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Rita J. Egan

#NationalHighSchoolWalkout movement comes on 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting

By Rita J. Egan

Ward Melville students took part in the second wave of the #NationalHighSchoolWalkout movement to once again join together in solidarity and call for stricter gun-control legislation, this time on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

With a megaphone in hand, senior Bennett Owens led the crowd, which stood outside for 45 minutes chanting, reading poems and giving speeches.

Nearly a dozen Ward Melville students stood outside with signs that read “Join the NRA” opposite the protesters for 15 minutes.

The cast of 'The Wizard of Oz'. Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater
Dorothy and friends delight audiences at the Engeman

By Rita J. Egan

The John W. Engeman Theater closes out its 2017-2018 Children’s Theater with a charming version of the cherished children’s tale, “The Wizard of Oz.” The Northport venue debuted the musical on March 24, and Suzie Dunn has done an excellent job directing the eight adult actors down the yellow brick road.

Based on the children’s books by L. Frank Baum, “The Wizard of Oz” tells the story of young Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto. When a tornado sweeps Dorothy away from her home in Kansas and over the rainbow to a magical land, she meets witches, Munchkins and three charming travel companions. While the Engeman’s “Wizard” is an abridged version of the story — no poppies and less of the witch’s monkeys and guards — all the favorite characters and songs from the 1939 MGM Studios motion picture are present.

Danielle Aliotta’s portrayal of Dorothy is as endearing as Judy Garland’s was in the movie, and the actress sings a sweet “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with strong, clear vocals.

 

Jacqueline Hughes and Danielle Aliotta in a scene from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Photo by Jennifer Tully

Her companions down the yellow brick road are just as delightful. Jacqueline Hughes (Scarecrow), Danny Meglio (Tin Man) and Andrew McCluskey (Cowardly Lion) do fantastic jobs during their respective numbers, “If I Only Had a Brain,” “If I Only Had a Heart” and “If I Only Had the Nerve.” McCluskey’s vocals are also wonderful during his solo “If I Were King of the Forest.”

Maeve Barth-Dwyer has perfected the evil shrill voice of the Wicked Witch, and Antoine Jones plays the Wizard of Oz and the Emerald City doorman with just the right amount of quirkiness. Marielle Greguski is lovely as both Glinda and Auntie Em and sings beautifully with Aliotta on the reprise of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

With no poppies to put Dorothy and friends to sleep, the witch tries to undermine their mission with the help of a tap dancing jitterbug played by Marquez Catherine Stewart, an upbeat number that was cut from the original motion picture to shorten it. While the song and dance routine may not have been fitting for the perilous journey in the movie, it is perfect for a live production for children. Stewart, Aliotta, Hughes, Meglio and McCluskey do a fantastic job with this refreshing number.

Danielle Aliotta, Danny Meglio and Jacqueline Hughes in a scene from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Photo by Jennifer Tully

Young audience members at the Sunday show were thrilled to see the actors walk through the aisles while they were on their way to the Emerald City to see the Wizard. Costume designer Jess Costagliola has done a wonderful job replicating the character’s costumes, especially Glinda’s pretty pink gown, and a few of the actors dressed in giant hats with big googly eyes are adorable as the Munchkins.

Sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, the Engeman’s “The Wizard of Oz” is a special treat for audience members of all ages, and a wonderful tribute to a nearly 80-year-old classic that proves there’s no place like home. Running time is 90 minutes with one 15-minute intermission, booster seats are available and children can meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs. (An autograph page is included at the back of the program.)

The John W. Engeman Theater, located at 250 Main St., Northport, presents “The Wizard of Oz” through April 29. Children’s Theater returns for the 2018-2019 season with “Shrek The Musical” from July 28 to Sept. 2 followed by “The Little Mermaid Jr.” from Sept. 22 to Oct. 28, “Frosty” from Nov. 24 to Dec. 30, “Seussical The Musical” from Jan. 26 to March 3, 2018, and ends with “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” from March 23 to April 28. All seats are $15. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Rita J. Egan

It may be chilly outside, but things are heating up inside the John W. Engeman Theater. The Northport venue debuted its production of “In the Heights” on March 15, and with a talented cast and the energetic sounds of salsa, reggaeton, merengue and hip hop, audience members are guaranteed a fun, hot night on the town.

Before he shared the story of Alexander Hamilton through rap and song in “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda created this spirited musical, which ran from 2008 to 2011 on Broadway and won four Tony Awards.

A love letter to Latinos who live in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, the story takes place during July Fourth weekend on one city block and centers around bodega owner Usnavi and his neighbors. While the play includes a good deal of reality like money issues, the death of loved ones and the sacrifices one must make for a better life, its main themes are about love and hope, and most important of all, having patience and faith.

With book by Quiara Alegria Hudes and music and lyrics by Miranda, through dialogue and song “In the Heights” reveals the economic struggles of Usnavi and his fellow business owners, car service proprietors Kevin and Camila Rosario and beauty salon owner Daniela.

Directed by Paul Stancato, the musical throws in romance as Usnavi pines away for the beautiful Vanessa, who works at the beauty salon, and the Rosarios’ daughter Nina and their employee Benny engage in a forbidden romance. As the audience gets a peek into the heartache of Usnavi losing his parents at an early age, Vanessa yearning to move downtown, the bright Nina losing her college scholarship and the love felt for the neighborhood’s adopted grandmother, Claudia, one can’t help but feel a part of this close-knit community.

Spiro Marcos as Usnavi does a fine job filling big shoes (the role was originally played by Miranda on Broadway). The actor skillfully uses rap during most of his numbers to tell the story. Marcos is in touch with Usnavi’s softer side, making it impossible not to root for him as he longs for Vanessa and dreams of going back to the Dominican Republic, his birthplace, while trying to keep the bodega afloat.

Cherry Torres and Josh Marin in a scene from ‘In the Heights’

Josh Marin is charming as Benny, and Cherry Torres is sweet and lovely as Nina. The two have a good amount of on-stage chemistry during their romantic scenes, which is front and center during the song “Sunrise” where they sing beautifully together. Chiara Trentalange balances a bit of sass and attitude with a touch of softness to deliver a Vanessa who may be determined to put her neighborhood behind her, but audience members can’t help but like her, too.

Tami Dahbura is endearing as Abuela Claudia, while Paul Aquirre and Shadia Fairuz are perfect together as Kevin and Camila. Scheherazade Quiroga is perfect as the spunky Daniela and delivers comedic lines perfectly. Iliana Garcia is refreshing as naïve hairdresser Carla, and Vincent Ortega is delightful as the Piragua Guy, especially during his number “Piragua” and its reprise. Nick Martinez, as Usnavi’s young cousin Sonny, and Danny Lopez, as Graffiti Pete, do a nice job adding some comic relief throughout the production.

The dancers are also among the stars in the show. Skillfully choreographed by Sandalio Alvarez, they energetically and masterfully transfer from salsa, merengue, reggaeton and hip hop dance steps.

The music in the production is top notch and is a mix of dance tunes that will have audience members wanting to dance in the aisles and emotional ballads for which some may need tissues. The band, led by conductor Alec Bart, does a superb job flawlessly moving from one musical genre to another, and the singers also do an excellent job.

During the first act, Torres expertly uses her vocal talents to perform an emotion-evoking version of “Breathe.” It is during this number audience members discover her time at Stanford University didn’t work out for her, and she now feels lost not knowing what to do with her life.

Aguirre’s number “Inútil” is just as heartbreaking as his character feels useless after discovering his daughter didn’t come to him to help her pay for school. Fairuz also displays strong vocals during the song “Siempre.”

Trentalange sings lead on the upbeat song “It Won’t Be Long Now” with Marcos and Martinez. The actress has fun with the song and her vocals are great.

Spiro Marcos (Usnavi) and Tami Dahbura (Abuela Claudia)

Dahbura moves around convincingly like a frail grandmother, and then surprises audience members with her incredible and emotional vocals during “Paciencia y Fe.” Abuela Claudia remembers her youth in Cuba and arriving in the United States, during the song. Her mother would always remind her to have patience and faith, advice Claudia continues to share with those she loves.

During the first act, the ensemble performs “96,000” as they sing about what it would be like to win Lotto. With the singers emanating so much energy, one can’t help but feel optimistic for them.

Quiroga gets the party started with “Carnaval del Barrio” and her vocals are outstanding. The high-energy song with exceptional dancing is sensational. It is soon followed by “Alabanza” where Torres sweetly sings the first lines and then the song builds up to a powerful number featuring the whole cast. Both performed during the second act are show stoppers.

Spanish is sprinkled throughout the dialogue and lyrics of “In the Heights” to add authenticity, but are always followed by English translations, or the lines are delivered with gestures that make things clear for those who don’t understand the language.

Many may want to see this musical because they are curious about Miranda’s earlier work, but “In the Heights” is an entertaining look into the life of Latinos in New York City and a beautiful tribute to the music that was brought to the United States from the islands of Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

The John W. Engeman Theater, located at 250 Main Street, Northport presents “In the Heights” through April 29. Running time is approximately 2.5 hours and tickets are $73; $78 for Saturday evening performances. Free valet parking is available. For more information, please call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

Run-off election will be held April 3

Attorney Ted Rosenberg defeated incumbent Ron LaVita for the village justice seat in Old Field. Photo from candidates

A race 20 years in the making ended in a tie March 20.

The Old Field village justice election between incumbent Ron LaVita, who has run unopposed for 20 years, and attorney Ted Rosenberg, ended in a 114-all tie after all the votes, including absentee ballots, were counted. A run-off election will be held Tuesday April 3 at the Keeper’s Cottage, located at 207 Old Field Road. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Absentee ballots will be re-accepted, and must be in to Village Hall no later than 9 p.m. April 3, according to Village Clerk Adrienne Kessel.

Both candidates received the news of the tie the night of March 20. A recount confirmed the vote totals.

Rosenberg, the village’s current associate justice and a partner with Rosenberg & Gluck LLP, said he was surprised when he heard the news.

He looks forward to a run-off election, and said after the results were in that he hopes this time around there will be a meet the candidates night and/or debate so Old Field residents can learn more about each of the candidates.

“If there’s another election, I think it’s an opportunity for the voters of the village to gain more knowledge about the candidates and our qualifications,” he said. “Particularly for me, because I’m not the incumbent.”

LaVita, a general practice attorney, said he was disappointed when he heard the results.

“I thought I would have a commanding lead,” he said, adding he should have notified residents who were unable to vote March 20 to submit absentee ballots while he was campaigning, feeling that would have helped him take the election.

LaVita said he is also open to a meet the candidates night and/or debate.

During the election, Michael Levine, who has been mayor of Old Field since 2008, ran unopposed and maintains his seat. Bruce Feller and Tom Pirro are the village’s new trustees. Feller and Pirro ran for two seats after Timothy Hopkins and Robert Whitcomb decided not to run for re-election.

This version was updated to include that the vote totals were confirmed and a run-off election is scheduled.

A musical adventure for the whole family

By Rita J. Egan

The University Orchestra at Stony Brook University is preparing to take audience members on a one-hour musical adventure. The ensemble will present its annual family orchestra concert, Adventures in Orchestral Music, at the Staller Center for the Arts on March 6.

Conductor Susan Deaver said the orchestra is planning a night filled with concertos from a variety of composers from all over the world such as America, Russia, Germany, England and Argentina. The list of songs include Mikhail Glinka’s overture to “Ruslan and Lyudmila,” Aaron Copland’s “Hoe-Down” from “Rodeo,” Morton Stevens’ “Hawaii Five-O” and John Williams’ “Star Wars Epic, Part II.” “They all sound different from one another, so it’s kind of different palettes of orchestral color,” Deaver said.

The conductor said the 70-piece orchestra consists of strings, brass, woodwind and percussion sections. While most of the musicians are college undergraduates, three are high school students who are part of the Stony Brook Young Artists Program. There are also a few graduate students who are nonmusic majors and five teaching assistants. The students’ majors range from music to biology, math and biochemistry. “The common thread is that they’ve all seriously studied music at some point,” Deaver said.

The night will feature a solo by 16-year-old violinist Mariana Knaupp, the winner of the 2017 Stony Brook Young Artists Program Concerto Competition. Mariana will perform the first movement of Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G Minor, the piece she played for the competition, with the orchestra. “She sounded great, and she had a lot of poise as a performer; she played really, really well,” Deaver said. “We have a competition, and they’re all playing really well, but there’s something that usually points to one person.”

Mariana, who lives in Huntington and is homeschooled, has studied violin for 11 years with Thalia Greenhalgh and is part of the Stony Brook University Young Artists Program. The violinist is a member of the string ensemble Metrognomes, which performs a few times a year at nursing homes, sports venues and holds benefit concerts for disaster victims. For seven years, she also has been a part of the Gemini Youth Orchestra and has played at Symphony Space and Lincoln Center. She said she’s excited about her first time playing with a full orchestra and was surprised when she won the competition.

“I didn’t really expect to win because there were a lot of really good players involved,” Mariana said in a recent phone interview. “It was a really nice surprise that I won, and I’m very excited to actually play with an orchestra because I’ve wanted to for several years now.”

Mariana said when her violin teacher asked her what she wanted to play for the competition, she knew she wanted a romantic concerto. She has been playing her chosen piece for a year now and said it’s a beautiful concerto that she’s looking forward to sharing with the family concert audience.

“I would just like to be able to play the concerto as the composer intended it and just convey what he would have wanted in a performance,” Mariana said. The violinist has enjoyed rehearsals with the orchestra and said when she attends college she hopes to major in math, English or neuroscience. She plans on taking music classes as electives and playing with a university orchestra.

Like past family concerts, Deaver said the orchestra members will interact with the audience, talking with them about the different instruments and music. The musicians also have some surprises in store for attendees. “Myself and the orchestra, I think we are always energized by the audience because we’re interacting with them more, and it kind of breaks down any barriers that you might have,” Deaver said. “They’re really part of the concert almost, the audience since we’re interacting with them, I think we all feel really energized from it.”

The University Orchestra at Stony Brook University presents Adventures in Orchestral Music on March 6 at the Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook at 7:30 p.m.. All tickets are $5. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 631-632-ARTS (2787) or visit www.stonybrook.edu.music.

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Chin Young Lee retired from the florist business Feb. 28, closing the doors of the Three Village Flower Shoppe for the last time. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Floral arrangements and gifts are no longer blossoming from the Three Village Flower Shoppe.

After 34 years of running the Setauket florist, owner Chin Young Lee retired and closed the shop’s doors for the last time Feb. 28. The decision was a difficult one for the 71-year-old to make, but after suffering a heart attack in November, she decided retirement would be for the best.

Lee, a Rocky Point resident, was a computer programmer for Citicorp commuting to Melville when one day she said one of her children became sick at school. When she was unable to leave work, her husband, Jai, who worked for Brookhaven National Laboratory, took off from his job. Lee said she decided then she wanted a more flexible career.

She talked to her sister, a flower shop owner in California, who told her she could do the same. She began exploring different locations and ideas and eventually chose the already established 220 Main St. location in East Setauket.

The doors of the Three Village Flower Shoppe closed for good Feb. 28. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“I liked the location, the way the flower shop was set up,” Lee said. “It looked like it was mine.”

Lee began working with the proprietors, the Clark family, on weekends learning the business. She had some familiarity with arrangements, but she said she needed to learn about the more complex ones. After a few months, she bought the business and quit her job with Citicorp.

She was the longest-tenured owner of the florist shop, which had been at the same location for nearly 60 years. She said the Clark family owned it for five years, and before them a Reeves family ran the shop.

Lee grew up in Seoul, South Korea, and after studying Spanish language and literature in Madrid, Spain, she attended The University of Utah and received her master’s degree. During her time in Utah, she met her husband, who lived in Washington, D.C., and was visiting a friend. In 1974 the couple married in Maryland where her husband had a contractual job with
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and they moved to Long Island in 1978 when he was offered the job at BNL.

After his retirement a few years ago, Lee’s husband worked with her in the shop. Before that, she would typically hire young people from the community to staff the store. While they worked, she would talk to them about what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of her former workers and their parents still come in to let her know how they are doing, and it makes her happy to hear they are doing well.

The florist said she will miss her fellow local business owners including Joanne Van Riper from Setauket Floral Design, who she has known since 2001, when Van Riper bought her flower shop at 1380 Route 25A.

“We could be competition, but she has her own way, and I have my own way,” Lee said.

“I tell her don’t look back. Just look at this wonderful life you’re going to have with your husband.”

Joanne Van Riper

Van Riper and Lee said whenever one of them would hear of a good buy on flowers they would call each other and then buy in bulk so they could pass the savings on to both their customers.

“If I ran out of something and she had it, she would let me use it, and I’d return it the next day,” Lee said. “I think we should all work like that.”

Van Riper is also going to miss Lee personally, and the two would regularly ask each other for advice and share ideas. She remembers going to the florist when she was younger with her father, even before Lee owned it.

“Every time I go over there I want to cry,” Van Riper said. “I’m just very upset but I get it. I tell her don’t look back. Just look at this wonderful life you’re going to have with your husband.”

Kathy Coen, a member of the Setauket Presbyterian Church flower committee, has relied on Lee many times. While members of the committee do their best to use their own flowers to save the church money, sometimes they would call Lee last minute for an arrangement — even calling on a Saturday afternoon for Sunday service flowers. The florist has even shared some tips on flowers and arrangements with the committee members.

“She’s just a very creative person who has a heart of gold, who has been willing to help many times,” Coen said.

Coen said she had Lee create the flower arrangements for her own children’s weddings and knows many friends and
acquaintances who have used her for special occasions, too.

Lee is entering retirement with a lot of wonderful memories of Setauket residents. About a year ago she handled the flower arrangements for a wedding in which the bride was the daughter of a longtime customer, who began shopping at the florist when she was pregnant with her daughter.

“There are a lot of customers I’m attached to and some customers are in tears, and so am I,” Lee said. “For 34 years I’ve been driving here, the same road, and meeting them regularly. So, it’s going to be difficult to adjust.”

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Demolition of the eastern section of the Setauket Fire Department headquarters. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

The headquarters of the Setauket Fire Department continues to transition into a rescue center for the 21st century with its construction project dubbed by the department as “new era.”

David Sterne, district manager, said a new apparatus bay on Old Town Road is now completed and ready to use. The structure connected to the original firehouse on Route 25A can fit modern day trucks, something the 1930s building couldn’t do. The closed cabs of current fire trucks make them much wider than emergency vehicles used in earlier decades. Trucks will also now exit and enter on the Old Town Road side instead of Route 25A. Sterne said the new entranceway has a bigger driveway apron, which provides safer entering and exiting than the old entrance.

“It is a good example of how things can be accomplished when we are all willing to work together.”

— David Sterne

After waiting nearly a decade for a bond approval, a $14.9 million bond was approved in April 2014, and renovations began on the Main Street firehouse June 4, 2016. Sterne said the approval of the bond in 2014 was due to a collaboration of the fire district, fire department, community members and the Three Village Civic Association discussing the needs of both the district and its residents.

“It was a community effort to get this passed,” Sterne said. “It is a good example of how things can be accomplished when we are all willing to work together.”

Robert Reuter, president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation, was part of a community advisory committee that included Stony Brook architect John Cunniffe and the late civic leader Bob de Zafra. Reuter said the planning for the new firehouse was “an excellent example of the value in involving the public.” He credited Sterne’s organized process and the cooperation of H2M architectural firm and the fire commissioners for making the committee members input meaningful.

Reuter said the committee advocated for reuse of the existing firehouse on Route 25A, the continuation of brick as the primary building material and landscaping the southeast corner, which will include trees and other plantings.

“It will be good to see that work take shape now that the firehouse is operating with a new garage and work is underway on the original building,” Reuter said.

The apparatus bay also includes a bail-out window for volunteers to practice mandated drills with life rescue ropes. The structure has a break room and a gear room that is separate from the apparatus bay, making it safer for firefighters to dress for a fire. Sterne said previously volunteers would put on their gear in the bay, which posed potential hazards with trucks in the vicinity.

“I think everyone understands the importance of building for the future in a responsible manner.”

— David Sterne

South of the building a spillover parking lot will be available for when a large number of volunteers respond to an emergency, attend a meeting or community members use the facilities.

When the new bay was completed, work began on the 25A side. Sterne said the facade of the western portion of the Main Street building, the original 1935 structure, will remain the same, and there will be bunkrooms for both male and female firefighters. The eastern section of the old building will be replaced with a two-story structure that includes offices, meeting and training rooms.

With the future in mind, Sterne said the construction fits the needs of the fire district while being environmentally friendly. Solar panels will be used for hot water, a white high-efficiency roof is included in the apparatus bay, and there will a high-efficiency cooling system.

“I think everyone understands the importance of building for the future in a responsible manner,” Sterne said. “We felt that it is important to have an efficient building … efficient in the sense of being environmentally responsible, as well as a more cost-effective, fiscally efficient building to operate. Building a building that will be kinder to the environment for years to come and costs less tax dollars to operate was imperative to us … the whole community.”

Sterne said the goal is for the firehouse to be completed by November 2018, and the fire district plans to commemorate the completion of the project with a ribbon cutting ceremony and community celebration.

Maryland aster

By Rita J. Egan

Diane Bouchier hopes to plant the love of botanical art in the hearts of Emma S. Clark Memorial Library patrons. The library, located in Setauket, will host an exhibit of Bouchier’s drawings, Native Plants of Long Island, through the month of February.

Diane Bouchier

The Stony Brook resident said she has been artistic since she was a child, but her career path took a slightly different direction. For nearly 40 years, she was a professor at Stony Brook University where she taught sociology of art. While artistic activities fed into her academic work “in a very positive way,” over time she felt a need to hone her skills. 

“I was always supposed to be artistic as a kid, but then I went into the social sciences,” said Bouchier in a recent interview. “I guess I was a child of the ’60s, and I thought it was important to understand what was going on. I don’t regret that choice, but along the way, in fact, when [my husband and I] moved to our house in Wading River I started a garden, I realized I could not draw the flowers to the level I wanted to draw them. I said to myself, ‘Wait a minute, you’re supposed to be artistic, why isn’t this turning out?’”

Her frustration in drawing flowers inspired Bouchier to take courses at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx where she obtained her certification in its botanical arts and illustration program.

It was during her time studying botanical art that she met one of her mentors, Ann-Marie Evans, a teacher at NYBG. Bouchier said it was Evans who encouraged her to start the American Society of Botanical Artists, an interactive community dedicated to preserving the tradition and encouraging excellence in the contemporary practice of botanical art.

The artist has exhibited extensively, including having her work on view at the 8th International Exhibition of Botanical Art at Carnegie Mellon University’s Hunt Institute in Pittsburgh and the Long Island Museum’s juried exhibition, Animal Kingdom: From Tame to Wild.

Bouchier, who lists 17th-century French artist Nicolas Robert among her favorites, said when she retired two years ago, art became a full-time pursuit. She calls her most recent work her retirement project.

“They say that when you retire you need a project, so I needed something,” the artist said. “So, what do I really care about, and the answer was ecology and art. And what am I trained in? I was trained in botanical and natural history illustration, so I put the two together.”

For the last few months Bouchier’s drawings were in a traveling exhibit displayed at various locations in Suffolk County including the Smithtown Library, North Shore Public Library and Sweetbriar Nature Center. While those exhibits included 20 of her 16- by 20-inch pieces, the Emma Clark Library exhibit, which is the last stop in the tour, will consist of only 10 drawings.

Bouchier said she decided to select those that pointed toward warmer weather for the Setauket location since she feels that come February many are tired of the winter.

New England aster

The artist said many of her drawings depict specimens she obtained from the Long Island Native Plant Initiative, an organization that encourages people to plant native plants that support birds, bees and butterflies, while her garden inspired her for others.

“In the course of drawing the plants and learning about them, I started planting them in my garden,” she said. “It’s a small garden but I’m very pleased that some of the drawings exhibited are from plants from my own garden, and that’s a special pleasure.”

Bouchier said for most of her artwork she prefers using colored pencils on Stonehenge paper, which she said is soft and smooth. She also works in pastels and egg tempera, a medium that has egg yolks in the paint that leaves a brilliant surface.

The artist said it can take a week to 10 days to complete a drawing when she uses colored pencils. She said one morning she’ll do the basic drawing and then another day the undercoat. “It’s very calming,” she said. “If you want to de-stress you should do this.”

Bouchier encourages people of all ages to learn how to draw, and she shares her knowledge by teaching classes at Gallery North in Setauket. In April she will head up a course on the fundamentals of botanical art techniques on Sundays, April 8, 15, 22 and 29. Call 631-751-2676 for times and cost.

“There are very few self-taught artists in the field because whether you’re drawing animals or plants, it’s important that it be accurate at a certain level,” Bouchier said. “You can still be expressive — these things are not opposites — but you don’t want to get the basic structure of the plant or animal wrong.”

When it comes to the artist’s classes, Judith Levy, director of Gallery North, said Bouchier’s classes are informative and relaxing and students leave feeling successful when the workshops are over.

“She’s very focused, she’s very organized, and she gives them a process of how to look at things or how to do a particular technique or use whatever the material is,” said Levy in a recent phone interview. “Sometimes it’s pencils; sometimes it’s colored pencils, it depends on what medium. She is very, very good, and her classes are popular.”

Bouchier also shares her love of creativity with her husband, WSHU radio personality and essayist David Bouchier. The artist said her husband asks her for feedback when it comes to his radio scripts, and she also reads and edits his book manuscripts. In turn, she tests out her ideas for drawings and paintings on him. In 2002, her husband released “The Cats and the Water Bottles,” a book of his essays of life in France, which includes line drawings by his wife.

The artist, who lists her drawing “American Holly and Winterberry” among her favorites, said she hopes the exhibit will inspire library patrons.

“It’s to encourage people to recognize the subtle beauty of our native plants and to perhaps consider planting them in their own gardens,” she said.

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, 120 Main St., Setauket will present Native Plants of Long Island by Diane Bouchier through Feb. 28. For more information, call 631-941-4080 or visit www.emmaclark.org.

#MeToo social media movement founder Tarana Burke answers questions during a public forum at Stony Brook University. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Long Island men and women are prepared to keep the #MeToo conversation going in their communities after an appearance by the movement’s founder, Tarana Burke, at Stony Brook University Jan. 28.

More than 500 people filled the Sidney Gelber Auditorium in the Student Activities Center for #MeToo … #LIToo, a Q&A with Burke led by three young women of i-tri girls, a free program working to raise the self-esteem of middle school-aged girls on the Island’s East End by training them for a triathlon. Abby Roden, Noely Martinez and Maria Chavez posed questions to Burke that covered a range of topics, from how she felt when the #MeToo movement gained momentum, to empowering survivors of sexual abuse and harassment, to showing empathy when a someone shares his or her story.

Burke, a survivor of sexual violence, said it can be difficult to talk about sexual assaults or harassment because he or she feels isolated.

“The idea behind #MeToo being an exchange of empathy is that if you tell me this thing that is already difficult to say, one of the hardest things in your life, and my first response is, ‘Me too,’ that draws you in,” she said. “Regardless of what else is discussed, we have an automatic connection now.”

Giving advice for those who may not be able to say “me too” when a survivor shares a story, Burke said the best thing to do is ask what he or she needs. If the person says nothing, don’t keep asking.

After the #MeToo movement went viral Burke felt crippled. She said she stopped reading comments on her social media posts, even though most responses were thoughtful.

“I had people telling me I was too ugly to get raped, sexually harassed,” Burke said, adding that she is thick-skinned, and didn’t let the comments get to her. “‘You look like a man.’ Just awful, awful things.”

The movement also affects the LGBTQ community — something Burke said is personal for her, as her daughter identifies as queer and gender nonconforming. She said many young people in the LGBTQ community deal with sexual abuse, and it’s important they tell their stories, too.

“Survivors of sexual violence, we’re not victims,” Burke said. “That’s why we call ourselves survivors. We have solutions, we have answers and we have the experience.”

Attendees said the forum was uplifting and meaningful.

“It was very empowering and definitely brought the community together,” said Cassandra Gonzalez, a graduate student at LIU Post. “It just brings awareness to the #MeToo movement.”

Retired teacher Terry Kalb, of Wading River, said Burke is skilled at connecting others through experiences, calling the forum “beyond inspiring.”

“I liked the fact that there was such emphasis on the intersectionality of this issue,” Kalb said. “I think it’s very important that the vast majority of the people who are marginalized with domestic violence issues, sexual harassment issues and sexual violence issues — all people — are afforded a voice. This just can’t be about celebrity issues; it has to be about people who are often powerless to be able to respond. That they be the focus, because that’s where the most damage is done.”

Updated Feb. 1 to add additional quotes from Tarana Burke.

An i-tri girl crosses the finish line of the marathon. Photo from i-tri girls

Nonprofits are working toward creating stronger support for females.

L.I. Against Domestic Violence provides a range of services to Long Island adults and children, helping them escape from abusive relationships and build new lives. I-tri girls, a free program, works to raise the self-esteem of middle school-aged girls on the Island’s East End by training them for a triathlon.

“[We need] to bring young girls into this discussion and to recognize that this isn’t just happening to us in our 20s and 30s and 40s, but this is happening to our 10-year-olds and our 12-year-olds, it’s so important,”
said Cindy Morris, chief operating officer of i-tri girls.

Many of the children in the program don’t know how to swim or ride a bike.

“We not only teach them how to set a goal, but we teach them how to work toward a goal,” Morris said. “And when you have done something that you think is impossible once, you are so likely to see yourself capable of doing that [again].”

Bethpage-based The Safe Center LI, Islandia-based Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk, and The Suffolk County Crime Victims Center all work to help victims of domestic abuse.

County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said nonprofits are vital in educating young people and women. Many provide educational programs in schools.

“Women and children should not be afraid to speak up,” Anker said. “I think it’s really important presentations start in schools.”

Executive director of LIADV, Colleen Merlo, said in a phone interview local legislators are receptive to receiving advice on taking measures to end domestic and sexual abuse.

“This is the start of what’s going to be a years-long process to try to bring Long Island to a place that really is safe,” Merlo said. “Where men and women can feel safe from sexual assault. It’s going to take more work.”


• L.I. Against Domestic Violence — www.liadv.org / 631-666-7181

• i-tri girls — itrigirls.org / 631-902-3731

• Suffolk County Crime Victims Center — www.parentsformeganslaw.org / 631-689-2672

• The Safe Center LI — www.tscli.org / 516-465-4700

• Victims Information Bureau — www.vibs.org / 631-360-3730

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