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Rita J. Egan

Dr. Leo Dvorken, former Setauket resident, founder of Selden pediatric group, dies at 86

Dr. Leo Dvorken reading to his grandchildren Jakob and Katrina in an undated photo.

Years after he retired from his Suffolk County practice, a pediatrician and former Setauket resident is being remembered fondly by those who knew him.

Dr. Leo Dvorken, the founder of what is now known as Kids Care Pediatric Medicine P.C. in Selden, died July 21 at the age of 86. At a funeral service July 24, Rabbi Stephen Karol and Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky addressed the mourners who filled Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook and read eulogies from Dvorken’s family members filled with anecdotes and praise. His former practice partners were also on hand to pay tribute to a man they considered a valuable colleague and close friend.

In a eulogy written by his daughter Rachel, she described being in the presence of her father as a gift, calling him gentle, kind and possessing a joie de vivre, a French phrase meaning a joy for life.

“Whether it was pancakes at the diner, lobster fest at Bay Road East [Strong’s Neck], midnight boat rides, rainy day hikes, ski trips, sing-alongs in the car, watching our kids’ games or concerts or just hanging out — it was always fun,” she wrote in the eulogy. “I just loved being with my father.”

Dvorken, who loved to fish, on his boat in Port Jefferson Harbor.

While Dvorken spent his final years in New Jersey, Temple Isaiah was the appropriate place for his funeral service. His daughter wrote that her father, who was committed to Judaism and loved Israel, cared deeply about Temple Isaiah. When the temple couldn’t obtain a mortgage to construct the building in the late 1960s, Dvorken was one of 13 members who personally guaranteed the mortgage, according to his daughter.

Born Oct. 19, 1931, he was the third child of Harry and May. Leo’s first brother, Simon, died before he was born, and his brother Henry was a few years older than him. When Leo was a child, he excelled in oration, chess, singing, art, Boy Scouts and chemistry. He loved to play football, basketball and baseball. Later in life, he became interested in tennis, skiing, music and fishing.

He first attended Haverford College in Pennsylvania but then left the school to pursue an advanced degree in chemistry from New York University after being inspired by a conversation with a medical school professor at the college. Dvorken was 27 when he decided to go to medical school, but many of the New York area colleges thought he was too old, so he applied to and was accepted to a prestigious school in Geneva, Switzerland. He first had to take courses in French since all the classes were in that language.

Before he traveled to Switzerland, he met his wife, Doris, a Columbia University undergraduate. The two, who recently celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary, met at a party in the Bronx, according to his wife’s eulogy. The first time she met him his wife said she knew she would marry him.

“From the minute I met him and talked to him, I felt like I didn’t need to ever talk to another person again,” his wife wrote. “It was like we were in a room alone, even though we were surrounded by others.”

After studying in Switzerland, Dvorken spent his residency in a Jewish hospital in Brooklyn. In 1969 he moved out to Setauket and opened the pediatric group in Selden. His friends that he met during his residency, Dr. Arie Aloni and Dr. Boris Lustik, soon joined the practice and bought homes in Setauket, too.

“It was the best decision of my life,” Lustik said.

Aloni and Lustik, who are both retired from the practice, in phone interviews described Dvorken as a wonderful person and physician, and the doctors formed a strong bond.

“Our practice was unique in a sense that not only were we colleagues, but we were also friends who became an extended family,” Aloni said. “So much so that my kids call him Uncle Leo.”

Lustik described Dvorken as an astute physician who was gentle with his patients, while Aloni said the doctor didn’t have a bad bone in his body.

“He was the glue of our practice,” Aloni said.

When other practices refused to take patients on Medicaid, Aloni said Dvorken ensured the practice was open to everyone whether they could afford medical care or not. When a 7-year-old asked him for an interview once, Dvorken answered his questions and showed him around the office. The doctor became a mentor to the boy who later went on to become a pediatric oncologist, according to Aloni.

Lustik remembered Dvorken’s love of music and going to see the New York Philharmonic with him, while Aloni and the doctor would play tennis a few times a week at the Three Village Tennis Club until they retired.

Tennis continued to be a passion in Dvorken’s life. Aloni said the two would talk on the phone during big tennis tournaments discussing strategies and critiquing the players. On Dvorken’s last day, they were on the phone chatting about Wimbledon, he said.

In a eulogy written by Dvorken’s grandson Fran Rosenberg, he summed up the gifts his grandfather left with him and others.

“My grandfather taught me through example how to be a man who produces, loves and serves his family, serves the community, follows his heart, lives his passions and respects everybody — no matter where they come from,” Rosenberg said.

Dvorken is survived by his wife Doris; son Gregory; daughter Rachel; son-in-law Harry Rosenberg; and four grandchildren, Fran, Zach, Katrina and Jakob Rosenberg.

A rendering of the proposed Heatherwood rental units in South Setauket. Rendering from Heatherwood

The Town of Brookhaven is in the final stages of deciding whether to allow a controversial retirement community to be constructed. 

Commack-based Heatherwood Luxury Rentals has proposed plans to build on nearly 26 acres of its more than 70-acre golf course on the southeast corner of Arrowhead Lane and Route 347. It was put on the planning board’s decision calendar at its July 9 meeting, and now they have 62 days from July 9 to render a decision.

The property at the intersection of Arrowhead Lane and Route 347 is currently a golf course. Photo by Andrea Paldy

If approved, the company would construct Heatherwood Golf at Setauket, a 55 and over community with 200 rental housing units, 403 parking stalls and additional garages. Heatherwood also plans to redesign the golf course, reducing it from 18 holes to nine. The property falls in both the Comsewogue and Three Village school districts.

John Gobler, a 48-year homeowner in Heatherwood Village South in South Setauket, attended the July 9 meeting objecting to plans for the new development having only one entryway to exit and enter, which would dump traffic onto Arrowhead Lane. He said the intersection of Arrowhead Lane and Route 347 has been a problem for several years due to the number of cars exiting onto Arrowhead and the timing of lights at the corner, where he has witnessed only four or five cars being able to go through a green light.

He questioned a traffic engineering study by Stonefield Engineering & Design, LLC conducted June 13 of the traffic volume count of cars exiting Arrowhead to Route 347. He said the company found a total of 183 cars during 7 to 9 a.m. and 141 vehicles 4 to 7 p.m. Gobler said he sat at the intersection and monitored traffic for a 20-minute period, 8:55 to 9:15 a.m. three separate days when school wasn’t in session and counted exiting cars from Arrowhead. His average was 89 for the 20-minute intervals, which would be 266 cars during the morning rush hour. He said Stonefield’s count of 183 cars over a two-hour period would mean only 31 cars every 20 minutes.

Frank Filiciotto, a traffic consultant with Stonefield, said there are always spikes in traffic, which could account for Gobler’s observation. He also said the 183 and 141 numbers represent one-hour volumes within the periods of time specified and not the entire time specified. He said the company has been monitoring traffic in the area for four years. One observation of cars entering and exiting nearby Fairfield Knolls North by the company showed a daily total of 218 cars observed during 7 to 9 a.m., 2 to 4 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Stonefield broke the figures down to 60 in the morning period, 80 from 2 to 4 p.m., and 78 during the evening period. The monitored development is 0.65 miles northeast of the proposed apartments and is also age restricted. The company prorated the numbers since Fairfield Knolls has 91 more units than what is proposed for Heatherwood. He said the amount of traffic was similar to what they originally projected and should not negatively impact the area.

“The overpacking of the site with housing, adjacent to a residential neighborhood, and built on an already highly trafficked Route 347 demonstrates poor planning.”

— Herb Mones

“This isn’t assumption,” Filiciotto said. “This isn’t opinions. This is fact. We went out, and we calculated the amount of traffic Fairfield North was generating during peak hours.”

In 2014, Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) sponsored the resolution for a zone change for the property from A Residence 5, which allows one housing unit for every 5 acres, to Planned Retirement Community, which would allow a 55 and over community. On Dec. 16, 2014, the town board approved by a 4-3 vote. Councilwomen Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Connie Kepert (D-Middle Island) as well as Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) dissented. 

The town board placed conditions on its zone change approval, including requiring Heatherwood owner Doug Partrick to donate 40 acres of land to the Manorville Farm Protection Area, removing a billboard at the golf course and constructing a sidewalk on the east side of Arrowhead Lane. Panico’s office confirmed the town accepted the 40 acres of property in 2015 in lieu of the Pine Barrens Credit redemption required under the Planned Retirement Community code.

Development of the golf course has faced opposition from elected officials and local civic associations since it was first presented in 2014. Cartright remains opposed to the project as it stands, according to her legislative aide Jennifer Martin. 

Herb Mones, chair of the Three Village Civic Association’s land use committee, said the civic group opposed the initial zone change for the golf course, and he said many felt it was controversial due to the town board approving it over the objections of Cartright.

“The overpacking of the site with housing, adjacent to a residential neighborhood, and built on an already highly trafficked Route 347 demonstrates poor planning,” he said.

Sal Pitti, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, said the group still stands opposed to the development.

“The community spoke in force back when the project was proposed, and they said we don’t want it,” Pitti said. “The aspect that bothered us the most for the acceptance of the project was that a donation of land went to another council district instead of ours.”

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Terence Netter with a painting of lavender from his French Perspectives series. File photo

By Rita J. Egan

The Three Village community is mourning the loss of a champion of the arts. Terence Netter, known by many as Terry, died June 27 at his home in Setauket. He was 89.

The professional artist, professor and once Jesuit priest was born Donald Terence Netter in New Rochelle April 12, 1929. He left the Jesuit order in 1968 and married Therese Franzese the same year. The couple moved to Setauket in 1979, and in later years divided their time between their homes on Long Island and in France.

Terence Netter with his painting ‘Sunrise at Low Tide’ File photo

Netter was the founding director of the Stony Brook University Fine Arts Center, now named the Staller Center, a position he began in 1979 and held for 18 years. In 1984, The Village Times named him Man of the Year in the Arts for his achievements at the center, which included bringing high-quality art, music, theater and well-known musicians to the community. He also helped to create the Friends of the Arts Center.

“Our programming is intelligent and aims for a standard of excellence,” Netter said in a 1984 interview. “We’re not Lincoln Center, but we are in the big leagues of higher education.”

According to his wife, Netter received an honorary degree from Stony Brook University in 2013 which was in addition to multiple degrees he had already earned. Netter had a bachelor’s in English and master’s in philosophy from Fordham University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in studio art from George Washington University.

Alan Inkles, current director of the Staller Center, said Netter gave him a job as theater manager at the arts center in 1983.

“I learned a lot from him,” Inkles said. “He was a great mentor and a great guy to work for, very supportive of everybody.”

Gene Sprouse, an SBU distinguished professor emeritus, met Netter at the university 40 years ago when he served on the board of the Friends of the Arts Center. He credited him with mentoring artists, musicians and art managers, and fostering the acquisition by SBU of the Pollock-Krasner House in East Hampton; Jackson Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner were both renowned artists.

“Terry Netter has left an indelible mark on the arts community in the Three Villages,” Sprouse said. “As founding director of the Fine Arts Center at Stony Brook, he was instrumental in growing and strengthening the arts in the area.”

Netter was also on the board of trustees at Gallery North in Setauket and was a past president of the gallery. His artwork has been showcased there several times through the years. In 2017 at its annual gala, the gallery named him a “community treasure.”

Gallery North director Judith Levy said Netter was a tremendous asset. “He’s one of the most intellectual people that I’ve ever met,” Levy said. “He was a great mentor, a serious person with kind of a twinkle in his eye and always a good joke or good story to tell.”

Levy said an exhibit of Netter’s work is slated for October at the gallery. She said although his artwork has many facets, while living in France the artist developed a love of the horizon line, and created many renditions of the vista.

Outside of the Three Village area, Netter’s work was exhibited at the Woodward Gallery in New York City, where he has been represented for many years, and galleries and museums in San Francisco, France and more, according to his wife.

Among his many career achievements, he was the director of the Paul Mellon Arts Center at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut, and contributed to the study abroad program for the University of Southern Mississippi at Pontlevoy, France, in the later years of his career.

“Wherever he went he gravitated to any place that was serious about art,” Therese Netter said. “Once he made connections, people just loved him.”

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said he would remember Netter as an internationally accomplished artist who lived modestly amongst his fellow Setauket residents. The assemblyman met the artist more than 30 years ago, and for a few years Netter rented studio space in a building that Englebright’s family owns. “He lifted us all with his art and with his very strong sense of place and with his spirit,” Englebright said.

In a June 10, 2017, interview for TBR News Media’s Arts & Lifestyles section, Netter was asked what he wanted art lovers to feel or see when they viewed his paintings.

“I want the viewer’s mind and eye to take a walk beyond the here and now,” Netter said. “I hope that they experience that there is more beyond the horizon — the possibility of existence beyond the reach of our senses, even though we can’t see it. Most of all, I wish that they sense the deep peace that I am trying to evoke in my paintings.”

Netter is survived by his wife Therese, son Dylan and his beloved dog, Pip. A private Mass was held at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan.

Dee Parrish will begin her third term as Poquott mayor. Photo from Dee Parish

Voters in the Village of Poquott said yes to the future while keeping the status quo.

Chris Schleider. Photo from Chris Schleider

Incumbent mayor Dee Parrish and sitting trustees William Poupis and Chris Schleider, who ran on the Future ticket in the June 19 village election, retained their seats.

Parrish defeated challenger John Richardson 240 to 204, according to village Deputy Clerk Cindy Schleider. Richardson is a board trustee who is currently serving his first term.

Trustees Poupis and Schleider received 235 and 241 votes, respectively, beating challengers Felicia Chillak, who received 199 votes, and Dianna Padilla, who garnered 204, according to the deputy clerk.

An issue of contention in the village for the last few years has been the proposal of a community dock, which all Future candidates support despite tabling a vote on the dock earlier this year due to bids coming in at more than the $150,000 originally expected.

“We have to look at everything before we decide how this is going to impact residents in the future,” Parrish said in a previous interview with TBR News Media.

Poupis and Schleider, who were appointed to their positions by the mayor in 2017, said they felt it was important to get the stamp of approval from their fellow residents.

William Poupis. Photo from William Poupis

“One of the things about being appointed you don’t necessarily feel that you have the mandate of the people behind you,” Schleider said in a prior interview with TBR News Media. “I was honored by Dee asking, but I think it’s important to have the voice of the people to elect the official.”

The day after the election Poupis said he looked forward to getting back to work with his fellow village board members.

“There’s lots of work ahead,” Poupis said. “We got a village to bring together. We got a lot of great ideas about incorporating some things into our standard once-a-month village meetings, maybe having some town hall meetings every other month, so that people in an unofficial forum can come in, speak freely, voice concerns, with those concerns voice some solutions and as a group work together to find the common goals.”

On the Facebook page Poquott Life Matters, Richardson thanked those who supported him, Chillak and Padilla.

“The plans and ideas we spoke about on your doorstep, I truly hope will become a reality in the future of our village,” Richardson wrote. “As a trustee, I will continue to be your voice on the board. I welcome all concerns big or small.”

By Rita J. Egan

It was a dream come true at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts. “Dreamgirls” opened on the Main Stage last Saturday, and with a talented cast, showstopping numbers and sparkling costumes, it had everything one would expect from a musical.

A scene from ‘Dreamgirls’

Set in the 1960s and ’70s, the story follows three female singers from Chicago, Effie, Deena and Lorell, as they evolve from the Dreamettes — singing backup for a popular rhythm and blues singer named Jimmy Early — to the Dreams headlining shows on their own. Through song and a bit of dialogue, the audience gets a glimpse into the girls’ relationship, and watches as the three young women fall in love with the men in their lives: Jimmy, songwriter C.C. and Curtis, the group’s manager. 

The show also touches on the struggles of black singers to find a place on the pop charts in the ‘60s, while facing segregation in the South and watching as white pop music stars rerecorded their music.

“Dreamgirls” premiered on Broadway in December 1981 and ran for nearly four years, winning six Tony Awards. In 2006, a movie based on the musical was released starring Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx. 

With book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger, Ronald Green III masterfully directs a talented cast of 22 actors in SPAC’s latest production. The local presentation originated at The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at the CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale in September last year under the direction of Patrick Grossman, and many of the original cast members, sets and costumes remain the same.

A scene from ‘Dreamgirls’

Crystal Fauntleroy (Effie), Aisha Phillip (Deena) and Amanda Camille (Lorell) blend beautifully together as the Dreamettes/Dreams, and when Effie is fired from the group, Steffy Jolin (Michelle) effortlessly replaces her. The actors are excellent in the musical numbers “Move (You’re Steppin’ on My Heart),” “Dreamgirls” and “One Night Only.”

Fauntleroy is dynamic as Effie, portraying her with just the right amount of attitude and strength, and shines in every number. During the emotional “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” she delivers the song with all the passion audience members expect from this number. For anyone who has ever suffered a broken heart, be warned, tissues will be needed.

As the musical progresses, Phillip transitions from timid backup singer, to confident front woman with ease. After Curtis decides he wants a singer with a softer voice leading the group, believing the sound will be more acceptable to pop audiences, he moves Deena to the lead spot and Effie to the back. Phillip has a melodic singing voice that is fit for this role. This is especially apparent during the tender duo with Curtis, “When I First Saw You.”

A scene from ‘Dreamgirls’

Camille is sassy as Lorell, and she has the opportunity to show off her powerful voice during “Ain’t No Party.” Jolin as Michelle embodies the spirit of a girl group singer. Her stunning smile and the way she carries herself seems to say, “I don’t care if I’m not the lead singer, I’m a star.”

The ladies are not the only ones who are front and center in this show as the male actors have exceptional stage presence. Dondi Rollins is on fire as he plays a James Brown-inspired Jimmy. Rollins sings and dances his way into the hearts of the audience, especially with the high energy “Fake Your Way to the Top.”

David William Hughes is convincing as the slick Curtis, and his smooth vocals help to deliver a swoon-worthy performance. It’s no surprise that both Effie and Deena fall for their manager. 

Londell Collier is a sweet and endearing C.C., and his vocals are just as sweet, especially when he starts off the ensemble number “Family.”

Hughes, Rollins, Collier and Kevin Knight as Marty, Jimmy’s manager, sound fantastic together during “Cadillac Car.” Seneca Bell plays the masters of ceremony with flair, Justin Steele as Tiny Joe Dixon adds to the sensational vocals, and the whole ensemble rounds out the cast perfectly.

The musical has its comedic moments, too. After Jimmy and friends think they have a hit with “Cadillac Car,” Hans Paul Hendrickson appears on stage as a Pat Boone-inspired character singing the song and looking as wholesome as a ‘50s sitcom character. During the number “I Want You Baby,” Rollins is hysterical as he portrays a restrained Jimmy during a show in a whites-only club in Miami.

Once again, SPAC has produced a musical worthy of Broadway, and those behind the scenes also deserve to be applauded. The fast-paced musical is filled with fun dance moves choreographed by Milan McGouldrick, and conductor Melissa Coyle and the theater musicians magnificently accompany the singers on each number. Green, doubling as costume designer, also ensures all the bright colors and sparkling attire of the era are represented beautifully.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, located at 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present “Dreamgirls” through June 17. Running time is 2 1/2 hours with one 15-minute intermission. Tickets are $38 adults, $34 seniors, $25 students. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Helena Roura, on right, will graduate from Stony Brook University with her daughter Anastasia, center, May 18. In the past, the two have commuted to school together along with Roura’s son, Xavier, left. Photo from Helena Roura

As graduates of Stony Brook University fill Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium this year, one mother will be there to cheer on her daughter, but with a much closer seat than other parents in attendance.

Helena Roura and her daughter, Anastasia Roura, both of Mastic, are doubly excited for graduation day. Both will be receiving their diplomas along with more than 7,000 graduates Friday, May 18. For Helena Roura, 44, the day has been years in the making.

“Sometimes you can’t do it all at the same time. Sometimes you have to do it in piecemeal. It doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish everything that you want to.”

— Helena Roura

The wife and mother graduated from William Floyd High School in 1991, and she said she attended college for a short time like most of her peers. When she and her now-husband, Miguel, got engaged, she said she decided to concentrate on having a family. The couple first lived in Japan when her husband was in the Navy, and it was where both her children, Anastasia, 24, and Xavier, 23, were born.

“I made myself a promise that someday I would go back to college and finish my education, but for then my life was dedicated to raising my two children,” the mother said.

Returning to the United States in 1994, she hoped to go back to college once her kids were in school but  realized with all their activities, the timing still wasn’t quite right. After her
children graduated from William Floyd High School, her daughter in 2011 and her son in 2012, she knew the time had come to continue her studies.

“I wasn’t done learning,” she said. “I loved being in school. I loved learning. I knew I needed more and that I wanted more.”

Roura started her new college journey in September 2013 at Suffolk County Community College. Both of her children were at SCCC when she started, and during her time there she said she grew to love sociology after her daughter recommended a class. When the mother graduated from SCCC in May 2015 with a fine arts degree in photography, she applied to and was accepted by six colleges and chose SBU because her daughter was having such an enjoyable experience there. At SBU she took on a double major — sociology and anthropology.

Helena Roura and Anastasia Roura try on their graduation gowns. Photo from Stony Brook University

The mother and daughter have commuted and studied together ever since, and due to having similar course requirements with her daughter majoring in women’s, gender and sexuality studies, they have taken a few of the same classes together at SBU.

“It was actually really amazing to have someone in your class with you — on this journey with you — who you can look to for guidance and as not only peers, not only family but as best friends going to class together,” the daughter said of attending school with her mom.

The two admitted to giggling at times in classes, and both said they believe their shared educational journey has made their relationship, which was already close, even closer.

“It allowed our relationship to level up,” Anastasia Roura said. “I think that sometimes people aren’t able to have that opportunity, and I was so blessed to be able to have that. We take the things that we learn in class, and we bring them home and talk about them at the kitchen table.”

The daughter said she and her brother were never embarrassed about their mother returning to school later in life. She said she would advise young people who may find themselves in a similar situation to help out their parents with adjusting to college life and the responsibilities that come with it.

Helena Roura shared advice for those thinking about resuming education later in life, despite an already demanding schedule.

“We take the things that we learn in class, and we bring them home and talk about them at the kitchen table.”

— Anastasia Roura

“Sometimes you can’t do it all at the same time,” she said. “Sometimes you have to do it in piecemeal. It doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish everything that you want to, but I knew I wanted to be married and have my family and have my babies. And I knew my education was so important to me.”

The mother said she’s not done with her college studies. She has already met with her adviser and is applying for a master’s program in both nutrition and public health. She said she also plans to pursue a doctoral degree.

Her daughter said while she jokes that she took her time so the two could graduate together, she said sharing the milestone on the same day just worked out that way, and she’s happy it did.

“We’re able to celebrate each other, our education, our degrees, and I just think it’s really amazing,” the daughter said.

By Rita J. Egan

William Shakespeare once compared a good deed to a candle’s beam, writing it shined in a weary world.

The power of a good dead is something members of Temple Isaiah’s Social Action Committee have known for decades. For the last 20 years, they have organized a cleanup at West Meadow Beach in Setauket, according to Iris Schiff, the committee’s chairwoman.

Once calling the volunteer opportunity “Mitzvah Day,” the group has now dubbed it “Good Deeds Day” occurred April 15. But the Stony Brook temple usually celebrates it later in the month when days are a bit warmer. Schiff said this year the Stony Brook temple invited congregants of Setauket Presbyterian Church to join them. On April 29, after a communal brunch at the synagogue, a handful of volunteers headed to the beach.

“We are hoping that other faiths will join with us in the future.”

— Barbara Curtis

Barbara Curtis, a member of Setauket Presbyterian who organized church volunteers, was on hand with bag in hand.

“A good deeds day brings our faith communities together in the very best way,” Curtis said. “We are hoping that other faiths will join with us in the future.”

Rev. Mary Barrett Speers, pastor of Setauket Presbyterian Church, said in an email the beach was the perfect spot for the joint community project.

“I personally love the idea because all God’s children share God’s earth,” Barrett Speers said. “We all love West Meadow Beach, and right after Earth Day, what better way is there to celebrate our beach than by caring for it?”

Schiff said the beach was in excellent condition, and after a couple of hours of cleaning up, they only had about a half a dozen bags filled with bottle tops, balloons, cans and random pieces of plastic.

She said the cleanup wasn’t the only good deed of the day. In the morning, children from the temple painted and decorated wood crates and donated them to Setauket Presbyterian Church’s Open Door Exchange, an outreach program which redistributes furniture to those in need. A few families also volunteered with Great Strides Long Island, Inc.at Saddle Rock Ranch in Middle Island, a nonprofit organization that helps developmentally disabled children ride horses.

After the beach cleanup, Schiff said she felt good about the day.

“Everybody was just right on the same page and feeling the same way,” she said. “I’m really hoping that next year we’re able to expand this and bring in some of the other faith communities.”

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

By Rita J. Egan

A student-led movement at Ward Melville is determined to ensure the voices of high schoolers continue to be heard when it comes to preventing gun violence.

On April 20 — 19 years after the Columbine High School shooting — about four dozen members of WM Students Take Action participated in the second wave of the #NationalWalkout movement. While the number of participants was about 200 less than the March 14 walkout, held a month after the Parkland, Florida, shooting, participating students nonetheless braved a chilly, windy day to stand in solidarity to call for stricter gun control legislation.

“You can say that we are young. You can say that we don’t know our fate. We don’t know how to stand up for ourselves. But if we don’t, who will?”

— Ward Melville student

With a megaphone in hand, senior Bennett Owens led the crowd outside of school. Students read poems and gave speeches for 45 minutes. The rally included a moment of silence to remember Columbine victims, and in-between speeches, participants would shout out chants including “Listen to us” or “Show me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like.”

During the rally, Owens said the protesters were asking for common-sense gun legislation, including a ban on “assault-style rifles” and universal background checks. He said when our forefathers wrote the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, they had no idea the type of weapons that could be made. He added his generation is the most qualified to speak about the issue because of the number of shootings that have occurred during their lifetimes.

One speaker encouraged the group not to listen to those who call them irrational. She said their detractors believe they want to ban all guns, instead of just assault weapons, because the opposition doesn’t engage them in conversation.

“We actually have ideas, we have plans, and we will vote,” she said.

Many of the students talked about how they are part of the generation of change. One girl who delivered a speech told her fellow students not to be afraid of punishment when it comes to protests and to disregard criticism that young people don’t know what they are talking about.

“What can a bunch of high schoolers know about change?” she said. “The high schoolers are the ones who are dying. Their opinions are the only opinions that really matter. You can say that we are young. You can say that we don’t know our fate. We don’t know how to stand up for ourselves. But if we don’t, who will?”

“Not as many people as last time but everyone who was here is really passionate. I’m very excited about what’s to come from this movement.”

— Bennett Owens

During the 45-minute protest, drivers passing by honked sporadically to show their support, and for 15 minutes, nearly a dozen Ward Melville students stood outside with signs that read “Join the NRA,” opposite the protesters.

After the walkout, Owens said he was feeling optimistic.

“Not as many people as last time but everyone who was here is really passionate,” he said. “I’m very excited about what’s to come from this movement.

No more protests are planned for the rest of the school year, Owens explained, but on Gun Violence Awareness Day, June 1, the group hopes to sell ribbons at school and donate the funds to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control and against gun violence.

Owens, who wants to be a criminal defense attorney, said he plans to continue his activism in college and has faith WM Students Take Action will continue.

“I have to pass down this organization soon, and I’m really hopeful based on the turnout we’ve seen today by underclassmen that this organization will continue to protest for the injustices that we’ve seen,” he said.

Despite concerns posted on the group’s Instagram page before the walkout, the students faced no disciplinary action, according to an April 23 statement from school district spokeswoman Jessica Novins.

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

By Rita J. Egan

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Rita J. Egan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

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