Long Island Drawing Studio in Smithtown, to the Joe Bonham Project, Fisher left behind many people who miss his presence. Amanda Reilly, a freelance illustrator who was a student of Fisher’s for two years, at the Drawing Studio, is grateful for his guidance. “He always found the time to talk to me about my work and I will always remember the support and confidence he gave me. Through his continued criticism, he made me realize that I am always learning and growing.” Reilly laughed about the crazy drawing exercises he would make them do, such as drawing with their nondominate hand or with their feet. Reilly and other members of the studio are proudly renaming the studio “The Jeffrey K. Fisher Studio” to honor the commitment and dedication he shared with the students.

Victor Juhasz, fellow illustrator, met Fisher in the early 2000’s when they were serving on the board of directors for the Society of Illustrators. Juhasz reflected, “Jeff was one of those guys who goofed around but when he talked about art and drawing he was utterly fluent and poetic.” Juhasz and Fisher worked together on the “Joe Bonham Project” where they would spend hours talking to wounded service members about their war experiences while documenting their stories through drawings. “I literally think of him almost every day,” said Juhasz.

Fisher offered so much of his life and passion to the art community and his family. Sinnot added with pride, “[Fisher’s] passing leaves a great hole in the lives of the many thousands of people he touched through his teaching and his art. One of the great things we do as artists is to leave behind a part of ourselves in our work for future generations to share and enjoy.”

“By Default” offers visitors an opportunity to experience an array of work that Fisher created over the years, which according to Levy “includes a variety of illustrations prepared for various books and other publications.”

'Babe Ruth,' ink sketch. Image from Gallery North
‘Babe Ruth,’ ink sketch. Image from Gallery North

“To see one of Jeff’s pieces brings him back to us if only for a moment. If you never had the chance to know Jeff, get to know his work, as he lives and breathes through it,” reflected Sinnot, Fisher’s friend and colleague of 25 years.

Please join Gallery North on Friday, March 27, from 5 to 7 p.m. for the opening reception, which will not only honor Fisher but also keep alive his humor with live caricaturists and calligraphers drawing for guests.

“By Default” will run from March 27 through April 17. Gallery North is located at 90 North Country Road in Setauket. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information contact Gallery North at 631-751-2676 or visit www.gallerynorth.org.

The cast of "Elephant & Piggie's 'We Are in Play'" at the SCPA. Photo by Samantha Cuomo

Currently in production at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, “Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play!'” is based on the popular “Elephant & Piggie” book series by award-winning children’s author Mo Willems, with script and lyrics by Willems and music by Deborah Wicks La Puma.

Directed and choreographed by Melissa Rapelje, with musical direction by Melissa Cowell, the first part of the show follows Gerald (the elephant) and Piggie as they embark on a musical adventure solving problems and learning friendship etiquette with the help of the dancing trio, the Squirelles.

Eventually, the characters realize that they are in a play and engage the audience, having them join in by shouting out funny words like “banana,” clapping and doing the “Flippy Floppy Floory dance.” A nice touch is the conversational bubbles between Gerald and Piggie projected on a large screen on stage.

Bobby Montaniz is perfectly cast as Gerald. With the boundless energy of a young child, he jumps, skips and rolls on the floor, eliciting much laughter from the young audience. His rendition of “Ice Cream Hero” was very entertaining. Montaniz is always wonderful to watch, especially in children’s theater, and this performance is no exception. Piggie is played wonderfully by the talented Courtney Braun whose subtle wit and humor is spot on. The spunky Squirrelles, played by Allie Brault, Hayley Phaneuf and Samantha Foti, and the Ice Cream Penguin, played by Bella Lardaro, are a great supporting cast and do a terrific job.

Costumes by Ronald R. Green III are simple but effective. Montaniz’s gray jacket and pants, Braun’s pink outfit with striped tights and dark brown dresses for the Squirrelles reflect the characters’ animal traits and personalities.

For many young children in the audience, this was their first exposure to live theater, and the cast left quite an impression. Cooper Alberti, 2, of Babyon sat in the balcony with his father after deciding his original seat was a little too close to the stage. Grinning from ear to ear the entire time, he rocked back and forth to the music and clapped enthusiastically. His favorite characters were the Squirrelles and, according to his dad, Cooper loved all the singing and dancing.

Parents, a warning — the play is approximately an hour long with no intermission — so try to hit the bathrooms before the show. Stay after the show for autographs and photos with the cast.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown, will present “Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play!'” on weekends through April 11 (no show on Easter) with special Spring Break performances from April 6 to April 9 at 10:30 a.m. All tickets are $15. For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum has received a grant of $135,000 from The Robert D. L. Gardiner Foundation to support the restoration of the museum’s extensive marine collection, the largest privately assembled collection of sea specimens from the pre-atomic era.

William Vanderbilt (1878-1944) created his Marine Museum, which he called The Hall of Fishes, in 1922. He stocked it with marine specimens collected during voyages to the Galapagos Islands and opened it to the public for a few hours a week. He added to the collection after his circumnavigations of the globe in 1928-29 and 1930-31.

Jennifer Attonito, executive director of the foundation, said, “The Vanderbilt Museum is a Long Island gem and a major anchor of local history. We are proud to help preserve this valuable collection to benefit museum visitors and to help raise awareness of Long Island’s heritage.”

The Gardiner Foundation, established in 1987 in Hampton Bays, supports the study of Long Island history, with an emphasis on Suffolk County. The foundation was inspired by Robert David Lion Gardiner’s personal passion for New York history.

Stephanie Gress, the Vanderbilt’s director of curatorial affairs, said, “The Gardiner Foundation grant will help us to restore and preserve many rare specimens in our Marine Museum that have long needed critical attention. Our marine collection is the foundation for several key Vanderbilt education programs that serve Long Island schools.”

The Vanderbilt marine collection of 13,190 specimens is housed in the Marine Museum, Habitat and Memorial Wing. Of these, she said, 919 are invertebrates in fluid (displayed in “lots” — from two to many in a single display container); 719 dry fish specimens; 1,746 wet fish specimens in lots and 9,806 dry marine invertebrates (shells and corals). Dry specimens are exhibited on the first floor of the Marine Museum, wet specimens on the second floor.

The two largest marine specimens are a 32-foot whale shark — caught in 1935 and restored in 2008 with a federal Save America’s Treasures grant — and an imposing manta ray, caught in 1916 and restored many years ago, with a 16.5-foot wingspan. William K. Vanderbilt II called it the “Sea Devil.”

Gress said cartilaginous fish, such as sharks and rays, which have spines of cartilage instead of bone, are the most difficult to preserve. Another problem is the age of the collection — many of Vanderbilt’s earliest specimens are nearly 100 years old. When preservation fluid (ethanol and distilled water) in specimen containers degrades the wax seals, comes in contact with air and evaporates, specimens can decompose, she said.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

James D. Schultz as Peter Rabbit and Tazukie Fearon as Benjamin Bunny in a scene from 'The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

I always know that spring is right around the corner when Theatre Three presents its adorable annual musical production of “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.” Written by Jeffrey E. Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson, suggested by the characters created by Beatrix Potter, this show is a personal favorite of mine and seems to get better every year. Directed by Tazukie Fearon for the second year in a row and accompanied flawlessly on piano by Steve McCoy, it follows the adventures of Peter Rabbit (played by James D. Schultz) and his cousin Benjamin Bunny (played by Fearon) as they sneak into Mr. McGregor’s garden to steal his vegetables.

Like two peas in a pod, Schultz and Fearon work very well together. They know their target audience well and draw the most laughs. Amanda Geraci plays Mrs. Rabbit and charms the audience with her beautiful rendition of “Morning.” Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail, played by Marquéz Catherine Stewart, Jenna Kavaler and Caitlin Nofi (who has a fondness for Trix cereal), respectively, are a terrific supporting cast. Dan Brenner and Sue Anne Dennehy return as Mr. and Mrs. McGregor and shine in their duet, “A Friend.”

Of special note is the constant interaction with the audience — asking them what to do next or answering a child when she asks a question. While being chased by Mr. McGregor, the cast runs up and down the aisles, sitting in chairs to hide, much to the delight of the young theatergoers. A nice touch.

The set is minimal, with just a few props including a scarecrow and a basket of vegetables, allowing your imagination to run wild. Listening to the dialogue, one can envision a garden full of carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, string beans and parsley and understand how two little rabbits could find this forbidden bounty irresistible. Utilizing a trap door on the stage as a rabbit hole is very effective.

Masterfully choreographed by Stewart, the musical numbers, arranged by Kevin F. Story, are all showstoppers, especially “One More Time Around” and “Peter’s Socks,” and the audience is treated to an encore performance of all the songs in a finale mega mix.

Sophie Jeong, 4, of Coram, came prepared for the show by wearing a pretty pink shirt with a bunny sewn on it and by bringing her favorite stuffed rabbit along. She sang along to all the songs, and, when asked who her favorite character was, she replied without hesitation — “Peter Rabbit.” Her favorite scene? “When the bunnies were eating their lunch [of blackberries, milk and toast].”

Don’t forget to take a picture with the cast in the lobby after the show. Bunny stuffed animals will be sold before the show and during intermission, and booster seats are available. Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” through April 11, perfect for spring break. Up next is “The Littlest Pirate” followed by “Puss-in-Boots” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Tickets are only $10 each. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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