Kids

The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook will host a Family Drop-In Day on Wednesday, April 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Families are invited to join educators for activities in the Nassakaeg One-Room Schoolhouse and the Walt Whitman’s Arcadia exhibit in the Art Museum. Admission is free and reservations are not required. For more information, call 631-751-0066, ext. 212.

The Easter Bunny will visit Benner’s Farm in East Setauket on April 20 and 21 from noon to 4 p.m. File photo by Rita J. Egan

Bunny Fest at Eagle’s Nest

The Easter Bunny and his friend Li’l Chick invite children of all ages to join them in the Vanderbilt Rose Garden at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport for an egg hunt, petting zoo, bubble machine and light fare (coffee, juice, goodies) on April 20. Three times are available: 9 a.m. (for toddlers); and 10 or 11 a.m. Both times include a planetarium show. Children are encouraged to bring their Easter baskets and bonnets. Tickets are $25 adults, $20 children. Preregistration is required at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org. For more information, please call 631-854-5579.

Easter Egg Hunt and Breakfast

Caroline Church of Brookhaven, 1 Dyke Road, Setauket will host an Easter Egg Hunt and Breakfast with the Easter Bunny on April 20 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Over 1,000 eggs to find, photos with the Easter Bunny, rabbits to pet, best homemade Easter hat contest and more. Don’t forget your camera! Free. Call Elaine at 631-428-0475.

Breakfast with the Easter Bunny

Knights of Columbus Father Seyfried Council 821 will host a Breakfast with the Easter Bunny with fun activities and games on April 20 at St. Joseph’s Travis Hall, 59 Church St., Kings Park from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults and children age 3 and older. Call Jim at 631-656-8991 to order. 

Spring Egg Hunt at the Hatchery

Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery, 1660 Route 25A, Cold Spring Harbor will hold its annual Spring Egg Hunt on April 20 from 10:30 a.m. to noon for children up to age 6. Last admission at 10:30 a.m. Bring a basket. Admission is $6 adults, $4 children ages 3 to 12 and seniors, under age 3 free. Call 516-692-6768.

Spring Fair and Egg Hunt

Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown will host a Spring Fair and Egg Hunt on April 20 from noon to 4 p.m. Enjoy games, live animal presentations, crafts, face painting, egg hunts, food and refreshments. A special long-eared guest will be available for photo opportunities. Easter plants will be available for purchase. Admission is $15 per child, $5 adults. Call 631-979-6344.

Easter weekend at Benner’s Farm

Benner’s Farm, 56 Gnarled Hollow Road, East Setauket will host its annual Easter Egg Hunts on April 20 and 21 from noon to 4 p.m. Hunts are held at 12:30, 2 and 3:30 p.m. Bring your own basket. While you’re waiting, visit and hold the baby animals, take pictures with the Holiday Bunny, visit the farm store and check out the craft vendors. Admission is $8 adults, $6 children and seniors. Call 631-689-8172.

Easter Bunny visits Northport

The Easter Bunny will be visiting children in downtown Northport on Saturday, April 20 bearing treats from 1 to 4 p.m., courtesy of the Northport Chamber of Commerce. Great opportunity for photos. Free. Call 631-754-3905 for more info.

Easter Parade and Egg Hunt

Join the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce for its annual Easter Parade and Egg Hunt on April 21 from noon to 1:30 p.m. The parade kicks off in front of Theatre Three on Main Street and finishes at the Port Jefferson Village Center on East Broadway. An egg hunt for ages 2 to 8 will be held on the Great Lawn at Harborfront Park at 12:30 p.m. No rain date. Call 631-473-1414.

Easter Egg Hunt

The Village of Northport will hold its annual Easter Egg Hunt on April 21 at Northport Village Park at 1 p.m. Rain date is April 28. Sponsored by the Northport/Centerport Lions Club. Call 516-380-6444 for additional details.

By Heidi Sutton

Spring is in the air and that means the return of one of the most adorable children’s shows on the planet — “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson, with music by Kevin F. Story, the show is based on “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter.

Published in 1901, the story and its endearing illustrations were inspired by Potter’s pet rabbits, Benjamin Bouncer and Peter Piper. It has been translated into 36 languages, and with 45 million copies sold, is one of the best-selling books of all time.

Going against his mother’s wishes, Peter Rabbit (Eric J. Hughes) is always sneaking into Mr. McGregor’s garden to satisfy his insatiable appetite for parsley, tomatoes and string beans. His partner in crime, cousin Benjamin Bunny (Steven Uihlein), is just as naughty, eating all the carrots he can find and this constant marauding is testing the farmer’s patience. It’s a cat and mouse, or should I say, farmer and hare game that is about to go terribly wrong.

Directed by Sanzel, the show is fast-paced and action-packed with so many wonderful scenes often taking place off stage and among the audience. Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail (Nicole Bianco, K.D. Guadagano and Michelle LaBozzetta) spend much of their time looking for their wayward brother and cousin throughout the theater and enlist the young audience’s help to find them before Mrs. Rabbit (Elizabeth Ladd) comes back from the market and the McGregors (Andrew Lenahan and Emily Gates) chase Peter and Benjamin down the aisles in an attempt to save their garden.

Over the years, I’ve seen this show at least 10 times, but this latest production is the best one yet. Perhaps it is because the cast is able to utilize the Mainstage set of “The Miracle Worker,” adding Peter’s bedroom for the first time and giving the show more dimension. Maybe it is the revamped choreography by Nicole Bianco or the creative lighting by Steven Uihlein. Possibly it is the boundless enthusiasm from the cast, drawing their energy from the constant giggles and laughs from the children and parents in the audience or that the songs are by now classic and timeless. 

Whatever the reason, this gem of a show is like a fine wine and just gets better with age.

Souvenir bunnies are sold before the show and during intermission for $5. Join the entire cast in the lobby for a meet and greet on your way out.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” through April 27 with special performances during spring break. After a brief hiatus, children’s theater continues with “Cinderella” from July 6 to 27 followed by “Pinocchio” from Aug. 2 to 10. Tickets are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lancombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Muddy ground was covered in the footprints of young children as hundreds gathered for the annual Fling into Spring carnival at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai April 12-14. Kids, along with their parents, got the full carnival experience as they slid, spun, raced and even flew on weekend rides. The money raised from the event helps nonprofit Heritage Trust fund other events throughout the year.

All photos by Kyle Barr

Cassandra LaRocco as Helen Keller and Jessica Mae Murphy as Annie Sullivan in a scene from ‘The Miracle Worker’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

Currently playing on Theatre Three’s Mainstage is William Gibson’s play “The Miracle Worker,” the compelling story of Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan. Directed by Bradlee Bing, the show is leaving a lasting impact on all who are fortunate enough to see it. One of the standout performances is from Cassandra LaRocco who plays a young Helen. The 11-year-old from Brentwood captures the audience’s heart with her powerful performance. 

I recently had the opportunity to interview Cassandra about her Theatre Three debut and her challenging new role.

How did you get interested in acting?

Since I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed entertaining people and finding different ways to make people laugh. I found that it was fun to try and mimic the different characters on many of the TV shows I watched when I was younger. When my parents took me to see “Annie” on Broadway in 2013, I felt that I wanted to be just like the actors on that stage so I started taking acting classes, along with my dance classes, and found that I loved getting the chance to perform for an audience.

Why did you decide to audition for this role?

I decided to audition for this role because it seemed extremely interesting and I thought it would be a good learning experience. I knew it would be a challenge for me since most of my prior stage acting experience had been with musicals, where I got to sing and dance. 

Cassandra LaRocco as Helen Keller and Jessica Mae Murphy as Annie Sullivan in a scene from ‘The Miracle Worker’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Were you familiar with Helen Keller?

Yes, I wrote a book report about Helen’s life in fifth grade. I knew that she was an amazing woman who lost her sight and hearing at a very young age but learned to communicate with people by using finger spelling. She inspired so many people by showing how a person with disabilities can make a difference in the world. 

How did you prepare for this role? 

First, I watched the movie with Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. I focused on the different expressions used by Patty Duke as she portrayed Helen, and then tried to figure out my own way to express what Helen must have felt when she wasn’t able to communicate her thoughts. Then I focused on not letting the sights and sounds around me be distracting. Each time I rehearsed with the cast at Theatre Three, I would clear my mind and only think of Helen and being in her world.

How do you enjoy working with the cast?

I really enjoy working with this cast because everyone is so much fun to be around and is extremely talented. Everyone has worked so hard, and I am proud to be part of the team.

What is it like working with the director?

I really enjoy working with Bradlee Bing. He explained to me very well how to portray the challenging role of Helen and he made me feel confident in my performance. Being in “The Miracle Worker” is an experience I will remember always, and I thank Bradlee for this wonderful opportunity.

Do you ever get nervous before the show?

I get nervous before each show, but once the show begins and I focus on being in my role, I get less nervous. Being on stage with the other actors and knowing that we worked so hard together helps me to feel confident each time I do a performance.

What is your favorite scene? 

My favorite scene is the food fight scene performed before the end of Act 1 with Jessica Murphy who plays Annie Sullivan. I enjoy it because of all the action that takes place and because it is really challenging. In this scene, Helen is extremely frustrated by the changes around her and not knowing how to express her thoughts. I get to portray this frustration by acting out in a temper tantrum, throwing spoons, spitting food, climbing the table, and trying to escape the room but I am locked in. I physically have to move around the stage a lot, but have to still behave as if I can’t see anything in front of me.

Do you think children should come see this show?

Yes, I do think children should come see the show because they can learn that despite the disabilities Helen Keller had, she was able to learn different ways to communicate her feelings and thoughts. If children learn about Helen Keller at a young age, maybe they can be inspired by what she accomplished, and it could help them to learn to never give up when they are in a difficult situation.

Have you taken any acting classes?

I have been attending classes and performing plays at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. I also take voice lessons at Cristina Music Studio in Huntington, and I have been taking dance lessons since I was 3. I currently practice ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical and pointe at June Claire Dance Studios in Babylon.

What other shows have you been in?

I played the role of July in “Annie” at the Engeman Theater in 2017 and over the past holiday season, I was a dancer in “The Nutcracker” at the Cultural Arts Playhouse in Syosset where I played one of Drosselmeyer’s dolls, and also performed in the scenes for Snowflakes, Arabian Coffee and Flowers.  Last fall, I performed as Andrina, one of Ariel’s sisters, in “The Little Mermaid Jr.” at the Engeman.

How do you feel when you get a standing ovation?

I feel happy because people enjoyed the show and my performance. It means to me that the audience made a connection with the story we are telling up on the stage, and that hopefully it will be something they remember for a long time.

What advice would you give to other kids who want to try acting?

Follow your dreams. You will meet many other kids and teachers who will make you feel confident. As you learn from others, you will become less and less nervous, and have more and more fun.

What is your favorite part about this show?

My favorite part has been meeting new people who helped me to be a better performer, and learning about what Helen Keller had to go through to understand our world without seeing or hearing. It has taught me to think of the differences that people may have, but that when people work together and have patience, almost any difficult situation can be overcome. 

Why should people come see the show?

People should come see “The Miracle Worker” because they get to experience how difficult Helen’s world was when she was young, and how it all changed when Annie Sullivan came to teach her. It gives people the opportunity to relate to Helen Keller and to realize that without someone that was a dedicated teacher who was not willing to give up, Helen may have been trapped forever in a dark and silent world. The play is about facing challenges and showing how people can help each other and change the world for the better.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Miracle Worker” through April 28. Running time is 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission. The Mainstage season closes with “The Wizard of Oz” from May 18 to June 22. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 and up. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Justin Zhang

Justin Zhang, a junior at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, won first place in the 2019 Model Bridge Building Contest at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton.

In this annual regional competition, coordinated by BNL’s Office of Educational Programs, high school students across Long Island design, construct and test model bridges made of basswood that are intended to be simplified versions of real-world bridges. Participants must apply physics and engineering principles to meet a stringent set of specifications. Their bridges are judged based on efficiency, which is calculated using the weight of the bridge and the amount of weight it can support before breaking or bending more than one inch. A separate award is given to the student with the most aesthetic design.

For this year’s competition, 132 students from 15 high schools registered bridges. Fifty-two students representing nine schools qualified. An awards ceremony to honor the winners was held at BNL on March 15.

Zhang, whose bridge weighed 12.75 grams and had an efficiency of 2819.03, was unable to attend the ceremony because he was participating in the New York State Science Olympiad. Zhang’s father accepted the award on his behalf.

“I had built bridges, towers, and, more recently, boomilevers (kind of like the arm at the end of a crane) as a participant on my school’s Science Olympiad team and I really love civil engineering,” said Zhang. 

“So, the Bridge Building Contest perfectly fit both my past experience and interests. Through the competition, I was able to improve upon the ideas that I had developed in years prior working on engineering challenges and apply some new things that I had learned. It was particularly challenging for me to adjust to all the specific rules involved in the construction process,” he explained.

Gary Nepravishta, a freshman at Division Avenue High School in Levittown, took second place with his bridge weighing 18.2 grams and having an efficiency of 1949.45.

With a mass of 13.88 grams and efficiency of 1598.68, the bridge built by senior William Musumeci of Smithtown High School East won third place. “I built one bridge and tested it to see where it broke, and then I used a computer-aided design program to make a stronger bridge.” said Musumeci, who will be attending Farmingdale University to study construction engineering.

Sophomore Benjamin Farina of John Glenn High School in Elwood won the aesthetic award for best-looking bridge.

An honorary award was given to retired BNL engineer Marty Woodle, who was recognized for his 40 years of service as a volunteer for the competition. 

“If you become an engineer, you are not necessarily trapped into one little aspect of science,” said Woodle. “The world is open to you to do some really fascinating work.”

Zhang’s and Nepravishta’s bridges have been entered into the 2019 International Bridge Building Contest, to be held in Baltimore, Maryland, in early April. For more information, visit www.science.energy.gov.

From left, Nicole Xiao, Juliet Weschke, Nicole Freeley and Riley Meckley with their award-winning books

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library board members and  staff, the family of the late Helen Stein Shack, local elected officials, representatives from the Three Village Central School District and guests from the community gathered on April 8 to honor the winners of the fifth annual Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Award ceremony.

The contest called for teens in grades 7 through 12 who live in the Three Village Central School District to create a children’s picture book.  Each entry could be the work of a single author/illustrator or a collaborative effort between an author and an illustrator. The contest was divided into two grade categories, grades 7 through 9 and grades 10 through 12, with one first-prize winner and one second-prize winner selected from each group.

Library Director Ted Gutmann, along with the family of Helen Stein Shack, Legislator Kara Hahn and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright presented all of the winners’ books — bound and added to the Library’s Local Focus Collection. 

In addition, $400 checks were awarded to first-prize winners Nicole Xiao, an eighth-grader at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, for her book, “Gerald’s Share” and Juliet Weschke, a 10th-grader at Ward Melville High School for her book, “You Saved the Earth: A Plastic Bottle’s Journey.” Checks for $100 were awarded to the second-prize winners Riley Meckley, a ninth-grader at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, for her book “Lily and Liam’s Summer at the Library” and Nicole Freeley, an 11th-grader at Ward Melville High School, for her book “Simon’s Day at the Beach.” 

The speakers discussed how the contest and ceremony began 5 years ago as a tribute to the late Helen Stein Shack, especially fitting due to her love for learning and her particular fondness for Emma Clark Library. “We would come visit my grandma for a week, and she would take us straight here,” explained Mrs. Shack’s granddaughter Emma Kelly, who flew in from California for the event.

Councilwoman Cartright mentioned to the family that it is “such an amazing way to honor your mom and your grandma’s legacy, her commitment to education, recognizing that literacy is power.” 

Leg. Hahn spoke of the special lessons in each book. “When it’s a children’s book, the message does not only get through to the child. The message also gets through to the parent that’s reading it,” she said.

The winners also received certificates from Sen. John J. Flanagan, Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Hahn, Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine, and Cartright. Library board President Orlando Maione, Vice President Deborah Blair, Treasurer Christopher Fletcher, Secretary Carol Leister and trustees David Douglas and Suzanne Shane were also there to congratulate the winners. 

Three Village Central School District board of education President William Connors, Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Kevin Scanlon, Gelinas Junior High School Principal Corinne Keane, Ward Melville High School English Department Chair Vincent Cereola, Gelinas Junior High School English Department Chair Michelle Hanczor and Gelinas Junior High School Librarian Nicole Connelly were all in attendance.

Guests enjoyed special treats donated by The Bite Size Bake Shop, a local Three Village-owned business and Ward Melville High School teen volunteer Ashley Mullen photographed the event.

The library is grateful to the children of the late Helen Stein Shack, who have established a substantial endowment with the library to cover the cost of the awards as a tribute to their mother and her commitment to passing along the importance and joy of reading for generations to come.

Mrs. Shack’s son, Ed Taylor, spoke about the hard work and dedication that the winners and all of the participants have shown, and then imagined a glimpse into their futures. “These kids are going to grow up, and hopefully, they’ll have families of their own … and one night their kids are going to be lying in bed and ask for a good night story … and they’ll take a book off the shelf, and they’ll read it to their kids … and then they’ll tell them who the author was. That they wrote that book.”

Added Cartright, “I’m delighted today to encourage you to continue using your creativity to share with others, to uplift others, because that’s what you’re doing by creating these books.”

All photos by Ashley Mullen

Stony Brook Grist Mill

The Stony Brook Grist Mill, circa 1751, 100 Harbor Road, Stony Brook opens for the season on Saturday, April 13 and will be open weekends from noon to 4:30 p.m. through Oct. 31.

Long Island’s most completely equipped working mill, it is listed on the National and New York State Register of Historic Places. Visit the Country Store and watch the only female miller in the U.S. grind grain into flour just as it was done during the Revolutionary War.

Admission is $2 adults, $1 children 12 and under. For additional info, call 631-751-2244.

‘Dumbo’ is a live-action remake of the 1941 animated classic.

By Jeffrey Sanzel

In viewing Tim Burton’s “Dumbo” it is hard not to compare it to Disney’s animated feature that served as source and inspiration. The delicate and wonderful cartoon ran 65 minutes and was both enchanting and heartbreaking. Like all of Disney, there is delicacy about this 1941 film that has made it an enduring classic.

The story in both cases is that of the baby elephant, Jumbo Jr., a pachyderm born with giant ears. It is what makes him different that ultimately proves him special. These giant appendages give Jumbo Jr. — crowned Dumbo — the gift of flight. Ultimately, it is a tale of the “other” — a being ostracized for being different and then finding success, and, more importantly, joy in this distinction.

The original film ends with Dumbo’s rise to fame and his reuniting with his mother. Burton’s version extends the length and the plot to a bloated two hours. The film is stunning to watch with incredible CGI in the creation of the title character. Dumbo is a wholly realized creation with eyes that are mournfully soulful. The film (in 3-D) is visually satisfying but comes up short on character development. 

The story is set just after the end of World War I. Wounded soldier Holt (a brooding but sympathetic Colin Farrell) returns to a failing circus and to his children, Milly and Joe (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins, in nicely understated performances). He has lost his arm to the war and his wife to influenza. The circus is run by a roguish charlatan, Max Medici (Danny DeVito, doing what he does and does well), and is populated by the expected archetypes — the mermaid, the strongman, the snake charmer, etc. Instead of pursing this world and background lives, Burton opts for broad strokes and frenetic action.

It is the children, and, in particular the scientific Milly, who discover Dumbo’s gift. After the reveal of Dumbo’s talent, the film shifts with the arrival of a villainous entrepreneur V. A. Vandevere (scenery-chewing Michael Keaton with an impenetrable and unrecognizable accent). Vandevere fools Medici into signing away his company so that he can headline Dumbo in his Dreamland amusement park. Here, the world becomes even bleaker as it segues into a clumsy indictment of corporate greed. What ensues is often tense and dramatic, but there is a desolation that pervades, only lifted by the final images of freedom.

While there are plenty of homages to the original (the lullaby “Baby Mine,” the pink elephants are particularly clever and a mouse in a uniform harkens to the antecedent’s sidekick), the film has a very modern point of view, especially on the issue of caging animals. It is an important message and one that needs to be heard, but rings oddly false in its period setting. 

Finally, the question one must ask is, “Who is this film for?” The answer: It is a children’s film that is perhaps too dark for the children.

Rated PG, “Dumbo” is now playing in local theaters.

Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

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Cottone at Sensationally Sweet in Patchogue which was helping to promote the Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk. Photo from Nic Cottone

LI Spidey-Guy shows the real compassion of a hero.

When heroes don their masks, who do they become?

In the main Marvel Comics book series Spider-Man, it’s Peter Parker who’s behind the facade. But as recent films like “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” put it, can anybody wear the mask? Can anybody embody those simple ideals of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, helping people because one has the capacity to do so?

Port Jefferson Station native Nic Cottone puts on the mask and becomes Spider-Man, not in the way that he flings webs and swings around New York City, but that he uses the mask to make people’s days a little brighter. He said the mask does something to a person, makes them fit into the person they most want to be.

“It’s because of the mask, nobody sees who you are, even if you’re scared nobody can see it,” Cottone said.

Cottone, 24, is a cosplayer, one who dresses as a fictional character from all sorts of media, from television to movies and, of course, comic books. Cosplaying is often displayed at “nerdy” events like conventions, where those dressed up will sometimes act in character, often to the pleasure of those in attendance. The young man got his start at cosplaying when he was in eighth-grade, though he started focusing on comic book characters in 2011, and 2012 at the tail end of his time in high school.

Nic Cottone during Gaming Night for Autism Awareness hosted by Game On in Miller Place. Photo from Nic Cottone

Since then, along with the nonprofit group of fellow cosplayers, the East Coast Avengers, Cottone has traveled throughout Long Island and far beyond, attending as Spider-Man for charity events and fundraisers. He assisted in events like Kids Comic Con at Bronx Community College, looking to give kids a creative outlet along with others closer to home such as Miller Place video game shop Game On’s annual events that help children with autism. He’s attended functions with hospitals and has even professionally gone to children’s birthday parties, who often can’t contain their excitement in seeing Spider-Man in the flesh.

The Port Jefferson Station resident, who professionally as Spider-Man goes as LI Spider-Guy, is unassuming, a young man who speaks in subdued tones that rise in pitch whenever he has the opportunity to speak about his passions. Most of those passions take the form of helping his fellow man.

“It’s just incredible, I guess,” Cottone said. “It’s the feeling you get when you can make people happy, when you can make people smile.”

Cottone started out in superhero cosplay portraying Captain America sidekick Bucky Barnes, at first likening the character to an almost-parody of American exceptionalism, but as he grew into it, he found that he saw the rational side of the hero, one who embodies the pinnacle of the American dream, one that centers around helping those who can’t help themselves.

But in his heart, he’s always liked the character of Spider-Man, the story of a young man from Queens, an unlikely hero in the first place. He’s a shy young man, smart, but socially awkward. Though even after he’s bitten by a radioactive spider, it takes a tragedy, the death of his father figure, for him to come to terms with the need to help people, simply because he has the power to do so.

“When I started in 2012, I wanted to inspire others to be their own heroes,” he said. “In high school, I struggled with confidence, I struggled with my drive. I struggled with finding a direction. When I realized I had the power, anybody could have the power to inspire others, that’s when I dedicated myself to being the best I could be for myself and for other people.”

It’s become a lifestyle. He’s done extensive online research on the physique of Spider-Man. And though he’s been exercising since high school, he’s tailored his diet to fit the look. For a year, Cottone has been taking his coffee black to excise as much sugar from his diet as he can.

The first spidery outfit Cottone bought came right after the release of the movie “Captain America: Civil War.” Upon first seeing the character, portrayed by Tom Holland, the Port Jeff Station native, and several of his friends, all thought the actor and character resembled him, in more ways than one. But those close to him know the comparison goes beyond the superficial. Fellow East Coast Avenger and friend Rafael “Captain” Pedragon said the Port Jeff Station native is, in many ways, better than the character of Peter Parker ever was.

“Peter Parker took a long time to realize his destiny, but Nic just knows,” Pedragon said. “He believes in his journey, he believes in what he does. Even when things are going rough with him I do see that he just pushes forward. In my eyes I think he’s better. That’s how I see him. Personality-wise he’s stronger mentally than Peter Parker ever was in the comic books.” 

The first suit he bought was from a company called Zentaizone, but when Joshua Darbee, the owner of Red Shirt Comics in Port Jefferson, asked him to attend free comic book day in May 2017, Cottone decided to go all out and buy a suit from RPC Studios, which many in the cosplay community see as some of the highest quality, movie prop level quality spidery suits. He now owns several suits, all different variations of the same character from movies, video games and the comics. It’s a commitment in both time and money, but the 24-year-old said it’s worth it to be the most authentic superhero he can be.

Nic Cottone at Public School 48’s Read Aloud Day in Brooklyn. Photo from Nic Cottone

Since it opened in 2017, Cottone had become a regular in Red Shirt Comics. Darbee bonded with the young man over comics and days of conventions gone by. It’s also how the store owner learned about the young man’s compunction to use superhero costumes to help people.

“The best story I have about Nic, the day he earned his CPR certification, he came in and he just wanted to share it, he was so proud and so happy,” Darbee said. “It was characters like Spider-Man and Captain America who were always so willing to go that extra mile for their fellow man, that he wanted to at least in some small way to be able to be there for somebody else, so he went out of his way to get that CPR certification, so if there was an emergency, he could be there for someone.”

Cottone graduated from Suffolk County Community College with a degree in psychology before moving on to Queens College looking at elementary education. First, he intended to become a high school teacher, but later he moved onto elementary, seeing it as a way to better help people develop in their formative years. He became disillusioned with the larger education system, saying it emphasized learning to the curriculum rather than developing as a person. 

After graduating from Queens College, Cottone returned to Long Island where he spent a year as a teaching assistant at the Maryhaven facility in Port Jeff, where he assisted children with developmental disabilities. Now he’s looking for full-time work while doing tutoring and working with children with autism.

To hear him say it, all the best things that have come to him recently have been because of Spider-Man. He met his girlfriend because of his love of the character and of comics in general. 

Better still, he doesn’t think he will stop any time soon.

“Ultimately we are alive for a very small amount of time, to be able to enjoy the things you’re passionate about is something very important to me,” he said. “It’s another aspect of life imitating art.

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