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Rita J. Egan

Guest curator adds personal touch to exhibit at Long Island Museum

‘Portrait of Beth,’ 1999. Photo by Bruce Weber

By Rita J. Egan

When Beth Levine, designer of innovative footwear from the 50s to the 70s, passed away in 2006 at the age of 91, she left behind her unique footprints on the fashion world. To honor the former Patchogue resident’s accomplishments, the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook recently opened the exhibition Beth Levine: The First Lady of Shoes.

Helene Verin, an adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and guest curator of the exhibition and author of “Beth Levine Shoes,” was a young shoe designer when she arrived in New York City in the 1970s. After meeting Levine, she quickly found a mentor and friend in her. The curator said she looked up to the innovative designer who she described as funny and unique. 

“She was larger than life,” Verin said.

The ‘Cinderella’ shoe, 1961, clear vinyl with lucite heel, silver kidshin details and lining by Beth Levine from the collection of Helene Verin. Image from the LIM
The ‘Cinderella’ shoe, 1961, clear vinyl with lucite heel, silver kidshin details and lining by Beth Levine from the collection of Helene Verin. Image from the LIM

The curator said she holds one of the largest archives of Levine’s work. The shoe designer closed her factory, which she owned with her husband Henry Levine, in 1976, but kept a storage unit that contained her work as well as material. According to Verin, the two designers would often stop by the unit, and Levine would give her mentee random items such as buckles and plastic flowers. Verin said she sometimes wasn’t sure how Levine utilized the pieces in her designs, but in later years, as she researched the designer’s work, she would see pictures of shoes that once were adorned with the flower or other accessory pieces she was given.

Levine, who was born in 1914 and raised on a farm in Patchogue, arrived in New York City as a young woman with aspirations of becoming a social worker, according to Verin. However, when the Long Island native began working as a shoe model to earn money, she found a career that was a better fit for her. The future footwear designer wore a size 4 shoe, which at the time was considered the perfect sample size. Verin said Levine realized she had a knack for picking out comfortable shoes and compared her feet to a potter’s wheel.

“It’s such an amazing story. Most shoe designers are men, and they come from generations of cobblers,” Verin said.

Levine quickly realized she knew more about shoes than the men that were designing them at the time. When she went on to become a designer, she tried on every style to ensure a comfortable feel.

She quickly became a favorite among first ladies Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson and Pat Nixon who needed stylish yet comfortable shoes. “Everything she did was based on comfort,” Verin said.

In addition, Levine’s clients included Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Barbra Streisand, Lauren Bacall, Liza Minelli, and Cher. Levine also collaborated with designers including Halston, Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass and designed all the footwear for Braniff airline’s flight attendants.

When creating her Cyrano shoe, which featured a pointed toe, Levine didn’t just narrow the toe. The designer added the pointed end to extend past where the toes would fall so they weren’t jammed into the tip. “She always used to say things like, ‘There’s no such thing as breaking in a pair of shoes. They’ll break you first,’” said the curator.

Verin said Levin also enjoyed many firsts during her career. Saks Fifth Avenue opened their first stand-alone boutique, Beth’s Bootery, which carried the designer’s footwear, and Levine was the one to figure out how to create a clear Cinderella shoe similar to other brands but with no visible screws. She also was the first to draw a picture of the footwear on the outside of the box to make it easier for shoe sellers to find a particular style for their customer.

The Patchwork Boot, 1967, cotton, silk, velvet and Lurex boot quilted by Adirondack artisans from the collection of Ron and Nancy Bush. Image from the LIM
The Patchwork Boot, 1967, cotton, silk, velvet and Lurex boot quilted by Adirondack artisans from the collection of Ron and Nancy Bush. Image from the LIM

The designer has been credited with introducing boots to haute couture as opposed to them just being worn for utility use, according to Verin. One of her most famous boots were worn by Nancy Sinatra while publicizing her 1966 hit song “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.”

Among her unique designs were a pair of shoes with AstroTurf as the insole called “Splendor in the Grass,” and a shoe with no upper that was secured to the foot with adhesive, according to Verin.

When it comes to the shoes included in the exhibition, Verin said, “When you look at them, even though they’re 60 years old, they’re so current. Today you would wear them.”

Besides pieces from her own collection, the curator has been able to borrow items from other collectors for the exhibition. One of the lenders is Levine’s nephew Ronnie Bush who inherited the family farm and has dedicated a corner of his barn to the designer and her work. Also, on display will be a photo of Levine by another one of her family members, professional photographer Bruce Weber.

In addition to Levine’s iconic footwear, visitors will find photos, paintings, illustrations, film footage and other artifacts on display. The curator said even those who aren’t footwear aficionados will appreciate Levine’s work.

“I think you can see these shoes as works of art,” Verin said. “You can really see a brilliant mind and talent at work.”

Beth Levine: The First Lady of Shoes will run at the Long Island Museum, 1200 Rte. 25A, Stony Brook, through Jan. 3, 2016. Sponsors include Astoria Bank, Bank of America, Nancy Burner & Associates and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Regular admission is $10 per person, $7 for seniors and $5 for students ages 6 to 17. Children under 6 and museum members are free. During the exhibition run, special events will be held including an opportunity for seniors 62 and older to visit the show for free on Sept. 8 from 10 a.m. to noon. For more information, visit www.longislandmuseum.org or call 631-751-0066.

Historic Hill Climb to be highlight of the weekend

Car 8, a 1909 Alco-6 racing car driven by Howard Kroplick of East Hills, followed by 1907 Fiat driven by Manny Dragone from Connecticut leads the pack at the last hill climb up West Broadway in 2010. Photo by Richard Solo

By Rita J. Egan

Port Jefferson Village will host its first Heritage Weekend Saturday, Aug. 22, and Sunday, Aug. 23. The event will give residents the opportunity to visit over 15 locations in the village, as well as Belle Terre, to learn about the stories behind the participating venues as well as the history of the village.

Jill Russell, public relations and marketing consultant for the village, said each location involved in the weekend has planned a variety of activities that celebrate the local culture, traditions, history and achievements.

“You’ll be invited to come in and learn a little bit of history about Port Jefferson. It’s really a phenomenal thing for families to come and do,” Russell said. The consultant said one of the featured events will be the Port Jefferson Fire Department, 115 Maple Place, opening its museum to the public. She said most people don’t even realize the museum exists unless their children have visited the firehouse on a school field trip.

Charlie Russo, assistant chief of the Port Jefferson Fire Department said, “The fire department has great history with the village.” The assistant chief explained that many of the members have followed in the footsteps of relatives and can trace their family’s involvement in the department for decades.

Russo said the museum will be open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday 3 to 5 p.m. Among the items on display, visitors will find uniforms, helmets, tools and more equipment used by firefighters since Hook and Ladder Co. 1 was established in 1887. One of the featured items is a hand fire pump that once needed two firefighters to operate it.

Those heading over to the Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson Street, on Saturday will feel as if they are actually going back in time. Nikki Greenhalgh, who’s in charge of the library’s marketing and communications, said visitors will be able to enter the building through the original front doors, which are normally closed off. The former entrance leads into the front room, now known as the quiet room, which was the first library at the current location when it was built in 1925. Here library patrons will find no electronic devices and a historical reference desk.

The Port Jefferson Fire Deparment Museum will be open to the public this weekend. Photo by Richard Solo
The Port Jefferson Fire Deparment Museum will be open to the public this weekend. Photo by Richard Solo

“We just want to take everyone back in time and reiterate the history and how we still use that building as a quiet area,” Greenhalgh said.

The library is offering period-themed activities for kids such as paper dolls and hopscotch. While the children play, longtime employees, including Earlene O’Hare, who recently retired after 30 years, will be on hand to answer visitors’ questions about the history of the building.   

The library will also be exhibiting the work of Leon Foster Jones, a local artist of the early 1900s, in the front room. Greenhalgh said the library had acquired the artist’s sketchbook, and in addition to his original paintings scanned drawings of his will also be on display.

Nan Guzzetta, owner of Antique Costume & Prop Rental by Nan, 709 Main Street, encourages history buffs to stop by her store, which normally is open to potential customers by appointment only, and learn about the structure’s unique history. The store owner, who has been in business on Main Street for 20 years and 40 years in total, said the patio, garden and porch will be open and visitors can view the parlor. She said customers will get a peek at the historical Civil War era structure constructed by Captain Henry Hallock, who built many ships in Port Jefferson.   

The house known by many as the Chambers Mansion has not only sheltered those of local historical significance but also of musical importance. In the ‘70s the band Foghat took up residence there, and Guzzetta said the rock group transformed a stage that once existed in the home into an echo chamber. Not only did the band produce 12 gold records here, but they also would rent out rooms to other artists who would stay at the house and record. Musical greats such as Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen have been known to create albums at the mansion, and during Foghat’s heyday, the home was one of the foremost recording studios in the Northeast and became known as the Boogie Hotel in the area, according to Guzzetta.

The Drowned Meadow House, on the corner of West Broadway and Barnum Avenue, will also provide a look at interesting aspects of the village’s history. Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant said a letter will be on display of historical importance at the Revolutionary War era “post and beam” constructed home, which once housed spy ring members.

“The significance of discovering the revolutionary letter directly ties other Roe family members, and Drowned Meadow then and present day Port Jefferson, to George Washington’s Spy Ring. In particular the letter was sent to Loyalist Oliver Delancey and states Nathaniel Roe and Phillips Roe supplied intelligence to Caleb Brewster, and the Roe family harbored supplies in our very own Drowned Meadow,” Garant said. 

Russell said the culmination of the weekend will be the Port Jefferson Hill Climb, which will begin at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday. Spectators lined up on East Broadway can view 60 antique cars as they ascend a 2,000-foot climb to Belle Terre Road. After the climb, the automobiles will be part of a parade from Myrtle and Belle Terre Road down to Main Street, then to East Main and back to the Village Center.

This will be the sixth re-creation of the historic Hill Climb, which originally took place in 1910 and in the recent past has been recreated every five years on E. Broadway, according to the consultant. Russell said during the weekend, car and history buffs can stop by the Village Center, 101A East Broadway, where reproductions, as well as actual photographs of the original Hill Climb, on loan from the Detroit Public Library, are on display.

During Port Jefferson Heritage Weekend, residents will be able to utilize the Port Jefferson Jitney to travel from venue to venue if they wish. Most locations will be participating from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For a complete list of participating venues and more information, visit www.portjeff.com.

Northport Historical Society’s latest exhibit gets personal

Eight of Northport’s Civil War veterans, from left, Roy Ackerly, Gus Gerard, Charlie Smith, Bill Mulfort, unidentified man, unidentified man, A.G. Tillotson and Barney Fox.

By Rita J. Egan

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War, and to commemorate the sesquicentennial, the Northport Historical Society is hosting the exhibit Northport and the Civil War: A Few Good Men. Visitors to the historical society’s museum can follow the lives of 12 Northport men from when they mustered in until the war ended for them.

The historical society joins other organizations in the township of Huntington hosting Civil War events. Both historical society Director Heather Johnson and Terry Reid, consultant to the collections and member of the exhibit’s committee, said when town representatives first approached the organization about hosting an exhibit they were a bit hesitant. They admitted they weren’t confident if they could pull together a full exhibit since they weren’t aware of many Civil War artifacts in their collection. However, Reid said once the committee started culling through items, they found muster rolls with very detailed information about young men from Northport who fought in the war.

The consultant said the muster rolls not only include information about what battles the young men fought in but also if they were injured, their eye color and hair color, names of their parents and occupations. With the discovery of the muster rolls, Reid said the exhibit became a possibility as the committee began writing the stories of each man.

“I thought that here are these men we can focus on, telling their specific stories. So we did it as more of a storybook as opposed to here’s a bullet,” Reid said.

Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Rita Egan
Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Rita Egan

The committee, which in addition to Reid includes Candy Hamilton, Christine Doll-Wagner, Rhoda Wright and Darcy Little, then set out to find the artifacts to complement the stories. An email was sent out to members of the historical society asking if anyone owned memorabilia. Chris Cierski and Ben Meyburg, Civil War enthusiasts, stepped forward to lend some of the pieces from their collections, including a uniform Meyburg has used in reenactments.

Reid said once the society had artifacts to illustrate the men’s stories the exhibit really came together. Visitors to the museum will not only find photos and letters but also equipment the soldiers would have received such as canteens, belt buckles and guns.

Once the artifacts were in place, knowing that the men belonged to the 48th and 127th infantries, the consultant said the committee members were able to create maps for each cabinet to show the troops’ movements.

“One of our main goals in this whole exhibit was to get people to really stop and think what these men, these boys, did at their young age of 18, 19. They all enlisted and ran off to war immediately to help the cause. Unfortunately it didn’t end well for most of them,” Reid said.   

The consultant said there are arrows on the floor to help visitors view the cases in order so that they can follow each soldiers’ journey in chronological order, and at the end, find out their fate.

“It was a very bloody, awful war, and the things they went through. . . . So, my heart was just breaking when I would read what happened to each one of them. I got emotionally attached to these boys. It was heartbreaking really to imagine what they must have gone through,” Reid said.

The exhibit also touches on the contributions the survivors made to Northport after their discharges such as Alfred C. Tillotson who owned a dry goods store on Main Street in the village.

The subject of whether a soldier will return from war is one that Johnson said she believes still strongly resonates with people.

“The idea of coming home, or unfortunately not coming home, it’s been going on since war began and continues to go on, unfortunately. I think because of that though it’s a universal theme. It’s something that  we can all relate to even if you haven’t anyone really close to you or in your family who has fought in a war, you probably know someone who has or at least feel for those who are currently fighting,” Johnson said.

The director said visitors will find many interesting items on display including a metal heel plate with a shamrock cutout that Irish soldiers would use on their boots. Johnson said when she saw it she was touched by the fact that despite the horrors they faced, the soldiers still enjoyed some whimsy.

Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Heather Johnson
Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Heather Johnson

Johnson said visitors will also find letters from Francis Sammis to a friend in Northport. The solider wrote about his memories of the girls in Northport and the get-togethers the young people would have.

“He’s still a young man. He may be a soldier and he may be fighting in a horrible, horrible war, but he’s still thinking about those good times. Similar to what a young man might do today,” the director said.   

Both Johnson and Reid hope visitors will take the time out to experience each of the soldiers’ stories and that it will have the same impact on guests as it did on them. Johnson said while everyone at the historical society learned a lot, she said she noticed the biggest impact on Reid.

“Terry in particular became very connected to those soldiers. She had read enough about them and it took on a different meaning for her,” Johnson said.

Reid said she found herself feeling protective in a motherly way of the young men as the committee discovered more about each of them.

“I hope that other people will come away the same way, will have the same sort of change as well. How could you not after you see these men’s faces,” she said.

Northport and the Civil War: A Few Good Men will be on view at the Northport Historical Society, 215 Main Street, until the end of the year. For more information, visit www.northporthistorical.org or call 631-757-9859.

Ward Hooper and Holly Gordon display similar pieces of art — from left, a painting and a photograph — both titled ‘The Boys of Summer.’ Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

When photographer Holly Gordon was asked to describe her relationship with painter Ward Hooper, she relayed a Hopi Native American tale about a paralyzed clown and a blind mudhead who are only able to flee their village when disaster strikes by individually compensating for what the other lacks: the mudhead provides mobility by carrying the clown on his back and the clown provides direction by acting as a set of eyes for the mudhead. “[Ward] was opening up my eyes, and I was using my camera to bring him the visions,” said Gordon. “There’s really such a synergy between us.”

For Hooper and Gordon, who met on Facebook through a mutual friend and typically get together once a week, the term “synergy” applies to both life and art, realms which, according to Gordon, are often indistinguishable from one another. Hooper plays the role of navigator for Gordon, who drives them both to diverse locations along the north shore of Long Island, including Huntington, Northport, Centerport, Kings Park and Cold Spring Harbor, some of which Hooper “hasn’t been to in 20 years.” The result is individual reinterpretations of the same settings made more complete by access to each others pre-existing work.

Sometimes Hooper’s paintings provide the initial inspiration, and other times Gordon’s photographs play this role. “That’s the beauty of our collaboration,” said Hooper. “Holly would show me something and challenge me to create something compatible with what she selected.”

“[When using Ward’s painting as the initial artistic reference] I knew that I was going to have to stretch my vision and stretch my technical skills to make my work even more fluid than it was previously,” said Gordon. “Art is usually a solitary thing, and among some artists you find a certain competition, but Ward and I have just been so supportive in sharing and helping each other grow and evolve and develop and create. It’s been an absolutely magical experience.”

52 of the artistic results of this experience — pairing the new photographic art of Gordon with the watercolor paintings of Hooper — will be on display at the Art League of Long Island’s Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery, from Aug. 8 to 23, in an exhibit appropriately titled The Brush/Lens Project.

“We’re hoping that viewers will be inspired,” said Gordon, “that they will come to see and appreciate the beauty that is right here on Long Island [by viewing art that was largely created in and inspired by Long Island].”

The exhibit will highlight versatile pieces of art, arranged in 26 sets, which encompass all four seasons and a variety of subjects. “We overestimated the number of pieces [that we would be able to include in the exhibit],” said Hooper. “Between the two of us, we have nearly 100 years of art,” continued Gordon, “there’s a book here.”

Both Hooper and Gordon are grateful that they have been afforded the opportunity to work with one another and plan to continue to do so in the future: “When you put yourself out there and you’re not afraid to share and interact, there’s so much beneath the surface to discover,” said Gordon, on her rewarding decision to reach out to Hooper. “Art brought [Holly and me] together,” Hooper emphasized. “We think, on many levels, the same way.”

With Gordon in the driver’s seat and Hooper as navigator, there’s no telling where their artistic visions will lead them next. “There’s no end to this journey. There’s no road map,” said Hooper. “We’ll just see where it takes us.”

The Art League of Long Island is located at 107 E. Deer Park Road, Dix Hills. Hours are Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The community is invited to an art reception on Aug. 9, from 2 to 4 p.m. The artists will take part in a Gallery Talk on Aug. 16, from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-462-5400 or visit www.artleagueli.net.

Rachel Goldsmith is crowned Miss Teen New York last October. Photo by Richard Krauss

By Rita J. Egan

After being crowned Miss Teen New York International in October, Dix Hills resident Rachel Goldsmith is ready to represent her state and share the stage with teens from around the globe. The New York competition was the first time the 14-year-old entered a pageant, and she is thrilled about competing at the Miss Teen International Pageant in Jacksonville, Fla., on July 30 and August 1.

Rachel Goldsmith is crowned Miss Teen New York last October. Photo by Richard Krauss
Rachel Goldsmith is crowned Miss Teen New York last October. Photo by Richard Krauss

When she won the crown at the New York pageant, Rachel said everything was a blur to her. “It was nothing like I ever experienced before,” she said.

However, the recent graduate from West Hollow Middle School is no stranger to the pageant circuit. Growing up she, along with her father Steven and brothers Daniel and Jonathan, would watch her mother, Lidia Szczepanowski-Goldsmith, participate in pageants and win titles such as Mrs. New York America and Mrs. New York International.

Rachel said she remembers her mother looking so beautiful on stage and thinking to herself that she wanted to be in pageants, too. She also remembers how much fun the family would have traveling and attending the events.

“The whole thing was just a really positive family experience. It was positive for my mom; it was positive for the future. It was amazing overall,” Rachel said.

The pageant participant said she is looking forward to meeting contestants from all over the United States, as well as the world, at the Miss Teen International event in Florida. She is also eager to present her platform, which is to raise awareness when it comes to teen suicide.

Rachel said she went through a rough time in middle school at first. However, she quickly learned to reach out to her parents and others. Her experience led Goldsmith to research teen depression and create the website U Will B Ok, where teens can visit for information and to share their stories.

“Middle school is that one time where if you ask any parent or older teen, they’ll all say that, ‘Yeah, middle school is awful.’ And, it’s that time when kids don’t really know who they are — they’re still discovering themselves, and they are in groups and they’re trying to figure out how to treat people. There are a lot of cliques. They don’t know who they are as a person, so they need to click off of other people to feel like they belong somewhere, and sometimes around that time it’s really hard for the kids that aren’t in the cliques,” Rachel said.

Rachel Goldsmith, Miss Teen New York International, receives a proclamation earlier this year from the Town of Huntington Board of Trustees, from left, Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D); Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D); Supervisor Frank Petrone (D), Councilwoman Susan A. Berland (D) and Councilman Gene Cook (I). Photo from Town of Huntington
Rachel Goldsmith, Miss Teen New York International, receives a proclamation earlier this year from the Town of Huntington Board of Trustees, from left, Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D); Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D); Supervisor Frank Petrone (D), Councilwoman Susan A. Berland (D) and Councilman Gene Cook (I). Photo from Town of Huntington

Her mom understands the demands on teenagers nowadays, with their studies, testing and extracurricular activities. While Rachel does extremely well in school academically and is a high honor roll student, her mother said, like many young teens, she had a hard time fitting in at first.

“It was very difficult at that transition time, where everyone is trying to find themselves, because she didn’t fit in anywhere,” Szczepanowski-Goldsmith said.

Over the last few years, Rachel has become more comfortable in her own skin and said she has adapted a punk fashion sense. Her mother said when you meet her, her daughter is the epitome of what you wouldn’t expect from a beauty queen. However, while her everyday style may not say pageant winner, her volunteer work does.

In addition to her website, for several years Rachel has been the teen ambassador and a volunteer for the National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness Inc., where she has participated in fashion shows and sold merchandise to raise money. The pageant winner also visits veterans and organizes parties with the organization Yes We Care Inc.

Rachel, who in her spare time enjoys archery, scuba diving and watching “The Walking Dead,” dreams of one day becoming a special effects makeup artist for movies, where prosthetics and makeup are needed to create monsters and zombies. She said if that doesn’t work out, she would love to do something in a creative field such as graphic design, illustrating, marketing or journalism.

Rachel Goldsmith is interviewed before being crowned Miss Teen New York last October. Photo by Richard Krauss
Rachel Goldsmith is interviewed before being crowned Miss Teen New York last October. Photo by Richard Krauss

For now, Rachel directs her energy toward preparing for the upcoming pageant, and she said she and her mother are having a lot of fun doing so. Szczepanowski-Goldsmith says her daughter’s decision to participate in this competition has provided them with more mother-daughter time. The two not only shop together to find the perfect outfits, but her mother also helps her prepare for the interview segment, sometimes even asking her questions in the car.

Rachel said she isn’t nervous about whether or not she’ll be Miss Teen International when she starts Half Hollow Hills High School East this September. She said she has learned from her mother to enjoy the overall experience of participating in pageants, including the preparation.

“You can’t just focus on the moment. You have to look at what it took to get to that point,” her mother said.

Szczepanowski-Goldsmith has also taught her daughter to go into a pageant with no expectations, and most important of all, to just be herself. “I just want her to have a positive experience. I know how wonderful and how much fun it was for me, and I think that it’s really all about the journey, and I think she’s going to have a great time,” Szczepanowski-Goldsmith said.

To visit Rachel’s website, go to www.uwillbok.com. To find out more about the Miss Teen International Pageant, visit their official site at www.missteeninternational.us.

By Rita J. Egan

Vocalist Amber Ferrari has been busy preparing a brand new show that she will debut at Port Jefferson’s Theatre Three on Aug. 1. Well known on Long Island for her brilliant “Joplin’s Pearl” production, dedicated to 60s icon Janis Joplin, this time around Ferrari has decided to take on a living legend — Madonna.

The show, titled “Material Girl Featuring Amber Ferrari,” will open with the singer performing songs from Adele, Heart, Alanis Morissette, Aretha Franklin and more, including a couple of her own songs. Ferrari said the second half will consist entirely of Madonna’s hits from the 80s, as well as “Vogue,” which hit the charts in 1990.

Amber Ferrari as Madonna. Photo by Rich Balter Photography
Amber Ferrari as Madonna. Photo by Rich Balter Photography

Unlike “Joplin’s Pearl,” where Ferrari wears a wig and is dressed head-to-toe like Joplin, in this show the singer will wear costumes inspired by Madonna’s famous wardrobe, but she won’t pretend to be her.

“It’s going to be more about enjoying Madonna’s fun music,” Ferrari said.

The singer said she and her husband Chris started discussing the idea of a Madonna show a few years ago and kept it in mind until they had some free time. The couple is excited about the fact that potentially they will have two productions to perform for their audiences. Ferrari is also thrilled to sing more pop songs, as opposed to the rock songs she is known for performing.

“I wanted to pick another icon in a different genre other than rock, because my first set is usually the majority rock ‘n roll,” the singer said.

Douglas Quattrock, director of development, and group sales and marketing coordinator at Theatre Three, has known Ferrari since they performed together in “Woodstockmania: Woodstock in Concert” at the theater a decade ago. He said the audience is in for a fun night, and he knows the singer’s unique and versatile voice can handle any artist’s songs.

“It’s going to be something new, but with the same energy. She throws 120 percent into everything she does. She’s just amazing,” Quattrock said.

Ferrari said she grew up listening to Madonna and lists “Material Girl,” “Into the Groove,” “Holiday,” “Dress You Up,” “La Isla Bonita,” “Like a Virgin,” and “Express Yourself” among her favorites. She said she always thought they were dynamite songs, and she’s including all of them in the Aug. 1 production.

The singer has been busy rehearsing the last few weeks with her fellow band members, which include her husband Chris on guitar, Eddie “Yaz” Yeznach on bass and Jim Carroll on drums. At the Aug. 1 show, Ferrari and band will also be joined by Frank Centrone on keyboard, Billy Aberle on background vocals, and the singer’s father, Bob Hansen, on percussions.

In addition to rehearsals, Ferrari has been working on the costumes for the show, including an 80s-style wedding dress and outfits inspired by Madonna’s “Material Girl” gown and “Lucky Star” outfit. She invites the audience members to join in on the ‘80s fun by asking them to wear their favorite outfit from the decade.

“I think it’s going to be a blast, and I think everyone is going to be surprised. It will take them back to the ‘80s,” Ferrari said.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “Material Girl Featuring Amber Ferrari” on Aug. 1 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 and may be purchased by calling 631-928-9100 or by visiting www.theatrethree.com.

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Earl L. Vandermeulen High School sophomore Arunima Roy. Photo from Port Jefferson school district

By Rita J. Egan

It was a successful school year for 15-year-old Arunima Roy of Port Jefferson. The sophomore and high honor roll student at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School was recently chosen as an ambassador to Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Council.

The Roots & Shoots council has many branches all over the world, according to Roy. Teenagers with a passion for saving the environment apply to the group in order to aid each other in their projects.

A member of her high school’s environmental club for the last two years, Roy said she got involved with Roots & Shoots when her Spanish teacher, Dawn DeLeonardis-Moody, who is also one of the faculty advisers of her school’s club, suggested she look into the organization. After visiting the website and researching the organization’s work, Roy said she became extremely interested in its youth council. After applying for the program and completing two interviews, Roy became an ambassador.

During the application process, Roy told the organization, “I want to help clean up the environment, and I want to help save and preserve natural habitats.”

DeLeonardis-Moody has been involved with Roots & Shoots for a decade, so she knew Roy would work well with the group. The Spanish teacher said as a sophomore, Roy is the perfect age to take on the role as she has a concept of the environment and community. She described the student as soft yet strong, who works well in a group and individually.

“Arunima … she can be quiet on the surface — she has such a compassionate soul — but she’s also a very hard worker and dedicated. So I see her as an upcoming leader, especially because she has that quiet compassionate side. But once you work with her you realize that her compassion and her passion are so strong, and she’s so in tune with nature,” DeLeonardis-Moody said.

In the past, Roy has worked on beach cleanups and most recently the Green and Clean 2015 event in Port Jefferson to raise awareness about local plants and Monarch butterflies. DeLeonardis-Moody said the student not only worked at the event, but it was partly Roy’s idea to have it, and she worked 8 months to prepare for the day.

The Port Jefferson student said as an ambassador, she will work on her future environmental goals with the school’s environmental club and will get support from Roots & Shoots and her fellow ambassadors.

Jonathan Maletta, co-adviser of the environmental club, said that Roy has the school group’s complete support when it comes to her future environmental projects. Maletta, who has also worked with the sophomore on the Science Olympiad, where she has won gold and silver awards on the regional level, said Roy is an intelligent student with a sound work ethic. “She’s an inspiration, and it’s nice to see someone of the younger generation lead by example, take charge and move in a sustainable direction,” Maletta said.

The club adviser said the student is currently working with the Jane Goodall Institute to recycle e-waste.

Maletta explained that when we recycle electronics and cell phones, we help conserve an ore called coltan, which is found in the Congo, where gorillas and chimpanzees live. Recycling reduces the need for Coltan and the disruption of the animals’ habitat. In addition, when it comes to recycling cell phones and other e-waste, fewer toxins are released into the environment.

Recycling is very important to Roy, and she wishes more people would do so, especially when it comes to items that are simple to discard, such as cans and bottles. She said it not only helps preserve materials, which would, for example, prevent us from cutting down trees or looking for ore and disturbing the habitats of animals, but it also affects us on a local level.

“It’s so important to recycle. There are often garbage cans and there are recycling cans right next to each other. I feel like if they just make the littlest effort to put it in the recycling bins instead of the garbage bins, it would make such a huge impact. The landfills are getting full of garbage, and we’re going to run out of places to put them. We don’t want our backyards to be filled with garbage,” Roy said.

Her advice to aspiring environmentalists is to get a group of friends together and to set easy goals. She said it helps to break things down into something as simple as collecting a certain number of things or filling one bin in a day. She also suggested organizing two groups to clean a beach or area, and make the cleanup a fun competition.

This summer, Roy will attend a Roots & Shoots retreat where she will learn about hydraulics. As for her future goals, she said she wants to be a physician with Doctors Without Borders. In addition to her dreams of becoming a doctor, Roy said that in her adulthood, she will continue to volunteer to help the environment.

“I see it as more of a stress reliever. I feel like I’m making an impact on the environment. I don’t see it so much as work as I see as it as being one with nature,” Roy said. “It would be a nice way to take some time off and get back to my roots, and just find some space for myself to think.”

When it comes to her future plans, especially her environmental goals, both of Roy’s club advisers believe she will accomplish a great deal.

“She’s just so humble, and I think that’s what makes her — that’s part of why she’s so good at this. She’s so quietly passionate and humble, but yet she’s dedicated and really in tune with the community and the environment. She really cares,” said DeLeonardis-Moody.

Formed in 1991, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots is the youth-led community action and learning program of the Jane Goodall Institute. With more than 150,000 members in more than 130 countries, all working on local and global service projects, the program builds on the legacy and vision of Dr. Jane Goodall to place the power and responsibility for creating community-based solutions to big challenges in the hands of young people. Through the program, young people map their community to identify specific challenges their neighborhoods face. From there, they prioritize the problems, develop a plan for a solution, and take action.

For more information, visit www.rootsandshoots.org.

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Kevin Burns and Katie Ferretti. Photo by Rita Egan

By Rita J. Egan

For the next several weeks, actors Katie Ferretti and Kevin Burns will transform into a perfect nanny and a charming chimney sweep in the stage production of “Mary Poppins” at the Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at the CM Performing Arts Center. The local actors are excited to present this timeless tale where a magical nanny, with the help of her friend Bert, adds some much needed fun to the lives of the Banks children. In addition to being thrilled about their current roles, the two actors are also honored to portray the characters that Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke made famous in the 1964 movie.

“‘Mary Poppins’ is my favorite movie of all time, so to get to play such an iconic role that was created by such a great actor, singer, dancer is really just a dream for me,” Burns said.

Ferretti admitted that it can be intimidating to take on such an acting part, but at the same time she said, “It’s definitely exciting to play a role that Julie Andrews made famous. It’s like a dream come true to me, because I look up to her so much as a performer.”

The musical is the first time Ferretti and Burns have acted together. However, both have performed at the Oakdale theater before. In the past 10 years, Burns has appeared in numerous productions at the venue, including “Singin’ in the Rain” (Don), “42nd Street” (Billy) and the “The Rocky Horror Show” (Dr. Frank N. Furter). Ferretti said she has been acting at the theater for more than 2 years and has had roles in musicals such as “Into the Woods” (Cinderella), “Les Misérables” (Cosette) and “Guys and Dolls” (Sarah).

Despite her acting roles, not only at the CMPAC but also at the Merrick Theatre and Center for the Arts in productions of “Seussical” (Gertrude), “Cinderella” (Cinderella) and “Proof” (Catherine), acting is only a hobby for Ferretti. The 25-year-old works full-time as a behavior support worker at the Developmental Disabilities Institute, where she works with teens and adults with autism. While performing in musicals may be part-time work for Ferretti, she said she did take voice lessons in high school that prepared her for her favorite pastime.

For 26-year-old Burns, acting is a full-time profession. In addition to his work at the CMPAC, he has appeared at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, most recently as Frosty in “Frosty the Snowman” and the Troll in “The Snow Queen.” The actor said this summer he will be busy as a part of the Engeman’s children’s theatre and camp. When he first began acting, he worked at the Airport Playhouse in plays such as “Cabaret” (Victor), “Gypsy” (Yonkers) and “A Chorus Line” (Gregory). Burns said he has no formal training in acting, singing or dancing, which Ferretti said she was surprised to hear, especially when it comes to his dancing.

The actress said Burns is an amazing dancer and handles the many dancing numbers in “Mary Poppins” effortlessly.

When they look to the future, both would love to appear in a production of “West Side Story.” Ferretti said playing Maria would be a dream role, while Burns would love to play Riff. Other roles on their wish lists include Finch in “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” for Burns, and for Ferretti, another Maria and another Julie Andrews role — Maria in “The Sound of Music.” Both are looking into possibilities for the near future, but nothing definite is lined up right now. “Who knows where the wind will take me?” Burns said.

Ferretti would like to continue balancing work with appearing in regional theater. And while Burns may toy with the idea of Broadway, he said right now he is happy performing at local theaters. When it comes to movies and television, both actors said they haven’t considered auditioning for film roles as they prefer working with live audiences.

“I like the fact that if you make a mistake the show has to keep going. You have to keep telling the story as opposed to ‘we can cut, we go back, we can reshoot,’” said Burns.
Ferretti agreed and added, “There’s something more honest about live theater than there is about anything filmed.”

For now the duo are having a great time with the cast and crew of “Mary Poppins,” who they said are a friendly group to work with as well as extremely talented. Ferretti said the crew backstage works incredibly hard to create a show for the audience “that’s like magic for them.” She said she wishes they could sell seats backstage so people could witness what exactly goes on.

Among the numbers performed during “Mary Poppins,” the two admit to having their favorites. Burns loves “Step in Time” while Ferretti said she has fun singing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” which she said after rehearsals she can easily spell. She also admits to getting misty-eyed when singing “Feed the Birds.”

When it comes to the excitement of being part of such an endearing story, the actors admit feeling like children at times, and they hope the audiences will enjoy experiencing the magic of “Mary Poppins” with them. Burns said at the end of opening night, he was brought back to his own childhood. “I got emotional when Katie came out to bow. I was standing next to Mary Poppins. It took me back to when I was in Disney World for the first time, and I went to go talk to the woman who I knew was an actress playing Mary Poppins, yet I still got emotional,” said the actor.

Theatergoers have until July 19 to experience the magic of “Mary Poppins” with Ferretti, Burns and the entire cast at the CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Highway, Oakdale. Tickets range from $20 to $29. For more information, call 218-2810 or visit www.cmpac.com.

From left, Lou Goold, Margaret Foster, Serena Brooks and Joan Wormell. Photo by Rita Egan

By Rita J. Egan

During the evening of the first night of the week, while many are wrapping up their weekends, the Sunday Nite Folk Dancers are kicking up their heels at the Smithtown Historical Society’s Frank Brush Barn. The welcoming group continues the teachings of leading 20th century folk dance teachers Mary Ann and Michael Herman as well as celebrates a tradition that has brought communities together for centuries.

Long-time member Lou Goold, who has been dancing with the group since 1985, said the members follow the folk dance program that the Hermans debuted at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The couple started Folk Dance House in Manhattan, and in the 1970s, after the group changed locations a couple of times in the city, they moved to North Babylon. The Hermans began leading their folk dance classes in Bay Shore and West Islip. After the passing of the couple in the mid-90s, and several years of the dancers meeting in Bay Shore, the group brought their love for folk dancing to Smithtown.

Goold said there are approximately a dozen or more members on any Sunday night who are more than happy to help newcomers learn the 15 or 20 dances a night. He said dance leader Ching-Hui Wu teaches twice a month. On other nights, called co-ops, the members take turns showing their fellow dancers their favorite numbers. “That’s a lot of fun, because we have cooperation. If one person forgets a dance or something like that, somebody else will help them out. So, it’s a very friendly group,” Goold said.

Margaret Foster, a member since the 90s, said she has enjoyed the variety of teachers throughout the years who have shared their specialties. Besides dances from America, there are also pieces from Scotland, Scandinavia, Israel, Bulgaria and other countries. “We enjoy learning something about the dances and the culture of the different places,” Foster said.

Goold said that helping people understand other ethnic groups through dance was a mission of the Hermans. Their motto was: “You can’t hate people when you’re doing their dances.”

Juanita Wetherell, who joined the group about 20 years ago, said she took a few years off to take care of family members. When she returned to the group, she was looking forward to dancing again but was doubtful she could remember the steps.

“When I first came back, I was thinking, ‘I haven’t danced in so long. I’m not going to remember any of the steps. I’m going to be the newbie all over again.’ Yet, I remembered somebody saying, ‘you listen to the music and your feet are going to know what to do’. And, you know, that’s pretty much what happened. The music tells you,” Wetherell said.

Her return reminded the dancer of her early days, when she was confused about rhythms and patterns.

Wetherell said Goold’s wife Kathy, a former dance leader, would sit her down next to her and just show her the footwork. The dancer said learning the steps first while sitting made it easier once she joined other dancers on the floor.

Foster said the leaders go over the sequences, so those who have never folk danced before can easily learn.

“You can come and learn as you go, and you’ll enjoy doing what you can and then you’ll learn more. You’ll start getting used to it next time. It’s the sort of thing that grows on you,” the group member said.

Ziggie Wielunski, a former dance leader, and his wife Alice have been dancing since 1947 and have been members of the Sunday Nite Folk Dancers since the group started meeting on the South Shore. Ziggie explained that folk dances are not that intricate, so anyone interested should come to the barn and try out the dances. Alice added, “The important thing is not to give up after the first time, but to come for a number of times, and you’ll find each time it’s easier and easier.”

The Sunday Nite Folk Dancers meet every Sunday from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., except the third Sunday of July and the month of August, at the Smithtown Historical Society Frank Brush Barn located at 211 Main Street in Smithtown. The fee is $8 and no partner is needed. All ages and dance levels are welcomed. For more information, call 516-781-3552 or 631-589-4203.

Late sculptor planted the love of art in the hearts of many

LT Cherokee works with art student Michael D. Kitakis, 12, at the Spirit of Huntington Art Center. Photo from Spirit of Huntington Art Center

By Rita J. Egan

When prolific sculptor and avid motorcycle rider LT Cherokee passed away last year at the age of 58 due to complications from an accident, he left behind his love of art and life. To honor this legacy, the Spirit of Huntington Art Center presents an exhibit titled Seeds starting May 15.

The center, dedicated to working with veterans and special needs children in an artistic environment, is the ideal venue to display the work of the sculptor who for the last few years of his life taught sculpting to the children at the facility. The teaching venture began when, through his uncle who owns L&L Camera in Huntington, Cherokee met Spirit of Huntington founder Erich Preis, according to the center’s director Michael Kitakis.

LT Cherokee’s last work, ‘Faces of Eve,’ in bronze, plaster and plaster recast. Photo from Spirit of Huntington Art Center
LT Cherokee’s last work, ‘Faces of Eve,’ in bronze, plaster and plaster recast. Photo from Spirit of Huntington Art Center

“LT was amazing. He was just so calm and connected. I guess that was why he worked so well with children with special needs. He had this calm presence, and he just let you really be free and creative. He wasn’t into the sky had to be blue and the grass green. He was let it be what you think it is, and feel and express it, and the children kind of thrived on that. They really got it,” Kitakis said.

The director said the exhibit will include 38 pieces of Cherokee’s that have been on display in galleries and private collections all over the United States and Canada. The sculptor, who first starting working with wood that he collected during his motorcycle rides, later worked with bronze castings. Kitakis is looking forward to the public viewing and interpreting the work, which the director said he himself doesn’t like to label as any one genre.

“When you see it, you just see all the energy and the abstract coming together. I mean that’s really what I think; it was more about that duality. I don’t think it was just abstract or just impressionistic. It’s kind of just both blending in together, and that gave that whole perception of what he was seeing as his human nature and as his life, and what he was seeing when he was exploring the road and life,” the director said.

Kitakis said Cherokee wasn’t the type to be locked in his studio all the time. For inspiration, he would get out in the world to explore, especially on his motorcycle. The director admired the artist not only for his artistic ability but also as a teacher who easily identified with the children with special needs at the center. “That takes a gift. You kind of have it or you don’t, and he really did have it. That was really what was so beautiful about his work, that here he is this sculptor who is getting $30,000 to $40,000 a sculpture and then coming in and hanging out with the kids,” Kitakis said.

After his passing last year, Cherokee’s mother, Tina Ambrosio, said all of those who offered their condolences, and knowing her son’s teachings positively affected his students comforted her. She said the artist, who was single and had no children of his own, “was married to his motorcycle and his art.”

His mother said that Cherokee, whose birth name was Leonard Totoro, picked his art moniker because even though he wasn’t Native American he always had an interest in Native American history. As a youngster, the future artist also would dream of becoming a forest ranger or doing missionary work. “Luxury to my son meant nothing. He was down to earth,” Ambrosio said.

‘Eve and Adam,’ in bronze by LT Cherokee. Photo from Spirit of Huntington Art Center
‘Eve and Adam,’ in bronze by LT Cherokee. Photo from Spirit of Huntington Art Center

Eventually Cherokee’s main career influence was one of his uncles, a pharmacist who painted and sculpted on the side, according to his mother. Later as a young man, the artist would lend his artistic talents while laying and refinishing floors with his father, who was a carpenter and floor finisher. Ambrosio said whenever a customer would ask for a design to be added to the floor, her son could easily create it.

As Cherokee became more involved with sculpting, his work, with names such as “Reach,” “Contemplation,” “The Gate” and “Eye of the Storm,” began to sell. In addition to his work being displayed in galleries and private collections, larger pieces were featured at places such as John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson as well as the transportation area of the Consulate General of the United States in Montreal, Canada.

Kitakis said some of Cherokee’s students are currently working on a collaborative piece that will replicate the artist’s Consulate General sculpture and will debut at the May 15 opening of the exhibit. The original piece features various heads along a train track, and in the students’ version, each child has his or her own person to sculpt. Other works by Cherokee’s students and apprentices will also be on display at the exhibit.

Kitakis said the title of the show, Seeds, seemed appropriate because of the way Cherokee lived his life. The director said the artist always wanted to give back to people and share his art and saw it as spreading seeds.

“He always believed in spreading ‘seeds’, planting them, getting them going. He did a lot of that,” Kitakis said.

The director hopes that visitors to the exhibit will get a feel of how much Cherokee loved creating and sharing his sculptures. “I’m hoping when people walk away they feel that inspiration as well — to get a little more understanding or love of art and then it kind of spreads on,” Kitakis said.

Besides enjoying Cherokee’s work, exhibit-goers will have the opportunity to purchase many of the pieces on display where a percentage of the proceeds will be donated to the center. The Spirit of Huntington Art Center is located at 2 Melville Road North in Huntington Station. The Seeds exhibit will open on May 15 with a reception at 6 p.m. and will run through July 15. For more information, call 631-470-9620 or visit www.spiritofhuntingtonartcenter.com.

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