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Rita J. Egan

Children practice weaving at a previous SeaFaire event. Photo courtesy of Whaling Museum of Cold Spring Harbor

By Rita J. Egan

Staff members of the The Whaling Museum & Education Center in Cold Spring Harbor have been behind closed doors since early September working on a number of exciting new projects. On Oct. 2, the doors will open once again as the museum hosts their annual SeaFaire celebration and launches the museum’s brand new permanent exhibit, Thar She Blows!

Celebrating Long Island’s maritime heritage, SeaFaire features craftspeople demonstrating felting and needle punching, rug hooking, calligraphy, weaving, and there will be a silversmith and jewelry maker on hand, too. Visitors will also be able to participate in carving scrimshaw, building a model sailboat and creating a candle of their very own, according to Judy Palumbo, community relations and development manager.

At last year’s event, Palumbo said it was wonderful to see children forgetting their electronics and marveling at artisans. She said one group of little girls spread their blanket out and just watched one woman weaving. “They were mesmerized,” she said. She said the staff is excited about the event as well as the debut of Thar She Blows!, which will bring many of the artifacts that visitors have seen in the past at the museum together in a cohesive story.

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A child enjoys weaving at last year’s event. Photo courtesy of Whaling Museum of Long Island

Nomi Dayan, executive director, said the exhibit stems from her research while writing the Images of America book, “Whaling on Long Island,” released in the beginning of this year. The executive director said the exhibit features a painted mural depicting the cross-section of a whaling boat. In addition to the mural, museumgoers will find maritime-inspired activities, artifacts mounted to the wall and informational panels. Dayan said the hope is that visitors will connect to Long Island’s whaling history.

“It was difficult putting it together because Long Island has such a rich whaling heritage. Right after Southampton was established in 1644, whaling companies sprang up,” she said. “To really understand Long Island is to understand how whaling affected it. So it was difficult trying to boil down this story onto just a couple of walls.” Dayan added that while the museum’s former standing exhibit focused on Cold Spring Harbor’s contribution to whaling, the new one takes an expanded look at Long Island’s involvement in the industry as a whole.

According to Dayan, visitors will find a light-up map featuring local former ports and a recruitment station where guests will be able to ask each other questions to see if they would have been qualified to be a whaler, such as, “Can you eat food with cockroaches in it?” Museum guests will find a scent box where they will be able to smell what cooking blubber and a fo’c’sle smelled like. A fo’c’sle, which is short for forecastle, was the part of the ship where the bottom-ranking whalers slept in cramped bunk beds in filth and grime, a scent that Dayan pointed out will reinforce to the learners what issues whalers faced.

The executive director said visitors will find more fresh additions to the museum including lifesize cardboard cutouts throughout the museum. The new collection enables visitors to learn more about the various personalities that made up the whaling industry, from the rich captain who built a mansion out east to a lowly greenhand, according to Dayan.

“We wanted to show the diverse range of cultures and backgrounds of people who made up the industry. So, that’s something else fresh that people can anticipate,” she said. Dayan said the goal of an event such as SeaFaire as well as the new exhibit is for visitors to come away with a deeper understanding of local maritime heritage. “We want our history to be a foundation for the future. Hopefully the crafts making and fun of it will open people’s eyes to the tremendous story here.”

The Whaling Museum & Education Center, 301 Main Street, Cold Spring Harbor, hosts SeaFaire on Sunday, Oct. 2 from noon to 3 p.m., rain or shine. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and children. Some activities require an extra fee. For more information, call 631-367-3418 or visit www.cshwhalingmuseum.org.

From left, Andrew Hendrick, James D. Schultz, Christopher Wynne Duffy, Peter Saide, Benjamin Howes, Jake Mills, Kevin Robert Kelly, and Stephen Valenti in a scene from ‘1776’. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Rita J. Egan

With talented actors, period-appropriate costumes and a detailed set, a theatrical production can make audience members feel as if they have traveled back in time. This is certainly the case with the John W. Engeman Theater’s production of “1776,” which opened last week.

Before there was “Hamilton,” there was “1776.” The classic musical, with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and a book by Peter Stone, debuted on Broadway in 1969 and was turned into a movie in 1972. Dramatizing the efforts of John Adams to persuade his fellow delegates of the Second Continental Congress to vote for American independence, “1776” focuses on the last weeks leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The first lines by Adams, played by James LaVerdiere, help to set the tone for the musical: “I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace — that two are called a law firm — and that three or more become a Congress.” With this quote as well as the opening number “For God’s Sake, John, Sit Down,” the audience discovers that while the musical discusses a serious matter, it is delivered with a sense of familiarity and a good dose of humor.

Jennifer Hope Wills (as Abigail Adams) and Jamie LaVerdiere (as John Adams). Photo by Michael DeCristofaro
Jennifer Hope Wills (as Abigail Adams) and Jamie LaVerdiere (as John Adams) in a scene from ‘1776’. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

LaVerdiere perfectly captures the frustrations and persuasiveness of Adams, who his fellow delegates describe as obnoxious and disliked. The scenes between him and Jennifer Hope Wills, who plays Abigail Adams, where the Massachusetts delegate imagines conversations with his wife, allow the audience to learn of the struggles of the women who were left at home dealing with sick children and failing farms and business. During Act 1, the two deliver a sweet and touching version of “Yours, Yours, Yours,” and we discover a softer side of Adams.

When Thomas Jefferson, played by Michael Glavan, yearns to go home to see his wife, we meet the second of only two female characters, when Adams sends for Martha to come to Philadelphia while Jefferson works on the Declaration of Independence. Portrayed by Adriana Milbrath, the actress delivers a delightful “He Plays the Violin” with LaVerdiere and David Studwell, perfectly cast as the charming and witty Benjamin Franklin. Glavan is a strong vocalist, too, who audience members have the pleasure of hearing during “But, Mr. Adams” and “The Egg.”

A surprise standout performance comes from Matthew Rafanelli, playing the disheveled courier delivering messages from George Washington. In the beginning of the play, it’s understandable if one thinks he has a small part, but by the end of Act 1, Rafanelli delivers a perfectly executed “Momma Look Sharp.” His heart-wrenching vocals on the song, which details the loss of young boys on the battlefield, left many with tears in their eyes during the press opening last Saturday night.

It should also be noted that Robert Budnick playfully portrays a cheerful Stephen Hopkins, and Tom Lucca perfectly captures the authoritative nature of John Hancock. Special mentions should be made of Jon Reinhold (Richard Henry Lee) who plays the cocky Virginian with a great deal of humor, Benjamin Howes (John Dickinson) who provides strong lead vocals on “Cool, Cool Considerate Men,” and Peter Saide (Edward Rutledge) who delivers a powerful “Molasses to Rum.”

Igor Goldin has expertly directed the cast of 25 actors, who should all be commended for their strong vocals and mastering of a great amount of dialogue. Due to the craftsmanship of all of those involved in Engeman’s “1776,” the dreams of our country’s forefathers come to life once again.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, presents “1776” through Nov. 6. Tickets range from $71 to $76. For more information, call 631-261-2900, or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Folk rock duo The Kennedys perform on the Backstage Porch during last year’s Fiddle & Folk Festival. Photo from Bob Benner

By Rita J. Egan

The sounds of bluegrass, blues and folk music will fill the air at Benner’s Farm once again when the homestead hosts the fifth annual Fiddle & Folk Festival on Sept. 11. Presented by Homestead Arts, Benner’s Farm, the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council and WUSB Radio, the festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., rain or shine.

“It’s kind of a laid back, easy going, good sounding old-time festival,” Bob Benner, owner of the farm, said. The Benners began hosting the festival a few years ago after the owner and the late Gerry Riemer, a board member of Homestead Arts, were discussing the possibility of a September event on the property. The two remembered how much fun the Fiddle & Folk Fest, formerly held on the property of the Long Island Museum, was and began to ask people what they thought of the event being held at Benner’s. They received positive feedback, and Benner said that the first two years the Long Island Traditional Music Association (LITMA) worked with them on the event.

The combination of music and a farm setting has turned out to be a successful one, and Benner estimates the number of attendees last year to be around 500. “It’s completely different than any other concert I’ve ever been to, because it’s a farm and people can wander around,” the owner said.

Benner said attendees are welcome to explore the organic, solar-powered working farm while listening to the music, and with people so connected to their cell phones and other gadgets nowadays, he enjoys seeing people interacting with each other and connecting with nature. “Every time that people come here it is just so enjoyable to see them wandering around, looking at animals, looking at the garden,” he said. The farm owner enjoys the music at the festival, too. “I’m not a musician’s musician, so I enjoy very much listening to some of the groups that come that I don’t normally hear,” he said.

Amy Tuttle, program director of the Greater Port Jefferson-North Brookhaven Arts Council, said one of the things she loves about the festival is seeing family members and friends coming together and enjoying the music. “It’s easy to enjoy the festival. It’s not overcrowded, and it’s a chance to see not only some very talented local performers but internationally known performers in a very relaxed setting,” she said.

Sponsored by The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company and emceed by Bob Westcott, the festival will feature headliners Steve Forbert, the Feinberg Brothers Band, the Claudia Jacobs Band and Jeff Davis and Maria Fairchild playing on the Backporch Stage. Tuttle said Forbert is internationally known for his hits in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The singer of “Romeo’s Tune” recently released the album “Compromised,” which the program director said sounds terrific. “We’re reaching out to a bigger music community by bringing Steve Forbert in,” she said.

Reaching out to a bigger music community helps with the main goal of the festival. “The mission is to connect the artists with an audience that appreciates what they do — it’s pretty similar to what the arts council’s mission is and what WUSB’s mission is,” Tuttle said. According to the program director, Jeff Davis is also well known in the world of traditional folk music. On Sept. 11, he will be playing fiddle, and Maria Fairchild will be joining the musician on banjo. Tuttle says the duo has a big following of fans of old-time music. “I love it all. Most people who come to this festival like the folk songwriter music, but all the performers are very good in their own style,” Tuttle said.

The festival also offers a Contra Dance with a live band led by Rusty Ford as well as a Kids Corner where children can enjoy stories and music.

Benner said the featured artists will meet and hold workshops at the Shady Grove Stage close to the woods, and Charlie Backfish of WUSB radio will be on hand to host the activities. Attendees can participate in the Fiddle Workshop at Jam Hollow, too, and bring their own instruments to join in on the musical fun.

“It gives people a chance to either sit back and be entertained or participate wherever they feel comfortable,” added Tuttle.

Benners Farm is located at 56 Gnarled Hollow Road in East Setauket. Admission to the festival is $18 for adults and $13 for children and seniors. Bring seating. For more information, please call 631-689-8172 or visit www.fiddleandfolk.com.

The wedding of Marcia Lawrence, a descendant of Richard Smythe to Verne LaSalle Rockwell, an army colonel in the 11th U.S. Calvary during World War I, in 1910. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society

By Rita J. Egan

Benjamin Newton’s wedding vest and his wife’s slippers, 1854. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society
Benjamin Newton’s wedding vest and his wife’s slippers, 1854. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society

Romance is in the air at the Smithtown Historical Society. The organization is currently hosting the exhibit Smithtown Gets Married: Weddings Past and Present at the Caleb Smith II House.

Curator Joshua Ruff said the exhibit, which examines the changes in wedding traditions throughout the centuries, presents a universal theme that provides the historical society the perfect opportunity to display some of its collection pieces that the public may not have seen before.

“The story and topic is one thing, but if you have the objects and the photos and the clothing that really can do justice to the story, then you have the making of a good exhibit,” the curator said. Ruff said the society has a great number of wedding-oriented artifacts in its collection, and among the pieces on display are items that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Items from 1854 include a wedding vest of Benjamin Newton, who ran a livery service, and wedding slippers worn by his wife Ellen.

A wedding slipper from 1755 belonging to Martha Smith. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society
A wedding slipper from 1755 belonging to Martha Smith. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society

A wedding slipper from 1755 belonging to Martha Smith, who was married to Caleb Smith I, the original owner of the home located on the property of Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown, is also featured. “It’s pretty amazing that it survived,” the curator said.

Ruff said the historical society borrowed a couple of artifacts from the Smithtown Library including the wedding invitation of Bessie Smith and architect Stanford White, who designed the second Madison Square Garden as well as local structures including All Souls’ Episcopal Church in Stony Brook and Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower in Shoreham.

“It’s a small gallery, a small space, so I think it’s always good for us to have a little gem of an exhibition, something that has a few really great artifacts. You also have to realize that you can’t do a great, huge elaborate exhibition in the space,” Ruff said.

Marianne Howard, the historical society’s executive director said, “I think the exhibit is beautiful. One of the reasons why we were excited about the exhibit is because we wanted to have those partnerships with community members and with other organizations like the library who have a collection that is deep in this history, in this topic in particular,” she said.

In addition to the small artifacts, the exhibit features seven dresses from different periods. Gayle Hessel of Kings Park donated a 1980s wedding dress worn by her daughter Mary in 1985. “This is the kind of thing that people save and at a certain point after handing it down generation after generation, they start to think, ‘Well, what do I do with it now?’” Ruff said.

Two of the wedding dresses on display at the exhibit. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society
Two of the wedding dresses on display at the exhibit. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society

The curator said the gown by Laura Ashley has the princess style that was popular during the era due to Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding. “It’s timeless. You can tell it’s modern because of the material, and the overall look, and how low cut it is, but at the same time it really is this throwback, and it just looks great,” he said.

On the same side of the room as Hessel’s dress is one from 1882 worn by a Julia Strong. Ruff said it features a lace filigree neckline, and the dress is so small, it looks a child wore it even though the bride was 23 years old when she married. Ruff said he first attempted to put the dress on a regular mannequin, then a child’s mannequin, but finally had to carve a form for it. Ruff said it’s a perfect example of how people were smaller in the past, and the tight bodices and corseted waistlines worn in those days, too.

While at the museum, visitors can watch a 2½-minute video featuring wedding announcements of Smithtown residents in 1961. Ruff said it’s interesting to see the choices couples made as far as venues before the big catering halls of today. He said he chose 1961 because “the video is just a good way of returning to one moment in time, a moment that’s both long ago to feel like history, and maybe modern enough also to have some relevance and connection to people that come to see the exhibit.”

Howard hopes with the exhibit that attendees will not only learn about local history but also realize they can contribute to future exhibits, when they see the artifacts that are on loan. “I want people to learn about the history of Smithtown and the history of Long Island as well. And, I also want people to know that this is a place where they can have a say and have an impact and be a part of something bigger, and that’s what we’re really trying to do,” she said.

With the historical society’s museum located at the Caleb Smith II House on North Country Road slightly north of the Smithtown Library, Ruff said he hopes library patrons will take a few minutes to visit the museum adding, “They can step right next door and see a wonderful little exhibit with really unique little treasures that they’re not going to see anywhere else.”

The Caleb Smith II House, 5 North Country Road, Smithtown will present Smithtown Gets Married: Weddings Past and Present through Nov. 29. Hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission to the exhibit is free. For more information, call 631-265-6768 or visit www.smithtownhistorical.org.

The author with a copy of her new children's book

Reviewed by Rita J. Egan

When Commack resident Nancy Lang-Feldman wrote a story to comfort her sister Susan, it turned into her first children’s book, “Hermann Finds Home.” The heartwarming tale tells the story of Hermann, a cute, lovable tortoise, who sets out on an unexpected adventure. Recommended for children from 4 to 8 years old, the book, which includes some interesting facts about tortoises, is not only fun but educational, too. Lang-Feldman recently took time out from preparing for her book’s Sept. 6 debut to answer a few questions about “Hermann Finds Home.”

Tell me a little bit about your background.

I started out as a fine arts major in college, then switched to journalism. I spent my career as a magazine editor. After being laid off in 2006, I enjoyed not having to commute into Manhattan for a while. Then I was offered a freelance gig with Consumer Reports, working on its twice-yearly Electronics Buying Guide, but that special issue was discontinued last year. I think the pause from constant work was very beneficial for me, because I had the free time to get my creative juices flowing.

What inspired you to write ‘Hermann Finds Home’?

I never actually intended to write a children’s book. But my sister Susan was very distraught over the loss of her tortoise Hermann. So one night, while sitting on the couch watching “Two and a Half Men” reruns, I thought, “I wish there were a way I could make Susan believe Hermann might still be OK.” So in 20 minutes, the story of Hermann was born. Then I decided I would go all the way and illustrate it and present it to her as a Chanukah gift. This process was much more time-consuming; it took a few months, and I was just barely able to get it done in time to present it to her at her annual family Chanukah party. But when, with tears in her eyes, she said it was the best present she’d ever gotten, I knew it was totally worth all the time and effort.

How would you describe Hermann the Tortoise?

Hermann is an adorable tortoise who just wants to love and be loved. He enjoys playing with children and has a penchant for strawberries.

How would you summarize the book?

Well, as I mentioned, “Hermann Finds Home” is the story of my sister’s tortoise. So the first part is about how Susan, a school teacher, adopts Hermann from a boy who brought him to school. Hermann spends winters with Susan at school and summers with Susan at the day camp where she works. Tragically, one morning, when Susan arrived at camp, she learned that Herman had disappeared from the building in which the animals slept at night. (Hermann spent weeknights at camp and weekends with Susan.) There was no sign of damage to his habitat, so his disappearance was a mystery. Susan was devastated. She had grown very attached to Hermann, and he had become a member of her family. The camp staff searched high and low for Hermann, but they found no sign of him. The rest of the story is obviously fiction, as Hermann tells the story of how he sets out in search of Susan.

How did it feel when you received the finished version of the book from the publisher?

We had just gotten home from a long weekend, and there was a big stack of boxes in front of the house. At first, I thought they were for my husband, but then I realized what they were, and I was very excited. The publisher did a great job and the books look fantastic.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of your book will be donated to Galapagos Conservancy. Why did you choose this organization?

A few years back, my husband and I cruised the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of volcanic islands near Ecuador. The islands have been on my bucket list for many years, and the trip turned out to be everything I dreamed it would be. It’s a very special place that’s home to the greatest number of animal species found nowhere else on Earth. And as we all learned in school, Charles Darwin’s study of these species led to his theory of evolution. The islands’ fragile ecosystem is in dire need of protection, and Galapagos Conservancy has done incredible work toward this end. I want many future generations to be able to get up close and personal with the blue-footed boobies, the Galapagos penguins and, of course, the amazing giant tortoises, which can be found in only one other place on the planet.

Darwin Animal Doctors is also receiving a part of the proceeds. Why did you choose it?

Darwin Animal Doctors is another great organization. It helps protect the biodiversity of the Galapagos by providing lifesaving veterinary care to its endemic wildlife and free spaying and neutering of domestic animals.

In the About the Author section, it’s mentioned that you and your sisters always had turtles growing up? Do you remember how many?

My first experience with turtles was when my cousin Lori and I visited my aunt Lillian, who lived across the street from Coney Island Amusement Park. She would give us each $2 to spend however we wanted, and I spent mine on a little green turtle. We left it in the car when my parents came to get us, and it died of sunstroke. I cried hysterically until my parents bought me another one to quiet me down, and I always remember my sisters and I having at least one turtle ever since, until I was about 15.

What do you hope children will learn from reading your book?

While the love of a child for his or her pet is very special, it is also important for animals to experience the love and companionship of their own kind. Like humans, animals do feel love — and loss — whether for the children or adults who care for them or for their own mates and offspring.

Do you have plans for a new book?

I have some Hermann sequel ideas percolating in my head, but I’d like to make Hermann famous before I take him to the next level. Let’s hope everyone loves him as much as Susan and I do.

Cover of 'Hermann Finds Home'
Cover of ‘Hermann Finds Home’

Little readers can meet Lang-Feldman at the “Hermann Finds Home” launch party at Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington, on Sept. 15 from 7 to 9 p.m. In addition to the author signing copies, the event will include a reading by her sister Susan, as well as face painting and a crafts project. Lang-Feldman said she also hopes to bake some of her Hermann the Tortoise cookies for the party. After Sept. 6, “Hermann Finds Home” may be purchased online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as other bookstore websites. For more information or to purchase a signed copy of the book, visit www.hermannfindshome.com.

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'Prepping for the Race' by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon

By Rita J. Egan

When two talented artists work together, the result can be picture perfect. Such is the case with watercolor artist Ward Hooper and photographer Holly Gordon, who shortly after meeting almost three years ago formed The Brush/Lens Project.

Currently, art lovers and travelers alike can enjoy the result of this artistic duo’s immense talents as well as inspiring friendship. Eight pairings of the artists’ paintings and photographs are on display at the Atrium Gallery at Long Island MacArthur Airport in an exhibit presented by the Islip Arts Council.

In addition to the art show, the two will host a slide show and talk at the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Library Aug. 23. The event will allow art aficionados the chance to ask Hooper and Gordon about their collaboration as well as their process for perfectly pairing their works of art.

The alliance began on social media after a mutual friend introduced the two. Gordon said she looked at Hooper’s work online and found he had painted similar sites and themes that she had photographed. She realized the two not only shared an interest in creating art but also an appreciation of the landscapes of Long Island.

'Dove-Torr House' by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon
‘Dove-Torr House’ by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon
'Dove-Torr House' by Ward Hooper. Image from Holly Gordon
‘Dove-Torr House’ by Ward Hooper. Image from Holly Gordon

“For the past 50 years we have been destined to connect, because we have so been living parallel lives independently, and so three years ago they converged,” Gordon said.

A painting of Hooper’s that he created of Long Island City during his commuter days from Northport to Manhattan especially stood out to the photographer. The image reminded her of a photo she had taken along the New Jersey Turnpike, and she posted it to Hooper’s Facebook page.

When Gordon was preparing for a tulip photography exhibit, while Hooper was teaching how to paint the flower at an art class in his home, the artists experienced a bit of synchronicity once again. Noticing a number of similarities in their lives and work, the two decided it was time to meet in person.

The pair said they began meeting every Tuesday, and Hooper would have an itinerary of places to visit as well as a route planned out. They started in Northport at a Victorian house off Woodbine Avenue and then branched out east, according to the painter. “So every Tuesday, it was an adventure,” Gordon said.

At first Hooper would stay by the car or sit on a bench while sketching. Gordon said he would instruct her as to where to go to capture interesting images based on his memories from past excursions with fellow artists, some of the trips made as long as 20 years ago.

“It was very nostalgic to me, remembering fond memories of those outings with friends who are no longer around, so it was very special. And being there with Holly, she was looking at it with fresh eyes, so I was so anxious to see what Holly came up with every week,” Hooper said.

When they began presenting their work under The Brush/Lens Project name, Gordon would photograph spots based on existing paintings of Hooper’s if she didn’t already have an image. Hooper said he hadn’t painted for years when he met the photographer due to the passing of his wife, Dolly, and being her primary caregiver.

“When this lady dropped into my life, it was very special and wonderful at exactly the time it was truly meaningful to me. And here we are,” the painter said. Gordon said she understood his pain but also knew the healing power of creativity. After suddenly losing her husband of 20 years in 1996, the photographer said she had held onto her camera like a life preserver to come to grips with her loss.

Hooper quickly became inspired to paint again and recently has created new work to pair with Gordon’s. “Creativity is a blessing. I can’t imagine a life without creativity,” the painter said. Gordon has noticed the difference the collaboration and friendship has made in both of their lives. “He really in many respects has given me a crash course on the earlier part of his life, and he has taken me into his world, and it’s really expanded what I am doing today creatively, but it also has given Ward an enormous verve and enthusiasm to move on and do new things,” she said.

When it comes to Hooper’s paintings, Gordon said, “His paint brush is jumping and dancing all over the place. It is ageless. It is just filled with so much vitality and verve.” The admiration is mutual as Hooper describes Gordon as “an amazing photographic artist” whose work is easily recognizable due to her unique, “imaginative stamp” she puts on each of her photographs. He said of her work, “It jumps off the wall and dances.”

'Race Day' by Ward Hooper. Image from Holly Gordon
‘Race Day’ by Ward Hooper. Image from Holly Gordon
'Prepping for the Race' by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon
‘Prepping for the Race’ by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon

Immediately after their exhibit at the airport, The Brush/Lens Project paintings and photographs will be on display at the Islip Town Hall Rotunda Gallery, 655 Main St., until Oct. 5. The painter and photographer hope local residents will take the opportunity to view their different interpretations of local areas and maybe see Long Island landscapes in a different way.

“We put ourselves out there for all to see and hopefully they’ll come away with an interesting visual experience,” Hooper said. Gordon added, “I hope that they will see more clearly themselves. Take more time to see and appreciate what’s out and in front of them, because so often people are just so scattered that they don’t focus. And, also to see how wonderful creativity is, because here are two people who can look at the same subject but be affected to respond to it differently.”

The Brush/Lens Project exhibit will be on display at the Atrium Gallery at Long Island MacArthur Airport, 100 Arrival Ave., Ronkonkoma, until Aug. 30. Hooper and Gordon’s talk and slide show takes place Aug. 23 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Library, 1 South Country Road, Brightwaters. To reserve a spot for the free event, call 631-665-4350.

For more information on The Brush/Lens Project, visit www.brushlensproject.com.

The author with famous New Orleans R&B record producers Harold Battiste, left, and Wardell Quezergue, right, in 2010. Photo from John Broven

By Rita Egan

For those who meet John Broven, if they ask the proofreader at the Times Beacon Record Newspapers questions about his past, the mild-mannered Englishman may treat them to stories about the old-time record industry. For those who don’t have the opportunity to meet the music historian, there are his three books: “Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans,” “South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous” and “Record Makers and Breakers.”

Recently Broven had the opportunity to greatly revise and republish his first book “Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans,” which was originally published in the United States in 1978 and under the title “Walking to New Orleans: The Story of R&B New Orleans” in Great Britain in 1974. 

Selling more than 20,000 copies initially and inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, the book is a comprehensive history of the local rhythm and blues industry filled with information about the careers of icons such as Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John and many more. A great deal of the material is derived from interviews that the author conducted himself.

Broven said it was about three years ago when the publisher, Pelican Books, approached him about updating the book. While he kept the paperback to the basic rhythm and blues period of the 1940s to the 1960s, it gave him a chance to update the basic information as well as incorporate several post-1974 interviews. This edition is significantly different from the original publication.

“The book is still very well respected, and I’m very pleased it’s given me the chance to say: Well, this is as up to date and as good as I can get it,” he said.

The cover of Broven’s book. Photo from John Broven
The cover of Broven’s book. Photo from John Broven

Rhythm and blues has filled the author’s life since his early years growing up in England. Broven said he started collecting records as a teenager and was fortunate to go to school with Mike Leadbitter, who launched the publication Blues Unlimited in 1963 along with another schoolmate Simon Napier.

He described Leadbitter as a great visionary, and when he and Napier formed the magazine, he asked Broven if he would like to write for them. The writer said he had no experience at the time and Leadbitter said to him: “You have all these records, write about them.”

It was the first international blues magazine, and Broven said he was in the right place at the right time. When the writer traveled to the United States with Leadbitter in 1970, they discovered numerous American artists who they felt were being forgotten.

Leadbitter said to him: “Why don’t you write a book?” The author said the original edition centered more around Fats Domino, who Broven described as “a great American success story.”

Broven said he is happy he had the opportunity to write about the genre. “In general I find that Americans just don’t realize what an impact their music has had overseas and internationally. Rock ’n’ roll and rhythm and blues spread from here [to] literally all over the world,” the author said.

The writer explained that, “When I wrote the book in the early 1970s, New Orleans rhythm and blues was considered to be part of popular rock ’n’ roll and very few people saw the link between its jazz heritage, and people saw them as almost two distinct forms. I think one of the things was to show that there was a natural progression from the jazz era into rhythm and blues and soul music. In other words, rhythm and blues is as much a part of the New Orleans heritage as jazz is,” he said.

The author said he was working in banking when he wrote the original edition of the book, and after 31 years in the banking industry, he became a consultant with Ace Records of London, England.

With the record label, he traveled to locations such as New Orleans, Nashville and Los Angeles. It was during this time that he gained a deeper knowledge of the music business and met and interviewed more renowned recording artists, including B.B. King, together with many pioneering record men and women for the critically acclaimed “Record Makers and Breakers” (2009).

For the New Orleans book, Broven said he feels the interviews have stood the test of time, and the subjects, the majority born and raised in the city, are marvelous storytellers. “I couldn’t have done it without all those great personalities and their stories,” he said. Many are no longer alive, which makes the interviews even more precious, he added.

Broven has many favorite interviewees including Cosimo Matassa, the owner of three recording studios during his lifetime. Broven credits Matassa for giving New Orleans rhythm and blues its sound, particularly the “street” drum sound.

The author said Matassa’s studios provided a relaxed atmosphere for artists, and, in the 1940s and 1950s, “there was not the overdubbing and multitrack recording that you’ve got now. It was almost a live performance. If someone hit a wrong note, that was the end of that take and you had to do it all over again,” he said.

Broven’s musical journey eventually brought him to the United States permanently. While working with Ace Records he met his late wife, Shelley, who he said was very supportive of his record research work. She had inherited the independent label Golden Crest Records, of Huntington Station, from her father, Clark Galehouse.

’In general I find that Americans just don’t realize what an impact their music has had overseas and internationally.’ — John Broven

Broven said he arranged a meeting with Shelley in 1993 to discuss a licensing deal for the Wailers’ “Tall Cool One,” a Top 40 instrumental hit on her father’s label for Ace’s best-selling series, “The Golden Age of American Rock ’n’ Roll.” They were both single and soon began dating. He joked, “I always say we signed two contracts. One was for the record and the other one was for marriage.”

When he married Shelley in 1995, he moved to the United States. The couple originally lived in Cold Spring Harbor but moved to East Setauket after two years.

For the new edition of his book, Broven will be traveling from Long Island to New Orleans for signings and book talks. He hopes that readers, especially the younger generation, will take an interest and learn about this era of American music. He believes the music is just as good today and said, “That’s the definition of classical music.”

“As I said in the book, in the introduction, my one wish is to make people aware not only of this great music, but also to make them rush to their record collections to play all those records — and if they haven’t got the records, to try and seek them out,” Broven said.

For more information about the author, visit www.johnbroven.com or to purchase his books, go to www.amazon.com.

Sofia Pace of Smithtown shows off her catch of the day — an 18 inch largemouth bass caught at Willow Pond last summer. Photo from Paul Pace

By Rita J. Egan

Once the warm weather arrives, it can be a challenge when it comes to keeping children busy. Teaching them how to fish is a fun way to get them outside and have them connect with nature. Fortunately, for Long Islanders, in addition to water surrounding the region, the area is home to the Nissequogue River as well as other fish-filled waterways.

During fishing season, budding anglers can bring their poles and barbless hooks to the north side of Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown and fish in the park’s Willow Pond, which empties into the Nissequogue.

The preserve’s environmental educator, Linda Kasten, said the park has offered children’s fishing since it opened in 1974, and little anglers can take home a fish depending on its size. A sign by Willow Pond lists the requirements that fish must be nine inches or larger, except in the case of a trout or largemouth bass, which must be more than 12 inches. Anglers who catch smaller fish are required to release them back into the river. 

Kasten said families who come to the preserve for a day of fishing are asked to sign in at the Caleb Smith House on the property and then return at the end of the session to let the staff know what fish they caught and how big.

From left, Sofia and Angelina Pace of Smithtown with a bluegill they caught last summer at Willow Pond. Photo from Paul Pace
From left, Sofia and Angelina Pace of Smithtown with a bluegill they caught last summer at Willow Pond. Photo from Paul Pace

When a child catches a fish, the educator said, “They think it’s the coolest thing.”

The park employee said she has seen children catch pumpkinseed fish, bluegills, largemouth bass and occasionally rainbow trout. Most of the fish that the junior anglers catch at the park are the panfish variety, which are small enough to cook in a pan yet still large enough to meet the requirements of fishers not having to release them back in the water.

Depending on the age of the child, fishing could keep them busy for a couple of hours or more, according to Kasten. “When they come with friends, they’ll sit out there for hours,” she said.

Last year the educator said there was a group of five young teenagers who would come to the park practically every weekend, and they always caught fish. “They were so excited just to be with each other, let alone fishing and catching stuff,” Kasten said.

Smithtown resident Paul Pace has been bringing his two daughters, Sofia (7) and Angelina (3), to fish at the park for the last two years. It was during a visit to the preserve, which features walking trails and a nature museum in the Caleb Smith House, that the father, a fisherman himself, saw the sign and thought it would be a great idea to teach his girls the sport.

Pace said his daughters will spend a good two hours fishing. He said he loves that, “it gets them away from computer-driven things. It’s real life. They breathe in the fresh air, see some animals, plants, birds, and do some exploring.”

However, he said they don’t find a lot of time to explore the preserve because they are very lucky fishing there. “We catch a lot of fish so there’s always some action,” the father said.

Pace said one day last year, his oldest caught an 18-inch bass, and they were able to keep it and cook it. He said his daughters are developing a love for the sport and can’t wait until they are older and can fish from a boat. “They get really super excited. They love it; they’re reeling them in. Especially that big one — they both freaked out!” he said.

Besides fishing being a fun family activity, Pace also believes that it can teach children some important life lessons. “To cast the line takes a lot of practice and patience and determination. Sofia, she was casting last year … really good. There’s always something to accomplish,” Pace said. 

’[Fishing] gets [kids] away from computer-driven things. They breathe in the fresh air, see some animals, plants, birds and do some exploring.’
—Paul Pace

Each year before the season begins, the preserve offers fishing clinics so young anglers can learn some useful tips. The Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve also hosts an annual Junior Angler Catch and Release Tournament at the park. For $15 per participant, children 12 years and under can compete for prizes for the most fish caught and largest fish reeled in. This year the event takes place this Saturday, June 11, when children  ages 5 to 8 will compete in the morning and kids ages 9 to 12 will cast their poles in the afternoon.

Fishing season at Caleb Smith State Preserve Park, 581 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown, runs from April 1 to Oct. 31. There is no charge for fishing; however, a parking fee of $8 is in effect, except for Empire Passport holders. Children do not need a fishing license but are required to bring their own equipment. Fishing at Willow Pond is for anglers 15 years and younger, and children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. For more information about fishing at the preserve or the Junior Angler Catch and Release Tournament, call 631-265-1054 or visit www.nysparks.com/parks/124/.com.

Matt Senese will portray Lord Farquaad in Theatre Three’s latest production, ‘Shrek the Musical.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Rita J. Egan

Armed with hockey-grade shin and knee guards, Patchogue resident Matt Senese is ready to hit, not the ice, but the stage as Lord Farquaad in Theatre Three’s upcoming Mainstage production of “Shrek the Musical.”

For those who may not be familiar with the 2001 DreamWorks movie or 2009 Broadway musical, Lord Farquaad is the diminutive archenemy of Shrek and friends. Senese, who jokes that he is “5 feet 7 inches with a lot of sleep,” will play the role on his knees in order for the audience to get the full effect of just how small his royal nuisance is. The shin and knee guards under his costume protect his lower legs from injuries.

Matt Senese will portray Lord Farquaad in Theatre Three’s latest production, ‘Shrek the Musical.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.
Matt Senese will portray Lord Farquaad in Theatre Three’s latest production, ‘Shrek the Musical.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

The seasoned actor, who is also a fourth-grade teacher at Maud S. Sherwood Elementary School in Islip, has appeared in over 300 local productions as well as regional theater outside of New York. Recently, Senese took time out from his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his participation in the upcoming production.

How did you feel when you learned that you got the part?
I was very excited! Jeff (Sanzel), the artistic director, cast me before it was even announced. He asked me about it last year. So, I’ve known for a year that I was going to be doing it which gave me time to … learn it and kind of get used to dancing on my knees.

How are rehearsals going?
They’re great. I think it’s going to be a wonderful show. It’s a very hard working group.

Do you have a favorite number in the musical?
The favorite thing that I do is a song called “What’s Up, Duloc” where it’s kind of a … Las Vegas number, so it’s got back-up singers and dancers. But, I’m doing it on my knees with these tiny legs so it’s very funny. I think my favorite song in the show though is one that I’m not in, and it’s called “Freak Flag.” It’s a song about just being yourself — everyone is different; nobody is perfect. So just let your freak flag fly.

For you is that the main message of ‘Shrek’?
Absolutely. It’s a great musical to bring the whole family to because it’s a musical that celebrates differences. Also, the wonderful thing about this story is it’s not your typical fairy tale. Usually the princess kisses the frog, and the frog turns into a handsome prince. It’s a musical about an ogre who falls in love with a princess and at the end of the story, she turns into an ogress. They’re both ogres at the end of the show, and happy to be ogres because it’s not about looks, it’s about love.

Do you have plans after the musical ends at Theatre Three?
No, I don’t. I’m just going to take it easy. I think after “Shrek” I’m going to rest up and enjoy myself, and then in the fall, look for something to do.

Do you have anything to share with locals who want to act?
I think people who live on Long Island are very lucky in the fact that there are so many theaters. We’re lucky. There are other places you go to, and they really don’t have any kind of local theater and they have to wait until tours come through. We live in a place that really has a lot of art. I think if that’s your passion, then there is a lot opportunity for it on Long Island.

What do you hope the audience will take away from this production of “Shrek the Musical”?
First and foremost, I hope they’ll be entertained. I hope they’ll leave whistling a tune from the show because I think the score is really wonderful. Sometimes you go to see a show and you really can’t whistle any of the tunes. This show you can take so much of that with you. The music is very catchy; it’s very inspirational.
And, I hope that they just get the message. The message of “Shrek” is to just be yourself. There’s no such thing as perfection in the world. We’re led to believe…as children we’re taught these fairy tales, but really nothing in life is a fairy tale, and that is what I think “Shrek” shows. It’s about love. It’s about love and accepting who you are and accepting everyone else for who they are.

Theatre Three, 412 Main Street, Port Jefferson, will present “Shrek the Musical” from May 21 to June 25. Tickets range from $15 to $30. For more information, visit www.theatrethree.com or call 631-928-9100.

Wendy (Moira Swinford) and Peter Pan (Alexandra Juliano) in a scene from Disney’s ‘Peter Pan Jr.’ at the SCPA. Photo by Samantha Cuomo
Wendy (Moira Swinford) and Peter Pan (Alexandra Juliano) in a scene from Disney’s ‘Peter Pan Jr.’ at the SCPA. Photo by Samantha Cuomo
Wendy (Moira Swinford) and Peter Pan (Alexandra Juliano) in a scene from Disney’s ‘Peter Pan Jr.’ at the SCPA. Photo by Samantha Cuomo

By Rita J. Egan

Before children fly from the nest and become adults, their childhoods are a wonderful time for them to discover and cultivate their talents. The young cast of Disney’s “Peter Pan Jr.,” which opened this past Saturday at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, prove they are ready for takeoff in the world of theater.

Brianne Boyd skillfully directs over 20 actors 18 years old and younger. Fans of the classic fairy tale will find all their favorite characters as well as many of the beloved songs from the 1953 Disney animated film that was based on the writings of J.M. Barrie.

In addition to the mischievous Peter who refuses to grow up, audiences will find a human-size Tinker Bell as well as the sweet and curious Darling children who follow Peter on a magical adventure to Neverland on the night when Wendy, the oldest, finds it’s her last night in the nursery. In the far-off land, they find the endearing Lost Boys, friendly Indians, mesmerizing mermaids and comical pirates led by Peter’s rival Captain Hook and his bungling first mate Mr. Smee.

The Smithtown production follows the tradition of a female filling Peter Pan’s pointy shoes by casting Alexandra Juliano in the main role. The actress admitted in a recent interview with this paper that before auditions she practiced standing like a male, and it looks like practice has made perfect, as she convincingly portrays the eternal boy. Juliano is a strong lead with solid vocal talents who especially shines during the number “I Won’t Grow Up” in the second act.

Tinker Bell (Cassiel Fawcett) in a scene from ‘Peter Pan Jr.’ at the SCPA. Photo by Samantha Cuomo
Tinker Bell (Cassiel Fawcett) in a scene from ‘Peter Pan Jr.’ at the SCPA. Photo by Samantha Cuomo

Cassiel Fawcett is adorable as Tinker Bell whether she wears a scowl when the fairy is upset or charmingly chats to the audience. In the beginning of the first act, she explains that even though the audience sees her as life-sized and can understand her, most humans see her as a tiny being who only speaks the language of the fairies. The actress adeptly handles the light that shines on the stage to represent her flying as well as the shaker that mimics how Peter and friends hear her. She also demonstrates a sweet soprano voice during the number “Fly to Your Heart” as well as the reprise.

Moira Swinford captures the sweetness of Wendy Darling, the young girl on the brink of womanhood, perfectly. Her voice is soft and tender during all her numbers but is particularly lovely during the number “Your Mother and Mine” as she tenderly reminds her brothers they have a mother waiting for them at home. As for Cole Napolitano and Erika Hinson, as Wendy’s brothers John and Michael, they demonstrate talent beyond their years and are a joy to watch.

Zak Ketcham portrays a not so dastardly Captain Hook, which is fitting for a musical geared toward small children, and Andrew McCarty as Smee received a number of giggles with his antics.

In the first act, the Mermaids (Courtney Vigliotti, Alison Kelleher, Nicole Ellner, Georgia Apazidis) deliver a soothing serenade, “Sunbeams and Sea.”

Throughout the musical, the Pirates, Lost Boys and Chief Tiger Bamboo (Sean Kenny) and his tribe deliver fantastic group numbers, and to the delight of the youngsters in the audience, the Lost Boys and the tribe utilize the aisles during the entertaining number “Following the Leader.”

As for the dance routines during those ensemble numbers, Melissa Rapelje has choreographed some fun steps, but it’s when Leah Kelly as Tiger Lily dances her solo, that Rapelje’s choreography beautifully takes center stage.

Set designer Timothy Golebiewski has constructed a charming set to resemble a nursery with windows and beds that resourcefully transform into a ship bow in later scenes. Not to be forgotten are the variety of delightful costumes designed by Ronald Green III that range from the Darlings’ sleepwear to the eclectic garb of the Lost Boys to the colorful Tinker Bell costume. 

Disney’s “Peter Pan Jr.” is a delightful musical for those who believe in magical lands and those who have forgotten, but just like Mr. Darling at the end of the story, who will believe again.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main Street, will present Disney’s “Peter Pan Jr.” through June 19. Tickets are $15 per person. For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

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