Arts & Entertainment

Historic Hill Climb to be highlight of the weekend

Car 8, a 1909 Alco-6 racing car driven by Howard Kroplick of East Hills, followed by 1907 Fiat driven by Manny Dragone from Connecticut leads the pack at the last hill climb up West Broadway in 2010. Photo by Richard Solo

By Rita J. Egan

Port Jefferson Village will host its first Heritage Weekend Saturday, Aug. 22, and Sunday, Aug. 23. The event will give residents the opportunity to visit over 15 locations in the village, as well as Belle Terre, to learn about the stories behind the participating venues as well as the history of the village.

Jill Russell, public relations and marketing consultant for the village, said each location involved in the weekend has planned a variety of activities that celebrate the local culture, traditions, history and achievements.

“You’ll be invited to come in and learn a little bit of history about Port Jefferson. It’s really a phenomenal thing for families to come and do,” Russell said. The consultant said one of the featured events will be the Port Jefferson Fire Department, 115 Maple Place, opening its museum to the public. She said most people don’t even realize the museum exists unless their children have visited the firehouse on a school field trip.

Charlie Russo, assistant chief of the Port Jefferson Fire Department said, “The fire department has great history with the village.” The assistant chief explained that many of the members have followed in the footsteps of relatives and can trace their family’s involvement in the department for decades.

Russo said the museum will be open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday 3 to 5 p.m. Among the items on display, visitors will find uniforms, helmets, tools and more equipment used by firefighters since Hook and Ladder Co. 1 was established in 1887. One of the featured items is a hand fire pump that once needed two firefighters to operate it.

Those heading over to the Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson Street, on Saturday will feel as if they are actually going back in time. Nikki Greenhalgh, who’s in charge of the library’s marketing and communications, said visitors will be able to enter the building through the original front doors, which are normally closed off. The former entrance leads into the front room, now known as the quiet room, which was the first library at the current location when it was built in 1925. Here library patrons will find no electronic devices and a historical reference desk.

The Port Jefferson Fire Deparment Museum will be open to the public this weekend. Photo by Richard Solo
The Port Jefferson Fire Deparment Museum will be open to the public this weekend. Photo by Richard Solo

“We just want to take everyone back in time and reiterate the history and how we still use that building as a quiet area,” Greenhalgh said.

The library is offering period-themed activities for kids such as paper dolls and hopscotch. While the children play, longtime employees, including Earlene O’Hare, who recently retired after 30 years, will be on hand to answer visitors’ questions about the history of the building.   

The library will also be exhibiting the work of Leon Foster Jones, a local artist of the early 1900s, in the front room. Greenhalgh said the library had acquired the artist’s sketchbook, and in addition to his original paintings scanned drawings of his will also be on display.

Nan Guzzetta, owner of Antique Costume & Prop Rental by Nan, 709 Main Street, encourages history buffs to stop by her store, which normally is open to potential customers by appointment only, and learn about the structure’s unique history. The store owner, who has been in business on Main Street for 20 years and 40 years in total, said the patio, garden and porch will be open and visitors can view the parlor. She said customers will get a peek at the historical Civil War era structure constructed by Captain Henry Hallock, who built many ships in Port Jefferson.   

The house known by many as the Chambers Mansion has not only sheltered those of local historical significance but also of musical importance. In the ‘70s the band Foghat took up residence there, and Guzzetta said the rock group transformed a stage that once existed in the home into an echo chamber. Not only did the band produce 12 gold records here, but they also would rent out rooms to other artists who would stay at the house and record. Musical greats such as Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen have been known to create albums at the mansion, and during Foghat’s heyday, the home was one of the foremost recording studios in the Northeast and became known as the Boogie Hotel in the area, according to Guzzetta.

The Drowned Meadow House, on the corner of West Broadway and Barnum Avenue, will also provide a look at interesting aspects of the village’s history. Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant said a letter will be on display of historical importance at the Revolutionary War era “post and beam” constructed home, which once housed spy ring members.

“The significance of discovering the revolutionary letter directly ties other Roe family members, and Drowned Meadow then and present day Port Jefferson, to George Washington’s Spy Ring. In particular the letter was sent to Loyalist Oliver Delancey and states Nathaniel Roe and Phillips Roe supplied intelligence to Caleb Brewster, and the Roe family harbored supplies in our very own Drowned Meadow,” Garant said. 

Russell said the culmination of the weekend will be the Port Jefferson Hill Climb, which will begin at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday. Spectators lined up on East Broadway can view 60 antique cars as they ascend a 2,000-foot climb to Belle Terre Road. After the climb, the automobiles will be part of a parade from Myrtle and Belle Terre Road down to Main Street, then to East Main and back to the Village Center.

This will be the sixth re-creation of the historic Hill Climb, which originally took place in 1910 and in the recent past has been recreated every five years on E. Broadway, according to the consultant. Russell said during the weekend, car and history buffs can stop by the Village Center, 101A East Broadway, where reproductions, as well as actual photographs of the original Hill Climb, on loan from the Detroit Public Library, are on display.

During Port Jefferson Heritage Weekend, residents will be able to utilize the Port Jefferson Jitney to travel from venue to venue if they wish. Most locations will be participating from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For a complete list of participating venues and more information, visit www.portjeff.com.

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Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks play well into the night. Photo by Heidi Sutton

“Tonight is a very special night,” said Norman Prusslin, one of the co-founders of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. He was speaking to a large crowd numbering in the hundreds last Wednesday night who had gathered to see Gene Casey & the Lone Sharks perform in concert at the Mayor Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson. It was intermission and the sun was slowly setting over the calm waters of Port Jefferson Harbor as the boats gently swayed back and forth. The temperature was a comfortable 80 degrees. But Prusslin wasn’t referring to the concert or the tranquil setting.

He was about to present the Long Island Hall of Fame’s Long Island Sound Award to its latest recipient, the frontman of the Lone Sharks, singer/songwriter Gene Casey. The award recognizes a local musician who has made “outstanding contributions to Long Island’s musical heritage.”

“Starting in the late ’80s or so, I started to hear this buzz about this guy out east who was drawing all these crowds playing rockabilly, swing, R&B, traditional, country” he said. “For the past 27 years or so, Gene and his colleagues, The Lone Sharks, have been really serving as ambassadors to our Long Island community, … playing the music from the heart, and  … I think we are all very fortunate to be living on Long Island and to have Gene and his compatriots [entertain us] through his recordings, through his performances, through his sound track placement — clearly he is, has been and continues to be the real deal.”

Along with LIHoF member Amy Tuttle and Executive Director Joe Jankowski, Prusslin then presented Casey with the well-deserved award.

“Well here it is,” beamed Casey as he held it high above his 6’ 5” frame. “Thank you folks for such a wonderful turnout tonight. I’d rather play [music] than talk … but first I want to thank the Long Island Music Hall of Fame for the work they are doing and continue to do and I hope they find a permanent home soon. I am very proud to be considered a Long Island musician. I think any scene that has Joan Jett and Debbie Gibson and Dee Snider and Billy Joel — that’s a scene I want to be part of.”

Since their inception, Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks have played at hundreds of venues from Manhattan to Montauk and have produced five CDs of original songs with several featured on the FX Network’s TV show “Justified” and in “The Tall Man,” a feature film starring Jessica Biel.

After thanking his wife and manager Heather and his band mates, Chris Ripley, Tony Palumbo and Paul Scher, Casey said “I am going to accept this award with gratitude and appreciation on behalf of all my hardworking musician friends, many [who] are out here tonight, for keeping the faith and carrying the torch and not giving up on a dream on those very long nights driving home on Route 25, 27, [Interstate] 495. On behalf of them, I thank you folks for supporting live music, local music, and God bless you. Now let’s get back to rockin’!”

True to his word, Casey and his band went on to play well over the scheduled time, taking requests and belting out favorites from Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and performing original songs including “Don’t Leave Her Lonely,” “You Ain’t Missing Much” and “It Should Rain.” And yes, it was a very special night.

A 1955 Panhead Billy Bike replica from the 1969 motion picture ‘Easy Rider.’ Photo by Heidi Sutton

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization will present a free lecture by Jeffrey James on Aug. 22 at 2 p.m. in conjunction with it’s summer exhibit, “America’s Love Affair with the Motorcycle … Continues,” which features more than 50 motorcycles on display as well as vintage collections, memorabilia, artwork and sculptures.

Titled “Movies & Motorcycles,” the presentation will focus on the beloved movies associated with this national pastime. James will discuss a variety of information as it relates to the motorcycles on exhibit, including the music of Bon Jovi and Judas Priest; the top 10 Harley Davidson films; the 1924 Buster Keaton film, “Sherlock Jr.” and other significant movies, such as “The Great Escape” from 1963 and “Easy Rider” from 1969.

James has served on the board of directors of the Nassau Symphony Orchestra, the American Chamber Ensemble, the Gemini Youth Symphony and the LI Arts Council at Freeport to name a few, and he currently sits on the board of directors for the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.

The forum will take place at the WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main Street, Stony Brook. General admission to the exhibit is $5 adults, $3 children under 12. For more information, call 631-689-5888 or visit www.stonybrookvillage.com.

By Stacy Santini

When people think of Port Jefferson Village and performance, phenomenal Theatre Three immediately comes to mind. What most people do not know is that down the road is an intimate venue, called The Performing Arts Studio of New York. Yes, down the road on East Main Street, this blackbox theater will ironically soon be premiering the Tony Award winning play, “Down the Road.”

The Performing Arts Studio of New York is a unique space with a seating capacity of only 70. Its patrons can view some of the best performances this side of Broadway in comfy chairs and cushy couches. Known as a box theater, its simple lines and flexible seating provide a blank slate for the productions that embrace it.

Directors Terri Morrissey and Deborah and Michael Livering’s mission is noble. Their goal is not only to train artists and promote live performances but to nurture and foster exploration into the artistic realm. Anything is possible here, and on Aug. 21, Bluebox Theatre Company will take up residence and impregnate The Performing Arts Studio of New York with its vision of Lee Blessings’ psychological esoteric drama.

“Down the Road” is the tale of serial killer Bill Reach and the married team of reporters who set out to chronicle and define his actions. Making sense out of the horrific deeds undertaken by Reach and attempting to reveal his motives is a task of tremendous magnitude, and the outcome stretches way beyond his murderous proclivity.

As the incomparable James D. Schultz, of Theatre Three fame, who plays Reach, points out, “My character is encroaching on how they view each other. The more they know about him, the less they know about themselves.” He further elaborates: “The scariest thing about Bill Reach is that there is nothing scary about him or his background.  He could be anyone; he is just doing these horrible things for no apparent reason. Just like dancers have to dance, swimmers have to swim, killers just kill people.” Schultz will also be making his debut as executive producer.

Thus, the audience will become familiar with the numerous themes inherent in the play. As David Morrissey Jr., executive director at Bluebox, explains, “The play is essentially about the responsibility of journalists and how the media portrays criminals in a certain way; how they can actually sway the public into committing more crimes. The media often makes criminals of these types into celebrities.” The media, in this case performed by Marquez and Brian Azoulay, are treasures of our local pool of talented actors.

One of the most tantalizing reasons to get excited about this production of “Down the Road” is that it is being delivered to us by Bluebox Theatre Company. It isn’t often that such an impassioned, unconventional group of individuals who think outside of the box make Long Island their home. Theatrical offbeat jewels such as Bluebox are usually found producing and performing in urban arenas.

Principally described as edgy, David Morrissey elaborates, “Our mission is to light up the world’s stages with the best storytelling. We are all about putting unconventional theater out there, and things you would not normally see on Long Island. It is about including people who are outside the line and giving them their place in theater. We want to give them a voice.”

Bluebox Theatre Company is comprised of Joe Rubino, managing director; David Morrissey Jr., executive director; Andrew Beck, artistic director; and Tom Mooylayil, actor, producer and investor.

The synergy among the team is apparent as they have known each other for years and began acting together in middle school. Rubino connects the dots for the group: “One reason I think it works so well is because we have all worked together for years. We have such a passion for it, this is true; but we also have these other talents that we bring to the table. We play any other roles in the company albeit social media, web design etc. It all just flows for us, we are not the Bluebox Theatre Company but rather the Bluebox Family.”

Future Bluebox Theatre Company productions will include: “Night of the Living Dead,” Oct. 9 to 25; “Art,” Nov. 27 to 29; “Holiday Tales from the Box,” Dec. 19; Jedi Fighting AIDS benefit on Dec. 20.

“Down the Road” premieres at The Performing Arts Studio of New York on Friday, Aug. 21, and will run through Sept. 6. Seating is limited and tickets should be purchased sooner than later.  This is an auspicious event, welcoming Bluebox to our community, being grateful they chose Port Jefferson to call home and to bear witness to one of the most intriguing plays written in years.

The Performing Arts Studio of New York is located at 11 Traders Cove, Port Jefferson. Tickets are $19 adults ($15 online), $13 students ($11 online). For more information, call 631-928-6529 or visit www.blueboxtheatrecompany.com.

‘Bronx’ 2015 by Ruben Natal-San Miguel

By Talia Amorosano

Born in Puerto Rico and currently residing in New York City, photographer, writer and art critic Ruben Natal-San Miguel knows what it is like to experience life in vastly different places. With photography exhibited in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and Mexico City (among other national and international locations), he has a knack for capturing images that display the human spirit in unique and varied settings.

His visionary eye for capturing people and life has been brought to Long Island’s own Ripe Art Gallery in Huntington. An artist reception was held on Aug. 8. The Rights of Summer  photography exhibit, juried by himself and Sean Corcoran (curator of photography and prints for the Museum of the City of New York), showcases his original photography alongside the work of over 25 other photographers from Long Island to Japan (to Portugal, to Canada, to Missouri, to California).

“Everybody’s summer looks different depending on where and how they live,” said Cherie Via Rexer, owner of Ripe Art Gallery, who has worked with Natal-San Miguel during past exhibitions.

This statement uncovers the main controlling idea of the exhibit, that different people of different socioeconomic classes, cultures, lifestyles and locations experience and celebrate summer differently.  “We wanted to see what summer looked like for the 99 percent as well as the 1 percent,” said Via Rexer, who noted that the Ripe Art Gallery is the perfect place to showcase this theme, based on its location between New York City and the Hamptons.

‘Mercy Playground’ 2014 by Ruben Natal-San Miguel
‘Mercy Playground’ 2014 by Ruben Natal-San Miguel

The result of sorting through over 300 submissions is a final set of 57 images that each convey summer living in a diverse way and showcase “a little bit of everything,” according to Via Rexer.  The styles of the photographs range from portraits to landscapes to abstract, but they all illustrate the Rights of Summer.

A particularly striking photograph that Via Rexer believes embodies the theme of the exhibit is “Bronx,” by Natal-San Miguel, in which a man stands in front of the ocean with the iconic word visibly tattooed across his back. “It shows a beautiful beach that is surrounded by projects and all kinds of living situations,” she said.  “It shows the ocean but visibly zeroes in on a location.”

Also notable are the six established fine art photographers whose work will be on display at the exhibit: Richard Misrach, Christopher Rauschenberg (related to photographer Robert Rauschenberg), Karine Laval, Gillian Laub, Amy Arbus (related to photographer Diane Arbus) and Arlene Gottfried.   

Eleonora Ronconi captured Best in Show with “Corn Stand,” first runner up was “Girl from Palm Springs” by Dolly Faibyshev, second runner up was Robert Herman’s “Heat Wave NYC NY” and third runner up was Luis Carle’s “Abanicos.” Honorable mentions went to Lauren Welles for “Coney Island 1,” Jennifer McClure for “Untitled,” Nancy Oliveri for “Coney Island Venus” and Russ Rowland’s “Brighton Beached 3.”

All are encouraged to view the artwork on display until Sept. 5. This event is sure to excite photography and fine art enthusiasts alike and offers a great opportunity for Long Islanders to view art by both internationally recognized and local photographers.

Ripe Art Gallery is located at 1028 Park Ave., Huntington. For more information, call 631-239-1805 or visit www.ripeartgal.com.

From left, Dana Bush, Michael Giordano, James D. Schultz, Frank Gilleece, Amanda Geraci and Sue Anne Dennehy in a scene from ‘The Pied Piper’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Sari Feldman/Franklin Inc.

Currently in production on the Mainstage, Theatre Three’s Children’s Theatre brings us a kinder, gentler musical version of the classic fairy tale “The Pied Piper.” Written by Jeffrey E. Sanzel and Kevin F. Story and adapted from “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” by the Brothers Grimm, it tells the tale of a town that has a bit of a rodent problem. Millions of rats, some the size of toasters, have taken over every nook and cranny. Even the cats are afraid of the rats!

The mayor decrees that anyone who can come up with a successful plan to rid the town of the rats will receive 100 gold pieces. A mysterious stranger appears and convinces the mayor to pay him 974 gold pieces. With a handshake and a promise, a deal is made and the Pied Piper lures the rats away by playing his magical flute. When the mayor has a change of heart and refuses to pay the full amount, the piper seeks revenge by placing the children under a magical spell and leading them out of the town and into a mountain.

With six talented adult actors at the helm, the cast also includes 45 young actors from the theater’s summer Dramatic Academy workshop who portray the children of Hamelin. Frank Gilleece plays Mayor Bruce Armbuckle who does whatever his wife, Mrs. Hilda Arbuckle, played by Sue Anne Dennehy, tells him to do, which includes going back on his word. James D. Schultz plays the bumbling Police Chief Henry Kahnstible and his wife, Mrs. Natasha Kahnstible, is played with aplomb by Amanda Geraci. Dana Bush as Mrs. Lavinia Brewster, the richest woman in town, is terrific.

However, it is the amazing Michael Giordano as the Pied Piper who steals the show. Making his entrance toward the end of the first act, he commands the stage with his wonderful rendition of “I Can Rid You of the Rats.” The audience is entranced as he sings and dances and performs his signature one-handed cartwheel.

While all the young actors did a fine job, special mention should be made of Jamie Terlecki, as Lydia, the lone child left behind. A bright future awaits her on the theater stage.

Accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, the songs are playful and fun. Choreography by Sari Feldman is top notch, especially with “Hope Springs Eternal” and “The Blame,” as are the costumes, designed by Amanda Geraci.

Sanzel and Story’s play goes beyond the traditional tale of the Pied Piper with messages about keeping your word, cheating, forgiveness and, for the parents, that children are more valuable than gold. And that is the real magic behind this wonderful production.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show and take a selfie. Next on the agenda is “Squawk: The Live Bird Show” on Aug. 23, a brand new musical titled “Alice’s Wonderland Adventures” from Oct. 3 to 30 and a Halloween Party for ages 4 and up on Oct. 24.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Pied Piper” on Aug. 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 11 a.m. and Aug. 8 and 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets are only $10 each. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Northport Historical Society’s latest exhibit gets personal

Eight of Northport’s Civil War veterans, from left, Roy Ackerly, Gus Gerard, Charlie Smith, Bill Mulfort, unidentified man, unidentified man, A.G. Tillotson and Barney Fox.

By Rita J. Egan

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War, and to commemorate the sesquicentennial, the Northport Historical Society is hosting the exhibit Northport and the Civil War: A Few Good Men. Visitors to the historical society’s museum can follow the lives of 12 Northport men from when they mustered in until the war ended for them.

The historical society joins other organizations in the township of Huntington hosting Civil War events. Both historical society Director Heather Johnson and Terry Reid, consultant to the collections and member of the exhibit’s committee, said when town representatives first approached the organization about hosting an exhibit they were a bit hesitant. They admitted they weren’t confident if they could pull together a full exhibit since they weren’t aware of many Civil War artifacts in their collection. However, Reid said once the committee started culling through items, they found muster rolls with very detailed information about young men from Northport who fought in the war.

The consultant said the muster rolls not only include information about what battles the young men fought in but also if they were injured, their eye color and hair color, names of their parents and occupations. With the discovery of the muster rolls, Reid said the exhibit became a possibility as the committee began writing the stories of each man.

“I thought that here are these men we can focus on, telling their specific stories. So we did it as more of a storybook as opposed to here’s a bullet,” Reid said.

Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Rita Egan
Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Rita Egan

The committee, which in addition to Reid includes Candy Hamilton, Christine Doll-Wagner, Rhoda Wright and Darcy Little, then set out to find the artifacts to complement the stories. An email was sent out to members of the historical society asking if anyone owned memorabilia. Chris Cierski and Ben Meyburg, Civil War enthusiasts, stepped forward to lend some of the pieces from their collections, including a uniform Meyburg has used in reenactments.

Reid said once the society had artifacts to illustrate the men’s stories the exhibit really came together. Visitors to the museum will not only find photos and letters but also equipment the soldiers would have received such as canteens, belt buckles and guns.

Once the artifacts were in place, knowing that the men belonged to the 48th and 127th infantries, the consultant said the committee members were able to create maps for each cabinet to show the troops’ movements.

“One of our main goals in this whole exhibit was to get people to really stop and think what these men, these boys, did at their young age of 18, 19. They all enlisted and ran off to war immediately to help the cause. Unfortunately it didn’t end well for most of them,” Reid said.   

The consultant said there are arrows on the floor to help visitors view the cases in order so that they can follow each soldiers’ journey in chronological order, and at the end, find out their fate.

“It was a very bloody, awful war, and the things they went through. . . . So, my heart was just breaking when I would read what happened to each one of them. I got emotionally attached to these boys. It was heartbreaking really to imagine what they must have gone through,” Reid said.

The exhibit also touches on the contributions the survivors made to Northport after their discharges such as Alfred C. Tillotson who owned a dry goods store on Main Street in the village.

The subject of whether a soldier will return from war is one that Johnson said she believes still strongly resonates with people.

“The idea of coming home, or unfortunately not coming home, it’s been going on since war began and continues to go on, unfortunately. I think because of that though it’s a universal theme. It’s something that  we can all relate to even if you haven’t anyone really close to you or in your family who has fought in a war, you probably know someone who has or at least feel for those who are currently fighting,” Johnson said.

The director said visitors will find many interesting items on display including a metal heel plate with a shamrock cutout that Irish soldiers would use on their boots. Johnson said when she saw it she was touched by the fact that despite the horrors they faced, the soldiers still enjoyed some whimsy.

Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Heather Johnson
Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Heather Johnson

Johnson said visitors will also find letters from Francis Sammis to a friend in Northport. The solider wrote about his memories of the girls in Northport and the get-togethers the young people would have.

“He’s still a young man. He may be a soldier and he may be fighting in a horrible, horrible war, but he’s still thinking about those good times. Similar to what a young man might do today,” the director said.   

Both Johnson and Reid hope visitors will take the time out to experience each of the soldiers’ stories and that it will have the same impact on guests as it did on them. Johnson said while everyone at the historical society learned a lot, she said she noticed the biggest impact on Reid.

“Terry in particular became very connected to those soldiers. She had read enough about them and it took on a different meaning for her,” Johnson said.

Reid said she found herself feeling protective in a motherly way of the young men as the committee discovered more about each of them.

“I hope that other people will come away the same way, will have the same sort of change as well. How could you not after you see these men’s faces,” she said.

Northport and the Civil War: A Few Good Men will be on view at the Northport Historical Society, 215 Main Street, until the end of the year. For more information, visit www.northporthistorical.org or call 631-757-9859.

Ward Hooper and Holly Gordon display similar pieces of art — from left, a painting and a photograph — both titled ‘The Boys of Summer.’ Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

When photographer Holly Gordon was asked to describe her relationship with painter Ward Hooper, she relayed a Hopi Native American tale about a paralyzed clown and a blind mudhead who are only able to flee their village when disaster strikes by individually compensating for what the other lacks: the mudhead provides mobility by carrying the clown on his back and the clown provides direction by acting as a set of eyes for the mudhead. “[Ward] was opening up my eyes, and I was using my camera to bring him the visions,” said Gordon. “There’s really such a synergy between us.”

For Hooper and Gordon, who met on Facebook through a mutual friend and typically get together once a week, the term “synergy” applies to both life and art, realms which, according to Gordon, are often indistinguishable from one another. Hooper plays the role of navigator for Gordon, who drives them both to diverse locations along the north shore of Long Island, including Huntington, Northport, Centerport, Kings Park and Cold Spring Harbor, some of which Hooper “hasn’t been to in 20 years.” The result is individual reinterpretations of the same settings made more complete by access to each others pre-existing work.

Sometimes Hooper’s paintings provide the initial inspiration, and other times Gordon’s photographs play this role. “That’s the beauty of our collaboration,” said Hooper. “Holly would show me something and challenge me to create something compatible with what she selected.”

“[When using Ward’s painting as the initial artistic reference] I knew that I was going to have to stretch my vision and stretch my technical skills to make my work even more fluid than it was previously,” said Gordon. “Art is usually a solitary thing, and among some artists you find a certain competition, but Ward and I have just been so supportive in sharing and helping each other grow and evolve and develop and create. It’s been an absolutely magical experience.”

52 of the artistic results of this experience — pairing the new photographic art of Gordon with the watercolor paintings of Hooper — will be on display at the Art League of Long Island’s Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery, from Aug. 8 to 23, in an exhibit appropriately titled The Brush/Lens Project.

“We’re hoping that viewers will be inspired,” said Gordon, “that they will come to see and appreciate the beauty that is right here on Long Island [by viewing art that was largely created in and inspired by Long Island].”

The exhibit will highlight versatile pieces of art, arranged in 26 sets, which encompass all four seasons and a variety of subjects. “We overestimated the number of pieces [that we would be able to include in the exhibit],” said Hooper. “Between the two of us, we have nearly 100 years of art,” continued Gordon, “there’s a book here.”

Both Hooper and Gordon are grateful that they have been afforded the opportunity to work with one another and plan to continue to do so in the future: “When you put yourself out there and you’re not afraid to share and interact, there’s so much beneath the surface to discover,” said Gordon, on her rewarding decision to reach out to Hooper. “Art brought [Holly and me] together,” Hooper emphasized. “We think, on many levels, the same way.”

With Gordon in the driver’s seat and Hooper as navigator, there’s no telling where their artistic visions will lead them next. “There’s no end to this journey. There’s no road map,” said Hooper. “We’ll just see where it takes us.”

The Art League of Long Island is located at 107 E. Deer Park Road, Dix Hills. Hours are Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The community is invited to an art reception on Aug. 9, from 2 to 4 p.m. The artists will take part in a Gallery Talk on Aug. 16, from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-462-5400 or visit www.artleagueli.net.

Karl O’Leary with his sons Cooper (left) and Cameron (right) at the Walt Whitman Birthplace ceremony this May. Photo from Karl O’Leary

By Stacy Santini

Most of us can look back on our lives and remember one person who impacted our journeys in such a profound manner that they will never be forgotten and their influence comes alive over and over again as we carry on with our daily activities.

For the pupils at Mount Sinai Middle School, that person is certain to be Karl O’Leary. An English teacher fascinated with poetry since the age of 7, O’Leary holds close the teachings of Walt Whitman and is dedicated to cultivating enthusiasm for life and thinking way outside the enclave of his classroom.

The cover of Testimonial Tales. Photo from Karl O’Leary
The cover of Testimonial Tales. Photo from Karl O’Leary

Coaching his students to take life on he says, “It is good to experience life and go beyond the boundaries; school is not just within four walls but about challenging themselves not for a grade but who they are, who they want to be.” O’Leary knew rather early that he couldn’t just preach this Whitmanesque philosophy. He had to and wanted to live it, to be tangible proof of his convictions. He embraces the simple life and dwells among nature as often as possible, albeit hiking Long Island’s Paumanok Path or camping for several weeks in rural New Hampshire with his family.

O’Leary is committed to the poet he admires so much by seeing, observing and listening, finding simplicity in a noisy world. He also involves his students in the numerous workshops and activities The Whitman Association offers at Whitman’s Birthplace in Huntington, encouraging fundraising and giving back.

O’Leary has published a book of poetry entitled “Testimonial Tales,” which is an ode to his wife Melanie. Meeting her through a friend, it quickly became apparent that she was “the one.” As with so many other enchanted lovers, O’Leary states, “When you know you just know.” Filling a small bed and breakfast in Cape Cod with immediate family members, they quietly exchanged their vows and began building a life together in the Village of Belle Terre. They started a family and today have two children, ages 3½ years old and 15 months.

Karl O’Leary with his wife Melanie. Photo from Karl O’Leary
Karl O’Leary with his wife Melanie. Photo from Karl O’Leary

The collection of poems documents their lives together — milestones, relationship transitions and daily rituals.  The message is simple but strong and unalterably beautiful. O’Leary wrote Melanie a poem every week since their courtship and felt it was time to share his sentiments with the rest of the world. When he is asked specifically why he decided to publish the book, he boldly states, “For one, Melanie deserves it, my wife is everything, and two, I tell my students to be proud of their work and get it out there in the world. How could I tell them those things if I did not do the same?”

O’Leary’s goal for the future is to certainly write more, and he is eager to put together another collection with poems and prose he has written over the years. For him, publishing his work is not about fame or money but to fulfill himself, to look back and be content with himself that he did indeed try. Give of yourself, celebrate yourself were essential themes for Whitman and apparently for Karl O’Leary too. Students pay attention.

‘Testimonial Tales’ by Karl O’Leary is available at Barnes and Noble stores and at www.amazon.com.

Kristen Digilio and Jon Rivera in a scene from ‘South Pacific.’ Photo by Lisa Schindlar

By Charles J. Morgan

The antics and other distracting, diversionary activities stationed on a backwater island during World War II form the structure of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s great hit “South Pacific” which opened on Oakdale’s CM Performing Arts Center’s Noel S. Ruiz Theatre’s massive stage last Saturday.

Wonderfully directed by Ed Brennan, the story takes place during World War II, following the love story between a U.S. Navy nurse from Arkansas, Nellie, and French planter, Emile, a widower raising his two children. A second love story develops between Liat, a local girl living on the island of Bali Ha’i, and Lt. Joseph Cable, who is conflicted with the duty he owes to his country and the love he feels for Liat.

With book by Hammerstein and Josh Logan, it guaranteed a smash hit at CMPAC … and so it was with Kristen Digilio as Nurse Nellie Forbush and Jon Rivera as Emile de Becque.

Digilio showed extraordinary range in both acting, singing and even dancing. Rivera was a baritone with some depth into basso and a lyricism especially in “Some Enchanted Evening,” the lyrical note on the last word alone culminating the depth of lower register of the baritone for a truly enhanced, musically aesthetic experience.

Digilio’s “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” was a rollicking ensemble with a bevy of swimsuit-clad Navy nurses. She revealed a range of talent reaching from this signature number as well as the slapstick “Honey Bun,” to a totally plaintive solo in “Some Enchanted Evening.”

In the sassy, wise-guy role of Seaman Luther Billis, Marc Slomowitz leads the Seabees in “There is Nothing Like a Dame” which unlocks the rather libidinous leitmotif of the show. Brodie Centauro plays Lt. Cable. He is in love with Liat, a Polynesian girl played by Kate Apostolico. He sings “Younger Than Springtime” in a melodious tenor with Apostolico in his arms, coupled with a handsome stage presence and a powerful tenor.

Then there is the inevitable “Bloody Mary,” handled expertly by Angela Garofalo. A derivative of Little Buttercup in “H.M.S. Pinafore” she is earthy, but when she sings “Bali Ha’i” and “Happy Talk” one simply wants to give her a hug. The island’s commanding officer, Capt. Brackett, is played by Michael Sherwood; Comdr. Harbison is played by John J. Steele Jr. These two non-singing roles lend a fairly good sense of realism to the show.

Choreography is by the indomitable M.E. Junge. “There is Nothing Like a Dame,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” and “Honey Bun” exhibited her best work. Music was under the baton of the indispensable Matthew W. Surico leading faultlessly a live 17-piece pit band with cleverly comic uses of dissonances in a well-rehearsed series of numbers.

Costume design fell to Ronald Green III, a veteran designer at CMPAC. His expertise in the native inhabitants’ costuming and the nurses’ swimsuits was faultless. The uniforms not so: Lt. Cable would have been written up if he actually appeared in a four-button open jacket, sunglasses hung out of pocket, hat on back of head, iniquitous boots and a leather flight jacket suitable for B-17 crews over Berlin. Only one sailor wore a regulation hat while the others wore what looked like the pope’s zucchetto; missing also were the U.S. Navy hat devices for Brackett and Harbison.

Anyway, the excellence of this production calls for maximum attendance by all who want top musical entertainment.

The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at the CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Highway, Oakdale, will present “South Pacific” through Aug. 23. Tickets range from $20 to $29. For more information, call 631-218-2810 or visit www.cmpac.com.

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