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Melissa Arnold

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Jessica Murphy will play the role of Wednesday in Theatre Three’s ‘The Addams Family.’

By Melissa Arnold

Jessica Murphy in the role of Wednesday. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

From their first appearance in comic strips in the 1930s, the iconic Addams family has won the hearts of many for their “creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky” antics. Their story has been told and retold through television, movies, books and even video games. This fall, Theatre Three in Port Jefferson will present “The Addams Family” musical, which debuted on Broadway in 2010.

The show finds the Addams children approaching adulthood, and for daughter Wednesday, there are certainly some growing pains. She’s fallen head over heels for a boy, her first real love, and to her family’s horror, he’s … well, normal. And the Addamses are anything but normal. Things are bound to get weird when Wednesday brings her beau and his parents home to meet her family. Underneath all of the zany comedy you’d expect from “The Addams Family” is a story about love, family, growing up and acceptance. It’s a lighthearted, silly show that’s perfect for the Halloween season.

Jessica Murphy of Northport plays everyone’s favorite goth girl, Wednesday Addams. The 23-year-old shared her thoughts on the show and making her Theatre Three debut.

Matt Senese (Gomez) and Jessica Murphy

How did you get your start in acting?

I started doing small plays and dance recitals when I was around four years old. It was just a hobby, but I found that I really loved being on the stage, being a presence and making people laugh. I did shows all through high school, and in my senior year I was cast as the lead. I wanted to pursue acting professionally, but I didn’t think I could make a career of it. Originally I was going to study elementary education at Loyola University in Maryland. I had always wanted to be a teacher — my mother and grandmother were both teachers, and I love working with kids. But in the car on the way home from orientation I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else but theater.

How did your family respond?

They were incredibly supportive and encouraged me to take a gap year. Afterward, I went to SUNY Geneseo and eventually graduated from there with a bachelor’s degree in musical theater. Now I’m just focusing on getting involved with as many theaters and productions as I can.

What made you want to audition for this show?

I love the music from “The Addams Family,” and my mom saw [this show] on Broadway and loved it. I had never been to Theatre Three before, so I was excited to get involved in a group that was new to me.

Were you nervous about being a newcomer?

It was a little intimidating going to a theater for the first time that has such a devoted base of actors. Many of them have done multiple shows at Theatre Three and so they know each other well. But it’s been a fantastic experience. Everyone has been so kind and I’ve loved working with them — they are all incredibly talented.

Jessica Murphy and Max Venezia will play the roles of Wednesday and Pugsley in Theatre Three’s “The Addams Family”

Were you hoping to be cast as Wednesday?

Honestly, I just wanted to be a part of it! I was hoping for the role of Wednesday, but wasn’t necessarily expecting it … they asked if I wanted time to think it over, but I was so excited that I said yes immediately.

What do you like about your character?

This show gives a completely different take on Wednesday because she’s much older than she’s usually portrayed. She’s grown into her own independent person who knows who she is and what she wants. We also spend a lot of time on the family aspect of the show — Wednesday will always be her mother’s daughter, but she’s really a daddy’s girl at heart. 

Do you have a favorite scene in the show? 

There’s a scene in the second act when [Addams family patriarch] Gomez sings a song called “Happy Sad.” — It’s a more serious father/daughter moment that’s very touching. Most of the show is so zany, but it’s one of those moments where we see that underneath all the craziness in the family, they have deep love and affection for each other.

What is the best reason to come see this show?

At the end of the day, this show is all about love. It’s fun during this time of year to have a show with these kooky and crazy characters, but they really have a lot of heart to them as well. And of course, there’s a lot of laughs!

“The Addams Family,” opens this Saturday, Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. The show runs through Oct. 27. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. No children under 5 are permitted. To purchase tickets, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Jim Molloy explores imaginative new subjects and styles in solo exhibit

'Primary Colors'

By Melissa Arnold

Artist Jim Molloy of Miller Place has earned a reputation as a nautical and landscape painter, and it’s easy to see why. His oil-on-canvas masterpieces of lighthouses in Maine, the local harbors of Stony Brook, Port Jefferson and Mount Sinai, or the intricate components of a sailboat will transport you to another place. His award-winning work has been showcased up and down the East Coast.

These days, though, Molloy is exploring something completely different. And it all started with a trip to the antique store.

‘Entropy’

“I found some [children’s] blocks and thought they would make a nice still life,” said Molloy, 53. “From there I started working with Tinker Toys, LEGOs, things like that, anything I could find.”

The new focus on what he calls “abstract realism” has given Molloy a surge of fresh ideas, and he’s ready to share them with the world. His first solo exhibit, entitled Primary Colors, will debut at Gallery North in Setauket on Aug. 30.

 

Art has always been a part of Molloy’s life, and he worked for decades using his talents wherever he could — as an illustrator for technical manuals, in the advertising industry, making 3-D models, doing custom airbrush work on vehicles and the list goes on. His real passion was for painting, however, and 12 years ago he left the workforce to paint full time.

It was easy to keep up his old rhythm of waking up and getting to work, said Molloy, who paints daily in his home studio. Self-taught, he honed his skills through hours of reading and study.

“After I quit my job, I visited museums and read every book I could get my hands on [about painting],” he said, adding he is especially inspired by Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper and Winslow Homer.

There are also the artists that encouraged and collaborated with him along the way. Among them are Irene Ruddock, president of Setauket Artists, who met Molloy at an art festival years ago. He began to exhibit with the group, and in 2015, they named him their Honored Artist.

“People are attracted to Jim’s paintings, not just because of his skillful techniques, but because of their soulfulness,” Ruddock said. “His work contains that special quality that tugs a bit at your heart, where you know that you are not just looking at something — you are feeling something that is warm and rare. In short, his paintings become memorable.”

‘Square Meal’

The journey to Primary Colors began last year at Gallery North, when Molloy was featured in a group exhibit titled The Art of Eating. Each work in the show focused on food, and Molloy’s contribution was a whimsical painting of children’s blocks arranged to resemble a plate of sushi with a pair of chopsticks.

The painting, an oil-on-panel work titled “Square Meal,” captured the attention of Gallery North Executive Director Judith Levy.

“I was amused by it. It was unique, interesting and fun,” said Levy in a recent phone interview. “When Jim approached me about an exhibit, I told him I would love to focus on that painting. It’s important for us to show a range of different ideas, and I’m very excited.” The show will also be on view during the gallery’s 2018 Outdoor Art Show and Music Festival on Sept. 8 and 9.

The process of creating each painting is a true labor of love for Molloy. Once he finds a subject that interests him, he’ll take it home and set it up in the studio. But before the painting begins, Molloy takes a photo of the subject that he can work from as time goes on. Getting the perfect angle and lighting is painstaking, and Molloy often shoots 100 photos or more before getting it just right.

‘Express’

In total, 32 works of art will be showcased during Primary Colors, many of them created within the past year with the exhibit in mind. The title hints at a common theme — each painting features the three primary colors — red, yellow and blue — in a prominent way. The paintings vary in size, from 6-by-12 inches to 3-by-5 feet, and all will be available for purchase.

“People in this area know me for my landscape art, so I’m honestly a little nervous about how they’ll respond to this exhibit,” Molloy admitted. “But I think it’s fun and colorful. In the beginning, when I first started painting [in this way], I never would have noticed the little details. But now I see everything differently. It’s a new perspective.”

Primary Colors will be on display from Aug. 30 to Sept. 21 at Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket. The public is invited to an opening reception on Aug. 30 from 5 to 7 p.m., and Molloy will be the featured artist at the gallery’s ArTalk series on Sept. 16 from 3 to 5 p.m. For more information about the exhibit, visit ​www.gallerynorth.org​ or call ​631-751-2676.

To see more of Jim Molloy’s artwork, visit ​www.molloyart.com.

Images courtesy of Gallery North

ON TOP OF THE WORLD: Zachary Podair with the cast of 'Newsies'

By Melissa Arnold

Zachary Podair

Zachary Podair of Smithtown will have some great “What I Did This Summer” stories to share when he heads to middle school next month. The 11-year-old is spending almost every day onstage at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, where he is the youngest member in the cast of “Newsies.” 

The show is loosely based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899, where New York City paperboys organized a union and went on strike to be treated fairly on the job. Zachary plays the part of Les, who wants to help his older brother support their struggling family. His character is lovable and funny, providing some bright comic relief for the show. I recently spoke with Zachary about his professional theater debut, what it’s like being the youngest on the set and more.

What got you interested in acting?

When I was 6 years old, my sister was taking dance lessons and we would always go to pick her up. I really liked watching and decided I wanted to dance, too, so my mom put me in hip-hop classes. I love anything that involves dancing, so I started looking for shows that had a lot of dance numbers.

Have you been in any other shows?

My first show was four years ago, at the Encore Theater. I got to play [the title role in] “Aladdin.” And ever since then I try to do as many shows as I can. I was Rooster in “Annie,” Donkey in “Shrek,” and Charlie in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” 

What made you want to audition for ‘Newsies?’ Were you nervous?

My favorite kind of shows are dance-heavy, and I knew that “Newsies” was one. I had seen the movie before and thought that I would try out. It also has a really great musical score.

I wasn’t really nervous about it. I didn’t necessarily think I would get the part, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try. I was really surprised when I heard I was cast. They originally said they were going to double cast the part of Les, [meaning two actors would take turns playing the role], but they ended up just casting me by myself. That was really exciting.

What is it like being the youngest person in the cast?

Sometimes it’s different being the only person around my age, but everyone in the cast and the crew has been so sweet to me. I’ve learned so much from being in professional theater. Every person I’ve worked with has taught me something, from the casting agency to the other actors, the director and other crew. I’ve also improved my dancing so much from working with our amazing choreographer [Sandalio Alvarez].

Zachary Podair, right, in a scene from ‘Newsies’

What do you like about your character?

Les and I are so much alike. He’s just a funny guy. I love playing him because he’s got a lot of great dance scenes and he’s also the comic relief in a lot of ways. I love the one-liners. 

What has acting taught you about life?

So, so much. I’ve learned how important it is to be flexible — emotionally and physically. You have to be spontaneous, to be willing to go with anything. And, of course, you have to learn how to deal with rejection. You’re not going to get every part and not everyone is going to love you.

What would you say to other kids (or adults!) who want to try acting but are nervous?

Definitely don’t be afraid to try it! If you don’t get a part, then you have the experience of auditioning and you can learn from that. If you want, you can try again. And if you do get the part, then you get to have an amazing experience. Either way it’s a positive thing and so much fun to be a part of.

Why should people go see “Newsies?”

It’s one of those shows that has something for everyone, no matter who you are or how old you are. There are things the kids like and things the adults will laugh at. And I think it’s interesting because it’s based on true events — we worked really hard to make our version of the show as realistic as possible. It’s a positive show that will make you feel good.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time at the Engeman so far? 

So far, the best moment was the first day that we got to see the set all finished. It was so amazing. I think that was the moment it all really hit me. I thought, “This is real. It’s really happening.” It’s the best feeling.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Newsies” through Sept. 2. Tickets range from $73 to $78. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

‘Cassio’ by Dino Rinaldi

By Melissa Arnold

‘Stable Door’ by Joseph Reboli

Horses, whether ridden, raced, bred or simply beloved, have long been a part of Long Island’s culture. From the Belmont Stakes in Nassau to the Smithtown Hunt and the Old Field Farm in Suffolk, the majestic animals hold a special place in the hearts of many.

Among them was the late artist Joe Reboli, whose 30-year career was defined by bringing both famous places and ordinary views of the Three Village area to life with great care and realism.

The Reboli Center for Art and History in Stony Brook was founded in 2016 to celebrate Reboli’s life and honor the history of the place he called home. Since then, the center has created a number of exhibits blending Reboli’s work with local artists as well as artifacts from Long Island’s past.

On Tuesday, the center opened an exciting  new exhibit, Artistry: The Horse in Art, which will focus on horses and their environment through a variety of mediums. Among the Reboli works in the exhibit is “The Stable Door,” an oil-on-canvas painting.

Roberto Dutesco’s ‘Love’ will be on exhibit at the Reboli Center through Oct. 28.

“Joe had a way of capturing this community that evoked such wonderful feelings from people,” said Reboli Center co-founder Colleen Hanson. “His painting of a stable door in our exhibit was done for [the late publisher] John McKinney. Joe’s ability to paint white was just astounding — there is more to the color white than many people realize; there are so many shades and hues in it and he captured them all.”

In addition to work from Reboli, the exhibit will highlight three other main artists. Roberto Dutesco, a Romanian-born Canadian artist, is well known for his fashion photography. But in 1994, Dutesco began to explore nature photography with a trip to Sable Island, nearly 200 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. There he photographed the island’s breathtaking wild horses. He has returned to the island six times since then with the goal of inspiring greater conservation efforts through his work. 

‘Zidette’ by Dino Rinaldi

Dino Rinaldi is a Port Jefferson native whose winding career has taken him from illustration to advertising and finally painting full time. As a teen, Rinaldi recalls opening up an issue of the local newspaper and seeing a painting of gasoline pumps by Reboli. 

“I looked at it and thought, someday I want to be able to paint like that. It moved me,” said Rinaldi, who now lives in Setauket with his wife and daughter. “To be able to create art for a living is a dream come true.” Keep an eye out for “Zidette,” Rinaldi’s graphite powder-and-pencil drawing.

Elena Hull Cournot, who originally hails from East Setauket, now provides creative arts therapy in the West Village and owns a studio in Brooklyn. Horses are a mainstay of Cournot’s work, who is known for her large commissioned paintings of horses and soulful works created during her time as an artist in residence at the Burren College of Art in Ireland. Like storytellers who seek to capture the personal essence of their subjects, Cournot strives to spend time with each horse she paints. One of those horses was “Indie,” whose oil-on-canvas portrait is featured in the gallery.

The center’s history gallery will focus on events and places that include horses in a prominent role. The Smithtown Hunt is the only surviving foxhound hunt on Long Island. While it was originally a live hunt when it was first held in 1900, it is now exclusively a drag hunt. The Old Field Farm was built by Ward Melville in 1931 and continues to be a hot spot for the equestrian community. 

“Every year, we sit down and talk about what kind of exhibits we’d like to have. We look at different community events that are going on, and then work to determine the artists we might feature and a theme based around that,” Hanson explained. “This is such an interesting and fun show — there are so many people who love horses and have owned or ridden them at some point. They are beautiful, intelligent creatures that have a wide appeal.”

Hanson also joked that her own history was a factor in the decision. In the decade she spent as the director of Gallery North in Setauket, not a single exhibit featured a horse. Thanks to this exhibit, she’s now hung more than 30 horse paintings, drawings and photos.

The center will hold several special free events during the exhibit’s run, each coinciding with Third Friday activities in the area. Dino Rinaldi and Roberto Dutesco will be at the center Aug. 17; Leighton Coleman, Sally Lynch and Edmunde Stewart will be welcomed on Sept. 21; and on Oct. 19 there will be a screening of the documentary “Snowman,” which tells the story of a simple workhorse saved from the slaughterhouse by a Long Island man. Snowman went on to become a national show jumping champion.   

See Artistry: The Horse in Art through Oct. 28 at the Reboli Center for Art and History, 64 Main St., Stony Brook. Admission is free. For information, call 631-751-7707 or visit www.rebolicenter.org. 

Mike Cefalo as Davey, Dan Tracy as Jack Kelly and the cast of 'Newsies'

By Melissa Arnold

This summer, the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport is transporting audiences to a New York City of long ago in its production of “Newsies.” This feel good, family-friendly show, which opened last Thursday, is thoroughly entertaining and will have you rooting for the cast from start to finish.

The cast of ‘Newsies’

“Newsies”’ journey to the stage is an interesting one — the show is based on the 1992 Disney movie of the same name, and made its Broadway debut in 2012, where it won two Tony Awards. The book was written by Harvey Fierstein, with music by Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin”) and lyrics by Jack Feldman. 

Both the film and musical are loosely inspired by the real-life events of the Newsboys Strike of 1899. The newspaper business was booming in 1898 while the United States was involved in the Spanish-American War. But when the war ended in September of 1898, so did the clamor for news. And this is where “Newsies” begins. 

In the summer of 1899, a ragtag group of Lower Manhattan paperboys are lamenting the slow news climate, and famed publisher Joseph Pulitzer is brainstorming ways to boost his profits. At that time, newsies purchased their own papers from the publishers to sell on the street. Pulitzer decides to hike the prices the newsies pay, and since most of the kids are poor, homeless or trying to support their families, the backlash is immediate.

Whitney Winfield as Katherine Plumber in a scene from ‘Newsies’

Led by the charismatic and scrappy 17-year-old Jack Kelly, the kids form a union and declare a strike. The show chronicles the uphill battle Jack and his friends face to be taken seriously and shines a light on unfair child labor practices of the era. At the core of “Newsies” is the power of resilience, community and standing up for a cause — and that spirit is as relevant today as it was then.

Under the direction of Igor Goldin, this production’s cast features a number of actors making their Engeman debut. Among them are Dan Tracy, whose confidence and comfort on stage give his portrayal of Jack Kelly a lovable swagger. Tracy does a great job balancing Jack’s tough guy exterior with a more hidden tender side, which shines through in songs such as “Santa Fe” and “Something to Believe In.” 

Mike Cefalo and Zachary Podair, who play the rookie paperboy Davey and his kid brother Les, are also new to the Engeman. The pair have a natural chemistry and strong voices — listen for Cefalo in “The World Will Know” and Podair in “Watch What Happens.” As the youngest member of the cast, Podair is charming and funny, and he’s sure to have a bright future ahead in acting.

Whitney Winfield, in the role of Katherine Plumber, certainly holds her own with a big voice in “King of New York” and “Something to Believe In.” Her character is loosely based off of reporter Nellie Bly, who was a trailblazer for working women and female journalists. Winfield plays the role with a contagious positive spirit and moxie.

Dan Tracy as Jack Kelly in a scene from ‘Newsies’

The ensemble is every bit as enjoyable as the main cast. Worth noting is their incredible talent for dance — choreographer Sandalio Alvarez and dance captain Claire Avakian are to be applauded for their hard work. “Newsies” is full of pirouettes, backflips, cartwheels, jumps and more tricks that will blow you away. Even the curtain call is an impressive showcase for their skill, where you can tell the cast is enjoying the show as much as we are.

The double-decker set designed by DT Willis depicts a Manhattan street, with metal staircases, a fire escape and a cityscape background. The set is multifunctional, transforming easily from a rooftop to the city square, a deli, theater and office with some quick work from the cast, who also functions as stage crew.

With every show at the Engeman, it’s the little touches at the theater that make the experience extra special. Show up early to enjoy one of several “Newsies”-themed cocktails, listen to ragtime or put yourself on the front page with their crafty wooden newspaper prop. Feel free to ask the staff to take a photo — they’re easy to find in old-time flat caps and suspenders. Be sure to check out the playbill for some fascinating information on the show’s historical background.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Newsies” through Sept. 2. Tickets range from $73 to $78. For information or to purchase tickets, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

A swan lands in Lake Ronkonkoma. Photo by Artie Weingartner

By Melissa Arnold

Artie Weingartner

For as long as Artie Weingartner has taken photos, his focus has always been on others.

Weingartner, who lives in Lake Ronkonkoma, is a fixture at local high school sporting events. He has faithfully chronicled the work of the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society and is the official photographer for the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group.

Now, for the month of July, the focus is on him as Sachem Public Library presents an exhibit featuring a wide array of Weingartner’s photos in a collection titled Scenes of Lake Ronkonkoma.

It’s an odd feeling for 58-year-old Weingartner, who admits it took a serious push from friends and loved ones to move forward with the exhibit. But nothing makes him happier than bringing joy to the people who see his photos.

“I like seeing people’s reactions to pictures and hearing their feedback — it really makes me feel good, and it makes me want to do it more. I love the rush of satisfaction that comes with it. I guess you could say I’m addicted to it,” he laughed.

Lake Ronkonkoma on a fall day

While photography has piqued his interest for decades, it took a long time for Weingartner to really find his niche. His father bought him his first camera, a simple Kodak, when he was just 9 years old. But he admitted feeling frustrated over the process of shooting a roll of film, waiting to have it developed, and then discovering that many of the photos were duds. “I didn’t have the patience for [traditional photography],” he said. “Not being able to see what the result was right away was hard for me.”

When digital photography emerged in the early 2000s, Weingartner was thrilled. Finally, he had the instant gratification of seeing each photo, with no wasted film and the option to delete ones he didn’t like with the push of a button. His love for photography was rekindled, and he hasn’t looked back. 

He began casually taking photos of his kids’ sports matches, plays and concerts. Word spread quickly about his natural talent. “Parents stopped bringing their cameras around and my pictures were used more and more. It became a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” Weingartner said.

A swan lands in Lake Ronkonkoma. Photo by Artie Weingartner

Now that his children are grown, the photographer is focusing more on chronicling the history of Lake Ronkonkoma. On a frigid day in January of 2016, he was invited by Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society member Matt Balkam to photograph the historic Fitz-Greene Hallock Homestead on Pond Road. The 14-room home was built in 1888 and contains all of the original furnishings of the Hallock family. In 2006, the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society took over the care of the home, and it is now the only historic home in the community that remains open for tours and other public programming.

That experience would lead Weingartner to become regularly involved with the historical society and the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group.

In 2016, News12 contacted Evelyn Vollgraff, the president of the historical society, about filming in the area for a show covering historic places on Long Island. When reporter Danielle Campbell arrived at Long Island’s largest freshwater lake with Vollgraff, she was horrified to see how neglected and filthy the body of water was.

Fog encompasses Lake Ronkonkoma

Campbell, Vollgraff and several others put the word out on social media that they wanted to work on beautifying the area. The response was beyond anything Vollgraff anticipated. “We never asked for help. We just did it,” she recalled. “People got interested — legislators, councilmen. At the first meeting, 90 people were there asking what they could do and how they could help. The community came together in an amazing way. We have joined together as groups of friends that wanted to help our community. But now many of them are a part of the historical society as well, and most importantly, they’re my friends.”

In early 2017, the group held its first cleanup of the lake. Weingartner was there that day, too. They have since removed more than 300 tons of trash from the lake, and turned an old bookstore destroyed by fire into the historic Larry’s Landing, a popular hangout named for the bookstore’s late owner, Larry Holzapfel.

“Artie showed up with a camera at one of the cleanups and just started taking pictures — that’s just who he is,” Vollgraff said. “You have to record history. I can’t save every house in Ronkonkoma, but with Artie taking pictures, the history lives on forever.”

The community has also expressed its gratitude for Artie’s work through Facebook, where he frequently posts his photos on the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group and Sachem Sports pages.

“People were coming out of the woodwork from Florida or South Carolina who lived there 30 years ago to say how much it meant to them to see pictures of the place they grew up,” Weingartner said. “When I first moved to Long Island from Queens in 1970, we used to swim in the lake, but over a few years it got so dirty that we didn’t swim there anymore. Before that, people used to come out from Manhattan just to spend time at the lake. It’s always been an important, historic part of this community.”

While the exhibit is named Scenes of Lake Ronkonkoma, Weingartner said it encompasses a range of subjects, including sports and landscapes from other parts of Long Island, including Port Jefferson and Belle Terre. More than 75 framed 8-by-10 prints are on display. His favorite photo features Lake Ronkonkoma at sunset, with two birds and sunlight streaming down to the shore. All the photos were taken with a Nikon D600.

The photography show also includes guest contributions from photographers Richard Cornell and Richard Yezdanian.“This exhibit will be interesting to people in our area because [the lake and other scenes] are literally in our backyard,” said Anne Marie Tognella who works in programming and public relations at Sachem Public Library. “It captures many of the scenes that we see and appreciate every day with natural and historic value.”

Sachem Public Library, 150 Holbrook Road, Holbrook will present Scenes of Lake Ronkonkoma in its art gallery on the lower level through the month of July. Join them for an artist reception on Saturday, July 21 at 2 p.m. For more information, call 631-588-5024.

‘Dingy Boat Rack’ (Brookhaven Town Marina, Mount Sinai) Photo by Gerard Romano

By Melissa Arnold

If you ask Gerard Romano how he’s feeling about his first ever photography exhibit opening this weekend, he’s quick to admit he never imagined this would happen.

“It seems like one minute I was submitting pictures to the local newspaper, and now there’s going to be an exhibit for [my pictures],” said the Port Jefferson Station resident. “I wasn’t expecting to do anything like this — the thought never crossed my mind before — so there was a lot to learn.”

Last year, Romano began to submit his photos to Times Beacon Record News Media’s weekly Photo of the Week series. Several of his photos were chosen over time, and eventually he was invited to submit a collection of his favorites for a two-page photo essay in the Arts & Lifestyles section. 

Now, Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station is featuring Romano’s photographs in an exhibit he’s entitled Visions of the North Shore. The presentation will be on display in the library’s gallery throughout the month of July and will showcase images of this beautiful part of Long Island that we call home.

‘Low Tide’ (Stony Brook Harbor) by Gerard Romano

Romano’s interest in photography began more than 50 years ago, when he acquired a 35mm camera soon after he left the Army. “I enjoy creating images and seeing things differently through the lens of a camera,” said Romano, who went on to work as an engineer and auxiliary police officer for Suffolk County. After his retirement he became active in digital photography. “I find it very satisfying to share those images with other photographers around the world through the image sharing website Flickr,” he said.

That desire to share his work would become the spark leading to this exhibit. One day, while visiting Stony Brook Harbor, he met Donna Grossman who was instructing a plein air class through the Atelier at Flowerfield art school in St. James. He snapped a photo of the artist, and Grossman offered to critique his work. “She suggested doing an exhibit, and I thought it might be fun,” he recalled. 

Reached by phone, Grossman said that Romano was a talented observer of life on the North Shore. “I am happy that his work will finally be brought to the attention of the residents of this beautiful area. His show at Comsewogue Library is not to be missed,” she said.

Romano is happiest photographing the area he knows best — the landscapes and waters of the North Shore, especially its bluffs and beaches. Taking inspiration from Norman Rockwell, he also enjoys taking candid photos of people interacting with one another and recently began focusing on taking close-ups of flowers.

“I like to go out with a plan for the kind of photos I’m going to take, but mostly it depends on the weather,” Romano explained. “Stony Brook offers a beautiful harbor, a wonderful museum, the Village Center, the grist mill, Avalon Park and Preserve, and nearby Harmony Vineyards. I also love to take photos around Setauket’s historic district, Port Jefferson and Mount Sinai Harbor with the lobster boats.”

‘Seabird’ (Port Jefferson) by Gerard Romano

One of the photographer’s favorite images in the show is “Seabird,” an image of a seagull perched on a piling in Port Jefferson Harbor. “The gull let me get within three feet of him before flying away,” said Romano in disbelief. “It was very unusual.” 

To create his images, Romano uses two Nikon DSLR cameras, both equipped with BMP sensors. One camera has his all-purpose “walk around” 18-200mm zoom lens, which he uses most of the time. The other camera usually has a wide-angle lens. The photographer’s favorite is a 10.6mm fisheye lens for up close and personal shots. “It creates great special effects,” he explained.

Featuring over 45 images, the exhibit will display a variety of subjects, giving visitors a chance to find something that resonates with them. Its six sections will include seasonal landscapes, nautical photos, classic cars, Norman Rockwell-style color candids, black and white photos, and more.

Loretta Holtz, exhibit coordinator and head of adult services at Comsewogue Library said the library was happy to be showcasing the photographer’s work, adding, “Gerard Romano has captured so many wonderful scenes of our local area and we hope the community will take the time to visit the library gallery in July to see this exhibit.”

As he prepared for the exhibit’s opening a few weeks ago, Romano said that he didn’t realize how much work went into this kind of project. He and his wife Barbara Ann printed and framed each photo themselves, which had its own learning curve. It’s been hectic getting to this point, he said, but “it has also been a rewarding learning experience that has extended well beyond photography.”

Comsewogue Public Library is located at  170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station. Viewing hours for the gallery are Monday to Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-928-1212.

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Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Molly England is a featured author in a new self-improvement book, ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman’ Photo by Annemarie A. Varona

Molly England of Huntington knows that it takes strength, self-confidence and a lot of support to raise a family. A wife and mother to three young children, 35-year-old England has shared the ups and downs of life with other moms through writing articles online. Now, she’s celebrating the release of her first print story, “Welcome to New York,” one of 101 stories featured in the new anthology, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman,” edited by Amy Newmark.

In the book, England tells the story of her family’s turbulent move from Texas to Long Island last summer. As Hurricane Harvey rattled the South, England took matters into her own hands, choosing to drive to New York with her children. That solo road trip ended up being a journey of self-discovery that she’ll never forget. I recently had the opportunity to interview England as she prepares for a book signing at the Book Revue in Huntington.

Tell me a bit about your background. Were you raised in Texas?

I actually grew up in Santa Monica, California — my whole family is over there. My husband is from London, and we met while I was visiting Scotland with friends. I ended up going to graduate school for social work at the University of Edinburgh so we could be together.

Is this your first published story?

No. I’ve also written articles for The Washington Post, Scary Mommy, The Huffington Post, Babble and several other outlets. But this is my first print story!

Did you always want to be a writer? Did you study writing in school?

I never realized when I was a kid that I was a good writer, but I was always journaling. I ended up getting my bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California in Santa Barbara.

My biological father is Dutch and lives in the Netherlands, so while I was living in Scotland I started blogging about my attempt to find him as a way of processing my feelings. It was very compelling to people and there was a lot of support. I loved sharing the ups and downs of that experience through writing in a way that connects me to others. At the same time, I started writing about natural childbirth and parenting as a childbirth educator. That blossomed into freelancing for different publications.

How did you hear about ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman?’

I remember reading the college edition of “Chicken Soup,” and I loved the stories. I identified a lot with the “Chicken Soup” brand. One day, I got an email advertising that they were doing an edition focused on empowered women, and I was so excited. I thought, “This is for me.” I felt so honored when they accepted the piece.

Were you nervous about moving to New York?

We had already moved from California to Texas for my husband’s job, so we were excited and it was a great move for our family. We were looking forward to it. Plus, my family is in LA, and my husband’s family is from London, so we’re halfway between them now.

What was it like going through Hurricane Harvey in Texas when your husband was already in New York?

It was horrible! Luckily, we were safe. I’m a California earthquake girl, but this was my first hurricane. All of the anticipation and warnings made me very anxious, but we were surrounded by a wonderful group of friends and they helped us get through it.

What made you decide to drive from Texas to New York with your kids?

We were working with a relocation company, so the timing wasn’t fully in our control. We were doing a lot of waiting, but I wanted my kids to be able to start the new school year in New York. I decided that I didn’t want to wait anymore, and that we needed to do it on our own.

How did you feel on the trip?

It was a roller coaster of emotions, but we really enjoyed getting to see places we never would have seen and staying in a new hotel every night. The kids were having fun and it was a really positive experience. They were really great.

What did it feel like for you when you arrived on Long Island?

It was the greatest sense of achievement and relief that I was able to deliver our three kids and dog safely to our new home, and to reunite with my husband. It really brought us closer together as a family.

What did that experience teach you about yourself?

Honestly, I underestimated myself. I thought that birthing my children was my biggest achievement. But realizing that in this trip I made the right choices, I could rise to the occasion when things got tough. I learned to trust my choices and have confidence in my abilities.

Why did you choose to tell this particular story for the book?

I write from my heart, and this story had been published elsewhere before with a lot of positive responses. I wanted to share whatever I could with other women about being strong and independent.

Do you feel that there’s a need for more initiatives that empower women?

Absolutely. I think it’s very hard right now for women because we’re trying to do it all and make it look effortless. There’s a saturated market of perfection — we don’t need more of that! We need to be able to share our vulnerability and our struggles, and see that even in difficulty we can manage to find our feet. I love this project because it shows women in real and relatable situations. Women have to be there for each other.

Where can we follow your life and future work?

I love Instagram! You can follow me at @bluebonnetbabies, and at my Facebook page, Bluebonnet Babies by Molly England. My website is www.mollyengland.com.

Join Molly England for a meet-and-greet and book signing at Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington on Tuesday, June 12 at 7 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. “Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman” is available in stores and online wherever books are sold.

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Pictured from left, author Virginia McCaffrey, Allyson Konczynin, Bob Scollon, Will Konczynin and Brian Ehlers. Photo from Virginia Ehlers

Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Virginia McCaffrey, an 11th-grade special education teacher at Ward Melville High School in Setauket, has brought her childhood memories to life with an imaginative new book for kids. “Chased by a Bear,” McCaffrey’s first book, honors the memory of her late grandmother, Jean Scollon, who loved telling her grandchildren vivid bedtime stories. I recently reached out to McCaffrey to ask her about her newest venture.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Ward Melville High School special education teacher Virginia McCaffrey is pictured with the children’s book “Chased by a Bear” she authored. Photo courtesy of Three Village school district

I am one of five children, one girl with four brothers. I was born in Lake Ronkonkoma and our family moved to Setauket when I was in ninth grade. I loved growing up in a big family as there was never a dull moment. As a child, I never really dreamed of becoming a writer, although I did think of it occasionally, not sure what direction I should take. The answer only came to me at the passing of my grandmother, Jean Scollon, three years ago.

Why did you decide to write a children’s book specifically?

My grandmother was such a large part of our lives. My own children knew her well and have always loved hearing stories of the terrific times my brothers, cousins and I had with her as we were growing up.

One night I was telling them about our many sleepovers at Nany and Grandad’s house. The four of us would climb onto the bed in the guest room at the end of the hall, then Nany would squeeze in with us to tell us a story before going to sleep. As I grow older, I fondly remember taking turns adding to the story, but specifically remember thinking that Nany had an incredible imagination. She always seemed to be coming up with great scenes, characters and situations, as well as games for us to play.

After sharing these stories with my own children and sending them off to bed, I decided to sit down and write a “Nany-type” story for them. At first, it was meant to simply be for them, but the more I worked on it, I began to dream of sharing the story of this wonderful grandmother with other children and turning it into a book; I found a way to honor my grandmother and share her with others.

How did your family respond when you told them you had an idea for a book?

I didn’t tell the family about my project until it was complete and I could present it to my grandfather, Bob Scollon, at a family dinner.  The only exception was my mother, who was sworn to secrecy. It was probably the hardest secret I have ever had to keep.

To say my family was surprised is an understatement. They appeared to be completely shocked. All four of my brothers told me how proud they were, my nieces and nephews all asked if they could share it with their classes, and my grandfather was speechless. He immediately sat down and read the book cover to cover while the rest of the family chatted about how surprised they were. Their reactions made keeping it a secret for so long all worth it.   

What is the book about?

The cover of Virginia McCaffrey’s first book.

“Chased by a Bear” is the story of four young children and the magical adventure their grandmother is able to make them a part of through her bedtime stories. No one but the five of them know where Nany’s stories take them each week during their sleepovers, making the adventure so much more special for them. They find themselves in a dangerous situation but use teamwork to resolve the problem.

Why did you choose a story about a bear for your first book?

I chose to use a bear story for the book because so many of Nany’s stories involved a bear in the woods. It was her favorite theme to her stories. Looking back I think those were always my favorite ones to hear.

Are the children in the story based on real-life people?

My younger brother (Brian Ehlers), two cousins (Allyson and William Konczynin) and I are the youngest of seven grandchildren and the characters in the book.

What was the publication process like?

Once I decided to write the children’s book, the process took about 18 months to complete. I decided to self-publish, and ultimately took the advice of my illustrator as to which company to use. The result was a very smooth process.

How did you find an illustrator?

I found the most challenging effort was to find an illustrator to capture the characters in the book: my grandparents, cousins, brother and myself. After a great deal of research online, I found an illustrator whose artwork not only connected with the personalities and descriptions of all of us but was exactly what I would hope for in a children’s book. Robin Bayer’s style is so uplifting and colorful. She made my story come to life. I sent her pictures of the four of us as children, as well as pictures of Nany and Grandad. She totally captured the look I wanted.

What was it like seeing the illustrations and receiving the first copy of the book?

When the first sketches were sent to me, I found it incredible how someone who didn’t know us as children and never had the opportunity to meet Nany was able to read a story I wrote and look at pictures I sent and completely capture my childhood and my vision of how my book should look. The story seemed to come to life more and more as additional illustrations were created and color was added to the pages.

When I received the first copy of the completed book to proof, I was in love with it. Once the book went public, friends sent me pictures of their children reading my book. I’ve saved every picture they’ve sent. I love hearing what their children and grandchildren think of the story.

What is the target age for the book?

The book was written on a second- or third-grade reading level. However, it was intended to appeal to many ages as it can be read aloud. 

What do your students think?

My students have expressed excitement at the idea of their teacher writing and publishing a book. They make me feel proud when they mention it. Recently, I was invited to read to the class of one of my daughters. The students had many questions about the writing process and becoming an author. It was wonderful to see the awe and excitement on their faces.

Do you plan to write any more books?

I would love to see this turn into a series of Nany Bedtime Stories … and maybe even let the rest of my family have some input.

“Chased by a Bear” is available for purchase on Amazon.com.

Andrea Goss, Barry Debois and Stephen McIntyre in a scene from ‘Once’. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Melissa Arnold

If you’ve ever fallen in love, had your heart broken or faced unfulfilled passion, you’ll relate to “Once.” And even if you haven’t, the cast at the John W. Engeman Theater will still grab your heart and squeeze. The show, which is part of the theater’s 11th season, is both unique and compelling. It’s easy to see why “Once” grossed 11 Tony nominations and eight wins in 2012, its first year on Broadway. The show is a stage adaptation of the 2007 film of the same name that starred Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. Both versions were written and directed by John Carney.

Barry DeBois and Andrea Gos in a scene from ‘Once’

Under the direction of the Engeman’s Trey Compton, “Once” begins with a nameless street performer referred to as Guy (Barry Debois) singing a heartbreaking ballad about an ex-girlfriend. A bold and honest young Czech woman (Andrea Goss as Girl) overhears the song and immediately pesters him for the juicy details that inspired it. It turns out that Guy has lost his love of music since his old flame left for New York City. Performing just hurts too much, and he’s ready to throw in the towel on his dreams.

But Girl won’t hear any of that, and she’s convinced that he’d win his love’s heart again if he sang her that song. Their conversation is the beginning of an intensely passionate and emotionally raw week as the two write, rehearse and record songs together.

What makes “Once” stand out is its presentation, which you’ll notice before the show even begins. Get there early and you’ll find the cast on stage in the middle of a rocking pub party, Dublin style. They hoot and holler while they sing, play Irish tunes and dance on tables. The best part is that the audience is invited to go up and join them. The set includes a working bar that offers a single variety of beer, red wine and white wine for $10.

A scene from ‘Once’

The musical performances in this show are also one of a kind, as there is no stage band providing accompaniment. Instead, each person in the 13-member cast also plays an instrument, and all of the songs are performed from memory, which is beyond impressive. To make it work, chairs are set in a semicircle around the perimeter of the stage. When a character exits a scene, he or she simply takes a seat, fading inconspicuously into the background.

They also function as their own stage crew, dancing and playing brief musical interludes as they carry props on and off the set. It’s a bit hard to describe in words, but the overall effect is visually compelling and speaks to the incredible talent of this cast.

Both Goss and Debois are no strangers to “Once” — she was part of its recent Broadway run, while he was the music captain of the 2016 U.S. national tour. They bring to the show an intense realism you can hear in every note they sing. Guy’s opening number, “Leave,” and Girl’s tearful performance of “The Hill,” will leave you awestruck.

The members of the ensemble, which include “Once” veterans Elisabeth Evans (Reza), John Thomas Hays (Billy), Stephen McIntyre (Bank Manager) and Bristol Pomeroy (Da) among others, are every bit as talented as Debois and Goss. They put out a powerful sound with rich harmonies and tons of energy. During their a cappella performance of “Gold,” you could hear a pin drop in the packed house. The standing ovation during the press night performance last Saturday night was well deserved.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “Once” through March 4. Tickets range from $73 to $78 with free valet parking available. For more information, call 631-261-9700 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

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