Authors Posts by Barbara Anne Kirshner

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President Barack Obama talks with Betty White in the Oval Office, June 11, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

We thought Betty White would live forever. Long after the other Golden Girls left planet Earth, White, with that mischievous glint in her eyes accompanied by clever quips, was ever present and breaking new ground.

Betty White was a staunch advocate for animals.  Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

Like the Energizer Bunny, Betty White kept going and we expected her to always be there. White passed away in her sleep on Dec. 31. She was 99. 

This month People Magazine had planned a celebration of White’s 100th birthday which was to happen on January 17. We were certain she would make it to centenarian status, but White probably felt it was time to join her husband, Allen Ludden, and all of her animals who had passed before her. She had even said in an interview that when she arrives in Heaven, Ludden would have to stand in line while she reunited with her much loved pets.

Born on January 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, Betty Marion White was the only child of Horace Logan White and Christine Tess. The family moved to Alhambra, California in 1923 and later to Los Angeles during the Great Depression. White graduated from Beverly Hill High School in 1939. As a child, she wanted to be an opera singer and took voice lessons. After graduating from high school, due to her love of animals, she aspired to be a forest ranger, but that path was not open to women in the early 1940s. Instead, she discovered acting and the rest is history.

In the 1940s, she went on to land roles in the first two plays she auditioned for, Spring Dance and Dear Ruth, before performing on radio in The Great Gildersleeve, Blondie, This Is Your FBI and became the sidekick to popular local DJ, Al Jarvis, on his daily radio show Make Believe Ballroom. White’s television career took off when that radio show moved to television under the title Hollywood on Television. Next came Life with Elizabeth for two seasons from 1953 to 1955 followed by The Betty White Show on NBC in 1954.

Allen Ludden and Betty White. Photo from Wikipedia

White went on to become the first lady of game shows in the 60s, appearing on Password, What’s My Line?, Match Game and Pyramid. She met her third husband, Allen Ludden, on Password and has been quoted as saying he was “the love of my life.” They were married from 1963 until 1981 when  Ludden died following a battle with stomach cancer. It is poignant to note White’s assistant told longtime friend and fellow colleague, Vicki Lawrence, that the last word White uttered was “Allen.”

She was a staple of late night talk shows with decades long appearances on The Tonight Show.

In 1973, White appeared as the “man-hungry” Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the role became a favorite winning White the Emmy for Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1975 and again in 1976. 

The Golden Girls launched in 1985 through 1992 and White won the Emmy in 1986 for her role as the ditzy but good-hearted Rose Nylund. It is interesting to note that White was first offered the role of Blanche but director Jay Sandrich felt that character was too close to the role of Nivens, so he decided that White should play Rose instead.

White was celebrated with more awards in 1995 when she was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and in 1996 she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for The John Larroquette Show.

2010 was big for Betty White. It started on Jan. 23 with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. On Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 7, White appeared in a Snickers commercial that skyrocketed in popularity. After a successful fan campaign on Facebook, White hosted Saturday Night Live‘s Mother’s Day episode at 88 ½ years of age, becoming the oldest person to host SNL. 

At the start of her monologue White marveled, “I can’t believe I’m hosting Saturday Night Live! I’m 88 ½ years old, so it’s great to be here for a number of reasons.” She went on to thank Facebook for the campaign that brought her to the show then wisecracked, “I didn’t know what Facebook was and now that I know, it sounds like a huge waste of time.” 

Musical guest Jay-Z dedicated his performance of “Forever Young” to “the most incredible Betty White.” After her death, Seth Myers tweeted “The only SNL host I ever saw get a standing ovation at the after party. A party at which she ordered a vodka and a hotdog and stayed ’til the bitter end.” That hosting gig was awarded on August 21, 2010, with a Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her guest host spot. 

Betty White at the 1988 Emmy Awards. Photo from Wikipedia

On January 1, 2022, as a special tribute, SNL re-aired her hosting episode. White went on to the role of Elka Ostrovsky in Hot in Cleveland (2010-2015). She was in her 90s by the time that series ended.

In 2012, White won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t). She was recognized by the Guinness World Records for longest TV career for a female entertainer. (74 years)

In 2015 White won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 42nd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards and in 2018 she was honored at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards for her more than 80 years in show business.

White enjoyed a highly accomplished and celebrated career, but her passion was animals. She has said that they have made a huge difference in her life. She was devoted to animal welfare and supported numerous animal-related nonprofits throughout her career, from donations and volunteering to fundraising and recording public service announcements.

A documentary paying tribute to Betty White’s life and career will be screened at select theaters nationwide on Jan. 17 which would have marked her centennial birthday. 

Titled Betty White: A Celebration, the film will feature White’s final interview and a behind-the-scenes look at some of her most iconic sitcom roles. It also includes interviews with dozens of celebrity friends.

Rest In Peace dear Betty White. Thank you for all the laughs and for being there for us. You are a national treasure. This crazy world shone brighter with you in it and you are truly missed.

Miller Place resident Barbara Anne Kirshner is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of “Madison Weatherbee —The Different Dachshund.”

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Gothic!

Thrilling!

Suspenseful!

Wait a minute — It’s a comedy!!

It’s hilarious Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery now playing at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson.

“Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!” That exclamation conjures up ominous chords and the audience is immediately immersed in the murder mystery at bleak Baskerville Hall perched on the edge of the desolate fog-laden moors.

In Ken Ludwig’s (Lend Me A Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo, Crazy for You) adaptation of the 1901 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, he brilliantly takes this gothic classic and infuses it with comedy making for spine-tinglingly funny results.

The searching questions, who killed Sir Charles Baskerville and is there a legendary hound haunting Baskerville Hall, must be answered before another heir is murdered. Enter Sherlock Holmes (Evan Donnellan) and his sidekick, Dr. Watson, I presume, (Kevin Callahan). The brave duo ferret through contradicting clues and a host of suspicious characters in efforts to protect Henry Baskerville, the next heir who has just arrived from Texas. 

Donnellan takes the stage in grandiose style. His Holmes is sly, elegant and capable. When he says he knows the print of every paper in the country, we believe him. Kevin Callahan’s Doctor Watson is so much fun. He tries to keep up with Holmes though often bungles, adding to the laughs, but his genuine investigative spirit makes him the perfect sidekick to Holmes. Together they are an invincible pair despite the labyrinth of deceit and intrigue they must face in attempting to solve this crime.

The original Conan Doyle mystery is chock full of characters all necessary in creating red herrings that keep the reader guessing until the final page. Ludwig realized he would need numerous characters to tell the story, so he inventively reduced his adaptation down to five actors — Holmes, Watson and the other three playing more than forty roles. 

This challenge calls for extraordinary performers who must instantly change costumes while also changing accents, physicality and intentions, all the while making the audience believe each of their characters. 

Director Christine Boehm has accomplished just that by assembling an outstanding supporting cast — Jonathan Sawyer Coffin, Elena Faverio and Ana McCasland — who change costumes as easily as they transform into different personas. This high energy threesome bounce snappy lines into the air wrapped in an array of accents. 

Faverio’s German accent as Mrs. Barrymore is hysterically reminiscent of Cloris Leachman’s Frau Blücher in Young Frankenstein. Coffin’s booming southern drawl is a comical contradiction for the next in line of the Baskerville fortune. McCasland takes on the proper English of Dr. Mortimer as easily as she emotes the Castilian of the hotel proprietor. These outrageously high camp performances are met with rapturous laughter and applause from the audience that builds to an enthusiastic crescendo at curtain call.

Randall Parsons’ scenic design gives the necessary gothic feel with a gray backdrop detailed in swirls of black suggesting impending fog blanketing the moor. A giant screen, center, ingeniously projects settings and events. Lighting design by Robert Henderson, Jr. sets the eerie mood, then stirs things up with flashes of bright lights.

Chakira Doherty’s costume and wig designs are masterfully crafted. Actors, portraying numerous characters, must change in an instant and Doherty’s well-thought-out garments and coiffures make this task possible.

Tim Haggerty’s sound design is essential in instilling chills. Whether it be the cacophonous howling hound to the staccato of the chugging train to a deafening explosion, these sound effects build in both suspense and humor.

Since simplicity is key to this production, properties play a major part and Heather Rose Kuhn creatively plants scenes with the use of sparse props. A train is depicted with only a well-placed bench that morphs easily into a bed at Baskerville Hall for the next scene. A counter glides in and out representing Northumberland Hotel and giant wheels appear when Holmes refers to a cab.

All the twists and turns are captivating and hysterical as we follow Holmes and Watson to a startling conclusion that even gives way to an unexpected epilogue. So, take out your spyglass and join the intrepid pair on this thrilling and uproarious caper!

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery through Feb. 5. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 and up. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

See a sneak peek of the show here!

 

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Phenomenal music, dance, comedy with romance sprinkled on top all wrapped up in a giant red velvet bow, that’s White Christmas, Engeman Theater’s gift to ring in this joyous season.

Last year, the holidays were dismal with theatres shut across our great nation due to COVID, but not even a sweeping pandemic could extinguish its spirit for long. Theater fought back, reigniting marques with brilliant neon lights announcing that the show would most certainly go on.

The Engeman proudly swung open its grand glass doors welcoming all who enter to enjoy the magic of live theatre once more and to celebrate the holidays it is treating audiences to an irresistible White Christmas. With music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and book by David Ives and Paul Blake, this musical is based on the much loved 1954 movie starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. The first stage adaptation did not happen until 2004 when it premiered in San Francisco before playing a limited engagement on Broadway from Nov. 14, 2008, until Jan. 4, 2009.

The story revolves around two former WWII army buddies Bob Wallace and Phil Davis who, after the war, become successful entertainers, then big time producers. They get a letter presumably from an army buddy asking them to check out his sisters’ act at a local club. Sparks fly when they meet these sisters who are leaving that night for a Vermont Inn to fulfill a booking engagement. In pursuit of romance, Bob and Phil follow the ladies and discover that their former general who now owns this inn has fallen on hard times. The plot proceeds with mad cap comedy and extraordinary musical numbers.

With producing artistic director, Richard Dolce and managing director Kevin J. O’Neill at the helm, the Engeman is dedicated to creating Broadway caliber experiences for their audiences and White Christmas is professionalism at its very best. 

This multi-talented ensemble is captivating. From the rollicking open numbers of Happy Holidays and White Christmas, Aaron Young as Bob Wallace and Daniel Plimpton as Phil Davis grasp us and never let go. Young’s voice richly floats through his every song while his stage presence is beguiling. Davis is a true song and dance man. The I Love a Piano duet featuring Darien Crago as Judy Hayes, is a tour de force tap number. Crago’s skill and energy mesmerizes in all her dance routines, making them appear effortless. Meadow Nguy as Betty Haynes soaring soprano sends chills especially in Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me. 

Rounding out this ensemble is an impressive supporting cast. Keith Lee Grant is riveting as the stern General Henry Waverly shouting out commands until he reaches a moment of reflection that allows the caring man within to materialize. Suzanne Mason as Martha Watson sporting red curls reminiscent of Lucille Ball and impeccable comedic timing takes center stage belting out Let Me Sing and I’m Happy and nearly stops the show. The general’s granddaughter, Susan Waverly, played by AnnaBelle Deaner, mimics Martha with a rousing reprise of the same song.

Director Matt Kunkel has created sheer perfection taking us on a memorable musical journey of sight and sound. Music Director Camille Johnson maintains energetic fluidity from start to finish with a band that is beautifully synchronized to the performers in every number.

Choreography is central to this show and Drew Humphrey’s lively routines from the tap numbers to a chorus line done with the precision of the Rockettes is outstanding. Sound design is essential in a musical and Laura Shubert has the levels just right.

This is a period piece musical therefore costumes must allow for ease of movement while reflecting the 1950’s era and Dustin Cross has created breathtaking silhouettes most notably the dreamy coats decorated with clouds in Blue Skies, the dazzling black and white ensembles in I Love a Piano with Judy’s belt that unwinds into piano keys and all those stunning red confections in the White Christmas and I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm finale. Hair design is another essential element in a period piece and Conor Donnelly’s 1950’s hairstyles look authentic.

Kyle Dixon’s scenic design sets the tone and is functional as it morphs easily from one scene into the next giving the continuous feel of the magical holiday season by emphasizing reds, greens and whites. Dixon’s giant frames of white bark against green matting outlines the set and emphasizes a rural feel for the Vermont Inn. Aaron Bowersox’s lighting design adds brilliance to the big numbers and subtle touches for gentler moments.

White Christmas is a must-see festive treat for the entire family so ring in the holidays with this spectacular musical now through January 2, 2022. And be sure to return for the rest of their 2021-2022 season of exciting shows.

The John W. Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main Street in Northport. Tickets to the show range from $75 to $80 with free valet parking. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

One year ago, TBR News Media published my first of what would become many articles on a variety of topics. This first article, Park’s Bench, was a personal account of my now 15- year-old dachshund, Park, my travel buddy, and our special visits to a bench in Stony Brook Village where we have gone for years to celebrate our July birthdays or simply to retreat from our busy lives. Little did I know then that Park and I were on the threshold of a traumatic event that would change our lives.

On Saturday, May 15, 2021, Park appeared a little uncomfortable. I immediately called our vet and got an appointment for the following morning. By nightfall, Park sat down and couldn’t move; his back legs had become paralyzed.

Even as a senior dog, he had been happy and active, running with his sister, Melissa Tulip, half his age. I marveled at the energy of our little man. This drastic change combined with his age had me fearing our time together was about to abruptly end.

Dr. Gucciardo examined Park, but instead of suggesting the worst, he gave us hope. He said through acupuncture and laser therapy combined with medications and herbs, there was a chance Park could regain the use of his hind legs.

I held on to that glimmer of hope and we began the long road back. Once a week, Park and I were at the vet for his treatments. Weeks turned into months —  still we were at the vet every Thursday for his therapies. Though our boy couldn’t walk, it seemed half of him was perfectly normal. He had energy. It amazed me how he managed to move so quickly on his two front legs. He was still interested in everything, especially meal and snack times. 

We started our road trips again to our favorite places including Stony Brook Village and Park’s bench. While we sat there on one recent visit, I watched as a breeze delicately ruffled his fury ears and we enjoyed our moment in time.

By late August, it seemed Park might not be able to walk again, but he was certainly not ready to leave us. That’s when discussions started with Dr. Gucciardo about a doggie wheelchair so Park wouldn’t have to exert himself as he dragged across the floor.

But Park had something else in mind. While we continued discussions about the wheelchair, Park suddenly pushed up his hind legs. He especially did this around mealtimes. By the beginning of September, he applied pressure to his hind legs and took a few wobbly steps. He was much weaker on the right side, but he progressed. Soon he was up on all four legs, very frail, but he was walking. Each day he improved. With movement returning to his hind legs, his hips strengthened. He had gone to scary protruding bones in his hips, but he even developed muscle tone again.

Park continues improving daily now and we keep up with his weekly therapies. Though his right leg turns in a little, he has started to gallop down the hall, a spring in his step. It is as if he has turned back the hands of time on his 15 year 4 month-old body. Dr Gucciardo, with his alternative therapies, saved our boy and gave us back the active Park ready for a stroll around town.

When I wrote Park’s Bench, I never could have imagined the traumatic events we would face together. Now, I watch our little man run through the yard or down the hall or on the rolling greens near Park’s bench in Stony Brook Village and I am thankful for the precious time I have with our happy, active boy.

I share our story in the hopes that we might help others going through similar life altering circumstances with their beloved fur babies. There is hope. Paralysis is not a death sentence. It may not happen quickly, but if it is possible for my senior boy to regain the use of his hind legs, it can happen for your dog too.

Miller Place resident Barbara Anne Kirshner is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of “Madison Weatherbee —The Different Dachshund.”

Gerrit Cole. Photo from Wikipedia

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

The 2021 baseball season fizzled out for the Yankees with their embarrassing 6 to 2 loss against the Red Sox in the AL wild-card game. Fans were abruptly forced into a long, cold winter with the only ray of sunshine coming from the promise of spring training.

It is frustrating that Yankee fans were reduced to watching the ALDS with their arch nemesis the Boston Red Sox playing their villainous rivals the Tampa Bay Rays and then the ALCS with the Red Sox advancing on to play the sign stealing Astros. And the meanest cut of all is those dishonest Astros making it into the World Series against pearl-sporting Joc Pederson and the rest of the Atlanta Braves. The heart has been taken out of postseason for Yankee fans, but if there is any justice in this world the Braves will shut out the Astros.

There is much speculation over what our team will look like come 2022. The lingering question of will Yankee’s manager, Aaron Boone, face the same ax that the Mets’ Luis Rojas got as soon as the season ended was answered when General Manager, Brian Cashman, held a press conference on Oct. 19, where he announced Boone would receive a three year contract with the Yankees. 

Cashman defended this decision by saying, “Boone is part of the solution not the problem.” This response has only added to the frustration of Yankee fans. Apparently, Cashman feels his shake-up in the coaching staff with firing hitting coach, Marcus Thames, third-base coach, Phil Nevin, and assistant hitting coach, P.J. Pilittere, is the easy fix.

In that Tuesday press conference, Cashman went on to take all the blame for the Yankee’s dismal season. He is almost putting his own head on the chopping block with statements like that. By taking ownership for the failures, does this mean he’s out next year when his contract is up?

One thing Cashman promised is that the roster needs a turnover and will not look the same next year. Cashman admits they are seeking a short stop, a catcher and even center fielder. So, what is the fate of Aaron Hicks who spend most of this season on the IL for a wrist injury?

And it is well-documented that Hal Steinbrenner, Chairman and Managing General Partner of Yankee Global Enterprises, does not rule with an iron fist like his dad, George, who went into every season with the foregone conclusion that his Yankees would win.

It appears the heart has gone out of the Yankees. At the end of this season, only two players carried the entire team, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. D.J. LeMahieu was a dud. He has undergone sports hernia surgery and is expected to be ready for spring training. Let’s hope that will get him back to 2019 shape. 

Gleyber Torres, at only 24 years old, played like an old man, limping along when he should have been running to catch a ball. And the old man of the team, Brett Gardner, still has spirit though inconsistent at best. Don’t even get me started on Aroldis Chapman! Every time he came to the mound, it was cringe worthy! He has given away so many important games that it is perplexing he keeps getting chance after chance with Yankee fans reduced to sitting on the edge of their seats not knowing which Chapman will appear on any given day. Will it be the aggressor he was signed to be or will he melt down before our very eyes giving away the game? 

What is there to say about the disappointing start of Gerrit Cole, the golden boy with his $324 million dollar contract, who was not so golden after all. He gave up two home runs before he was pulled in the second inning of that wild-card game. It looks like those spider tack rumors were true! 

Poor catcher, Gary Sanchez, never gets a break. Yes, he fumbles behind the plate and fell into a long slump, but at least he worked hard, regrouped and started hitting home runs. At the end of this season, Sanchez was someone to count on for at least get on base.

I feel your frustration Yankee fans! We are reduced to boredom for the remainder of this 2021 season and we don’t even care who wins the World Series now that our ‘mighty’ Yankees have struck out.

Miller Place resident Barbara Anne Kirshner is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of Madison Weatherbee —The Different Dachshund.

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

In this COVID era where outdoor activities are preferred, the Carriage House Players, in partnership with the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts and the Smithtown Historical Society, has extended the usual summer open air entertainment by heralding autumn with an under the stars production of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy Twelfth Night.

East Main Street in Smithtown is well lit at night by passing car headlights but once you turn off the main road and head up a narrow country lane, you are instantly immersed in a blanket of serene darkness save for an illuminated structure standing tall in the distance. 

A string of white twinkling lights guides the way through a meadow that ends at this grandiose structure decorated as a red barn framed by natural towering trees. You have just entered the world that is Twelfth Night.

This tale of unrequited love, believed to have been written around 1601–1602, has a whirlwind of twists and turns bursting with intrigue and mistaken identities that one remains riveted throughout.

The pre-show antics make it worth getting to the grounds early. Actors in Victorian garb circulate, hob knob with the audience, one strums a guitar and even reads tarot cards.

High-test energy explodes right from the start and maintains momentum through to a rollicking ending. This exceptionally well-rehearsed cast, thanks to director, Christine Boehm, appears comfortable with Elizabethan English and flings Shakespeare’s words in an easy, conversational manner just as the Bard intended. 

The opening springs to life with the song I Put a Spell on You and the stage rocks with a captain at the helm trying to stay the course of his ship veering off through a turbulent storm. Black sheers fiercely whip up and down, an abstract representation of violent waves which ends with a catastrophic shipwreck. 

Enter Anna Stacy, dynamic as Viola, in a role that shifts genders from female to male and back again. Viola was rescued by the sea captain, the adept Patrick Campbell, while Dan Schindlar, charismatic as her brother Sebastian, is rescued by Antonia, played by the expressive Zöe Katsaros. Neither are aware that the other has survived which adds another layer of intrigue to the plot. 

Viola disguises as a young man, ‘Cesario’, to go into the service of Michael Mandato’s evocative Count Orsino. Orsino is tortured by unrequited love for Countess Olivia a damsel in mourning for seven years over the death of her brother. Mary Caulfield captivates as the grieving countess shrouded in black and spurning all suitors. ‘Cesario,’ in doing the bidding of Orsino, professes his master’s love for Olivia, but it backfires when the countess falls in love with ‘Cesario’ instead. 

Upon seeing Sebastian, Olivia assumes he is ‘Cesario’ and implores him to marry her which he does willingly. In a final twist, ‘Cesario’ and Sebastian appear before Olivia and Orsino causing more confusion. But Viola reveals her true identity, declares her love for the count and is reunited with her twin brother. 

Sub-plots abound with Olivia’s uncle, Sir Toby, a drunkard performed with gusto by Evan Donnellan and his comrade, Sir Andrew, (Jae Hughes), a delightful fop who also pines for Olivia. This duo adds much madcap humor into the mix! 

Another comical twist happens when Maria, Olivia’s maid, played with relish by Katie Murano, pulls a prank on the pompous steward, Malvolio, making him think Olivia is in love with him. Kevin Callaghan’s Malvolio falls into hilarious raptures as the lovesick steward and nearly stops the show. 

Another participant in the plot against Malvolio is Feste, Olivia’s jester, played by the multi-talented Ana McCasland who displays all of her talents from singing to playing the guitar to acting.

For an electric celebration of wits, intrigue and an enthusiastic ensemble thoroughly committed to Shakespeare’s raucous comedy, catch a performance Twelfth Night, now playing through Oct. 31.

The Carriage House Players presents Twelfth Night on the grounds of the Smithtown Historical Society, 239 East Main Street, Smithtown on the evenings of Oct. 15, 17, 22, 24, 29 and 31. Tickets are $20, $15 seniors and children 12 and under. To purchase, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Run a fork around the perimeter of the cooked spaghetti squash to release the strands. Photo from Pixabay

By Barbara Beltrami

Spaghetti squash is that pale yellow oval variety that takes its name from its textured flesh that very much resembles spaghetti.  It is delicious with all sorts of sauces and seasonings, but spaghetti it is not. It’s an acceptable substitute for those who are carb or calorie conscious, but I repeat, it is not spaghetti. All that being said, I enjoy cooking and eating it and have found and tweaked some interesting recipes that take it to a couple of ethnic facsimiles. Spaghetti Squash Carbonara, Spaghetti Squash Sauerkraut with Kielbasa, and Spaghetti Squash Chili are particularly tasty. Nothing but spaghetti is spaghetti but spaghetti squash is still a very nice veggie.

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

2 large spaghetti squash, 2 1/2  to 3 pounds each

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 large egg

Coarse salt to taste and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper

6 ounces pancetta, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

Pinch crushed hot red pepper flakes

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS: 

Cut squash in half lengthwise. With a sharp spoon, scrape out the seeds and discard. Cover halves tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high until flesh is very tender, then using a fork, scrape the spaghetti-like strands of flesh into a bowl. Meanwhile in a medium bowl mix together the grated cheese, egg, salt and pepper. 

In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the pancetta until slightly brown, about 5 minutes; add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook just until garlic release its aroma, about 30 to 45 seconds. Stir in cream, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and stir in squash strands. Add cheese mixture and gently toss with squash mixture. Transfer to bowl, sprinkle with parsley and serve hot or warm with an arugula salad.

Spaghetti Squash Sauerkraut with Kielbasa

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 large spaghetti squash (about 2 1/2 -3 pounds), halved lengthwise and seeded

2 large eggs, well beaten

1 1/3 cups sauerkraut, squeezed dry and chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/4 cups seeded rye bread crumbs

4 kielbasa sausages, cooked and sliced as desired

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

DIRECTIONS: 

Place squash cut side down, uncovered, in a microwave safe dish with 1/4 cup water and cook on high until flesh is tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile in a large bowl combine eggs, sauerkraut, salt and pepper, bread crumbs, and kielbasa slices. When squash is cool enough to handle use a sharp spoon to scrape the flesh into the bowl with the sauerkraut mixture. Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler. Place an ovenproof skillet over medium high heat to warm the oil; turn squash mixture in skillet and spread evenly; reduce heat to medium and cook without stirring until bottom is golden. Sprinkle with cheese and broil until top is golden, about 5 minutes. Serve with hash browned potatoes.

Spaghetti Squash Chili

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 large spaghetti squash, about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out and discarded

1 medium onion, diced

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 pound ground beef

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

One 14-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup shredded Manchego cheese

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup sour cream

DIRECTIONS: 

Cover cut side of squash with plastic wrap and microwave on high setting until soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. With fork, scrape into strands. Remove half of onion, place in cold water and cover tightly. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat; add remaining onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 3 minutes. Add beef, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally until meat is brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. 

Add tomatoes with their juice and about 3/4 cup water to mixture, raise heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low, add beans and cook until mixture is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Transfer chili to bowl, top with spaghetti squash, drained remaining onion, cheese, cilantro and sour cream. Serve hot or warm with tortilla chips.

Spaghetti Squash. Pixabay photo

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please take your seats 

and grasp on to your armrests.

You’re about to be part of

 a musical experience!

Oh, and 

You WILL get the urge to

 jump up, sing and dance.

GO for it!

You have just entered 

SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ!!

On September 16, the lights came up once again on the Main Stage at the Engeman Theater since they were shuttered last March and there’s no better way to premier their 14th season of bringing professional theatre to Long Island audiences than with the Grammy Award winning and Tony nominated hit, Smokey Joe’s Café. This exceptional revue holds a special place at the Engeman since it was the very first show produced on their stage back in 2007.

The second the theater’s red curtains sweep open, we are catapulted into a dazzling world that is Broadway’s longest running musical review. This fast-paced show brims with 40 high powered hits by the prolific songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller who wrote for icons like Elvis Presley, Ben E. King, The Coasters and The Drifters. The show is over in a blink of an eye and at the end all you want is an encore. 

Since this is a musical revue it is devoid of dialogue, but the songs create little vignettes. It takes a talented ensemble to tell stories through song and that’s exactly what Deidre Goodwin has accomplished with her directorial choices, stunning choreography and perfect casting. Goodwin has placed the audience in the hands of these dynamic entertainers who ignite the house. 

Soon the audience becomes a venerable character taking part in the show by punctuating the end of every song with enthusiastic cheers and applause. Audience response culminates with an explosive standing ovation at the curtain call. The one reprised song, Neighborhood, performed eloquently by the entire company, serves to connect the songs creating a scrapbook feel.

There are so many captivating moments in this show.

In Young Blood, we meet a quintet of male performers (Devinre Adams as Ken, Tasheim Ramsey Pack as Adrian, Christopher Brasfield as Victor, Brian Maurice Kinnard a Fred and Jeff Sullivan as Michael) with smooth dancing and powerful harmonies. 

In Dance With Me, B.J. (Elizabeth Yetunde Adabale) wraps the lyrics around her BIG leather voice that sends chills. Adabale captivates each time she takes center stage.

As Pattie, Francesca Ferrari, in I Keep Forgettin’ and Pearl’s a Singer shows off her formidable vocal dexterity capable of filling the house with her high notes that fall into a gravelly blues sound that almost resurrects Janis Joplin.

DeLee, Alysha Morgan, in Teach Me How to Shimmy, stops the show with her incredible dance made even more exciting by costume designer David Withrow’s sparkling silver fringe mini dress, just one in his array of striking showpiece costumes that permit ease of movement.

Mars Storm Rucker as Brenda draped in Winthrow’s black gown replete with a mile long train, is sultry and seductive as they declares a no-nonsense ultimatum in the torch song Don Juan. Rucker returns with their gorgeous belting voice in Some Cats Know. Equipped with nothing more than a simple staged chair acting as their partner, this visual is reminiscent of a Bob Fosse Chicago routine.

Brasfield is a uniquely talented force with his comical whiskey guzzling D.W. Washburn, to his impressive falsetto that blasts into the stratosphere in his heart wrenching I (Who Have Nothing).

A battle of the sexes ensues when the female ensemble gives a scorching rendition of I’m a Woman that reads like a spiked heal smashing down on the men’s lascivious turn at Little Egypt.

Scenic designer David Goldstein has given each song its own setting by constructing a raised platform, stairs on one side and spiral staircase on the other against an abstract backdrop of city windows that are enhanced by John Burkland’s lighting design which morphs into a variety of colors from pinks to blues to whites to yellows behind the windowpanes signifying mood changes. An outstanding touch is the strings of vertical white lights that exhilarate and define On Broadway.

The songs never quit and the five piece band keeps the energy flowing. Highlighted instrumental solos add excitement to some numbers. Joel Levy’s saxophone fires up Spanish Harlem while Darnell White’s keyboard joins in the fun with Charlie Brown and Baby, That is Rock & Roll is infused with Ray Sabatello’s spirited guitar riffs and Russell Brown’s cool bass.

This is theatre at its best dropped right in the middle of Northport. From the moment you enter the Engeman, you are awed by the attention to detail from its well-appointed lobby to its stadium style seating. It is as if you have been lifted by a tornado of Oz-like proportion and dropped right in the middle of Broadway. That sensation continues all through this spectacular show until you step back outside only to realize you are indeed on bucolic Main Street.

Join the celebratory reopening of theatre at the Engeman with a show that is packed with hit songs, slick dance numbers and a first-rate cast. This is truly a feast for the mind and the soul. 

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Smokey Joe’s Cafe through Oct. 31. Tickets are $75 per person and include free valet parking. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Do you ever think back to your teenage years, to the time you were hanging out at the beach, local candy store or park and you turned around to stare into the eyes of the most gorgeous person you’ve ever seen? That snapshot is lodged somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind, but when you allow it to surface, you get that sweet nostalgia of those “Summer Nights.”

Grease, now rockin’ the rafters at Theatre Three, is that journey down memory lane with 1950’s Pink Lady jackets, Greasers and Greased Lightnin’. It explores the innocence of youth, the pangs of first love and the teenage psyche when everything was a crisis and monumental. This effervescent romp brimming with electrifying familiar songs ignites the audience making it difficult not to jump up, dance and sing along with the spirited ensemble.

The team of Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey wrote the book, music and lyrics with the original concept derived from Jacobs’ personal experiences at William Taft High School in Chicago. The name was changed to Rydell High in deference to the pop 50’s singer Bobby Rydell. Grease was first produced at the Kingston-Mines Theatre Company, Chicago in 1971, then went to Off-Broadway before moving to Broadway closing on April 13, 1980. The show received seven Tony Nominations in 1972.

This story of teenage love centers around greaser Danny Zuko and innocent Sandy Dumbrowski who have a summer romance that ends as the new school year begins. To the surprise of both, they bump into each other on the first day of school. But this reunion is awkward at first. Danny, leader of a greaser gang, is not what Sandy thought he was and Danny doesn’t want his gang to know he fell for this prim girl. Supported by a cast of exuberant characters and bursting with hits, this show has continued to delight audiences for decades.

The success of the 1978 movie version launched John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John into movie history and their performances are etched in our brains making it a monumental task for other actors to compare, but Jon Sawyer Coffin as Danny and Jenna Kavaler as Sandy are charismatic. The moment Coffin struts down the aisle in his seductive first entrance, he has the audience eating out of his hands. Kavaler, with her sweet smile, emits wholesomeness and her floating soprano wraps Hopelessly Devoted to You with emotion. We are with this Sandy right from the start and cheer for her and Danny to get together. 

Director Jeffrey Sanzel has assembled a dazzling ensemble of supporting characters with Pink Ladies, Rizzo (Rachel Greenblatt), Jan (Alanna Rose Henriquez), Marty (Heidi Jaye) and Frenchie (Michelle LaBozzetta). They are the cool girls hanging out with the super cool Burger Palace Boys, Kenickie (Steven Uihlein), Doody (C.J. Russo), Roger (Eric J. Hughes) and Sonny (Darren Clayton). This powerhouse company attacks the rock and roll score with vigorous dancing and stunning voices.

There are many stand out performances. Greenblatt’s Rizzo is dynamic as she grasps the audience with her cynical teasing of Sandy in Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee, then exposes her vulnerable side with There Are Worse Things I Could Do. Jaye’s Marty portrays sophistication beyond her years and her Freddie My Love is such fun. LaBozzetta’s bubble-headed Frenchie flunks out of beauty school, but finds guidance from her Teen Angel played with animated elan by Londel Collier. The not so cool Jan (Henriquez) teams up with the jokester Roger (Hughes) for a comical Mooning. And, of course, we can’t have Grease without a hot rod, so suddenly taking center stage is Kenicke’s dream car replete with big round headlights prompting the Burger Palace Boys into a lively Greased Lightnin’.

Costumes by Ronald Green III from Pink Lady jackets to black leather jackets mirror the personalities of the characters. Sandy is wrapped in white cardigan over pastel full skirt as opposed to Rizzo’s tight-fitting reds and blacks. The dream sequence of Beauty School Drop Out is a delight with silver curlers piled on the girls’ heads and the entire company swathed in silver beauty parlor capes.

Nicole Bianco’s choreography is bouncy and artistic with many dance routines ending in gorgeous tableaus. Born to Hand-Jive with its synchronized sequences is frenetic.

The multi-level set design by Randall Parsons allows action to flow seamlessly. Lighting design by Robert W. Henderson, Jr. sets the mood from bright to sultry and provides flawless continuity.

Music director, Jeffrey Hoffman, and his four-piece band underscores the fun with their sparkling orchestration. A standout is Bill Kinslow’s sexy saxophone in There Are Worse Things I Can Do.

Theatre Three is celebrating its 51st season of bringing fine entertainment to Long Island audiences by kicking off the festivities with the world’s most popular musical, Grease. Come join in the fun!

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Grease through Oct. 30. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. For COVID protocols, please visit the website at www.theatrethree.com. For more information, call 631-928-9100.

All photos by Brian Hoerger/Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Stock photo

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

The mighty Yankees and the AL Central first place White Sox magically emerge from a voluminous cornfield to take their places on a well-manicured baseball diamond and the game begins.

This scene played as if right out of a movie, except this wasn’t a movie, it was an actual baseball game. But it wasn’t being played in a grand stadium, instead it was played in a regulation ball field in rural Dyersville, Iowa, surrounded by acres of tall corn only feet away from the original baseball field and house featured in the iconic Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams.

The regular-season baseball game, which had been delayed for one year due to the COVID pandemic, finally played Thursday evening August 12. It was exciting as if scripted by Hollywood with a surprising edge of your seat twist at the end. 

The Yankees fought their way back from a 7-4 deficit at the top of the ninth when they rallied with a two-run homer from Aaron Judge, then another two-run homer by Giancarlo Stanton off the Sox closer Liam Hendriks, to make the score 8-7 in the Yankees’ favor. 

But the Yankees’ dreams of victory in Iowa were suddenly dashed when at the bottom of the ninth inning Tim Anderson hit the first pitch from Zack Britton to land a walk-off home run right in the middle of those corn fields giving the win to the White Sox.

Though the Yankees left in defeat, just being a part of this spectacular event was thrilling for the players and their fans. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, “That was as special and breathtaking a setting for a baseball game as I’ve ever been part of.” Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge said, “It was pretty cool driving in and seeing everybody standing on the side of the road, with signs, cheering us on as we’re coming in.”

This newly built 8,000 seat ballpark sits right next to the original built for the 1989 movie starring Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Ray Liotta and James Earl Jones. Before the game, Costner ambled onto the outfield like his character Ray Kinsella and watched as the White Sox and Yankees walked out of the cornrows to take their places. 

Baseball in hand, Costner headed to the microphone while the original musical score from the movie accompanied him. The actor looked at the crowd and uttered, “It’s perfect. We’ve kept our promise. The dream is still alive. There’s probably just one question to answer. Is this heaven? Yes, it is.” And it was perfect; it was heaven. The dramatic introductory festivities were a prelude to this exciting game.

Throughout the evening there were clips from the movie featuring some of the classic quotes, adding to the enchantment of it all. One pivotal quote from James Earl Jones’ character Terrance Mann was “Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom.”

And that’s exactly what happened Thursday, August 12, 2021. People came to Iowa to that magnetic cornfield to be part of the tradition of baseball, but more than that, they came to be part of a unique event. In addition to those in attendance were the 5.9 million total viewers on FOX Television, the largest audience for a regular season game on any network since 2005.

At the end of the movie, the ghost players were on the field with Ray Kinsella looking on. Suddenly, the catcher takes off his mask revealing he is Kinsella’s deceased dad and after a few words, the father and son play catch leaving all of us to ponder what if we could have just a few minutes to play catch with a loved one. 

Playing catch is such a singularly inviting activity for two people. The ball and the throw unite the pair. If only I could have one more moment with my mom, the person who introduced me to baseball and her beloved Yankees. If we could play catch like we did when I was a kid, what I would give for the chance to relive that moment with her. 

Fans and players lingered after the game, then finally started their pilgrimage back home with the wish for one more moment.

Thankfully, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the Field of Dreams game will return to Dyersville, Iowa next August 2022. The teams taking part are undecided as of this writing.

Miller Place resident Barbara Anne Kirshner is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of “Madison Weatherbee —The Different Dachshund.”