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Staller Center for the Arts

Belle (Emma Watson) comes to realize that underneath the hideous exterior of the Beast (Dan Stevens) there is the kind heart of a Prince in Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio's animated classic directed by Bill Condon. © 2016 Disney Enterprises inc. All Rights Reserved.

Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook will host a concert by the Stony Brook Wind Ensemble on the Main Stage on Wednesday, April 17 at 7:30 p.m.

Conducted by Bruce Engel, the program will include Samuel Barber’s “Overture to the School for Scandal,” Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony (1st movement),” “Bolero by Maurice Ravel, “An American in Paris” by George Gershwin, “Beauty and the Beast” by Allan Menken and “Pines of the Appian Way” by Ottorino Respighi/

Tickets are $10 adults, $5 students and seniors. For more information, call 631-632-2787 or visit www.stallercenter.com.

Viviane Kim, winner of the 2018 Stony Brook Young Artists Program Concerto Competition, will be this year’s special guest artist. Photo by Erica Murase

By Melissa Arnold

Classical music has a long-held reputation for being upscale — there’s something about it that feels refined, polished and graceful. The Department of Music at Stony Brook University is passionate about demystifying the genre, making the works of Mozart, Brahms and others enjoyable for everyone.

Each year, the Stony Brook University Orchestra invites the community to join them for their Family Orchestra Concert, an hour-long performance meant for all ages, including young children. This year’s concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5 at the Staller Center for the Arts’ Main Stage.

Viviane Kim, winner of the 2018 Stony Brook Young Artists Program Concerto Competition, will be this year’s special guest artist. Photo by Erica Murase

“[This event] used to be called the children’s concert, but we didn’t want to give the impression that it’s just for children — the whole family comes along, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy,” said conductor Susan Deaver, who’s led the orchestra since 2000.

The ensemble is comprised of over 70 Stony Brook students, both undergraduate and graduate, as well as a handful of area high schoolers. Many of the students aren’t music majors and come from a variety of disciplines. In fact, the majority are studying biomedical engineering.

“So many of these students have been in music all their lives and don’t want to let it go,” Deaver said. “We have a lot of great players, and it’s a real blend of disciplines, the common denominator being a love of playing orchestral music.”

 This year’s concert theme will highlight dance in orchestral music, with each piece either having “dance” in its title or creating a sense of dance and movement. The repertoire features recognizable pieces including selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and Bach’s Minuet in G, along with some that might be unfamiliar, like Strauss’ Thunder and Lightning Polka. 

The program will also feature works by Brahms, Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Borodin. Dancers under the direction of SBU’s faculty member Amy Yoop Sullivan will collaboarte with the orchestra.

A highlight of each year’s concert is a solo performance from a grade school musician in Stony Brook’s Young Artist program. Open to grades 6 through 12, the program allows young musicians to enhance their musicianship and ensemble performance skills. Students are encouraged to enter an annual concerto contest, where a panel of impartial judges chooses a student to play at the concert.

This year’s contest winner, 12-year-old pianist Viviane Kim, will play Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D Major.

“I wasn’t really nervous because I’d practiced a lot. I played the song for my family, my friends, and anyone else who came to our house,” said Viviane, a seventh-grader at Port Jefferson Middle School. “It also helped that only three people were listening,” she joked.

Viviane, who also plays the flute, comes from a musical family — her father, Alan Kim, plays piano as well, and her grandmother is a violinist. “I played piano all the time when Viviane was a baby, and she took a natural interest in it. She started playing around the same time she started reading,” her father said. 

Michael Hershkowitz, executive director of Community Music Programs for the university, sees the annual concert as a chance to expose the audience to something new and wonderful.

“It’s important for classical musicians to be as accessible as possible and to break down barriers for people wanting to try it. A lot of people have an impression that classical music is just old and stuffy,” Hershkowitz said. “I think that dance is one of my favorite themes we’ve done — so much of music is tied to motion and bringing people together. And once you see a classical concert, you want to do it more.”

All seats for the Family Orchestra Concert are $5. For tickets and information, call 631-632-2787 or visit www.stallercenter.com.

For more information about the University Orchestra, contact the Stony Brook Department of Music at 631-632-7330 or visit www.stonybrook.edu/music.

Renee Fleming

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

As befits a woman born on St. Valentine’s Day, Renée Fleming grew up to become the sweetheart of the opera world. Possessing a powerful yet silky voice, great beauty and impressive acting skills, Fleming has moved from a single dimension to any number of new musical venues, with a major role in Broadway’s “Carousel,” singing the national anthem at the 2014 Super Bowl, and innumerable appearances on television, in movies and in concerts.

The opera diva will be the star attraction at Stony Brook University’s Gala, the major fundraiser at the Staller Center March 2. I’ve long known about her spectacular professional career but thought I would like to know more about the person that she is, so I had a brief, 10-minute chat with her on the phone at a hotel in Barcelona, Spain. We were time-limited to protect her voice, which is as immediately recognizable when she speaks as when she fills the Metropolitan Opera House with glorious music.

Q: You are coming to Stony Brook to perform. Do you have some special connection with SUNY?

A: Yes, I went to SUNY Potsdam, and so did my sister and brother. My two nephews are at SUNY, so we are a fan club.

Q: You undoubtedly travel a lot. What do you do to keep yourself healthy and protect your voice during plane trips?

A: I try to stay hydrated, get enough rest. I live moderately and believe in mind over matter. And I do the same as others, trying to avoid those who are coughing on the plane.

Q: I believe you grew up in a musical family, your parents both being high school music teachers. Did you always want to sing?

A: It was the furthest thing from my mind! I loved horses, thought I might be a vet, or maybe the first lady president — which has yet to happen. I had ambition, was a very good student. I always wrote music growing up. But I never heard of a woman composer so that wasn’t an option. I majored in music ed, my parents thought that was a good idea, went on to the Eastman School and Julliard. Then I fell in love with jazz.

Q: Do you get nervous when you are to
perform?

A: I was not a gregarious person, that wasn’t my personality. I was shy. So that was one of the skills I had to learn.

Q: Do you have a favorite role or composer?

A: I’m not so much into favorites. Verdi, Strauss …

Q: Do you speak other languages?

A: Yes, I speak French, German, some Italian.

Q: Do you need to know those languages to sing in them?

A: No, there have been great singers who have not known the language they were singing in. You do not need to know the language but it is helpful.

Q: You have two daughters. How did you manage the work/life balance?

A: It’s hard for a working mother. You never feel you are doing anything well. You have to manage everything. It’s challenging. Fortunately I have a tremendous amount of energy and a great work ethic.

Q: Did you get that from your parents?

A: (Pauses.) Yes, probably.

Q: Do you ever have nightmares that you had forgotten your lines?

A: Yes, those kinds of nightmares like
everyone else.

Q: Did that ever happen?

A: No.

Q: Are your dreams set to music?

A: Hmm, I don’t really know. 

Q: What else about music?

A: I’m working with the National Institutes of Health. When children are exposed to music early, their oral comprehension is increased. Studies have shown that.

A major passion of the opera superstar is the intersection of music, health and neuroscience. She is artistic adviser at the Kennedy Center and has launched a collaboration with NIH — the first of its kind between a performing arts center and the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world. She gives presentations on her concert tours with scientists, music therapists and medical professionals. She recently co-authored an article with Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, for the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Be sure to come out for the fundraising Stony Brook University Gala Saturday night, March 2, at the Staller Center. You will not only hear fabulous music. You will see one of the 21st century’s most remarkable
women.

Susan Lucci

A night of comedy

“Celebrity Autobiography” heads to Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts Recital Hall on Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. The evening will feature Emmy winner Susan Lucci (“All My Children”), Mario Cantone (“Sex and the City”), Jackie Hoffman (Emmy nominee for “Feud”) and show creators Emmy nominee Eugene Pack and Drama Desk winner Dayle Reyfel who will read from highly selective and hilarious celebrity memoirs.

Mario Cantone

The passages in “Celebrity Autobiography” run the gamut from the “poetry of Suzanne Somers” to the shocking “romance tips” from Tommy Lee. Audiences will hear how Vanna flips her panels, what Stallone stores in his freezer and tips from the Kardashians. Justin Bieber, Hasselhoff, Celine, Zayn, Barbra, Tiger, Arnold, Britney, Dolly, Cher, Oprah, Beyonce, as well as the famous love triangle of Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher are included, all in their own words. 

“Celebrity Autobiography” won the 2009 Drama Desk Award in the category of Unique Theatrical Experience. The off-Broadway show ran for 10 years and toured extensively to Los Angeles, Edinburgh, London’s West End and Australia’s Sydney Opera House. Tickets are $48 with discounts for children, students and seniors. To order, visit www.stallercenter.com or call 631-632-ARTS (2787). 

From left, Emmy award-winning actor Brian Cox with Alan Inkles, founder and director of the Stony Brook Film Festival at the U.S. Premiere of ‘The Etruscan Smile’ on July 21. Photo by Nick A. Koridis

The 23rd annual Stony Brook Film Festival wrapped up with a Closing Night Awards Reception on July 28. The evening recognized the outstanding new independent films screened at the festival, which was held at the Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University from July 19 to 28.

“The Etruscan Smile,” featuring acclaimed actor Brian Cox in the lead role, won the Grand Prize. The sold-out U.S. Premiere was screened on July 21 with Brian Cox, Thora Birch and Sandra Santiago attending and hosting a Q&A. 

Alan Inkles, founder and director of the Stony Brook Film Festival announced additional awards at the reception. “We received so many enthusiastic responses from our astute audience members over the ten days of the festival,” he said. “‘The Etruscan Smile’ was hailed as a favorite. I was fortunate to have Brian Cox reach out to us just as we were finishing our schedule. He had been to the Stony Brook Film Festival for his film ‘The Carer’ and was keen on having the U.S. Premiere of ‘The Etruscan Smile’ at Stony Brook.”

The Stony Brook Film Festival has awarded eight Grand Prizes in its 23-year history. “The Etruscan Smile is the ninth to receive a Grand Prize.” 

And the winners are:

2018 Grand Prize 

“The Etruscan Smile” (United States)

U.S. Premiere 

Directed by Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis. Written by Michael McGowan, Michal Lali Kagan and Sarah Bellwood. With Brian Cox (“Braveheart,” “The Carer”), Thora Birch (“Ghost World”), JJ Feild (“Austenland”) and Rosanna Arquette (“Pulp Fiction”). 

2018 Jury Award – Best Feature (tie) 

“Octav” (Romania)

U.S. Premiere 

Directed by Serge Ioan Celebidachi. Written by Serge Ioan Celebidachi and James Olivier. With Marcel Iures, Victor Rebengiuc, Eric Aradits and Alessia Tofan.

“Symphony for Ana” (Argentina)

East Coast Premiere 

Directed by Ernesto Ardito, Virna Molina. Written by Ernesto Ardito, Virna Molina and Gaby Meik. With Isadora Ardito, Rocio Palacin, Rafael Federman, Ricky Arraga, Vera Fogwill and Rodrigo Nova.

2018 Audience Choice – Best Feature 

“The Guilty’ (Denmark)

Directed by Gustav Möller. Written by Emil Nygaard Albertsen and Gustav Möller.With Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage and Omar Shargawi.

2018 Spirit of Independent Filmmaking  

“Thrasher Road” (United States) 

East Coast Premiere

Written and Directed by Samantha Davidson Green. With Allison Brown and Christian Kohn.

2018 Jury Award – Best Short

“Unnatural” (United States)

East Coast Premiere 

A film by Amy Wang. 

2018 Audience Choice Award – Best Short

“Internet Gangsters” (United States)

New York Premiere 

A film by Sam Friedlander. 

This year the films at the 2018 Stony Brook Film Festival spanned 19 different countries and the festival welcomed over 40 filmmakers to represent their films at screenings. With support from presenting sponsor Island Federal Credit Union and others, SBU was able to welcome guests from Israel, India, England, New Zealand, Spain, Belgium, and many from the West Coast.

The Closing Night Awards reception held in Staller Center’s Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery was sponsored by HBO. Catering for the reception was provided by The Meadow Club. 

Additional sponsors include Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, LLP; Altice Media Solutions, Suffolk County; and WLIW21. Staller Center Media Sponsors include WSHU Public Radio, Times Beacon Record News Media, WALK 97.5, LI News Radio and Oldies 98.1.

The Stony Brook Film Festival will announce the start date for 2019 entries later in the year at www.stonybrookfilmfestival.com.

By Heidi Sutton

The 1,000-seat theater at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center was filled to capacity last Sunday night as the community came out in droves to celebrate the first screening of TBR News Media’s feature-length film, “One Life to Give.” And what a celebration it was.

“I have to say this exceeds our highest expectations. We are so thrilled,” said TBR News Media publisher Leah Dunaief, scanning the packed house as she welcomed the audience to “what has been a year’s adventure.”

“I am privileged to be the publisher of six hometown papers, a website, a Facebook page and, now, executive producer of a movie,” she beamed.

TBR News Media publisher Leah Dunaief addresses the audience.

Dunaief set the stage for what would be a wonderful evening. “I’m inviting you now to leave behind politics and current affairs and come with me back in time more than two centuries to the earliest days of the beginning of our country — the start of the American Revolution.”

“We live in the cradle of history and I hope that when you leave tonight you will feel an immense pride in coming from this area,” she continued. “The people who lived here some 240 years ago were people just like us. They were looking to have a good life, they were looking to raise their children.” Instead, according to Dunaief, they found themselves occupied by the British under King George III for the longest period of time.

Filmed entirely on location on the North Shore in 16 days, the film tells the story of schoolteacher turned spy Nathan Hale and how his capture and ultimate death by hanging in 1776 at the age of 21 led to the development of an elaborate spy ring in Setauket — the Culper spies — in an effort to help Gen. George Washington win the Revolutionary War.

Scenes were shot on location at Benner’s Farm in East Setauket, the William Miller House in Miller Place, the Sherwood-Jayne Farm, Thompson House and Caroline Church of Brookhaven  in Setauket and East Beach in Port Jefferson with many local actors and extras, period costumes by Nan Guzzetta, props from “TURN” and a wonderful score by Mark Orton.

The film screening was preceded by a short behind-the-scenes documentary and was followed by a Q&A with Dunaief, producer and writer Michael Tessler and director and writer Benji Dunaief along with several key actors in the film — Dave Morrissey Jr. (Benjamin Tallmadge), Hans Paul Hendrickson (Nathan Hale), Jonathan Rabeno (John Chester) and David Gianopoulos (Gen. George Washington).

“It says quite a bit about our community that we could pack the Staller Center for a story that took place over two hundred years ago,” said Tessler, who grew up in Port Jefferson. “I hope everyone leaves the theater today thinking about these heroes — these ordinary residents of our community who went on to do some extraordinary things and made it so that we all have the luxury to sit here today and enjoy this show and the many freedoms that come with being an American.”

Director Benji Dunaief thanked the cast, crew and entire community for all their support. “In the beginning of this project I did not think we would be able to do a feature film, let alone a period piece. They say it takes a village, but I guess it actually takes three.”

From left, Jonathan Rabeno, David Gianopoulos, Hans Paul Hendrickson and Dave Morrissey Jr. field questions from the audience at the Q&A.

“Our cast … threw themselves 100 percent into trying to embody these characters, they learned as much as they could and were open to everything that was thrown at them — I’m blown away by this cast. They are just incredible,” he added.

“The positivity that was brought to the set every day made you really want to be in that environment,” said Rabeno, who said he was humbled to be there, and he was quick to thank all of the reenactors who helped the actors with their roles.

One of the more famous actors on the stage, Gianopoulos (“Air Force One”) was so impressed with the way the production was handled and often stopped by on his day off just to observe the camera shots. “I really enjoyed just watching and being an observer,” he said, adding “It was just such an honor [to be a part of the film] and to come back to Stony Brook and Setauket where I used to run around as a little kid and then to bring this story to life is just amazing.”

According to the director, the film has been making the rounds and was recently nominated for three awards at Emerson College’s prestigious Film Festival, the EVVY Awards, including Best Editing, Best Writing and Best Single Camera Direction and won for the last category. 

Reached after the screening, Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said the film was the essence of a sense of place. “I thought it was spectacular. I thought that it was one of the highlights of all of the years that I have lived in this community.”

He continued, “It all came together with local people and local places talking about our local history that changed the world and the fact that it was on the Staller Stage here at a public university that was made possible by the heroics of the people who were in the film both as actors today and the people that they portrayed.”

For those who missed last Sunday’s screening, the film will be shown again at the Long Island International Film Expo in Bellmore on July 18 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Filming for a sequel, tentatively titled “Traitor,” the story of John André who was a British Army officer hanged as a spy by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, will begin in two weeks.

Special thanks to Gold Coast Bank, Holiday Inn Express, Island Federal Savings Bank and Stony Brook University for making the evening’s screening possible.

Photos by Heidi Sutton and Rita J. Egan

Above, a battle scene shot at Benner’s Farm in East Setauket last summer.
Film showcased at SBU’s Staller Center for the Arts

By Talia Amorosano

The wait is over. On Sunday, June 24, an integral piece of U.S. and Long Island history will be revisited in the geographic location where much of it actually took place. At 7 p.m., the Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook, will host the first major public screening of “One Life to Give,” a film about the friendship and lives of young American heroes Benjamin Tallmadge and Nathan Hale, whose actions would lead to the creation of a Revolutionary spy ring based on the North Shore of Long Island.

Presented in the Main Theater, doors will open at 6:45 p.m. After a message from publisher Leah Dunaief, a short behind-the-scenes documentary will be shown followed by the main film screening. After a message from the creators, the evening will conclude with a Q&A with the cast and crew. Admission to the event is free, courtesy of TBR News Media. No reservations are necessary.

Cast and crew gather around a camera to view playback last summer.

The film’s co-producer and writer, Michael Tessler, describes the film as an exploration of historical events with a human focus. “After spending several years researching Benjamin Tallmadge and the other heroes featured in our film, I began to look at them not as detached names in a textbook, but more so as real people, with real stories that deserve to be told,” he said.

 Dave Morrissey, the actor who portrays Tallmadge in the film, describes his character as a “22-year-old kid,” who, despite his relative youth, is “focused” and “grounded,” propelled into action by the death of his brother at the hands of the British. “When something like that happens to you, you turn into a machine … into something else,” said Morrissey. “If you channel the energy and do what’s right, the possibilities are endless.”

By focusing a metaphorical macro lens on the multidimensional characters of Tallmadge and Hale, the film traverses consequential moments of American history: the Battle of Long Island, the anointing of America’s first spy and the events that would lead to the creation of the Culper Spy Ring, a group of men and women who risked their lives and status to gather British intelligence for the Revolutionary cause. 

Though Tessler notes that the film is, at its heart, a drama, he and the film’s director and co-producer Benji Dunaief stress the cast and crew’s commitment to accuracy in their interpretation of historical events. 

“The history comes second to the narrative in most [other film adaptations of historical events],” says Dunaief. “Our approach with this film was the exact opposite. We wanted to see where we could find narrative within [pre-existing] history.” 

“Many of the lines from the film were plucked directly from the diaries of the heroes themselves,” stated Tessler. “We worked closely with historians and Revolutionary War experts to achieve a level of accuracy usually unseen in such a local production.”

The fact that many scenes from the film were shot in the locations where the events of the real-life narrative took place helped give the visuals a sense of truthfulness and the actors a sense of purpose.

“The location took production to the next level. It’s really crazy how closely related the sets we used were to the actual history,” said Dunaief, who specifically recalls filming at a house that contained wood from Tallmadge’s actual home. “It helped to inspire people in the cast to get into character.” 

Morrissey recalls spending a particularly inspiring Fourth of July on Benner’s Farm in East Setauket. “We were filming the war scenes with all the reenactors … in the cabin that we built for the set … in the town where the battles and espionage had really happened. There were fireworks going on in the background while we sang shanty songs. It was amazing.”

The Continental Army shoots off a cannon at Benner’s Farm.

Though locational and historical accuracy played a large role in making filming a success, ultimately, Dunaief and Tessler credit the resonance of “One Life to Give” to an engaged and participatory community. “This was a community effort on all accounts,” says Dunaief, noting the roles that the Benners, Preservation Long Island, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, the Three Village Historical Society and others played to bring “One Life to Give” to fruition. 

The fact that the screening will take place at the Staller Center, in the heart of the community that helped bring the film about, represents a full-circle moment for the cast and crew. “We’re calling it a screening but it is so much more,” said Dunaief. “It is a fantastic example of how the community has stood by this film, from beginning to end.”

“We’re beyond honored and humbled to use a screen that has seen some of the greatest independent films in history,” said Tessler. “Stony Brook University has been a wonderful partner and extremely accommodating as we work to bring our local history to life.” 

Tessler projects confidence that viewers will leave the screening with a similar sense of gratitude. “This story shows a part of our history that I think will make the audience very proud of the place they call home.”

The future of ‘One Life to Give’: 

Michael Tessler and Benji Dunaief plan to show the film at festivals around the country, to conduct a series of screenings on Long Island, and to partner with local historical societies that can use it as an educational tool. Additionally, a sequel to “One Life to Give,” titled “Traitor,” is already in the works. Filming will begin this summer.

All photos by Michael Pawluk Photography

FELA The Concert
Lineup celebrates countries and cultures around the world

By Sabrina Petroski

After a brief hiatus, Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts season returns with more fantastical and fun shows for audiences of all ages. This spring will hold many musical and dance performances by award-winning groups and individuals, as well as the screening of recently released films, screenings of the Metropolitan Opera in HD and many performances by SBU’s Department of Music.

Swing Shift Trio

Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center, is thrilled to be heading into another season. Currently in his 35th year as director, he says this may be the venue’s most exciting and diverse year yet. “I love Audra McDonald, Big Sam’s Funky Nation is going to blow people away and they’re going to be dancing in the Recital Hall aisles, Catapult is just great, and Spherus is fantastic,” Inkles said during a interview in his office on Jan. 16. “All these shows are things that I’ve seen and I know what they’re going to do, but Parson Dance Company is giving me a program I’ve never seen yet and I am really excited for it.”

Inkles said the center produces 40 shows a year, along with film screenings, The Met Opera broadcast, plus the university performances, “and it’s always a really great experience.”

He continued, “A quote that I like to share with my faculty members is, ‘Nothing in life is accomplished without passion.’ I believe that if I can’t be passionate to my team about the upcoming shows, and I’ve been to every single one of them, then the audience can’t. I like watching the audience members’ reactions and seeing their faces; and if we don’t sell enough tickets to pack out the house, I’ll pay for the house. If I have a show that’s not selling well, I like to reach out to local schools or underrepresented families and donate tickets, and we do that every year.”

Catapult

The Staller Center is proud to have been the first theater to have the Live at The Met series and has paved the way for over 200 other theaters all over the country. Inkles says that he always tries to make his seasons diverse not only ethnically but also in the age group they attract. He says that the center likes to celebrate different countries and their cultures.

“We have a very diverse community here and a large international community, so I like the idea of bringing in different things that the students will enjoy,” said Inkles. “We want to do the magical thing of reaching out to people ages 9 through 90, and you can’t always do that with one show. One show may not be someone’s cup of tea, but we will be able to offer them something else that’s more in tune with their interests.”

This years’ annual Staller Center Gala, held on March 3 at 8 p.m., will be hosted by renown comedian, actor, philanthropist and television personality Jay Leno. Opening for the former NBC “Tonight Show” host, and returning to the center for a second time, will be the Doo Wop Project, featuring current and former stars of Broadway’s smash hits “Jersey Boys” and “Motown: The Musical.” Tickets to the Staller Center Gala are $75; gala tickets that include VIP seating, a postperformance reception and recognition in the playbill program are also available at www.stallercenter.com. The reception also includes an intimate performance from the Doo Wop Project and a chance to mingle with Inkles, and possibly Jay Leno himself.

Musical performances

Audra McDonals

On March 7 at 8 p.m., the ever popular chamber music concert Starry Nights will return to the Recital Center. The evening will feature artists-in-residence, professors of music and doctor of musical arts musicians including violinist Philip Setzer, Avery Career Grant winner Arnaud Sussman and cellist and professor of music Colin Carr. The ensemble also includes the top doctoral students in the music program at Stony Brook. Tickets are $38 per person.

The quartet-in-residence, Emerson String Quartet, returns to the Staller Center on March 20. Their exciting mix of music from the 17th, 19th and 20th centuries embraces the new and unusual while celebrating the classics. The nine-time Grammy Award-winning group, and Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year,” will be performing Purcell’s two fantasies, Bolcom’s Piano Quintet No. 1 and Beethoven’s Quartet No. 13 in A minor, op. 132 (program subject to change). The show starts at 8 p.m. in the Recital Center and tickets are $48.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation, led by trombone powerhouse Big Sam Williams, comes to the Recital Hall on April 7 with their Noladelic PowerFunk style. Their performances are filled with blasts of brass, electric guitar and the charisma of Big Sam, the front man who sings, plays, dances and involves the audience in everything he does. The group of world-class musicians brings the jazz and soul of New Orleans everywhere they go, including mixes of funk, rock, hip-hop and jazz! Tickets are $38 and the show starts at 8 p.m. in the Recital Hall.

On April 21, the Staller Center welcomes Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning singer and actress Audra McDonald to the Main Stage. This powerhouse soprano will be performing many of her Broadway and opera hits. Tickets are $54 and the show starts at 8 p.m.

Dance performances

Tao

The Tony Award-winning Broadway show “Fela! The Concert” comes to the Main Stage of the Staller Center on Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. Featuring members of the original Broadway cast, this lively and inspiring show includes a 10-piece Afrobeat band and singers and dancers performing songs that have been used to promote freedom and champion traditional African culture. Tickets are $42.

The Lezginka Ensemble, the State Dance Ensemble of Daghestan, Russia, will be performing on the Main Stage on Feb. 9. The ensemble includes over 30 dancers who will fill the stage with traditional folk songs and dances of the diverse mountain people of Daghestan. This unique performance includes intense acrobatics and incredible drum and saber work. The dance troupe is said to be “fiery, rhythmic and unforgettable!” Tickets are $40 and the show starts at 8 p.m. Update: This event has been canceled.

On Feb. 17 the Japanese drumming group Tao will be bringing their precision, stamina and innovative choreography to the Main Stage with their show Drum Heart. Their modern twist on a traditional art entices and amazes audiences worldwide. The group sold out their world premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Festival, and Stony Brook now has the chance to see their passion come to life. Back by popular demand, this is their fourth return engagement at the Staller Center. Tickets are $42 and the show starts at 8 p.m.

Dublin Irish Dance

Dublin Irish Dance brings the epic tale of Celtic culture to the stage on March 10 at 8 p.m. with their show Stepping Out. Telling the story of the Great Famine of the mid-1800s, the dancers bring an emotional celebration of the dance and music that came out of a tragic time in Ireland’s history. The audience will journey from past to present and will learn about the fate of Irish immigrants who came to America. Tickets for this Main Stage production are $46.

On April 14, Catapult will grace the Main Stage with their seemingly impossible dancing shadow silhouettes. The “America’s Got Talent” finalists perform behind a screen, transforming their bodies into figures in order to bring marvelous scenes to life. You’ll want to figure out how they do it, and you won’t guess what they’ll come up with next. Catapult also uses exciting music and vibrant colors to give their show the upper hand. Tickets are $40 and the show starts at 8 p.m.

The Parsons Dance Company will be performing on the Main Stage on May 5 at 8 p.m. With their trained precision and extreme athleticism, these eight dancers will be performing the choreography of David Parsons. The group has a modern style, mixing gesture and movement to make something beautiful. The Parsons Dance Company has toured the United States and Italy, as well as appeared on French Public Television in a live broadcast. Tickets are $42.

The Met: Live in HD

The Staller Center will be screening seven operas, bringing the Metropolitan Opera in HD direct from the Met to the Main Stage. The shows include Puccini’s “Tosca” on Jan. 28, Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore” on Feb. 10, Puccini’s “La Bohème” on Feb. 25, Rossini’s “Semiramide” on March 11, Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” on April 8, Verdi’s “Luisa Miller” on April 15 and Massenet’s “Cendrillon” on May 6. For more schedule information go to www.stallercenter.com. Tickets are $22 general admission, $20 for seniors 62 and over, and $15 for students.

For kids of all ages

Imago Theatre’s “LaBelle”

On Jan. 27 at 4 p.m. the Imago Theatre will be performing “La Belle — Lost in the World of Automation,” a Steampunk Fairy Tale based on “Beauty and the Beast” on the Main Stage. The show includes elaborate puppets, a large whirring ship, original music and shadow play, with a story line set on a steamboat in the 1920s. The Imago Theatre, which has toured globally for three decades, uses over 100 effects, puppets and automata to tell this tale that burrows through the hard shell of adulthood to the childlike wonder of innocence and imagination. Tickets are $20.

International Juggling champion Greg Kennedy and his acrobatic duo of aerial dancers will be performing their show Spherus on March 18 at 4 p.m. Touted as a circus with an extra dimension, Spherus is full of fascinating effects with principles of geometry and physics to create groundbreaking and colorful work set to music. Kennedy, a former member of Cirque du Soleil and a Gold Medal recipient from the International Juggling Association, brings curiosity to life with a circus for all ages. Tickets are $20.

Tickets for the shows may be ordered by calling 631-632-2787. Order tickets online by visiting www.stallercenter.com.

Films

Once again, the Staller Center will be screening award-winning movies on five Friday nights starting Feb. 23. Two films will be shown starting at 7 p.m. on the Main Stage.

On Feb. 23, the 2016 Slovak-Czech drama film “The Teacher” (in Slovak with subtitles) and the psychological drama “All I See Is You”  about a blind woman who regains her sight and begins to discover the previously unseen and disturbing details about herself, her marriage and the lives of her and her husband, will be screened at 7 and 9 p.m., respectively.

On March 9, the 2017 drama “Wonderstruck” about a young boy in the Midwest is told simultaneously with a tale about a young girl in New York from 50 years ago as they both seek the same mysterious connection will screen at 7 p.m. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a crime drama about a mother challenging the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit, will be shown at 9:15 p.m.

On March 16, the Golden Globe-winning “Lady Bird,” the coming-of-age story about a 17-year-old girl in Sacramento, California, will be screened at 7 p.m. and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” the story of a driven, idealistic defense attorney that finds himself in a tumultuous series of events that lead to a crisis and the necessity for extreme action, will both shown at 9 p.m.

On March 23, “After the Storm” (in Japanese with subtitles), a film about a man struggling to take back control of his existence and to find a lasting place in the life of his young son until a stormy summer night offers them a chance to truly bond again, will be shown at 7 p.m. The Golden Globe winner “The Shape of Water,” about a lonely janitor at a top-secret research facility in the 1960s who forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity, will be shown at 9:15 p.m.

On April 6, “The Post,” a historical drama about the country’s first female publisher of a major newspaper and a hard-driving editor who join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government will play at 7 p.m. “Molly’s Game,” the Golden Globe-nominated drama about the true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target, will play at 9:15 p.m.

Tickets to the movie screenings are $10 for adults, $7 for students and $5 for Stony Brook University students. A movie pass good for all films in $30. To order, visit www.stallercenter.com/movies or call the box office at 631-632-ARTS (2787).

About the author: Farmingville resident Sabrina Petroski is a junior at SUNY New Paltz studying digital media production and journalism. She recently interned at TBR News Media during her winter break and hopes to come back during the summer to gain more experience as a journalist.

Award winners at the Closing Night Awards reception, from left, Catherine Eaton, writer/director/actor/co-producer of ‘The Sounding’; Todd and Jedd Wider, directors of ‘To the Edge of the Sky’; Nadav Shlomo Giladi of ‘Across the Line’; Michael Ferrell, writer/director/actor/co-producer of ‘Laura Gets a Cat’; Robin Grey, producer of ‘Purple Dreams’; and Pavels Gumennikovs of ‘Just, Go!’ Photo by Nick A. Koridis for the SB Film Festival

The 22nd annual Stony Brook Film Festival, presented by Island Federal Credit Union, wrapped up with a Closing Night Awards Reception on July 29. The evening recognized the outstanding new independent films screened at the festival, which was held at Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University from July 20 to 29. John Anderson, film critic and master of ceremonies, and a longtime MC for the awards reception, announced the winners.

The event attracted the largest attendance ever this year. Filmmaker participation also broke records with directors from Armenia, Bulgaria, England, France, Germany, Israel, Latvia, Netherlands, Spain and USA representing their films at the screenings. In addition, films from Finland, Iran, Italy, Norway and Sweden were in the mix.

From left, John Anderson, film critic and MC for the awards reception; Karoline Herfurth, writer/director/actress; and Alan Inkles, director of the Stony Brook Film Festival attend the Stony Brook Film Festival’s Closing Night’s U.S. Premiere of ‘Text for You.’ Photo by Nick A. Koridis for the SB Film Festival

“It truly was a magical year where almost every filmmaker attended their screenings to represent their films and host Q&As,” said Alan Inkles, founder and director of the Stony Brook Film Festival, adding, “As for the films we showed, the audience scores were the best in our 22 years. Great films, great guests and packed houses nightly. It’s what I envisioned for Stony Brook when we started this festival and it was certainly achieved this year.”

Two of the filmmakers whose film won an award at the festival grew up in the Three Village area. The Wider brothers’ documentary followed four families as they fought the FDA to gain access to a lifesaving drug to help their sons, all coping with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The world premiere of Todd and Jedd Wider’s documentary “To the Edge of the Sky” was awarded the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature along with “Fanny’s Journey,” which tied with an identical high score.

“The Stony Brook Film Festival is an incredibly well curated and intelligent film festival. It celebrates independent film from around the world and gives its audience a chance to discover great films and interact with filmmakers,” noted Todd Wider. “Supremely well run and organized, each film is shown once in a giant, state-of-the-art theater to a routinely packed crowd. This format really works well here, as the entire community focuses on one film at a time. Set in one of the most beautiful towns on Long Island and backed by a powerhouse university, the audiences are really smart and very welcoming. Don’t miss this festival [next year]. It’s a wonderful experience,” he said.

Among the many highlights of the festival was the U.S. premiere of the rock documentary, “The Second Act of Elliott Murphy.” The singer-songwriter Elliott Murphy, a Garden City native, moved to Paris after a music career with his band in the U.S. and then found new success in Europe. At the screening of his film, he hosted a Q&A and then played three of his songs from the stage.

Closing Night presented the U.S. premiere of “Text for You” (“SMS für Dich”), a romantic comedy. The writer, director and actress Karoline Herfurth came in from Germany to represent her film.

And the winners are:

2017 Jury Award — Best Feature

“The Sounding” (United States)

2017 Audience Choice — Best Feature (tie)

“Fanny’s Journey” (France)

“To the Edge of the Sky” World Premiere (United States)

2017 Special Recognition by the Jury — Spirit of Independent Filmmaking

“Laura Gets a Cat” (United States)

2017 Special Recognition by the Jury — Achievement in Social Impact

“Purple Dreams” New York Premiere (United States)

2017 Jury Award — Best Short

“Across the Line” World Premiere (Israel)

2017 Audience Choice Award — Best Short

“Just, Go!” (Latvia)

For more information about the Stony Brook Film Festival, visit www.stonybrookfilmfestival.com.

The 2017 Stony Brook Film Festival will host the world premiere screening of ‘To the Edge of the Sky’ on July 23. Photo courtesy of Staller Center
Presents mix of independent features, documentaries and shorts

By Jill Webb

Drop your beach towels and grab some popcorn because the Stony Brook Film Festival kicks off tonight at 8 p.m. and will run for 10 nights. The festival’s director, Alan Inkles, who has been curating the event since its inception, said in a recent interview that the idea to showcase great films annually came to him because “film is the art of this century.”

Festivalgoers view these films in the main 1,000-seat auditorium of the Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University, which features a 40-foot-wide screen for maximum viewing pleasure.

Inkles’ biggest challenge as festival director is finding the films that are going to “draw 800 people on a Thursday night — in the summer on Long Island — to a film they’ve never heard of.”

Last year, the director started using www.filmfreeway.com as a way for filmmakers to submit their films, saying the service is “the most fair to both filmmakers and film festivals” due to its piracy protection. Inkles and his team received over 1,000 submissions from the website, along with about 700 from sales agents internationally — all of which are viewed between January and May.

Diversity on the big screen

The vast number of submissions have led to greater diversity. This year’s lineup includes films from Italy, Armenia, France, Sweden and the Netherlands among others and puts a spotlight on a variety of relevant topics including the LGBTQ+ community and immigration.

The big draw this year, Inkles said, is an abundance of women directors — a demographic that often gets overlooked in the film industry. “Almost 50 percent of our films are directed by women — features and shorts,” Inkles said, adding that three of them write, direct and star in their films.

The opening and closing night films both have one thing in common: Germany. Each of these German films will be making its U.S. premiere at SBFF on its respective night. Opening the festival is “Welcome to Germany” (“Willkommen bei den Hartmanns”), written and directed by Simon Verhoeven, a ‘laugh-out-loud’ comedy about a refugee from Nigeria who, while awaiting the ruling on his asylum request, is taken in by a wealthy but severely dysfunctional family from Munich.

A scene from ‘Text for You’. Photo courtesy of Staller Center

The closer, titled “Text for You” (“SMS für Dich”), is a romantic comedy that explores coping with grief and loss. Karoline Herfurth is a triple threat in the movie’s production as director/writer/actress. The film’s main character, Clara, is struggling to get over the death of her true love and begins to send text messages to his old number. The new owner of the phone is compelled to answer these messages, creating a dialogue between the two strangers. Inkles describes the film as a “German [version of] ‘When Harry Met Sally.’”

Long Island: In front and behind the camera

While Inkles stresses that he selects films solely on being the best of the bunch, he admits he loves getting a Long Island angle in. This year’s Long Island connections includes “The Second Act of Elliott Murphy,” a documentary chronicling Rockville Centre native Elliott Murphy’s journey to rock star status, starting in mid-1970s America and eventually traveling to Europe where his career takes off.

While the film is set in Maine, a great deal of “The Sounding” — which follows a woman who has chosen to remain silent until a traumatic experience leads her to speak in only Shakespearean words — was shot here on Long Island.

The 2017 Stony Brook Film Festival will host the world premiere screening of ‘To the Edge of the Sky’ on July 23. Photo from Staller Center

Academy Award winners and Ward Melville graduates, Todd and Jedd Wider, have been making films together for 19 years. Their documentary “To the Edge of the Sky” focuses on mothers trying to get FDA approval for a drug to save their sons affected by the fatal disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Jedd Wider got the idea for the film at an event listening to a Harvard-educated doctor talk about his son’s experience with DMD and the extents his family was going through to save his life.

“I was mesmerized by what he had to say,” Wider said. After the event, a Google search on the doctor, Benjy Seckler, lead Wider to his first meet-up with a family challenging DMD. The film watches the mothers transform into “very serious political activists as they attempt to rally the FDA,” Wider said. “It’s really a window into the FDA system, but it’s also a very serious look and window into the troubles, the issues, the challenges, the tragic circumstances surrounding these families as they attempt to find a cure and secure that cure for their children.”

The short “Brothers” will be screened before the Wider brother’s film and is directed by another Ward Melville graduate, Zachary Fuhrer. “Brothers” tells a story of a 9-year-old boy who deals with experiencing guilt after accidentally hurting his little brother while playing baseball. Fuhrer looked back on the way he dealt with confrontation as a child as inspiration for the film. The take-away Fuhrer hopes the audience gets is “what it truly means to say I’m sorry, and what it truly means to show compassion for another person and understand wrong-doing.”

Exploring your options

Presented by Island Federal Credit Union, the festival will run through July 29. For $85 you can purchase a Festival Pass to see all of the films, along with promotions for local restaurants through labor day, seating guaranteed up to 15 minutes prior to the showing, first entry for preferred seating options and some merchandise freebies: a film pass, lanyard and tote bag.

If you’re looking for something a bit more lavish, try the Gold Pass: For $225 you get all the perks of the Festival Pass but also entry into the Opening and Closing Night parties along with access to the VIP seating with the filmmakers. Individual tickets are $12 adults, $10 seniors and $5 with a student ID. Free parking is available in the Visitors Parking Garage during the festival.

For more information on the program, tickets and trailers check out www.stonybrookfilmfestival.com or call the Staller Center Box Office at 631-632-2787.

Film Festival Schedule

Thursday, July 20

Opening Night

8 p.m. “Welcome to Germany”

Friday, July 21

7 p.m. “Walking David”

Short: “Game”

9:30 p.m. “Let Yourself Go”

Short: “Rated”

Saturday, July 22

4 p.m. “Ethel & Ernest” (animated)

Short: “Snowgirl”

7 p.m.“The Sounding”

Short: “Icarus” 9:30 p.m.

“Love Is Thicker Than Water”

Short: “Waiting to Die in Bayside, Queens”

Sunday, July 23

4 p.m. “To the Edge of the Sky”

Short: “Brothers”

7 p.m. “Fanny’s Journey”

Short: “Who Sank Your Ships?”

9:15 p.m. “Tonio”

Short: “Oma”

Monday, July 24

7 p.m. “Apricot Groves”

Short: “The Simon’s Way”

9:15 p.m. “Strawberry Days”

Short: “The Dog and the Elephant”

Tuesday, July 25

7 p.m. “Little Wing”

Short: “Real Artists”

9:15 p.m. “From the Land of the Moon”

Short: “Interrogation”

Wednesday, July 26

7 p.m. “Laura Gets a Cat”

Short: “Speak”

9:15 p.m. “The Second Act of Elliott Murphy”

Short: “Just, go!”

Thursday, July 27

7 p.m. “Purple Dreams”

Short: “Across the Line”

9:15 p.m. “Hanna’s Sleeping Dogs”

Short: “AmeriKa”

Friday, July 28

7 p.m. “The King’s Choice”

9:30 p.m. “The Midwife”

Saturday, July 29

Closing Night

8 p.m. “Text for You”

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