Authors Posts by Barbara Anne Kirshner

Barbara Anne Kirshner


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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 


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

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 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.”

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Main Streets all across our great nation are home to local theatres with their sparkling neon lights inviting us in to enjoy the enchantment of musicals, comedies and dramas. However last March, due to an unprecedented pandemic that forced the entire world to shut down, theatres suddenly fell into darkness, becoming specters of their former selves. But recently one by one those extinguished lights were turned back on once more illuminating Main Streets as they proudly announce the resurrection of live theatre.

Theatre Three, housed in that distinguished 160-year-old historic building in Port Jefferson, reopened its Mainstage doors on July 16th with the heartwarming fan favorite, The Fantasticks.

Kudos to Jeff Sanzel for celebrating the comeback of live theatre with this much loved classic. We need to escape into an endearing romantic musical right now and Theatre Three delivers. The message of The Fantasticks, that we can all survive and grow, is especially meaningful as we rise once more from a world ravaged by.

This allegorical tale is loosely based on the 1894 play The Romancers (Les Romantiques) by Edmond Rostand. Tom Jones (libretto and lyrics) and Harvey Schmidt (music) created a show that holds the distinction of being the world’s longest running musical having premiered at the Sullivan Street Playhouse off-Broadway on May 3, 1960 accumulating 17,162 performances before it closed on January 13, 2002, after 42 years. A revival opened August 23, 2006 at The Theater Center off-Broadway where it ran through June 4, 2017. 

Simplicity accompanied by theatricality are key elements to The Fantasticks and are exquisitely displayed through the light romance of a girl and the boy next door against a backdrop of minimal set by Randall Parsons with a small platform, two benches, two trunks, streetlight and a piano. Lighting design by Robert Henderson, Jr. helps create the intimacy, the magical moonlight and the reality that comes with the sun. 

Director Jeffrey Sanzel has assembled a versatile cast with actors called upon to not only sing, dance and act but play musical instruments.

Steve McCoy is captivating as the swashbuckling narrator El Gallo who weaves an irresistible spell immersing us in this timeless tale. With the beautifully melodic and pivotal song “Try to Remember,” he entreats us to return to a time of innocence   “When life was slow and oh, so mellow” and if we remember then “follow, follow, follow.” He is the conjurer creating romance, then mischief.

The Mute portrayed by Michelle LaBozzetta provides the only concrete tones to this intentionally abstract show. She is the wall separating the houses; she gracefully throws confetti into the air representing the change of seasons and she passes out props.

Meg Bush as Luisa/The Girl with her operettic soprano in addition to her ability to play both the flute and guitar is unique. Her Luisa personifies innocence. She is the dreamer, the moonstruck girl who pleads, “I am special. Please, God, please, don’t let me be normal.” We can’t help but empathize. Matthew Hoffman as Matthew/The Boy with his resonant tenor adds a depth of emotion to Jone’s lyrics. His seductive saxophone embraces Schmidt’s jazzy score.

Kyle Imperatore as Bellamy/The Girl’s Father and Jeffrey Hoffman, Hucklebee/The Boy’s Father give delightfully comedic performances as their pretense of a feud tricks their children into falling in love. Hoffman is a multi-talented force who smoothly transforms from musical conductor and pianist to Hucklebee and back again. 

The fathers know all too well that the feud must appear to finally come to an end. They enlist El Gallo to “kidnap” Luisa so Matt can be her hero by rescuing her. To assist in staging this first class abduction, El Gallo calls upon The Old Actor (Henry) played by Jeffrey Sanzel and his sidekick, The Man Who Dies (Mortimer) played by Steven Uihlein. Their antics are so much fun the moment they climb out of their costume box.

It is interesting to note that Tom Jones played the role of The Old Actor in the original Off-Broadway production and in the 2006 revival Jones recreated the role in addition to directing as Sanzel is doing in this production.

Chakira Doherty’s costumes help to reinforce the mood from Luisa’s floating dress emphasizing the innocent, dream-like quality to El Gallo’s dashing long black coat. Sari Feldman’s choreography supplies the right touch of theatricality particularly in the frenzied “The Abduction Ballet” and the frenetic “Round and Round.”

Theatre Three’s production of The Fantasticks is charming and entertaining with catchy songs that you leave the theatre singing.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents The Fantasticks on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Aug. 15. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit

David Gianopoulos, Robin's son and Hollywood actor, with his dachshund, Chance, on the last night the family owned their house after 62 years. Photo from the Gianopoulos family

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

The first time I saw the “dachshund sign” that lead the way up the gravel driveway to the charming Stony Brook cottage perched high on a hill was late March 2012.

The welcome sign depicting profiles of two dachshund pointing the way to the enchanting house gave me a sense of hope even before meeting the owner, Robin Gianopoulos.

I discovered this renown dachshund breeder by researching the Dachshund Club of America and AKC. Both sites named her as an honorable, excellent breeder of dachshunds and that was exactly what I was looking for — someone who loved the breed as I did and cared about breeding so that her puppies grew into healthy, strong dogs.

Author Barbara Anne Kirshner surrounded by Robin Gianopoulos’ prize winning dachshunds including Brownie, the number 1 long-hair standard in the country in 2013. Photo from B. Kirshner

We had just lost our beloved Madison who suffered from degenerative back problems. She went through two major back surgeries, but on January 27, 2012, at only 7 years 3 months old, the light was snuffed out of my life when my beautiful Madison passed away. She had gone through so much pain; then in the end while she was in my arms, she closed her eyes and she was gone. She took with her all the joy that once filled my life. In its place was a deep sadness that not even her sister or brother could fill. That’s when I started my relentless research for a dachshund of fine breeding in the hopes that we would not experience such tragedy again.

On that fateful day when I met Robin, I was still distraught. Robin understood my sadness and welcomed me into her home that was Disney World for this dachshund lover. At any one time, she housed at least 7 doxies — long-hair, smooths, minis and standards. I was immersed in dachshunds and loving it! Robin became my treasured friend and teacher.

She was a well-known breeder for over 55 years and her dogs were show dogs. She frequented Westminster and a host of other dog shows with her doxies, always coming away with ribbons. 

At that charming Stony Brook house, Robin introduced me to a host of other dachshund admirers — people like myself  who love the breed and sought her out in hopes of getting one of her prized dogs.

I had no intention of being a breeder, nor showing my dachshund; I was looking for a healthy dachshund whom I could love and welcome into our family. Robin knew that and still she offered me the pick of the litter when my turn came to have one of her dogs.

It was one year almost to the day that I first met Robin, March 13, 2013, when our beautiful Melissa Tulip was born. 

The commemorative plaque given to the Gianopoulos family by the new owners of their Stony Brook house. Photo from the Gianopoulos family

Robin made a point of keeping in touch with the people who received her puppies. The first time I brought Melissa Tulip for a visit, I got a quick lesson on the connection Robin had with her pups. As we pulled into that gravel driveway, Melissa Tulip, who had been curled up in her car seat fast asleep, became alert, sniffing the air. When I took her out of the car, it registered where she was and excitement ensued. Robin met us at the front door and Melissa Tulip jumped into Robin’s arms, smothering her with kisses and hugs. I was so happy to see their special connection.

At the time the pups were born, Robin learned that she had cancer and on December 11, 2014, she passed away. Her sons kept their family’s Stony Brook home for seven more years and all the dogs still lived there, being cared for by a dear friend and the sons who commuted from their homes in Arizona and Los Angeles. The sons and daughter became our dear friends.

After 62 years, on May 28, 2021, the Gianopoulos children reluctantly sold their childhood home to people who understood the legacy of the Stony Brook dachshunds. The new owners even presented the Gianopoulos family with a celebratory plaque featuring the house, an inscription and a photo of Robin with one of her beloved doxies. I got chills when I saw that special plaque because the photo that they chose, out of all the photos they could have chosen, was one I had taken of my Melissa Tulip hugging her Granny Robin.

Though the magical house on the hill has found new owners, the legend of the Stony Brook dachshunds lives on through Melissa Tulip and all the wonderful dachshunds that Robin brought into this world.

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

Photo by Barbara Anne Kirshner

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Hair … It is our crown.

We spend billions of dollars coiffing it. 

We have it shaped, colored, highlighted, blown out, straightened, curled, and conditioned.

But what happens when our crowning jewel is threatened?

Too many hear a doctor sympathetically announce, “I’m sorry, but you have cancer.”

After that frightening diagnosis is flung into the air, what is the treatment? Many are forced to undergo the next Big-C Word-Chemotherapy.

Chemo’s harsh attack is the common choice for killing cancer and keeping it from spreading, but in so doing, it ravages the body and those once-prized locks fall out in clumps.

This shocking side effect of chemo compounds the tragedy of the cancer diagnosis.

What recourse does one have when that cherished mane disappears? Some resort to simple scarves wrapped around the now bare head or big picture hats, but there is another solution; a solution that will build the morale as it resurrects that once bounteous coif. 

That’s where technicians, like my sister Judy, come into play. She works in hair replacement. Many of the people she sees each day are facing the greatest battle of their lives against the Big-C. These people are starved for a sense of normalcy. They long to look in a mirror and see their former selves before cancer took control of their lives. These valiant warriors reject disappearing until treatment is over. This is a motivating factor in seeking out someone like my sister.

I never thought about my sister’s profession. I knew what she did and figured that we both chose people-oriented careers (I am a teacher). But I never really considered what my sister did for the morale of people until I saw how she helped a dear friend of mine who was diagnosed with cancer.

The treatment for my friend was aggressive chemo. She was admitted to the hospital for a week each month and hooked up to constant chemo. This left her depleted of all energy and feeling terribly nauseous. Her hair that she had always been meticulous about started falling out. 

Prior to cancer, she had it regularly colored with highlights added. She wore it straight, shoulder-length and for summers added a Brazilian treatment. She lamented the effects of chemo, particularly the loss of her hair. She told me that she might get a wig, because she wanted to return to work. That’s when I suggested she see my sister.

With hope in her heart, she made an appointment at the hair replacement shop where my sister works, The Riviera in Syosset. She was greeted by Jack, the owner of the shop. His understanding immediately comforted her. He asked her for a photo so he had some idea of her preferred hairstyle.

When the wig was delivered, my sister went to work on her. The moment my sister replaced the bald head with luscious tresses the emotion set in. My friend dissolved in tears of joy, the first happiness that she had experienced since that dire diagnosis. She was immediately impressed by my sister’s gentle nature and care.

My friend’s confidence returned with the return of her hair. She went back to work with her upbeat nature intact.

Her emotional transformation made me realize the very special and delicate work my sister does every day with people like my friend who long for life before cancer. My sister rebuilds self-esteem; such a priceless gift.

I am thrilled to report that my friend is now cancer free and her natural hair has grown back. She has developed a bond with my sister, thankful for the return of her confidence that came at such a crucial time.

This close-up look has given me a better insight and appreciation for what Judy does every day for countless cancer patients and I’m bursting with pride that she is my sister.

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

Photo from Wikipedia

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

The boys of summer are back!  And with them the voice of the New York Yankees’ John Sterling, and the partner he’s referred to as his compadre for some 16 years now, Suzyn Waldman. For this Yankees fan, the start of the 2021 season, April 1st, featuring this pairing on Yankees radio, WFAN, can’t happen soon enough.

I grew up watching the Yankees with my mom, an avid Yankees fan. She knew all the players by name. During the late 1990’s into latter 2000, whenever Mariano Rivera came to the mound, Mom would say, “It’s all over now, the Sandman has arrived. It’s good night Irene.”  And to Mom’s delight, more times than not, Rivera would close the other team out. 

John Sterling. Photo from Wikipedia

In 2007, my mom suffered a major stroke with smaller ones to follow. She was in and out of hospitals and physical therapy centers. I was with her every day driving from my home in Miller Place sometimes to Port Washington, then to Glen Cove, then to Amityville and for a while, she was home in Plainedge.

During those long trips each day, I listened to WFAN and the Yankees game. It was at that time when John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman became my special friends, always there to make the drive I had to take more comfortable. Mom passed away September 2009 and the last time the Yankees won the World Series was November 4, 2009. I always felt that she sent the Yankees blessings from Heaven and that’s why they won that year.

Though my daily drives ended in 2009, my connection to WFAN and those Yankee broadcasters remained intact. I enjoy the clever repartee between Sterling and Waldman that, combined with their ability to detail every pitch, every hit, every base run, allows the listener to see the action clearly in the mind’s eye. 

Even at the times when I watch the game, I always turn down the volume on the television and turn up the volume on Sterling’s and Waldman’s play by play. Sorry, Michael Kay, but for me, no one compares to them. Sterling’s signature remarks add to the fun of the game. The amusing catchphrases Sterling has for each player combined with his final bellow for a Yankee victory of “BALLGAME OVER! THEEEEEEEE YANKEES WIN, THEEEEEEEE YANKEES WIN” and his calls for home runs of “It is high, it is far, it is gone!” adds an extra excitement to the game that I just can’t miss.

Suzyn Waldman. Photo from Wikipedia

In August 2020, due to health reasons, Sterling had to step away from his broadcast duties for several games and, though Waldman was her usual wonderful self, there was something BIG missing. The only other time Sterling stepped away from broadcasting the Yankees games was in 2019 for four games. Before that he called 5060 consecutive Yankees games.

This year, Sterling has made it known that he is in fine health even at 82 years of age so hopefully we can look forward to an entire season with the twosome doing their thing for the Yankees. Happily, the season begins on time not like last year at the height of COVID when the baseball season didn’t start until July 23 and ended after 60 games on September 27.

During spring training 2021, Sterling had the opportunity to call the March 15 and 22 baseball games with his former partner, Michael Kay, on the YES Network. It was good to see and hear my favorite sportscaster, but I look forward to his pairing with Waldman.

Sterling’s compadre, Waldman, is multi-talented. She was a musical theatre actress who segued into sportscasting, not an easy transition for a woman to make. Her opposition is well-documented. But she has maintained her dignity and flourished in sportscasting despite everything. At the Yankees home opener on July 31, 2020, Waldman sang the Star Spangled Banner, receiving high praise for her rendition.

The boys of summer return April 1st and with them the voices of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, still stellar after all these years together. So off to the broadcast booth we go for those familiar voices of Yankees baseball.

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