Holidays

Above, the museum’s George Washington portrait. Image from Vanderbilt Museum
Visitors invited to take part in museum ‘treasure hunt’

From Feb. 17 to 25 including Presidents Day, Monday, Feb. 19, visitors to the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport can view a framed oil portrait of George Washington, originally thought to have been created by the renowned American portraitist Gilbert Stuart. Stuart was widely considered one of America’s foremost portrait artists, producing portraits of more than 1,000 people, including the first six presidents of the United States. Stuart painted a number of Washington portraits. The most celebrated is known as the “Lansdowne” portrait (1796), and one large-scale version of it hangs in the East Room of the White House.

The artist’s best-known work is an unfinished portrait of Washington begun in 1796 and sometimes called “The Athenaeum.” This image of Washington’s head and shoulders is a familiar one to Americans — it has appeared for more than a century on the U.S. one-dollar bill.

The Vanderbilt’s Washington portrait, found in the basement of the Suffolk County Welfare Department in Yaphank, was restored and presented to the Vanderbilt Museum in 1951. While the artist did not sign the work, a specialist reported that year that the painting was an authentic Gilbert Stuart. In 1981, however, two curators from the Metropolitan Museum of Art studied the portrait and advised the board of trustees that the work was not created by Stuart. As a result, the portrait, oil on panel and measuring 21.25 by 33.5 inches, is described in the archival records as “After Gilbert Stuart.”

Guests can also view a facsimile of a letter President Abraham Lincoln wrote to Fernando Wood, then mayor of New York City. President Lincoln wrote the letter to Wood on May 4, 1861 — two months to the day following his inauguration as president and less than one month after the start of the Civil War.

Wood (1812–1881), who built a successful shipping enterprise in New York City, served several terms in Congress and was mayor of New York for two terms, 1854–58 and 1860–62. He reached out to Lincoln shortly after the Fort Sumter attack, offering him whatever military services he, as mayor, could provide. Lincoln’s reply to Wood was in gratitude for his offer of assistance.

Excerpt:

“In the midst of my various and numerous other duties I shall consider in what way I can make your services at once available to the country, and agreeable to you —

Your Obt. [Obedient] Servant   

A. Lincoln”

Now a part of William K. Vanderbilt II’s extensive archives, the letter will be on display in the Memorial Wing, outside the Sudan Trophy Room.

Stephanie Gress, the Vanderbilt Museum’s director of curatorial affairs, said, “We do not know how this letter came to be in Mr. Vanderbilt’s possession. Perhaps it was originally the property of his great-grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was an acquaintance of Mayor Wood, and it was passed down through the Vanderbilt family.”

Visitors can also take part in a museum “treasure hunt.” The Vanderbilt curatorial department has created an intriguing list of treasures and clues to “the presidential, the regal and the royal” on display at the museum. Guests of all ages are invited to explore the galleries and discover them. Laminated copies of the treasure list will be available for guest use.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. Directions and updated details on programs and events are available at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org. For further information, call 631-854-5579.

Raspberry-Chocolate Linzer Cookies

By Barbara Beltrami

There’s no day like Valentine’s Day to conjure up sweet talk, sweet sentiments in sweet cards and everlasting promises of eternal love and/or imminent romance. Those who subscribe to its traditions take them very seriously. Those who do not scoff at what they call the holiday created by the greeting card industry. Norman Rockwell-ish as it may be, there is something sweet about the old-fashioned image of a man holding a sumptuous bouquet of red roses and presenting a huge heart-shaped box of chocolates to his sweetheart.

Which brings me to another thing. No matter how Valentine’s Day is observed, or not observed, like any holiday, it provides an excuse for capitulating to that sweet tooth in all of us, that secret valentine of the appetite.

Raspberry-Chocolate Linzer Cookies

Raspberry-Chocolate Linzer CookiesYIELD: Makes three dozen cookies.

INGREDIENTS:

2¹/₃ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1½ sticks unsalted butter at room temp.

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon almond extract

2 cups chocolate chips, melted over boiling water

Raspberry jam

Confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time; add the extracts and beat to thoroughly combine. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat the dry mixture into the wet one. Gather the dough into two even pieces, enclose in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm and solid.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. On a flour-dusted board roll out one piece of the dough to ¹⁄8-inch thickness and using approximately a 2½-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out cookies and place on cookie sheet. Re-roll any scraps to form solid pieces for more cookies. Repeat procedure using second half of dough, except this time use a 1-inch round or heart-shaped cutter.

Bake cookies for approximately nine minutes and remove from oven just as they start to brown. With spatula, remove from cookie sheet and place on rack. When cookies are cooled and crispy, spread a level half teaspoon of melted chocolate on each large cookie; top with a level half teaspoon jam and carefully place another cookie on top. Dust tops with confectioners’ sugar and place on tiered or flat cookie plate. Serve with coffee, tea, milk, hot chocolate or dessert wine and, of course, love.

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup water

5 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

In the top of a double boiler combine the chocolate, sugar and water, stirring occasionally; heat until the chocolate is melted. Beating hard after each addition, while the double boiler is still over the heat, add the egg yolks, one at a time. Remove mixture from over the hot water and set aside to cool while you beat the egg whites until stiff. In a large bowl, gently fold the egg whites and vanilla into the chocolate mixture. Distribute the mousse evenly among  eight sorbet or wine glasses and refrigerate covered overnight or at least 10 to 12 hours. Serve with whipped cream, fresh strawberries and delicate wafer cookies.

Cherry Sauce

Cherry Sauce

YIELD: Makes 2½ cups.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound sweet fresh or frozen and defrosted cherries, pitted

½ cup water

¹₃ to ½ cup light corn syrup (depending on tartness of cherries)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste

Kirsch liqueur, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine the cherries, half the water and the corn syrup and bring to a boil. With a wire whisk, stirring constantly, blend the cornstarch and remaining water with the cherry mixture. Over medium heat, cook until clear, about one minute. Add lemon juice and kirsch. Serve warm over vanilla or chocolate ice cream, sponge cake, angel cake, pound cake or cheesecake.

A serenade by the Harmonic Tides Quartet will make your Valentine’s Day special. Photo by Chris Beattie

On Feb. 13 and 14 the Harbormen Chorus Quartets are again singing their way into the hearts of many an oftentimes surprised Valentine recipient.

Four elegantly dressed gentlemen travel to homes, offices, schools, restaurants, hospitals, nursing facilities and other locations in Suffolk County to serenade that special someone with love songs. Along with the professional performance, the singing Valentines will deliver a box of chocolates, decorative rose and personalized card. Call 631-644-0129 for more information.

The Harbormen Chorus sings four-part, a cappella harmony at many venues, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and donates a portion of the proceeds to Good Shepherd Hospice.

By Ernestine Franco

Why does a generally rational society drag a sleeping groundhog out of his hibernation burrow to learn how much more winter is to come? Don’t we have calendars? Don’t we have memories of what has happened in previous years? Don’t we have the Weather Channel?  Let’s consider how all this happened.

Sound Beach Susie enjoying a carrot. Photo by Ernestine Franco

According to Charles Panati’s “Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things,” the groundhog (also called a woodchuck or whistle pig) is not really interested in how long winter is. Looking for a mate or a good meal are the actual reasons that determine a groundhog’s behavior when it emerges in winter from months of hibernation.

Quite simply, if on awakening a groundhog wants some company or is famished, he will stay aboveground and search for a mate and a meal. If, on the other hand, these appetites are still dulled from his winter slumber, the groundhog will return to the burrow for a six-week doze. Weather has nothing to do with it.

Folklore about the animal’s shadow originated with 16th-century German farmers. However, the German legend did not rely on a groundhog. Rather, the farmers relied on a badger. (Happy Badger Day?) The switch from badger to groundhog did not result from mistaken identity. German immigrants who settled in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in the 19th century found that the area had no badgers. It did, however, have hordes of groundhogs, which the immigrants conveniently fitted to their folklore.

Weather did play one key role in the legend. At Punxsutawney’s latitude, a groundhog emerges from its hibernating burrow in February, again looking for company or food. Had the immigrants settled a few states south, where it’s warmer, they would have found the groundhog waking and coming aboveground in January. In the upper Great Lakes region, the cold delays its appearance until March. Thus, it was the latitude where the German immigrants settled that set Groundhog Day as Feb. 2.

German folklore dictated that if the day was sunny and the groundhog (badger) was frightened back into hibernation by its shadow, then farmers should refrain from planting crops, since there would be another six weeks of winter weather. Scientific studies have squashed that lore. The groundhog’s accuracy in forecasting the onset of spring, observed over a 60-year period, is a disappointing 28 percent —   although, in fairness to the groundhog, the estimate is no worse than that of a modern weather forecast.

So Groundhog Day has become part of American culture. The official groundhog that gets yanked out of its burrow is Punxsutawney Phil, named for the town where the German immigrants settled. Thousands of people and the national media cover poor Phil’s treatment. And let us not forget there is the film, “Goundhog Day,” which is enjoyed by many people year after year after year.

Many other states celebrate their own groundhog. In New York we have Staten Island Chuck, Dunkirk Dave, Malverne Mel and Holtsville Hal, whose sleep is interrupted at the Town of Brookhaven’s Wildlife and Ecology Center in Holtsville.

For me, I recently had my own groundhog, whom I called Sound Beach Susie (shown in the accompanying  photo eating a carrot), take up residence in my backyard. But I did not bother her in February. I waited until late spring when she brought her five babies out in the open. I had very interesting encounters with them when she allowed me to feed them all for a few weeks. They particularly liked carrots, broccoli and romaine lettuce. They did not like celery, asparagus or zucchini.

So Happy Groundhog Day, no matter how or when you celebrate it!

Holtsville Hal did not see his shadow this year, forecasts winter to come to an end soon

Brookhaven's famous groundhog, Holtsville Hal, predicted an early spring on Groundhogs Day. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

The snowflakes stopped falling moments before Brookhaven’s famous groundhog offered this year’s prediction — it was a good omen of what is to come.

More than 100 residents cheered as the famed Brookhaven Town groundhog Holtsville Hal did not see his shadow, an indicator that spring would come early this year.

“I’m happy,” said Dan Losquadro (R), Brookhaven superintendent of highways. “We love winter
here on Long Island. We love the kids to be able to play in the snow, but we don’t want winter
to last any longer than it has to.”

Hal made his 22nd annual Groundhog Day prediction at Holtsville Wildlife and Ecology Center Animal Preserve at 7:25 a.m., as per tradition, according to the master of ceremonies Wayne Carrington.

Tradition says that if Hal — or, as he’s known in the Town of Brookhaven as a throwback to
the classic Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day,” the Great Prognosticator of Prognosticators
— sees his shadow when he wakes from hibernation, the community is in for six more weeks of winter.

“So he exited the ground, not a creature was stirring and not a shadow was found,” read
Losquadro from a large scroll to the cheers of onlookers. “I cannot tell a lie, my prediction so
accurate does not come from the sky. I saw what I saw in a blink of an eye.”

Those who attended were treated to free hot cocoa to warm up and celebrate the good
news. Both Losquadro and Carrington asked residents to make donations to the ecology
center to help support care for its animals and programs.

From left, volunteers Alexandra, Ilene, Emily and Brian Horan; Sela Megibow; Cantor Marcey Wagner; Paula Balaban; and Adam Morotto. Photo from Donna Newman

By Donna Newman

Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook established a new tradition this year, gathering a multi-generational group of congregants to cook up soup and vegetarian chili for people in need of support.

Cantor Marcey Wagner envisioned the community service event to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and enlisted Social Action Committee Chairperson Iris Schiff to help with the details.

From left, Julia Megibow, Hannah Kitt (seated), Lana Megibow, Abby Fenton, Hazel and Dasi Cash Photo from Donna Newman

The morning of Jan. 15 began with a reading of the story “As Good as Anybody” — written by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Raul Colon — about the friendship that formed between civil rights leader King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. The two men faced similar challenges growing up and shared a belief in the value of every human being. Heschel joined the civil rights movement and marched at King’s side in Selma in 1965.

Congregants brought fresh and canned vegetables to the synagogue and all the ingredients needed to make comfort foods. Everyone participated in the effort. After the chopping and mincing and blending, while the Instant Pots cooked, the children created greeting cards and small challahs to be delivered with the containers of food. The challah prep was under the tutelage of consummate baker Linda Jonas and the greeting cards were facilitated by artist Deborah Fisher.

The freezer is now stocked with portions of soup and chili to be delivered to the homebound, mourners and people who are ailing. They will also be available to families visiting the temple’s food pantry.

Temple Isaiah is located at 1404 Stony Brook Road, Stony Brook. For more information, please call 631-751-8518.

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Historian Beverly C. Tyler, third from right, in front of a replica of a Union Pacific engine, takes part in the reenactment of the joining of the rails in Golden Spike National Historic Site. Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

The changes in transportation that began in the early 1800s were dramatic and far-reaching. They made it possible to lower costs of food and fuel, expand settlements, open western New York and the Midwest, and provide employment for thousands of immigrants. Before steam power, transportation on land was limited to walking, riding horses and going by horse and wagon. Canals and steamboats made long distance transportation viable, but canals were a temporary solution. The railroads became the vehicle that united America with steam power.

Wood was the first fuel used by steam trains, but coal was the fuel that made commerce by rail a reality. The early trains, including the Long Island Rail Road, fueled with wood, were only strong enough to carry passengers. Before 1844 the Norwich & Worcester and Boston & Worcester railroads ran a water-to-rail route from Manhattan to Boston. Steamboats left Manhattan at 5 p.m. Eleven hours later, they arrived at Allyn’s Point in Norwich, Connecticut. There the passengers were escorted to the waiting train. Two hours later they arrived in Boston, a total trip of 13 hours, under the best of conditions.

To compete on the route from Manhattan to Boston the LIRR built a rail line west to east on Long Island from Brooklyn to Greenport. Cornelius Vanderbilt joined with the LIRR to provide steamboats for crossing Long Island Sound, between Greenport and the docks at Stonington and Norwich, Connecticut, where trains then took passengers to Boston. The LIRR felt that as this was the longest rail route and the shortest water crossing it would get passengers to and from Boston more rapidly, and it did, with a time of about 10-and-a-half hours. The first train left Brooklyn Aug. 8, 1844. The route was initially a popular success and even had a contract to carry the U.S. mail. The new LIRR and N&W route offered early morning departures which assured arrival in one’s destination city by evening. Thus, for the first time, travelers passing between the two cities could avoid having to spend a night on the steamboat/train connection.

Vanderbilt in his quest against his competitors kept lowering the cost of the LIRR route, and when the board of directors balked at his aggressive stance, Vanderbilt abandoned the LIRR, making it impossible to compete financially. To get needed funds the railroad sold their steamboats Cleopatra and Worcester to the N&W allowing it to compete with LIRR on its own water routes. As a result, the LIRR abandoned its Brooklyn to Boston route in March 1847.

A reproduction of the Central Pacific engine Jupiter in Utah. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

The LIRR now had tracks running through the center of the Island where few people lived. It would be nearly three decades before the railroad completed lines along the North and South shores to more effectively serve Long Island residents. In the meantime, the LIRR began a campaign to encourage New York City residents to take the rails to the shores of Lake Ronkonkoma as well as connections to stage coaches that would take them to vacation spots on the North and South shores of the Island.

The rise of American railroads coincided with a flood of immigrants. In 1842 more than 100,000 immigrants arrived in American ports, the overwhelming majority in New York City. By 1847, immigrants from just Ireland exceeded 100,000 and over the next decade more than a million Irish came to America. Germans also came to America to escape the wars and revolutions in Europe. As railroads grew and tracks crisscrossed Eastern and Midwest states they needed more and more laborers to lay tracks and do many new jobs associated with this new booming transportation infrastructure. The flood of immigrants had come at just the right time for America.

In Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, railroads connected the waterways of the Great Lakes, and the Ohio, Mississippi and other rivers with port cities, especially New York and New Orleans. During the 1850s Midwest cities grew rapidly as immigrants, cattle, hogs and wheat from the great plains flooded into Chicago and other developing Midwest cities.

By the late 1840s, the telegraph and the railroads were developing together and relying on each other. The possibility of instantaneous information altered the entire logistics of the railroad industry. For the telegraph operators, the benefits were obvious. The telegraph company would hoist its poles along the tracks. The railroad would then provide ongoing maintenance of the telegraph wires.

In the summer of 1862, the federal government, in the absence of Southern elements in Congress due to the Civil War, approved the Pacific Railway Act, with a combination of land grants and bond guarantees, allowed for private interest to begin construction of a railroad to connect across the entire country. It was the California Gold Rush that made the construction work possible and men such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and Joseph Pulitzer made it work.

From the time of the gold rush in 1848 to 1849 the idea of connecting the Pacific Coast to the East via a large railroad had been a dream of both capitalists and politicians. Finally in 1869, the golden spike was driven in the last rail as west met east at Promontory, Utah, where the two trains met, the western train fueled by wood and the eastern train fueled by coal.

In October 2012 my wife Barbara and I dove to the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Corinne, Utah. It is really a desolate area except for the national park. We were there for the last ceremonial reenactment of the year, the joining of the rails across America at Promontory, Utah.

Two reproduction engines, the Central Pacific engine Jupiter and the Union Pacific engine 119 came together as the golden spike was gently driven in and then removed and replaced with an iron spike. Costumed actors and visitors then gathered together for a picture of this monumental event that joined our country together with steel rails and instant communication.

Beverly C. Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

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Santa visits Stony Brook via helicopter in the 1950s.

Santa Claus will make his annual journey from the North Pole to drop off gifts to kids around the world this weekend, but before he does that, take a look back at a visit he paid to Stony Brook in the 1950s.

Ditching his sleigh for a helicopter, Santa landed on the Stony Brook Village Green and proceeded to the Stony Brook Fire Department to greet children.

Andrew Timmons and Austin Levine in a scene from 'Oliver!'

By Heidi Sutton

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts closes out its 15th season with a production of the award-winning musical “Oliver!” With book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, the show, based on Charles Dickens’ second novel, “Oliver Twist,” features some of the most unforgettable songs and vivid characters to ever hit the stage.

The story centers around a 9-year-old English orphan, Oliver, who has been raised in a workhouse. After disobeying the rules, the boy is sold into apprenticeship with an undertaker. Oliver escapes shortly after and travels to London, where he meets the Artful Dodger and becomes a member of a gang of pickpockets led by the criminal Fagin and aided by Nancy and the abusive villain Bill Sikes. Is Oliver destined for a life of crime or will his fortune change?

You can’t go wrong with a show like “Oliver!” during the holidays and the 40-plus cast at the SPAC, skillfully directed by Jordan Hue with musical direction by Melissa Coyle, presents a production that is fresh and exciting, serving up a fine afternoon at the theater.

While the entire cast does a tremendous job, especially the children, special mention must be made of Austin Levine who stars as Oliver, the young orphan with a pure heart. For the moment he speaks, “Please sir, I want some more,” Levine has the audience rooting for him to find a home and happiness.

Andrew Timmins nails it as the spirited Artful Dodger, top hat and all, and Brian Gill is quite terrifying as Bill Sikes. Ashley Nicastro is perfect in the role of his girlfriend Nancy, a victim of domestic abuse who ultimately meets a bitter end. Doug Vandewinckel reprises his role as Mr. Bumble, a role that fits him like a glove. Although her role is small, Taylor Duff as Bet stands out in the crowd, especially during “It’s a Fine Life.” Last, but certainly not least, Nick Masson plays Fagin with oily charm, performing “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” like an old pro from the days of vaudeville.

Of course, it is the wonderful melodies that are the heart of the show. From the hilarious numbers “I Shall Scream” and “That’s Your Funeral” to the poignant “As Long as He Needs Me,” “Where Is Love” and “Reviewing the Situation” to the big song and dance numbers we all know and love — “Food, Glorious Food,” “Consider Yourself,” “I’d Do Anything” and “Oom-Pah-Pah” — all are performed with boundless energy and beautifully choreographed by Jessica Gill.

Costumes by Ronald R. Green III are brilliant, from the drab brown outfits for the orphans, to the refined suits and dresses for the aristocrats to the seedy outfits of Fagin and his crew; and the set, designed by Timothy Golebiewski, beautifully showcases a cross section of Victorian society.

Exiting the SPAC last Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t help but think how lucky we are to have so many wonderful community theaters on Long Island and how special live theater truly is. Consider yourself invited.

The Smithtown Center for the Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present “Oliver!” through Jan. 21. Running time is 2½ hours with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets are $25 adults, $15 ages 12 and under. Please note: Show contains some violence and implied adult themes.

Season 16 opens with “Shakespeare in Love” from Feb. 3 to March 4, “Mamma Mia” from March 24 to April 29 and “Dreamgirls” from May 12 to June 17. For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

All photos by Danielle Nigro

The cast of 'Barnaby Saves Christmas'

By Heidi Sutton

In 2003, Theatre Three’s Douglas Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel sat down and wrote an adorable musical for children titled “Barnaby Saves Christmas,” about a little elf named Barnaby and a tiny reindeer called Franklynne who teach us that “Christmas lies within our hearts.” I recently had the opportunity to ask the two playwrights a few questions about the show that has become a beloved holiday tradition for families on the North Shore.

Can you believe it’s been 14 years?

DQ: No I can’t … it feels like just yesterday. I couldn’t possibly be getting that old!

What inspired you to write a holiday show for children?

JS: Doug conceived and created “Barnaby.” I had very little to do with its initial creation. He brought me a rough draft and the incredible score the summer before we premiered it. I was immediately taken by his terrific songs and I loved the idea of a holiday show that touched on another culture. During the fall, he continued to write and rewrite the show and went into rehearsal with it. It opened to great response and we knew we had our annual show.

Over the next several years, Doug and I worked on the book together, trading ideas, trying new things. Doug continued to add to the score and we have revised the show every year. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the beautiful score and the show’s great big heart — Barnaby and Franklynne are truly amazing holiday figures with as much character as Rudolph or Santa.

DQ: I have 13 nieces and nephews and I used to babysit when they were young and they would ask me to tell them bedtime stories. I used to make up stories for them, and one holiday season I started to tell them about a little elf and his reindeer friend. I always tried to put messages in the stories such as believing in yourself, believing that you can do anything, getting over fears and things like that.

They would get a little piece of the story at a time. Then I started writing songs to go along with that particular story and play them for the kids. Theatre Three always does “A Christmas Carol,” and that is a little scary for the young ones, and I wanted to offer a holiday show for the children. When I spoke to Jeff about the idea, he loved it and encouraged me to give it a shot. I was much more confident writing songs, which in themselves are stories, but writing an actual play was another thing. “Barnaby” was the first play I ever wrote and without Jeff’s extraordinary talent and guidance I don’t think I could have ever done it. His knowledge of theater and storytelling is second to none.

‘Barnaby’ is considered a Christmas story yet Hanukkah is very much a part of it. Why was it important to you to include the Festival of Lights in this story?

DQ: As people, I have always believed that we can all learn something from each other. Whatever your faith or beliefs, we are all here in this life together. We should respect and be open to others ways of living. The Festival of Lights celebrates a miracle and is a story of perseverance … not giving up. Barnaby and Franklynne are faced with a struggle at that point in the plot, and it struck me as the perfect opportunity to share that beautiful story. That’s where the song “Miracles” comes in.

JS: The fact that children get a small education on Hanukkah is an additional gift. We’ve had so many people thank us for adding that and finding the connection in the overall holiday spirit.

How does it make you feel when you hear the children laughing and see them enjoy the show?

DQ: It’s beyond gratifying and a little surreal. I love when the kids laugh and sing the songs on their way out of the theater.

What message did you hope to convey when you wrote this show?

DQ: The message of the story is really in some of the lyrics of the songs. “… Every day’s a golden opportunity to be better than you used to be…” “There are so many miracles that happen everyday” and lastly. “… Christmas lies within our hearts, The toys we give are just a sign of all the love we feel inside, and there’s enough to share for you and me.”

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Barnaby Saves Christmas” on Dec. 23, 24, 28, 29 and 30 at 11 a.m. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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