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Present

Exhibit showcases the brilliance of the Serbian American inventor

By Kevin Redding

Asked in 1927 about not getting the proper recognition for inventing radio among other uncredited scientific achievements, Nikola Tesla said, “Let the future tell the truth and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments … the present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.”

Ninety years later, not only is the truth out about the greatness of the Serbian American inventor — whose long list of contributions to modern science includes the alternating current motor, the electric motor, wireless communication, X-rays, the remote control, and, yes, radio — his work is utilized everywhere we go.

And now it is celebrated every day in Stony Brook Village for the rest of the summer. Residents far and wide are invited to explore the radical genius of Tesla in a new exhibit at Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center titled Nikola Tesla: Past, Present, Future. Visitors can immerse themselves in the life and inventions of the man who electrified history, powered the present and continues to shape the future.

On view through Sept. 4, the exhibit was designed by board members within the nonprofit Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, where Tesla’s last remaining laboratory stands and features a litany of displays such as an operating replica of the famous Tesla coil, augmented reality technology and a signed Tesla Roadster off the Tesla Motors assembly line.

Buzzing sounds of electricity, dramatic music and compelling narration of Tesla’s life pervade throughout the large room, where kids, teens, adults and seniors have enjoyed since July 8 interactive kiosks, screens showing in-depth documentaries, biographical banners, models and more.

“There’s a real desire on the public’s part to learn more about him because he’s an unsung American and international scientific hero,” said David Madigan, the Tesla Science Center board member who was tasked with bringing the exhibit to life. “He’s also the name that most people don’t know, and yet he’s one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century. It’s very important that the public supports it.”

Back in March, Ward Melville Heritage Organization President Gloria Rocchio approached Madigan and other members of the Tesla board and asked them to take up the exhibit space for the summer as a way to give the nonprofit visibility and promote their cause. (The Tesla Science Center is in the process of raising funds to open its doors to the public next year.)

Board Director Marc Alessi and Madigan took on the challenge, seeing the exhibit as a mini version of what will ultimately be their expansive Visitor’s Center, which will serve as the site’s main focus until the museum is in operation — the group needs a minimum amount of $20 million to open it.

“We made a decision as an organization that this would force us to put together an exhibit and start collecting the necessary materials; we’re going to need to put items into our building when we open next year so why not get started now?” Alessi said during a recent tour. “I think people are getting a bit of a taste of what this will be and this is just one pillar of what the Tesla Science Center will eventually be.”

But filling the exhibit room was no easy feat, as the two would learn. “It was a huge and heavy lift for us because I wasn’t aware of what we might have on hand in storage,” Alessi said. “I knew we had some donations, but did we really have enough material for an exhibit this size? At the time, we didn’t.”

Madigan quickly got on the horn with everyone he knew would want to contribute to a Tesla-centric space, which, luckily for him, ended up being a lot of impassioned people. In two months, the exhibit bursted with life.

Banners were brought in from the Tesla Science Foundation in Philadelphia and Belgrade, Serbia, and a Rocky Point artisan named Rob Arnold built a replica of Tesla’s teleautomaton — the first ever remote-controlled boat that Tesla premiered at Madison Square Garden’s Electrical Exhibition in 1898. Local filmmaker Joseph Sikorski, who made the documentaries “Fragments from Olympus: The Vision of Nikola Tesla” and “Tower to the People” about the history and preservation of Wardenclyffe, set up the exhibit’s kiosks and even donated his model of Tesla’s laboratory used in many of his films.

Nan Guzzetta of Antique Costumes & Prop Rental in Port Jefferson submitted Tesla-period wardrobe to be displayed; neon sculptor Clayton Orehek created a spectacular portrait of Tesla as well as a coil-inspired design of the inventor’s signature; and Richard Matthias of Hot Springs, Arkansas, built and donated a Jacob’s ladder display and the replica of the Tesla coil — which visitors are able to charge with the help of neon glass tubes.

Next to the Tesla Roadster in the corner of the room sits a 3D hands-on exhibit brought in by the National Museum of Mathematics in New York City that allows people to manipulate the magnetic field on which the Tesla induction motor is based.

“We found it all very inspiring,” Madigan said of the support. “Everywhere we go with this, it’s not us, it’s Nikola Tesla that is fascinating to people. We wanted to put together an illustrative exhibit that would help educate the public as to exactly who this man was and how he contributed to society, and continues to. You can’t talk about Tesla in the past without talking about the future.”

Madigan demonstrated in the exhibit what’s called the Nikola Tesla augmented reality app, designed by Brian Yetzer of Philadelphia, that superimposes a 3D animation of a Tesla-related image over something in the room with a quick scan of a phone. Upon scanning over a banner, a film of Tesla played on the phone screen.

Bill Pagels and Sue Ann Wilkinson of Salt Lake City, Utah, made sure to go to the exhibit during a recent vacation to the area. Both of them waved neon glass tubes and watched in amazement as the Tesla coil erupted with electricity. “We know [Tesla’s] a towering giant,” Pagels said. “But we didn’t know the extent to which his inventions resulted in something we would be carrying around in our pockets, or the range of technology he invented. It’s fascinating to understand the depth of his impact on humanity and, frankly, that he was such a humanitarian. It’s really quite amazing.”

Looking around the active room, Alessi said, “For us, it’s remarkable that this was pulled together the way it was over the course of a few months and we’re grateful Ward Melville gave us this opportunity. Having them help us with this first exhibit is remarkable and we’re seeing the benefit, we’re seeing local profile raised as a result.”

From left, Douglas Quattrock, Jeffrey Sanzel and Hans Paul Hendrickson in a scene from ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Photo by Elizabeth Castrogiovanni, Kayline Images

Theatre Three’s 32nd annual performance of “A Christmas Carol” opened last weekend. “Too early,” you may say. “It’s not even Thanksgiving yet.” Perhaps, but the spirit of Christmas — giving selflessly and spending time with the ones you love — is a message that holds true all year.

The show is based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel of cranky old miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is concerned only with business. One Christmas Eve, the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley appears, wearing the chains he’d forged in life, “link by link,” and tells Scrooge he will be visited by three spirits — the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, who help him discover the true meaning of Christmas.

Published more than 170 years ago, Dickens’ tale of redemption quickly resonated with the working class and has remained a holiday favorite ever since.

Adapted for the stage by Theatre Three Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel in 1983, the production is constantly evolving, revising itself, with subtle changes that keep it fresh. The audience is led through a gamut of emotions, from fear to sadness to pure joy — a true testament to the magic of live theater.

The show brings back familiar faces year after year, with Sanzel (Scrooge), Douglas Quattrock (Bob Cratchit), Steve McCoy (Jacob Marley) and George Liberman (Mr. Fezziwig) leading a talented cast of 20 who, combined, play nearly 100 roles. The entire company, from the seasoned actors to the children, does a phenomenal job.

Sanzel, who also directs, is in every scene and is wonderful. In a scene with the Ghost of Christmas Past, he instantly transforms from an old, hunched-over tired man to a young man again, dancing the night away at Fezziwig’s holiday party. The transition is effortless and quite remarkable.

Quattrock’s performance as Bob Cratchit is particularly moving, especially in his scenes with Tiny Tim (played by Ryan M. Becker), and Steve McCoy is a daunting Marley. Other standouts include Liberman as the jolly Mr. Fezziwig, Kiernan Urso in the role of young Scrooge and Amanda Geraci, who reprises her role as the sweet but sassy Ghost of Christmas Past. James D. Schultz tackles a new role this year as the cheeky Ghost of Christmas Present “to show the joys of mankind” and does a tremendous job. Newcomer Hans Paul Hendrickson brings an elevated level of tenderness to the role of Scrooge’s optimistic nephew, Fred Halliwell, that is top-notch and operates the towering Ghost of Christmas Future with ease.

A Victorian set designed by Randall Parsons, period costumes by Parsons and Bonnie Vidal, lighting by Robert W. Henderson Jr., music and sound by Ellen Michelmore and the many special effects pull it all together nicely to create a first-class production. Be it your second time or your 32nd, Theatre Three’s “A Christmas Carol” is well worth revisiting.

Arrive a little early and be treated to a selection of Christmas carols by the actors in the lobby and stay afterward for photo ops with Scrooge (proceeds benefit the theater’s scholarship fund).

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “A Christmas Carol” on the Mainstage through Dec. 27. New this year, all evening shows begin at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $15 to $30. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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