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Theatre Three

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Theatre Three in Port Jefferson will host the Long Island Comedy Festival Nov. 2. Mike Keegan will likely not be invited. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Julianne Mosher

Long Island comedian Mike Keegan has been banned from any future performances on the Theatre Three stage after he tweeted a joke  about Greta Thunberg that some say referenced sexual assault. 

The tweet, posted last Tuesday, talked about the 16-year-old climate activist and how “as soon as the Democrats are done exploiting her, they’re gonna [sic] send her off to Epstein Island” — referencing Jeffrey Epstein, the late financier and convicted sex offender who was accused of bringing and abusing unescorted young girls on his private island.  

On Sept. 25 at 3:57 p.m., the theater posted on its Facebook page a statement that read, “To Our Patrons: Theatre Three in no way condones the inappropriate comments made by stand-up comedian Mike Keegan about a child activist. He will never again appear on the Theatre Three stage. Thank you, The Staff and Board of Theatre Three.” 

The comedian said the tweet was largely misunderstood.

“Apparently some people were upset with a joke that I made on social media which was wildly misinterpreted,” Keegan said. “They then felt that it was necessary to reach out to a venue, that I have performed at in the past, to suggest that they not hire me to perform.”

Vivian Koutrakos, the theater’s managing director, declined to comment.

Keegan said the theater did not tell him he was no longer being used and that Theatre Three “decided to make a very public post on their social media page which garnered a lot of attention.” The 36-year-old comedian said that he has always had a “great relationship with this venue,” so he was upset that they could not contact him directly. 

“I respect the decision that was made by the venue as they have every right to dictate who performs on their stage,” Keegan said. “There is an abundance of talented comedians here on Long Island. I just wish they would have had the respect to contact
me privately.”

Comments on Facebook were divided, with some saying the tweet was in terrible taste and they supported the theater’s decision. Others said they felt this was censorship and mentioned they would not patronize the theater. The comedian asked people to continue supporting the arts.

“This was extremely unprofessional and the whole thing was handled terribly on their end,” Keegan said. “This is a historic venue on Long Island that celebrates the arts and I encourage people to continue to patronize them. I do not hold the theater responsible because they made a business decision.”

Although Keegan was disappointed about the theater’s post, he added he is more disappointed in the people who didn’t get the joke. 

“My frustration falls upon the people who misinterpret something that is said and feel that it is necessary to take work away from somebody without a comprehensive understanding of what was written,” he said. “They are the ones who need to be exposed for attempting to censor free speech.”

This past July, the Port Jefferson Documentary Series held a special screening of Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation at Theatre Three. The community came out in droves to reminisce and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. As wonderful as it was, the sold-out event was just a prelude of what was to come.

From Sept. 9 to Oct. 28, the series will kick off its 25th season of presenting the latest award-winning documentaries to the community. Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council and the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs, the first film will be screened at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, the next five at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson and the final film at Stony Brook University’s Charles B. Wang Center.

Each screening will be followed by a Q&A session with guest speakers including directors, producers, the movies’ subjects and outside experts.

It is a labor of love for film board members Lyn Boland, Barbara Sverd, Wendy Feinberg, Honey Katz, Phyllis Ross, Lorie Rothstein andBarbara Sverd, Wendy Feinberg, Honey Katz, Phyllis Ross, Lorie Rothstein, who each choose one film out of hundreds to present to the audience. This fall’s picks were selected after the “film ladies” attended the Tribeca Film Festival, DOC NYC and the Hamptons Film Festival.

This season’s exciting lineup includes, in order of appearance, Halston, which examines the life and career of fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick; Clean Hands, the heart-breaking and eye-opening story of a Central American family living in extreme poverty; The Raft, a 1973 scientific experiment on the high seas that went horribly wrong; Cold Case Hammarskjöld, a journalistic inquiry into the 1961 plane-crash death of Dag Hammarskjöld, the secretary-general of the United Nations; Kifaru, the emotional story of Sudan, the world’s only remaining male northern white rhino; Gay Chorus, Deep South, which follows the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’s bus tour through the deep South to confront a resurgence of faith-based anti-LGBTQ laws; and Mike Wallace Is Here, which examines the 50-year career of “60 Minutes’” fearsome newsman Mike Wallace.

In terms of which films will tug at your heart strings the most, Lyn Boland says it’s a tie between Kifaru and Gay Mens Chorus, Deep South, “depending on where your sympathies lie, but they are on opposite sides of the spectrum.”

According to Boland, who serves as co-director with Sverd and Feinberg, this season’s program has been drawing rave reviews. “I have had people say ‘this is an amazing lineup.’ I think one of the reasons is that this season covers a really broad spectrum: we have fashion, we have a diplomatic mystery, the environment, a gay position, journalism (and the importance of journalism), and The Raft which is just so unusual. What’s so remarkable about this lineup is the breadth of subject matter – there is something for everyone.”

As always, the film ladies invite the community to “come for the film, stay for the talk” as the Q&As can get quite lively.

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series will be held at 7 p.m. on select Monday nights from Sept. 9 to Oct. 28. Tickets, which are sold at the door, are $8 per person. (No credit cards please.) If you would like to volunteer, please call 631-473-5200. For more information, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Film Lineup

Halston

Monday, Sept. 9

The Long Island Museum

1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook

Guest speaker will be Frédéric Tcheng, director

Moderator will be Tom Needham, host of “The Sounds of Film” on Stony Brook University’s WUSB

*Ticket includes admission to LIM’s exhibit Gracefully Chic: The Fashions of Philip Hulitar from 6 to 6:45 p.m.

Clean Hands

Monday, Sept. 16

Theatre Three

412 Main St., Port Jefferson

Guest speaker will be Michael Dominic, director

The Raft

Monday, Sept. 23

Theatre Three

412 Main St., Port Jefferson

Guest speaker will be Mary Gidley, subject in film (via Skype)

Cold Case Hammarskjöld

Monday, Oct. 7

Theatre Three

412 Main St., Port Jefferson

Guest speaker will be Göran Björkdahl, researcher/cinematographer and subject in film (via Skype)

Kifaru

Monday, Oct. 14

Theatre Three

412 Main St., Port Jefferson

Guest speaker will be David Hambridge, director (via Skype)

Gay Chorus Deep South

Monday, Oct. 21

Theatre Three

Guest speaker will be Bradley Meek, president of the board of the Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus

Special performance by the LI Gay Men’s Chorus

Mike Wallace Is Here

Monday, Oct. 28

Charles B. Wang Center, SBU

100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook

Guest speaker will be Peggy Drexler, producer

Moderator will be Charles Haddad, School of Journalism

Michael Schwarting presents the study's findings to village officials. Photo by Kyle Barr

If Port Jefferson experiences another “100 year flood” sooner than a century, then at least it knows where the water is coming from.

Professionals from Port Jefferson-based Campani and Schwarting Architects attended the Aug. 19 village meeting showing map after map of where the problem areas for Port Jeff flooding are, and offered suggestions, some big and some small, of how to combat the issue of flooding.

Michael Schwarting said many of the issues are due to an excess of hardscape, both building roofs and roads, and a significant lack of permeable spaces, especially in areas where the depth of the water table is less than 11 feet below ground. Forty percent of village property is non-water-permeable.

“There’s a fair density of buildings that contribute to the groundwater conditions,” he said. “That contributes in bringing water from the watershed to the lowest point.”

In the three-square-mile village, with a population of just over 8,000, the vast majority of land sits within the Port Jefferson watershed area.

The village tapped the PJ-based architectural firm back in February to construct a water management and storm surge study. While the study still needs to be finalized, with map after map, the architect discussed numerous issues contributing to flooding. One such map described how there were numerous roads that sloped down toward Port Jefferson Harbor. Some roads house catch basins to collect the water before it reaches trouble points, some streets have too few or no catch basins while others had more than is likely necessary.

Last September, Port Jefferson was bowled over with water, with nearly 4 inches of rain collected in a short span of time. Buildings like the Port Jefferson firehouse and the venerable Theatre Three were drowned in 3 to 4 feet of water, causing thousands of dollars in damages in the case of the theater.

The architect said what is likely a major cause of this is due to piping systems that draw a lot of water to the end of Barnum Avenue and the driveway to the Port Jefferson high school. Schwarting added there are stories of when that pipe was being built, children used to walk to school along it, meaning the system sits close to the surface.

“All of these pipes, some coming from North Country Road to Main Street with a lot of catch basins are contributing to this one point at Barnum and high school,” he said.

Mayor Margot Garant said they have received a report from Bohemia-based engineering firm P.W. Grosser Consulting about the pipe running from that culvert to the outfall pipe behind village hall. That report said there was sediment buildup at a low point in the pipe, also showing the pipe had “a pinch and a jog” that leads down toward the harbor. 

In June, Port Jefferson Village presented its Waterfront Revitalization Plan to the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, describing its intention to perform immediately needed maintenance of the storm drainage system and provide emergency equipment to deploy in a rain event to protect properties in the village in catastrophic flooding. 

At its July 15 meeting, the village voted unanimously to apply for grant funds not to exceed $1 million from the state Division of Planning’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, Empire State Development and any other applicable state agencies. 

The architects point out numerous small projects that can be done around the village to aid in flood mitigation, mostly in increasing permeable surfaces around the village. This would include rain gardens and bioswales, a landscape element designed to concentrate or remove debris and pollution out of surface runoff water, permeable paving systems, tree trenches and bioretention planters, acting as plant bed medians with grooves cut in the curb allowing water to drain in and flow into local outlets.

Though the architectural firm also endorsed several major projects, such as “daylighting” Mill Creek and the firm’s own plan proposal, given to the village in 2013, to completely remake the Brookhaven Town parking lot and boat ramp, adding significantly more greenery and passive recreational space in what is now hardscape. 

By Heidi Sutton

For too short a time, the classic tale of “Pinocchio” comes to life on Theatre Three’s stage in a most magical way. While most are familiar with Walt Disney’s 1940 animated feature, Theatre Three’s original retelling, written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Douglas J. Quattrock, is suggested from the 1883 children’s novel, “The Adventures of Pinocchio,” by Carlo Collodi.

Annabelle the Fairy (Krystal Lawless) has spent two centuries trying to earn her magic wand so that she can fly. Summoned before Ondine, the good and righteous Queen of the Fairies (Ginger Dalton), she is given one last chance to prove her worth or she has to leave the land of the fairies forever. 

Matt Hoffman and Steven Uihlein in a scene from ‘Pinocchio’

Teaming up with Cassandra the Magic Cricket (Michelle LaBozzetta), she is tasked with getting Geppetto (Steven Uihlein), a miserable and lonely woodcarver (think Scrooge), to care about people the same way he cares about wood.

Annabelle decides to cast a spell on the wood, making it talk, and Geppetto is inspired to carve it into a wooden boy he names Pinocchio (Matt Hoffman). Things go sour quickly as Pinocchio constantly misbehaves; so Annabelle casts another spell on him where his nose grows every time he tells a lie.

However, when Pinocchio gets mixed up with con artists Ferdinand Fox (Emily Gates), Carpacious Cat (Nicole Bianco) and Ranklin Rat (C.J. Russo) and is tricked into giving them all of Geppetto’s money, things go from bad to worse. Will Annabelle ever get her wings? Will Ferdinand, Carpacious and Ranklin get their comeuppance? Will Pinocchio ever become a real boy? 

Jeff Sanzel skillfully directs a cast of eight adult actors who take this delightful tale and run with it. There’s a lot to cover in an hour and a half, but the story flows nicely and keeps the audience at the edge of their seats.

The three troublemakers!

The musical numbers, accompanied on piano by Doug Quattrock, are lighthearted and entertaining, from “Lovely Thoughts” by Annabelle to “Bad Harmony” by the trio of con artists, to the wonderful “The Festival El Grande.” Choreography by Nicole Bianco fits the story perfectly and the costumes by Teresa Matteson and Toni St. John are sweet and fun.

There are so many special moments in this show, made even grander thanks to the addition of 40 children from the theater’s summer acting camp who play various extras including fairies and townspeople. 

Much to the delight of the young audience, the actors utilize the aisles often and special effects are around every corner. Annabelle and Cassandra hide under a magic umbrella that deems them invisible, Pinocchio’s nose really grows and wait until you see what falls from the ceiling at the end! Theatre Three has taken a story that is over 130 years old and given it new life. Grab the kids and catch a performance of “Pinocchio.” They will love you for it.

Souvenir fairy wands are sold for $10. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show.

Theatre Three, located at 412 Main St. in Port Jefferson, presents “Pinocchio” through Aug. 10. Children’s Theatre continues with “A Kooky Spooky Halloween” from Oct. 5 to 26 and “Barnaby Saves Christmas” from Nov. 23 to Dec. 28. All seats are $10. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

See more photos from the show online at www.tbrnewsmedia.com.

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Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

The final two shows for “Cinderella” at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will be held on Aug. 8 at 11 a.m. and Aug. 9 at 1:30 p.m. The classic love story finds its power in a pumpkin a palace, a prince—and a young girl whose belief in herself can overcome any obstacle. When her Fairy Godmother adds a dash of excitement, the magical possibilities are endless. Don’t miss this musical enchantment for the entire family!

Children’s theater continues with “Pinocchio” from Aug. 2 to 10; and “A Kooky Spooky Halloween” from Oct. 5 to 26. All seats are $10. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Read the review here: http://tbrnewsmedia.com/theater-review-theatre-threes-cinderella-is-a-fairy-tale-for-the-ages/

While not as bad as last year, village continues plans to reduce water’s impact

The area outside Theatre Three was under 2 feet of water July 22. Photo from Brian Hoerger

July 22 was a sudden reminder of a certain day last year in September, when water ran down Main Street like a river, and parts of Port Jefferson were drowned in water.

The area outside Theatre Three was under 2 feet of water July 22. Photo from Brian Hoerger

Instead, July 22 was a moderate rain by comparison, only hit with 2.35 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service, instead of the more-than 4 inches it received in that last major storm.

Still reeling from massive flash floods that inundated Port Jefferson village last year, those who were most impacted by the September waters said they were more prepared for the high waters this year. 

Brennan Holmes, the chief of the Port Jefferson Fire Department, said they had learned from their mistakes last year, and for the first time put into practice their new flood protocols.

“Last night was a good test,” Holmes said the day after the flooding. “Although there was a lot of water, it went by real quick.”

Last year waters reached nearly 5 feet in the main firehouse, though this year the fire department moved its emergency vehicles from the department building up to the higher ends of Maple Place, but waters didn’t enter the firehouse. The department also made use of a recently converted high-water rescue vehicle, donated by the Miller Place Fire Department. That was available as well as department members in water rescue suits, according to Holmes.

In addition to dealing with the flooding, the department responded to two automatic alarms caused by lightning, three welfare checks on the businesses of Ruvo East, Old Fields Restaurant and Theatre Three, all of which had been hard hit last year. The department also assisted in removing a person from a vehicle which was situated in about a foot of water.

The fire department closed off Main Street for about an hour from around 7 p.m. to a little after 8 p.m. Holmes said this resulted in much less traffic into and out of the village, making it much safer for motorists.

“We fared much better than last September, which we’re really happy about,” the fire chief said.

Mayor Margot Garant was adamant that last year’s high of 4 inches of rain dropped in under an hour plus the high water table led to the described devastation. She said she is especially concerned the idea of Port Jefferson as a flooding town will impact the village’s image and its businesses.

“I think everybody has to think that was such an exceptional event,” she said. “It’s all about the tide. If there had been a coastal storm surge, it would have been a different scenario. It’s a coastal resiliency issue.”

Last September one of the most heavily impacted by the flooding was Theatre Three, which received nearly 4 feet of water in its downstairs area, causing thousands upon thousands of dollars in damage to props, costumes and electrical equipment.

“Nothing like a little flash flood to trigger the old PTSD from the last flood.”

— Brian Hoerger

Brian Hoerger, the facilities manager for the theater, was at the head of last year’s cleanup, coordinating close to 50 volunteers in cleaning up the mess left by that storm. On his Facebook page, Hoerger said seeing the waters roll down Main Street reminded him of the harrowing September flood.

“Nothing like a little flash flood to trigger the old PTSD from the last flood,” Hoerger wrote.

The back doors by Theatre Three had waters rising close to 2 feet, according to the theater facilities manager, though only around 3 inches made its way through the lower doors since he was able to stack sandbags at the breach. Still, pictures showed water was making its way through cracks in the brickwork like sprinklers.

Hoerger, along with Steve Ayle, an actor in the theater, moved the precious theater items to higher ground while helping to vacuum up the muddy liquid in the theater’s lower floor.

Garant responded to Hoerger on Facebook showing him potential flood resistant door panels to resist rain, though Hoerger said much of the water came up from under the building as they sit on a below-ground creek.

What is currently being done to prevent flooding

Three months ago, Port Jefferson officials approved a scoping of the water line that runs and empties into Mill Creek, though Garant said while they wait for the engineers report to return to the village, they believe there is a low point in the line underneath the grass by the basketball courts where a pumping system might be able to help that water flow faster, and not get caught up in and around the low point by those nearby restaurants and Theatre Three.

In June, Campani and Schwarting Architects released a draft version of the Watershed Management and Storm Surge Study. Though the architects have yet to publish a full report, the draft discussed potentially daylighting Mill Creek, along with the culvert at the Brookhaven parking lot by the harbor and the Meadow parking lot. It also mentioned a permeable pavement system in municipal lots, along with rain gardens at low areas such as an expansion of the pond by Old Fields and the Brookhaven parking lot.

Theatre Three suffered damaged to costumes, props and other mechanical equipment back in September 2018. File Photo by Kyle Barr

In June, Port Jefferson Village presented its Waterfront Revitalization Plan to the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, describing its intention to perform immediately needed maintenance of the storm drainage system and provide emergency equipment to deploy in a rain event to protect properties in the village in catastrophic flooding. 

The village would also look to implement long-term projects, including daylighting Mill Creek, reducing impermeable paving throughout the village, introducing bioswales and rain gardens as part of the storm drainage system and redesigning the parking areas at the waterfront to mitigate flooding.

“There’s proactive measures and there’s mitigation measures,” Garant said. “We’re throwing the kitchen sink at the state to help us with these coastal resiliency issues.”

At its July 15 meeting, the village voted unanimously to apply for grant funds not to exceed $1 million from the state Division of Planning’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, Empire State Development and any other applicable state agencies. 

In this case, the village would have to put the money upfront and be paid back from the grant funds at a later date. The deadline for those grants is Friday, July 26.

Garant said that soon the village will be partnering with the Long Island Explorium in Port Jeff in constructing three rain gardens using $43,626 in grant funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund initiative. These will be located in front of Village Hall, at Village Center and a final one in the traffic barrier next to the loading ramp for the ferry.

Image from PJDS

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series will host a special summer screening of “Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation” at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson on Monday, July 29 at 7 p.m. 

With never-before-seen footage, the documentary tells the story of the political and social upheaval leading up to those three historic days, as well as the extraordinary events of the concert itself, when near disaster put the ideals of the counterculture to the test. 

The screening will be followed by an interview with co-screenwriter/editor Don Kleszy. $8 advance sale tickets are now available at www.portjeffdocumentaryseries. Tickets will also be sold at the door (cash only). For further info, call 631-473-5220.

By Heidi Sutton

Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale, especially one like “Cinderella,” which is reputed to be one of the most adapted and re-interpreted children’s stories of all time?

To the delight of all the little princesses out there, Theatre Three in Port Jefferson kicks off its 2019-20 children’s theater season with an original musical retelling of the “rags to riches” tale through Aug. 9. With book, music and lyrics by Douglas J. Quattrock, this version of “Cinderella” combines Charles Perrault’s classic tale with Mark Twain’s “The Prince & the Pauper” to produce a lovely afternoon at the theater.

Perrault (Steven Uihlein) serves as narrator as well as “squire to the sire” and transports audiences to the kingdom of King Charming (Andrew Lenahan) who wishes to retire to Boca Raton and pass the crown to his son, Prince Charming (Matt Hoffman). However, the king feels that his son should get married first and invites all eligible maidens to a royal ball.

The squire delivers the invitations to the home of Cinderella (Meg Bush) who after 300 years is still being treated badly by her stepmother Lady Jaclyn (Nicole Bianco) and stepsisters Gwendolyn (Michelle LaBozzetta) and Madeline (Krystal Lawless). When Cinderella asks if she can go to the ball, her stepmother tells her she has to do all her chores first, including washing the cat, but we all know how that ends. 

Left behind while the step meanies go to the ball, the poor girl is visited by her fairy godmother, Angelica (Emily Gates) who cooks up a beautiful gown and sends her on her way.

Meanwhile, the prince concocts a plan to switch places with the squire in hopes of meeting a girl who will like him “for who he is, not what he is.” Things go horribly wrong at the ball, thanks to the ill-mannered stepsisters, and it ends before Cinderella can get there. When she finally arrives, Cinderella is greeted by a squire (the prince) who asks her to dance because “the band is paid till 1.” Will she take him up on his offer? Will they waltz the night away?

Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, the eight-member cast does an excellent job in portraying this adorable story. One of the funniest scenes is when the prince and squire show up at Cinderella’s house with the glass slipper and the stepsisters and even stepmother try it on with the same result: “I think it’s on. All hail the queen! Ouch, take it off!”

Accompanied on piano by Douglas J. Quattrock, all of the sweet musical numbers are wonderfully choreographed by Nicole Bianco, with a special nod to “Please, Mother, Please!” and “A Girl Like Me (and a Boy Like You).” 

The costumes, designed by Teresa Matteson and Toni St. John, are flawless, from the royal garbs worn by the king and prince to the fancy gowns worn at the ball. The wings on the fairy godmother even light up — a nice touch. Lighting design by Steve Uihlein along with some special effects pull it all magically together.

If you’re looking for something to do with the kids for the summer, Theatre Three’s “Cinderella” fits the bill perfectly. Souvenir wands are sold before the show and during intermission. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St. in Port Jefferson presents “Cinderella” through Aug. 9. Children’s theater continues with “Pinocchio” from Aug. 2 to 10; and “A Kooky Spooky Halloween” from Oct. 5 to 26. All seats are $10. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com. See more photos online at www.tbrnewsmedia.com.

Photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

A sensory-friendly performance of 'Cinderella' will be held on July 7. Photo from Theatre Three

By Melissa Arnold

Jason Furnari was 11 years old when he appeared onstage for the first time as part of a school production. Acting immediately became his passion, and he was eager to be in as many shows as possible.

Jason Furnari

One day, Furnari’s school took a field trip to Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. His life would never be the same. “As soon as I saw the stage I knew I had to be up there,” recalled Furnari, now 34. He auditioned for his first Theatre Three show in 2002, and soon became one of the theater’s full-time actors, appearing in local shows and becoming a part of their professional touring troupe. His credits include “The Laramie Project,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” and “Barnaby Saves Christmas,” to name a few.

In a gesture of gratitude to the theater, Furnari has announced that his Port Jefferson Station based real estate company, EXIT Realty Island Elite, will sponsor Theatre Three’s Children’s Theatre and offer complimentary tickets to its sensory-friendly performances. 

“I love acting so much because you get to go onstage for a few hours and tell a story. If people are having a bad day, you can bring a smile to their face,” Furnari said. “Every day when we go onstage, we get to see how much the kids really enjoy live theater. They get a glimmer in their eye, and I wanted as many people as possible to experience that joy.” 

That desire to do good has run through the entirety of Furnari’s career journey. He studied nursing, worked in restaurants, and ultimately launched a successful real estate career, helping families find their dream homes. All the while, he continued to do occasional shows with Theatre Three, hoping for the day he could give back to them, too.

Furnari’s moment finally came during rehearsals for “Barnaby Saves Christmas” this past December. Jeffrey Sanzel, executive artistic director of the theater, was preparing the cast for their upcoming sensory-friendly performance. 

Each Children’s Theatre production has one performance that is specifically tailored to those with sensory processing disorders or other special needs. The shows provide lower volume levels, remove sudden noises, leave the house lights on and are accepting of audience noise and movement. Sensory-friendly shows also offer complimentary social stories, booklets which explain the parts of the theater, its employees, what to expect at a show and more, all accompanied with helpful pictures.

“I was talking to them about the sensory-friendly shows, and I said that I would love for someone to come along and underwrite those performances, so we could just give the tickets away for free and we wouldn’t have to charge,” Sanzel recalled. “Jason pulled me aside and said, ‘I’ll do it.’ He committed in that moment and [the free tickets] began immediately with the next show. “I was stunned but not surprised because Jason is such a profoundly generous person. It was an amazing moment for us.”

In addition to underwriting the sensory-friendly shows, EXIT Realty Island Elite will be the official sponsor for Theatre Three’s children’s performances for the 2019-20 season. 

Jason Furnari, center, in a scene from last year’s ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’

Vivian Koutrakos, managing director at Theatre Three, noted that, while the theater is a not-for-profit, they still have expenses and need support. “At the theater, we want to treat everyone equally and provide an experience that anyone can enjoy, regardless of their needs,” Koutrakos said. “I’ve known Jason for a long time, and he’s done so well for himself. He always wanted to give back to the theater and make sure it was cared for, even when he didn’t have the means to do so himself.”

Sensory-friendly performances at Theatre Three began in 2016 when the parent of an actor with special needs encouraged Sanzel to pursue it. Since then, he said the feedback from audiences has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The families and organizations that come to the sensory-friendly shows are so appreciative and grateful,” Sanzel said. “And now that we’ve eliminated the costs, it’s an opportunity they’ll always be able to enjoy.”

Theatre Three is located at 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. Upcoming sensory-friendly children’s performances include “Cinderella” on July 7; “A Kooky Spooky Halloween” on Oct. 6; “Barnably Saves Christmas” on Nov. 24; “Little Red Riding Hood” on Jan. 19, 2020; “Hansel and Gretel” on March 8, 2020; “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” on April 19, 2020; and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” on May 31, 2020. All shows begin at 11 a.m. and tickets are free. 

For more information or to make a reservation, please call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.